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The Grand Spirits of India

I have no scholarship to back me, but I do believe, a ardent faith in the Bhuta, is to be found in all sub-cultures of India’s many languages religions and regions. My own, the Tamil culture is a deep and hoary one, a localized variation of the Indian Tradition. It is rich with a sense of place, unique architecture and arts. Temples that still stand have been built for over a thousand years. Classical music and dance showcase a rich repertoire. I was delighted to discover [-only recently, through Siddarth ] that there are specific towns and temples associated with the Bhuta. In each, the Spirit is presented in some symbolic manner: a room invested with great importance and intrigue, that when opened, contains nothing and nothingness to depict Space, a room with a barely flickering lamp to show the importance of Air; a giant oil lamp atop a mountain that is ceremonially lit every year, to depict fire; a shrine connected by an aquaduct to a river to depict water; and an idol made of mud, to depict earth. Millions of humble folk visit these temples and have their faith in the Bhuta reinforced. If you want to learn more on this click here

About 150 years ago, a revered composer Sri Muthuswami Dikhshitar sang in honour of each Spirit. These are performed in classical concerts till this day.

Raagas’ association is taken from this link

The Indian Tradition has had a creative, irreverent exuberance in all arts, including the divine, and I would assert that this is because to the Indian Mind the Bhuta are greater than all gods, meaning there can be liberties with the latter but not with the former.

Needs of the idolator in me have been well served by the windpump.

There it stands, tall and thrusting into Space. Spun by the Wind it produces Energy, which it uses to dip into Water deep inside the Earth and fetches it up. A more alive and immediately beneficent God is hard to find.

For thirty years now I have not been able to watch the lazy spin of the windmill or hear its muted rhythmic clang in the night and not feel a connection with the Cosmos.

Ignore the arts-derived outcomes [Tables 3 and 4] and you will find acceptance across all religions practiced in India for what was listed in the first two tables. A visionary leadership could have mined this heritage and created an original roadmap for prosperity. How easily we might have inculcated environmental values in our children through song, dance and theatre celebrating the Bhuta. How easily the Grand Spirits may have united us, where religions now divide. More doably, why has our higher education in engineering, sciences, economics and management not mandated a study of these values. We have a heritage that venerated the environment and we have abandoned it and seek knowledge which is sterile and soulless. Gandhi understood the centrality of the environment to our welfare but nearly no one else since.

We have had on our hands for over six years now, a Prime Minister who struts the world stage as a great economist. What a salutary consequence there might have been had this man Manmohan Singh learnt economics as though the environment mattered. Instead, tutored as he was to worship cold numbers, world commerce, test tube agriculture, development that prises people, flora and fauna out of their habitats and, after he was thus alienated by his education from the great Tradition of his people and their culture, he became susceptible to whispers in his ears. People with such an education hear voices that tell them scale, GDP, endless growth and consumption are what will lead to prosperity; they become convinced nature and finite resources can be trifled with now and fixed later by technology. The tragic irony is that the robust environmental safeguards that the west practices have eluded this Indian apprentice.

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3 comments on The Grand Spirits of India
  • pointR

    thank you for writing, sunil.
    i am no expert scholar, but i believe ‘light’ is a part of ‘agni’

  • sunil barot

    “Only one quality can be seen in space: it can reverberate sound, but we cannot touch it, taste it, smell it… Space can only cause an atmosphere for creating a vibration of sound; so, as nothing else is possible there, Sound alone is the quality of space.

    If you mean space is one without air or any other material than it is not true to say that sound vibrations are created in space. Yes you can say light vibrations are possible without any material. I strongly feel that “light” is one that is very significant and missed entirely in PMB.

  • I think we meet in some plane of reverence for the sub-continents’ emergent behaviour that kept it sustained. (I wrote something on the same lines about the Indian Evolutionary Stable Strategy, you’ve called “IT”: http://sunson.livejournal.com/208432.html

    There are, though, several cases of such sustainable strategem, of which the Indian context is just one of them. However, what is unique is that the Indian strategy built symbols and left enough of those symbols around. Inspite of the cultural clashes over the years and inspite of its mutations and loss of ‘diversity’ of thought, the texts, messages and symbols still stand, waiting for us to rediscover them.

    Once the finger has pointed to the moon, we shall not need the finger anymore. I’m hopeful, once again, after reading your inspiring writing.





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