Saturday, 29 September 2012

God: Early Concepts

A.N.Moorthy Rao
Thousands of years ago, when self-consciousness blossomed in man and he began to look at the world around him with curiosity, what did he see? Volcanic flames leaping into the sky: molten lava racing down, reducing to ashes everything in its way: blinding lightning: forests devoured by huge fires: turbulent oceans, and fierce waves dashing against the shores : and the roar of the thunders and crash of the thunder-storms! "How am I going to survive in this terrifying world?", he must have shuddered.

But man, who saw such a fierce face of nature and its deadly effects, saw also its other face: the glory of the colourful sunrise and sunset: the enchantment of the rainbow: the festive splendour of forest and field drenched in rains (which arrived in the company of thunders and storms): the fragrance and the softness of the flower that swayed to the breeze: the stars twinkling in the night sky and the mysterious blue depths in the space between them: the grace of the star-lit night sky: the immense expanse of the sea, its majesty .....

Nature, so cruel before, had now turned pleasant. Innocent that he was then, man marvelled at this and was delighted. It was, for him, an inexpressible experience. He could not describe it nor analyse it. The world, both awesome and beautiful, grim and pleased, remained a riddle to him. Who could be its architect? Was it magic? Or miracle? There must be something magnificent behind it all. Was it (or he) a friend or a foe? It must be fickle ­minded. The breeze, gentle and caressing now, may, the next moment, become a hurricane. The ground right under his feet might crack up! In recent days, philosophers have spoken of a 'power' behind the phenomena of Nature; primitive man was probably incapable of such reasoning. His mind could only conceive of a strong person or object; not an abstract power. All the activities of a person or an object so imagined were the work of magic! This, probably, was how the concept of God took shape. Fear, wonder and the instinct to seek protection- all these can be seen behind this concept. The concept of God is something that continuously crosses our mind. The reasons could be: the fear that if we antagonise Him. He will bring us to harm, or the expectation that He will save us from the tribulations of this dangerous world or the feeling that God is the symbol of the highest of human values. This is the concept that has been with us over thousands of years and this is with us even today. Which explains why even non­believers routinely use such expressions as ‘My God!’ or ‘For God's sake!’ without a thought for what they mean. It is indeed no wonder that one feels that this God, so well entrenched in the minds of people all over the world must, in fact, exist.

But can we trust this feeling? It would be better, before deciding on this, to be clear about what 'God' means and what His nature is. It is hot easy to define God, though. Even philosophers are not agreed on this question. So, let us not try to define God right now. What we could do now is this: we will learn, to the extent possible, what men of different ages and climes have regarded as God, and the nature of such Gods. Then, based on this understanding, we can try to generalize on the nature of God. This is the Inductive Method- the method of deriving general principles from a known set of facts.

The question 'What is God?' is prompted by the fac­ulty of reasoning. Even to answer this question, one needs that same faculty. But this, probably, was not what the early man asked. His question must have been : 'Who is God?'· One thing was clear to him : that God was power­ful not just physically, but also in some magical, mysterious way. To be able to deal with Him, one had to be similarly powerful and possess magical powers, too. Not everyone was capable of that: only some clever ones were. This is how witch-doctors and sorcerers came on to the scene. And they only strengthened this belief - for, after all, they had their own prestige to protect. Traces of this magic re­main in some of our religious rites to this day.

Beliefs about God

Who is the omnipotent God? Man has found many answers to this question. In many places, there was the practice of worshipping the ancestors and heroes of by­gone ages. And, to this day, the belief persists, that they exist somewhere after shedding their bodies here, that they still retain their interest in our welfare and that they ought to be revered. Consider the ceremonies we perform for our ancestors. In those rituals, there is, apart from the desire that they may attain an auspicious state and be pro­vided with food and drink, also an element of worship. The priest, in the course of the rituals, refers to them as 'Lord Krishna' or 'Lord Rama'.

Stones and trees may be Gods. In Maramma temples there is, usually, only a stone, not even a stone image. God­dess Maramma is believed to lend it divinity by inhering there. The most common instance of plant worship is the Tulasi Puja, widely practised even now. Tulasi receives worship and is also used to offer worship. The banyan tree is also God for us ­the divine ‘Ashwatha Narayan’. One who goes around this tree a hundred and eight times will be blessed with a child. There are those who believe, even today, that they acquire merit' (puny a') by growing a neem tree by the side of a ban­yan tree and uniting the two in wedlock according to religious rites

If trees could be Gods, why not animals? Some tribes in Africa, it seems, believed that crocodiles are God and of­fered sacrifices to crocodiles. We are quite familiar with the worship of cobras. Millions still believe that ‘Naga Prathishte’ (a form of cobra worship) would bless them with a child. In­deed, I know of even mighty scholars, not just illiterate people, resorting to this kind of cobra-worship. And, I have myself en­joyed sumptuous meals on those occasions! Even those who do not perform 'Naga Prathiste' do worship snakes during the 'Naga Panchami' festival with milk. It is a sin to kill a cobra! It is believed that one who kills it will be afflicted with skin diseases and the whole family will be haunted.
Then there are the instances of animals and birds at­taining Godhood through association with a first-class God. Garuda, being Vishun's vehicle, has become God and has also earned the title of ‘the Protector’. But Hanuman, Rama's associate, has scored over Garuda. I do not know of any temple dedicated to Garuda. But there is not a town in this country without a Hanuman temple, usually right at the entrance of the town. Devotees of Hanuman, it is said, will attain many 'siddhis'- supernatural powers. There are thousands of people who visit a Hanuman temple regularly at least once a day. The belief is that in the cOr(ling 'kalpa', or a long long era, Hanuman will, on promotion, become Brahma Himself.

One step above this level (or 'below this level', shall we say?) we encounter deities like Mari and Beera who are supposed to resemble humans in form and Ghost Dieties like Panjurli and Bobbarya. These are usually not referred to as Gods. It is not Maris or Bobbaryas that come to our minds first at the mention of God. Yet, the fact is that we have attributed superhuman powers to them and that we worship them.

Some ‘Ammas’[i] have won the reverence of people in their towns and have risen to Godhead. For instance: the 'Gudiamma' of the Vadda tribe in my town. She is an incar­nation of Godess Lakshmi and is not to be classed with the rest of 'Ammas'.

On these deities, we have bestowed a more or less hu­man form and the faculty of speech. These Gods can 'pos­sess' someone and through the 'possessed one' communi­cate to us their desires and instructions. This 'power' places these deities one step above the plant-deities. Yet, these are petty deities who cause pain, suffering, epidemics and even death. Only after extorting the 'offerings' do they grudgingly halt the epidemics- or, at least so we hope. Tulasi or Ashwatha tree or Garuda or Anjaneya never causes such disasters; their actions are always benign. But the 'Ammas' or the Ghost Deities unleash on us terrible diseases for petty reasons or sometimes for no reason at all. They may even demand the sacrifice of a hen or a sheep or a daily plate of curds rice. I am not aware of these dieties ever volunteering to do anything good for the people. This is how their style may be described: cause harm first, then blackmail and extort in order to halt (?) the harm.

The Forces of Nature

Our Indra, Agni, Vayu and so on are only forces of Nature whom we have endowed with names and forms. Bestowing divinity on these forces is an ancient practice. Zeus of ancient Greece was one such force of Nature. Like our Indra, he, too, once occupied a position of su­premacy. Just as our Indra wielded the Vajrayudha, lightning was Zeus's weapon. Helios was the Sun God, Artemis the Moon Goddess. Aeolus was the God of the Winds, Poseidon the Sea God. The reign of these Greek deities[ii] is over. Unable to bear the onslaught of Christianity, they are now hiding in the museum of literature.

While our Indra and other deities have managed to retain their divine status they do not belong to the highest orders. Their decline began in the Upanishadic Age itself. A verse in the Kathopanishad[iii] says, "In the presence of the Supreme, electricity itself has no brightness; what, then, is Agni?" In the story narrated at the end of the Kenopanishad, Agni, unable even to burn a blade of grass (without the grace of the Supreme), stands humbled. Vayu is similarly humiliated.

Similarly, Indra also has stepped down from his exalted position. Only when some one performs 'tapas' and obtains a boon which harms the interests of gods and men (and the gods are foolish enough to grant such boons) Indra collects the gods and rushes to Shiva or Vishnu desperately pleading for succour - to such a level has the might of Indra sunk!

Even today occasionally yagnas are performed to offer sacrifices to Indra and the other gods. But there are no temples solely dedicated to them, and they recieve no worship; only Surya, Agni and Vayu are exceptions. Surya has contested from two constituencies- and won from both. The scientist may not accept him as a true planet, but he is a planet to the common man and to the astrologer. Besides he has merged with Narayana to become Suryanarayana.

Madhwa philosophy has accorded Vayu an exalted position. Any auspicious function in a Madhwa household is 'motivated by Hari and Vayu'. All Hindu sects revere Agni and 'homa' is a very important ritual; naturally, Agni is important.

All this is true but yet the plight of the nature deities evokes pity.

[i] The word ‘Amma’ is applied to all female deities of the Mari-Masani category; the deity who spreads chickenpox is the ‘Young Amma’; the deity who causes smallpox is the ‘Elder Amma’. Plague and cholera have presiding deities; with them are deities like 'Patalamma', 'Ranabheramma' and 'Kalluramma'. 

[ii] These gods were worshipped by the Romans, too, under different names. 

[iii] "Nemaa vidyutho bhanti kutoyamagnihi"- this verse is found in one or two other Upanishads, too.

Akkihebbalu Narasimha Murthy Rao (June 16, 1900—August 23, 2003) was an eminent Kannada writer.  He was the first Director of Kannada and Culture Department of the Karnataka Government.

His popular book, Devaru (God), won (1992) the Pampa Award instituted by the Government of Karnataka.

This is the first chapter of the book, which was translated into English by Prof LS Seshagiri Rao and published by Kannada Sahitya Parishath, Bangalore in 1995

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Lokayata School


The Lokayata is a school with a very venerable ancestry, Brihaspati the preceptor of the gods being regarded as its first Founder. The doctrine is sometimes styled the Bhutavada, as well as the Lokayata, and from the numerous references to it in orthodox as well as non-­orthodox works, it would seem that the doctrine was more than mere tendency: that it had, in other words, early developed into an orderly system of thinking. It, for instance, accepted direct perception (Pratyaksha) as the only valid source of knowledge, denied Causality, and preached prudential Hedonism. And its constructive programme probably included an earnest effort, by cultivating the social and physical sciences such as they were known at the time, to ameliorate human suffering and augment the sum-total of human happiness. The School has had the mis­fortune of being known to us only through the versions of its opponents; but its great seductive charm and extensive vogue cannot be readily explained on the usual assumptions regarding the purely negative and destructive character of its tenets. The Kautilya, as is well known, assigns it quite a prominent place as a system of philosophy, and it is likely that the teacher mentioned in the Mahabharata as the friend and contemporary of Duryodhana, viz. Charvaka, must have exercised considerable influence in giving unto what was merely the natural tendency of the human mind-presenting itself at specific periods of its social evolution - a metaphysical basis and back-ground. The teaching of Ajita Kesa-kambalin, as we saw, agreed with the Lokayata in quite a number of details; and the Bhagavadgita, it may be recalled, selected this very school for a particularly virulent frontal attack (Chap. xvi). We can understand of course how it did happen that at a time when no two prophets or phi­losophers seemed quite to agree even on the most elementary of questions; and when there was no authority living or dead that dared to prove that a thing was so-and-so, or was not so-­and-so, a voice which - acting on the famous dictum that where ignorance was bliss it was folly to be wise – advised men to turn away from the giddy heights of speculation and descend to the plain normal life of sense and sensibility, was most like­ly to secure the readiest response. Its attacks on the Srauta religion and on all established institutions in fact were mark­ed by a trenchancy of style, wealth of illustrations and, a perspicacity of argumentation which rarely failed to hit where it aimed and achieved the victory, as indeed the few preserved specimens of it abundantly testify.



S.K.Belvalkar & R.D.Ranade, 1927, History of Indian Philosophy: The Creative Period (Chapter Tenth: Post-Upanishadic Thought-Ferment, Section: 9: The Lokayata School)

About the authors:

Shripad Krishna Belvalkar (1880-1967) was born at Kolhapur, Maharashtra and was educated at Bombay and Harvard universities. He was Honorary Secretary of All India Oriental Conference in1926-27. He was elected as Honorary Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society, London in 1947. He was co-founder and Honorary Secretary of Bhardarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune in 1915-18 and 1927-33. His publications include: Systems of Sanskrit Grammar (1915), Rama’s Later Hisotry (1925), Dandin’s Kavyadarsa (1924), and Bhagavadgita (1941)

Ramachandra Dattatraya Ranade (1886-1957) was born at Jamkhandi in Karnataka. He was Emiritus Professor of Philosophy and Vice-Chancellor, Allahabad University.  His important publications are: Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy (1926), Mysticism in Maharashtra (1930), Philosophical Essays (1956), and Shri Bhagavat Gita (1958)

Monday, 24 September 2012

Satya Sai Baba Miracle: Producing Shiva Linga from the Mouth

B Premanand

On the night of Shivarathri, while the devotees are engaged in singing bhajans, Satya Sai Baba goes into labour. He squirms with pain, his right hand pressing on his stomach, heart and neck. While wiping the tears sweat and saliva with a towel, he suddenly "gives birth" to an oval gold or stone linga from his mouth.

Experiment: 68

Efect: Shiva Linga emerging from the mouth.

Props: An oval stone, one bath towel, ell starched, and a flower-pot.

Sai Baba regurgitating Shiva Lingam
Method: The oval stone is hidden inside the towel and placed in the flower vase as a decoration. While the right hand presses your body to the sound of groans, you take the towel and start wiping the sweat and tears. When your hand reaches your neck, saliva flows from your mouth. Under the pretence of wiping the saliva, the towel is applied to the mouth. The oval stone is placed half inside your mouth and when you lower the towel, it appears as if the oval stone is emerging from your mouth. Satya Sai Baba bas stopped performing this trick also after we demonstrated it in Anantapur, and made fun of him about his homosexuality as narrated by Tal Brooke in his book "Lord of the Air".

Experiment: 69

Effect: Turning Stone into Sugar Candy.

Satya Sal Baba, while walking on the river bank of Chitravati, asked Dr. Bhagavantam, a physicist, to pick up a stone and give it to him. The scientist did so. Then Satya Sal Baba put it into his mouth 3l1d asked him to eat it. It was sugar candy.

Props: White stone, Palmyra candy or sugar candy.

Method:  Palm a piece of the candy. Ask someone to pick up a small stone which you point out to him and give it to you. Take the stone in your fingers and while moving transfer the candy to your fingers while palming the stone. Put it in the mouth of the volunteer and ask him to eat it. It will be sugar candy.

Experiment: 70

Effect:  Producing a copious flow of water from a small vessel.

After washing the feet of Satya Sai Baba, that water is filled in a gold pot and distributed to thousands of the devotees. It looks as if endless quantity of water is flowing from the vessel.

Props: Special pot and water.

Method: Fill the vessel with water. With your thumb close the hole on the neck of the vessel and slowly pour it out until it is empty. Put it down with the mouth up and remove the thumb. Water in the outer pot fills into the inner pot. Again reverse it with the thumb on the hole. Water flows out. In the same way you can repeatedly pour out water to small quantities until the water in the vessel is almost empty.

This vessel is devised by using the following two-scientific principles.

Experiment: 71

Effect: Water does not fall from a glass when covered by a paper and inverted

Props: One glass tumbler, water, and a thick paper to cover the mouth of the glass.

Method: Water in a glass is covered with a thick paper. When turned over neither the paper nor the water falls down. This is due to atmospheric pressure exerted on the paper.

Experiment: 72

Effect: Water does not spill out from a narrow-necked bottle when it is inverted.

Props: A soft drink bottle, a plastic insertion to make the neck narrower, and water.

Method: Turn over the soft drink bottle of water and show the water falling out. Then move your hand over the neck of the bottle stealthily putting the plastic insertion into the nock and reverse. Water will not fall down. Then, put a match stick through the hole of the plastic insertion which will float in the water.

This is based on the scientific principle “equal quantity of air has to enter the bottle to disperse equal quantity of water”. Due to the narrow neck when it is sealed by the water, air cannot enter the bottle to disperse water.

Reproduced with permission from Indian CSICOP.  For other articles from Science Versus Miracles we have already published please click here (

Friday, 21 September 2012

Vicious Cycle of Islamophobia

Ram Puniyani

We are going through strange times. While the science, technology and rationalism has given us physical and intellectual tools to better the lot of humanity, we are witnessing the production of provocative material, literature and films in particular, which demonize the particular religion, Islam to be precise, and the prophet of Islam. On the other hand there is a section of community, feeling threatened and insecure coming to the streets to protest against such humiliation and insult of their religion. There are debates on freedom of expression, but how come the freedom of expression always goes to humiliate and demonize one particular religion only?

Currently (September 2012), there are massive protests in different countries against the American embassies, resulting in death of four from the US staff, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi. Different countries are asking Google, the owner of YouTube, which is hosting this provocative and insulting video clip, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, to withdraw the film clip. At places the video clip has been withdrawn and blocked. US sticks to its ‘Freedom of Expression’ stance and the many protesters are still on the streets.

The film clip, of around 14 minutes duration is part of the full length feature film made by Nakoula Basseley, a US based Christian. The film is very insulting to Islam. In this film large number of modern day mob of bearded Muslims is shown to be attacking Christians. It also takes the audience back in time to show a distorted life of Prophet Mohammad with negative and aggressive traits of personality. It is crude film, made in extremely poor taste and has generated strong reaction amongst large section of Muslims.  It must be pointed out that this is not the only type of reaction to this film. There are sections of clerics who have asked the Muslims to keep restrain. Quoting the moral precepts from Islam, Quran, they said that Islam is a religion of peace and no violent protests should be held. The best response to this despicable film has been from a section of Muslims distributing the book on life of Prophet Mohammad, the prophet of peace.

During last several years, it has become a sort of standard pattern by many in the West and some here in India to demonize Islam. We remember the Danish cartoon of Prophet, where he is shown as a terrorist, with a bomb tucked in his turban. A Florida Pastor went on to burn this holy book, Koran, saying that Koran teaches violence. Some US soldiers in Afghanistan also burnt copies of Koran, on the ground that the terrorist elements had written messages on those copies.

Muslims in Chennai protest against the film "Innocence of Muslims"
Courtesy: The Hindu
The demonization of Islam and Muslims has a pattern and agenda. The cartons and films are the outcome of the deeper political processes, which aim to control the oil wells in West Asia. The imperialist greed of United States marshaled the flag of “Islam the New threat” since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran, overthrowing the US stooge Raza Shah Pahlavi. Later the slogan was worsened with US setting up Madrassas in Pakistan to train Al Qaeda-Taliban to initiate the Muslim youth to fight against the occupying Russian armies in Afghanistan. The word, Jihad and kafir were distorted to indoctrinate the Muslim youth in these Madrassas.  With later trajectories and the event of 9/11, World Trade Center attack, the US media with all its guile, popularized the phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’. The phrase was picked up by the media all over the World and later became part of the social common sense. This is a major abuse of religion for political goals by the imperialist power. One can understand this demonization of Islam as a part of US policy, a cover to hide its agenda to control the oil. To understand it in the way Noam Chomsky ‘coined the phrase’ Manufacturing Consent’, the coining of the word Islamic terrorism is part of the US mechanism of manufacturing consent of the world to give assent to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.

This US policy gas given rise to twin processes. On one hand the phenomenon like a Florida Pastor Terry Jones burning Koran or the Danish cartoonist drawing Prophet Mohammad as terrorist or the present film has been the outcome of the intense propaganda against Islam. This US propaganda has been backed up by the US sponsored ideology of ‘Clash of Civilizations’, according to which the current era of World History is the era of assault of backward Islamic civilization on the advanced Western civilization. This distorted perception, this ideology was used as a cover for US agenda in West Asia. The other process which got unleashed was that the psyche of global Muslim community started being affected. The perception came up that Muslims (Afghanistan and Iraq) are being attacked, they are under threat. In India the added aspect was the rise of RSS type politics, bringing up Ram Temple issue and starting hatred for Muslims. A large section of Muslims started feeling intimidated and besieged. It became easy for mobilizing them around identity issues. Any community which feels besieged, section of it becomes vulnerable to easy provocation and identity based mobilization.

It is a vicious circle, the Islamophobia on one side and besieged community on the other. In this scenario the Muslim clerics who are asking for peace are the beacon lights of hope for the community. The Muslims who are distributing the books on life of prophet need to be complimented. This is what the sane response from the community has to be. What about US, imperialist designs and its mighty propaganda machinery doing all the mischief in the world? Can there be a process of controlling that? Under Kofi Annan, when he was Secretary General of United Nations, a high level committee produced a report, ‘Alliance of Civilizations’. This report got lost under the barrage of Islamphobia. It is time the world as such takes note of the deeper humane values which have developed by humanity over a period of time, the values which have led to the reports of type of ‘Alliance of civilizations’, the UN conventions which have conceptualized the Human rights for all.

The trigger which has incited the demonization process of religion and films like this one are provoking these insane reactions from a section of Muslims. Can United Nations be revived as a global platform for monitoring the norms for Nations, media and other aspects of our global life evolved to ensure that democratization and human dignity is promoted. Can the World come forward to check the aggressions of ‘The Super Power’? That’s when such films will cease to act as factors promoting violent reactions. And even such crude attempts at insulting others’ religion will come down. May be with such norms and restraints on US policies we can hope that such incidents will come down. Even if there are elements making some films like this there will be others making a film giving their own versions of Prophet’s Mission of peace in the World. 

And finally we also need to preserve the concept of freedom of expression moderated with its limits. We also need to cultivate methods of protest where hysterical emotions are kept at bay and rational approach is brought to the fore. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Materialism in Indian Philosophy


“Materialism” metaphysically denotes that system of thought which refuses to recognize, as the source of the created manifold, a First Cause other and higher than the mere working out of the forces and tendencies inherent in the non-sentient matter qua matter, unsupervised by any non­material power or principle like the Atman or the Deity. And as a consequence it recognizes for the human being no ethical goal higher than a life of pleasure or happiness to the end of his period. Materialism is accordingly a tendency of thinking which can appear almost at any stage of social or religio­philosophical evolution; and as we saw (See: Chapter Third: Transition from the Brahmana to the Upanishad Period), even the Rigveda is not without it. But from a mere tendency it can develop into a regular system of thought, as it apparently seems to have done towards the end of the Upanishadic period. As forerunners of it we already meet in the earlier Upanishads those Elemental Cosmologies with Water or Ether as the First Principle, from which, the texts* tell us, all the creation was produced; and that this First Principle might not be a sort of an eternal self-subsistent entity, it was actually conceived of as the Asat or non-existing. Chhandogya vi. 2. 1 mentions (and controverts) a definite set of thinkers who made the world evolve from Non-existence; while at the other end of the process we have, in texts like Chha. viii. 11-12 and Brihad. ii. 4.12, the nega­tivistic conclusions about everything knowable and namable being reduced to non-existence, from the clutches of which Yajnavalkya is almost frantically endeavouring to exclude the “Atman” in those darkly enigmatic stanzas with which he drops the curtain down upon the great "symposium" at the court of Janaka in the third Chapter of the Brihadaranyaka., - stanzas which distinctly foreshadow the "Ajati-vada" or the acosmic absolutism of Gaudapada. - For an Upanishadic expression of "Materialism" on the ethical side we have to turn to Chha. viii. 8. 4, where a powerful body of Epicurean non-believers is in­troduced under the opprobrious nickname of the "Asuras." The Upanishads of course were not by themselves expected to go out of their way and detail the tenets of these "Materialistic" systems, which later claimed as their founder no less a name than that of Brihaspati, the Teacher of the Gods.* But the animus which the Bhagavad-Gita shows towards them in Chapter xvi of the poem, as also the several "heretic" doctrines strongly tinged with "Atheism" and "Materialism" that came to be preached in the pre-Buddhistic period, may be safely taken as evidence for the existence, outside the "orthodox" circle of Upanishadic speculation, of a definite school of philosophy for the apostles of which the Maitrayani Up. uses such select epithets as "unheavenly," "robbers," and the like. It is also worth noting here that certain tendencies of Upanishadic speculation such as (1) the denial of Atman's liability and power of doing or suffer­ing anything ( p. 399), and (2) insistence upon the inexorable character of the Law of Karman as revealed by Yajnavalkya to Artabhaga (Brihad. iii. 13, and elsewhere ) - which are both jointly capable of a one-sided development towards passive fatalism - as also (3) belief in the impermanence and mutability of things of which Brihadratha in Maitra. i. 3-4 gives perhaps, if not the earliest, at any rate the most pathetic, expression on the Brahmanic side, together with (4) the doctrine of the unknow­ability of the Real in which Upanishadic philosophy in its most transcendent flights culminated, may have conceivably accentuated the move towards philosophical Materialism and Agnosticism, of which the next age is to afford us such a be­wildering array of illustrations.


S.K.Belvalkar & R.D.Ranade, 1927, History of Indian Philosophy: The Creative Period (Chapter Ninth: An Evaluation of Upanishadic Philosophy, Section: 30: The Inchoate Philosophical Systems (1) Materialism)

About the authors:

Shripad Krishna Belvalkar (1880-1967) was born at Kolhapur, Maharashtra and was educated at Bombay and Harvard universities. He was Honorary Secretary of All India Oriental Conference in1926-27. He was elected as Honorary Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society, London in 1947. He was co-founder and Honorary Secretary of Bhardarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune in 1915-18 and 1927-33. His publications include: Systems of Sanskrit Grammar (1915), Rama’s Later Hisotry (1925), Dandin’s Kavyadarsa (1924), and Bhagavadgita (1941)

Ramachandra Dattatraya Ranade (1886-1957) was born at Jamkhandi in Karnataka. He was Emiritus Professor of Philosophy and Vice-Chancellor, Allahabad University.  His important publications are: Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy (1926), Mysticism in Maharashtra (1930), Philosophical Essays (1956), and Shri Bhagavat Gita (1958)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Promoting Scientific Temper – A Letter to the Chairman, ISRO

Nikhil Joshi

We reproduce an email Dr. Nikhil Joshi sent (on 17 September 2012) to the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) after witnessing the nauseating spectacle of none other than the ISRO Chairman himself carrying a replica of PSLV-C21 (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle - C21) to a hill shrine at Tirupati and placing it in front of the presiding deity of the temple praying for its successful launch! : carvaka4india

I protest against ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan and Directer of Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, S Veeraraghavan for their actions against the constitutional duty of Article 51Ah according to which, every Indian citizen is expected to promote scientific temper.
It is a petty matter when an ailing patient or a failing student prays god. However, it is a grave national disgrace when persons of elite stature such as yours stoop to the level of commoners to pray at Saibaba Temple or Lord Venkateswara Temple for professional success. I wonder if you spent for the travel and worship expenses from your own pockets. I also wonder if your absence from duty for a purpose that is against your fundamental duty should be considered as 'a break in service' and those leaves of absence should be considered as 'un-paid leaves' and all consequent dues should be recovered from you. It is also disgrace to the global community of engineers and scientists on whose behalf you (S Veeraraghavan) have audaciously claimed that "We scientists and engineers do our best and leave rest to the God".
Scientific temper is a greater, more important and independent skill than tech savviness or science literacy. God has no place in science. It is part of your professional responsibility to guide India out of the superstitions, gullibility and faiths that have riddled our country, especially with greater penetration after 1990.
In these actions, you have caused more damage to India than the monetary benefits from the success of PSLV-C21, by setting a wrong example to follow for people, regarding desired attitude towards faith. I wish that you repent your actions and strive to undo the damage done by you to the public psyche.
By the way, as an aside, have you ever considered blaming your gods (and claiming damage recovery from the temple trust authorities) when some of the earlier Indian rockets failed?

ISRO chief offers worship at shrine ahead of PSLV-C21 launch

Tirupati, Sept 7, 2012, (PTI):

Courtesy: Wikipedia
Ahead of India's landmark 100th space mission, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishanan today offered worship at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara near here praying for its successful launch.

Radhakrishanan is a frequent visitor to the over 2000-year-old shrine before every mission, temple sources said.

The mission, in which a 720-kg SPOT-6 remote sensing satellite from France (built by ASTRIUM SAS) and a 15-kg Japanese spacecraft PROITERES would be placed in orbit by ISRO's PSLV-C21 on Sunday from Sriharikota, will be witnessed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A replica of PSLV-C21 carried in a bag by the ISRO Chief was placed at the feet of the presiding deity for a while by temple priests, the sources said.

Accessed on September 18, 2012)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ajita Kesa-Kambalin


In the Samannaphala Sutta and elsewhere the following doctrine is ascribed to the philosopher Ajita, nicknamed[1] “of the Hair-garment,” very probably because he and his followers affected that mode of dress –

“There is no such thing as alms or sacrifice or offering. There is neither fruit nor result of good or evil deeds. There is no such thing as this world or the next. There is neither father nor mother, nor beings springing into life without them (opapatika). There are in the world no Recluses or Brahmins who have reached the highest point, who walk perfectly, and who, having understood and realised, by themselves alone, both this world and the next, make their wisdom known to others. A human being is built up of the four Elements. When he dies, the earthy in him returns and relapses to the earth, the fluid to the water, the heat to the fire, the windy to the air, and his indriyas or faculties pass into space. The four bearers, he on the bier as a fifth, take his dead body away. Till they reach the burn­ing ground men utter forth eulogies: but there his bones are bleached, and his offerings end in ashes! It is a doctrine of fools, this talk of gifts. It is an empty lie, mere idle talk, when men say there is profit therein. Fools and wise alike, on the dissolution of the body, are cut off, are annihilated; and after death they are not.”

As is evident, this doctrine of Kesa-kambalin is a violent denun­ciation of both the Brahmanic ritualism and the Upanishadic doctrine of the Atman. With evident allusion to texts like Kaushitaki Upanishad. iv. 19, or the anupravesa texts from the Aitareya or Chhandogya Upanishads, Ajita declares that nothing is real that is not corporeal: “As a man drawing a sword from the scabbard can say, ‘This is the sword and that is the scabbard,’ not so are we able to separate the soul from the body, pointing out, ‘this is the soul and that is the body.’” Ajita's view comes nearest to the view of the Materialists like Charvaka, whose (or whose teacher’s) obiter dicta are familiar to us in the opening pages of the Sarvadarsanasamgraha.

[1] His opponents characterized his teaching also - like a hair-garment­ - as amongst the most disagreeable of things:  cold in the cold weather, hot in the hot, and always unpleasant to touch.

Courtesy: History of Indian Philosophy: The Creative Period – First Published in 1927

About the authors:

Shripad Krishna Belvalkar (1880-1967) was born at Kolhapur, Maharashtra and was educated at Bombay and Harvard universities. He was Honorary Secretary of All India Oriental Conference in1926-27. He was elected as Honorary Fellow, Royal Asiatic Society, London in 1947. He was co-founder and Honorary Secretary of Bhardarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune in 1915-18 and 1927-33. His publications include: Systems of Sanskrit Grammar (1915), Rama’s Later Hisotry (1925), Dandin’s Kavyadarsa (1924), and Bhagavadgita (1941)

Ramachandra Dattatraya Ranade (1886-1957) was born at Jamkhandi in Karnataka. He was Emiritus Professor of Philosophy and Vice-Chancellor, Allahabad University.  His important publications are: Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy (1926), Mysticism in Maharashtra (1930), Philosophical Essays (1956), and Shri Bhagavat Gita (1958)

Friday, 14 September 2012

Producing Vibhuti on Satya Sai Baba's Photographs 'miraculously'!

B Premanand

Satya Sai Baba's paternal uncle (father's younger brother, Chinna Venkappa Raju) was a magician and it was he who taught him magic tricks. The first trick which Satya Sai Baba performed at his school was to take out pencils, rubber, sweets etc., from an empty bag and surprise his class-fellows and teachers. Then since he did not have the idea of acting as an avatar of god, he explained these tricks as done by nature gods like other magicians. The fact that one needs a bag to produce things is because it is a trick bag. He also collected double value for these materials from his class-mates.

Experiment - 58

Effect: Creating things out of an empty bag.

Props:  Trick-bag and the objects you want to produce.

Method: Hide the objects you want to produce in the second part of the bag and close it. Then show the bag to the audience by pulling out the inside to prove that it is empty. Then chant incantations, while pulling the centre partition to the other side and start producing things.

Experiment - 59

Effect:  Throwing flowers on the ground which forms into letters "Sai Baba".

The second trick which Satya Sai Baba demonstrated was to throw a bas­ket of Jasmine flowers on the floor which formed into the Telugu letters "Sai Baba" to prove that he was the incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. The humour of this is that while Shirdi Sai Saba knew only Marathi and Hindi, Satya Sai Baba knows only Telugu. So he could manifest only Telugu words.

Props: Colourless adhesive, a brush, Jasmine flowers and a fan. 

Method: Prior to the show, draw the words on the floor or carpet with the adhesive. Put on the fan and throw Jasmine flowers on that part. The Jasmine will stick to the adhesive and form the words. The other flowers get blown aside by the fan.

Experiment - 60

Effect: Creating necklace from no where. (Satya Sai Baba moves his empty hands in a circle and produces necklaces.)

Props: Necklace.

Method: Keep the necklace under the armpit inside the sleeves. Show the hand empty, move the hands in a circle two or three times, just hold the fingers towards the palm and release the necklace from the arm-pit. It will fall into your palm and thus enable you to produce it.

Experiment - 61

Effect:  Producing lockets, talismans, medals, rings etc.

Props: Lockets, talismans, medals, rings etc., which you can palm.

Method: Palm them before hand, wave your hand in circles and produce them as you produce vibhuti.

Experiment - 62

Effect: Producing Akshata (coloured rice). [Satya Sai Baba waves his hands in circles and sprinkles the rice on the head of the devotee]

Props: Coloured rice and thumb tip; paraffin wax.

Method: Place the thumb tip with rice on your thumb, circle your hands two or three times, release the thumb tip to your palm and sprinkle the rice on the head of the volunteer.

Another Method: Melt paraffin wax and soak the rice in it and take out and dry. Make a ball of this rice and because of wax coating it will stick together.

Palm it and after circling the hand two or three times bring the ball to your fingers and crush it and sprinkle it on the head of the volunteer.

Experiment - 63

Effect: Flower petals transformed into lockets, toffee etc.

Props: Flower petals, lockets, toffee etc.

Method: Cover the materials to be produced with flower petals. As if throwing the flower petals, also throw the materials hidden among the flower petals.

Experiment - 64

Effect: Nectar, honey, oil, etc., flowing from the photographs of Satya Sai Baba in the homes of his devotees.

Props: A bottle with one of the liquids, a framed photograph, a mantap, tube connection from the bottle to the frame with a tap.

Method: The bottle with honey, nectar or oil etc., is hidden in the frame or mantap with a tube at the back of the framed photo leading to the front of the glass. When the tap is opened, honey, nectar, oil etc., flows down the glass.

To expose this miracle, watch carefully to see how much honey is forming and falling into the plate kept below the photograph and find out if it is just some honey etc., poured on the glass. If honey is flowing down from the pho­tograph, remove the photograph from its place and you can find the source of the flow.

Experiment – 65

Effect: Holy Ash forming on the photographs of Satya Sai Baba in the home of his devotees. Vibhuti is seen formed on framed photographs.

Props: Perfumed vibhuti, framed photograph, Kanji water (rice water) fresh water and a plate.

Method: Make a dough of vibhuti in Kanji water (starch water from rice porridge - Congee) and spray it on the glass of the photo. Allow it to dry. Once it is dried repeat this once again, spraying the vibhuti on the first coat. Allow it to dry.

When a fan is working, the ash on the photographs sprayed with water flies in the air which makes people believe that ash is forming on the photo and falling down. Also keep some dry vibhuti below to make people believe that it is the ash that is forming and falling.
To examine whether vibhuti is really forming on the glass of the framed photograph, remove the portion of the ash which has already formed on the photograph and you will see that it does not form again on the scraped portion.

Experiment – 66

Effect: Producing larger objects from sand.

Satya Sai Baba has created an 18" gold Krislma idol and a Bhagavad Gita book from sand. He goes near the river bank, selects a place, and sits there with his devotees in a circle around him. He makes a heap of sand, puts his hand inside the sand and brings out objects which are impossible to palm.

Props: The object which you want to produce.

Method: Hide an object in the sand well in advance and mark the place. Walk about as if you are searching for a place to sit and in the end select the marked spot. Make a small mound of sand and insert your hand in it and take out the hidden object as if you have created it

Experiment – 67

Effect: Holy ash from an empty wooden vessel.

On Shivarathri day Satya Sai Baba takes a wooden vessel containing vibhuti and empties it on the head of the Shirdi Sai Baba statue. After showing it empty, he puts his hand through the neck of the vessel and out flows vibhuti for several min­utes. He first uses his right hand, then the left hand, and again the right hand.

Props: A vessel with a big belly and a neck through which the hand can pass easily. Vibhuti, water and a bottle which can also pass through the neck. A robe with double sleeves and some thread or rubber bands

Method:  Mix the vibhuti in water into a dough and fill it in the vessel. Press it with the bottle so that the dough adheres to the sides of the vessel and the centre portion is empty. Allow it to dry. Fill the centre portion with dry vibhuti and tie them with a thread or rubber band so that it does not fall out.

Show the vessel with vibhuti. Turn it over and let the vibhuti fall on the idol or statue. Show it empty. Now hold the vessel with mouth up, put your right arm into the vessel, at the same time releasing the vibhuti from the sleeve into the vessel. Turn the vessel slowly and allow the vibhuti to fall out through your hand. When the flow stops, remove your arm and show the vessel is empty. Now hold the top up and put your left hand in, releasing the vibhuti hidden in the left sleeve. Then turn the vessel over and let the vibhuti slowly fall through your left hand until it is empty. Now remove your left hand, insert your right hand and slowly scrape the vibhuti placed on the sides of the vessel. Thus you can create more vibhuti than the vessel appears to hold .

Since it is very easy to expose this trick, Satya Sai Baba stopped producing vibhuti from a vessel in 1978.      

Reproduced with permission from Indian CSICOP.  For other articles from Science Versus Miracles we have already published please click here ( 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Striving for Just Society

Ram Puniyani

The verdict of magistrate Dr. Jyotsna Yagnik, sentencing Dr. Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and others to long imprisonment (31 August, 2012) has come as a big relief to the victims of Naroda Patiya, for whom it was like return of Eid to their houses. Naroda Patiya had witnessed horrific carnage and acts of rape in 2002 and this judgment will give a solace to the victims and their near and dear ones’. This judgment came as a culmination of the mammoth efforts of the human rights activists, the victims, the witnesses and the team of legal activists who stood all the opposition form every conceivable quarter to ensure that justice is done in the case. The adage that ‘there can’t be peace without justice’ has been redeemed with this court judgment. 

This judgment also puts right various misconceptions deliberately propagated by communal forces. First and foremost was that the Gujarat violence was a reaction to the Godhra train burning. By now this is believed by most of the sections of society, more so by the communalized sections of society all over and more so in Gujarat. The judge made it clear that “thousands of persons…attacked weaponless and frightened victims with intention, pre planning while sharing common objects”. It was not a spontaneous reaction to burning of train in Godhra. Rather Godhra train burning was used subtly as a justification for the preplanned pogrom. Communal forces tried to pass it off as ‘natural anger’ which the state could not control. Contrary to this perception, now court has ruled that it was a deliberately planned carnage, using the Godhra incident as a mere pretext to consolidate communal polarization in the state of Gujarat.

India has witnessed so many communal riots, acts of violence. Lately these riots have been assuming the form of well organized pogroms. This finding of Human Rights groups and the report of Citizens for Justice and peace gets validated through this judgment, for sure. So far the trend has been that the innocents have been killed in the violence and the perpetrators of violence have gone scot free. Now it seems that with the human rights defenders tightening their belts can set right the adverse trend, where guilty were getting away without any punishment. In this case human rights defenders have put in all the efforts to reverse the prevalent trend due to which the perpetrators of crime were more or less sure that they can get away with their crimes and consolidate their politics. 

For once the message is loud and clear that the automatic mechanisms of justice delivery system are not effective and a super human efforts by dedicated human rights defenders like Teesta Setalvad, Gagan Sethi, Harsh Mander, Yusuf Muchala, Mukul Sinha, Govind Parmar and many others like them, working through different angles, supplementing each other’s efforts can ensure that justice is done. They had to plug the leaks in the system to ensure that victims are protected, witnesses are protected, the complaints, FIRs are properly recorded, and to see that all the hurdles to justice are overcome. 

The first question which comes to mind is, will this state of affairs continue like this where nothing short of super human efforts, protecting-sustaining the victims and witnesses against heavy odds will be needed for getting justice. Society and the nation needs to plug the loopholes in the policing system, in the bureaucratic apparatus and in the attitude of political leadership so that the justice delivery becomes a matter of routine rather than an exception. Victims of so many riots, pogroms are still awaiting justice, Bhagalpur, Delhi and Mumbai to name the few, still have not got the justice. 

This brings to our attention another aspect of the violence, those who led it. Dr. Maya Kodnani came up through Rashtra Sevikasamiti, an organization subordinate to Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, RSS. One notes incidentally that in RSS worldview, women don’t have a swayam (Self) as is manifest in the name of Rashtra Sevikasamiti. Also that Maya Kodnani was sitting MLA, and after the pogrom and her role in it, inciting the mob, distributing fuel and armaments, she was promoted to the level of minister and once she was charged with the role in violence, she was dumped from the ministry and disowned by the state Government. Section of RSS followers in VHP etc. are protesting against the judgment. As such the standard technique for RSS stable is that, once its members-followers undertake the crime, murder of Gandhi, burning of Pastor Stains, or play their part in terror attack, they are declared not to be having any association with the parent organization, whose ideology they are living and breathing through their actions. Kodnani for certain reasons did say that she was victim of politics! What does this mean? While this statement is a mystery, one hopes the meaning of this victimhood comes out one of the days in future. 

Babu Bajrangi is another character, whose revelations in Tehelka were nothing less than shocking. He said they have been given time for three days, and that his team-associates are playing not the test cricket but one day match, where high score is to made in short time. And that after killing the hapless Muslims he felt like Rana Pratap. One wishes he knew that Rana Pratap was not killing in the name of religion, he was fighting other kings for power and that in his army there were Muslims soldiers as well. One of the his army generals who died while fighting for Rana Pratap was Hakim Khan Sur, whose tomb is there in the Haldi Ghati even now. How distortions of medieval history are done deliberately to incite hate becomes clear again. 

And what is happening to the conscience of Narendra Modi, who has been the major beneficiary of the carnage of 2002? Any remorse, any tears for at least those who were reporting to him during the carnage, whom he promoted for their role in the violence and now are being punished by the due process of law? 

One hopes that we recast our laws and system to ensure that the violence is punished in due course and that this punishment acts as a deterrent and ensures that in future such inhuman dastardly acts don’t repeat themselves. This welcome judgment also leaves a few questions, what about those who faulted in the discharge of their duties to protect the innocents, to register their legitimate complains, and to nail the guilty as a matter of their assigned duty? We do need to work towards a system where to begin with such hate crimes don’t take place, and if by chance such a tragedy is engineered by some political forces, we have the system in place which can check it right away and punish those who are either conspiring, or executing or are not controlling those dastardly acts. One hopes that the human rights defenders will be on their tip toes to come forward with such yeomen efforts to have a society with justice and peace.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Was Veer Savarkar Really “Veer”?

R.A Jahagirdar

For generations the Hindutvavadis have venerated Vinayak Sawarkar as Veer Savarkar. The writings of Savarkar, especially in Marathi, show great valour and heroic sentiments. In language that is both beautiful and brave, the writings of Savarkar - in prose and poetry - display heroic qualities but of Hinduism. Savarkar wrote an essay, “Hindutva” (Hinduness) in which he tells us who are really Hindus. Merely by birth in India, one does not become a Hindu. Hindu is one, says Savarkar, whose land of worship (“Punya Bhumi”) is India; whose history, trials or tribulations are centred around in Hindustan. If one looks towards Mecca or Jerusalem for religious inspiration, he cannot be a Hindu as defined by Savarkar. Thus Muslims and Christians whose basic holy places are outside India are not and cannot be called Hindus. The Hindutva idea is alien to them. This is in sum, Savarkar’s idea of Hindutva – a term which is not the same as Hinduism. Buddhists and Jains whose religions are not Hindu are yet embraced by Hindutva. It is almost a mystical concept.

Savarkars's statue in front of
Cellular Jail, Port Blair installed during
BJP rule in Delhi
(Date of photograph: 15 August 2012)
Savarkar did not and could not foresee Hindu Diaspora or even Muslim Diaspora. Large numbers of Hindus have migrated to U.S.A. and have acquired citizenship of America. Their ethos – is it included in Hindutva? The largest numbers of Buddhists are outside India in several East Asian countries. Can we say that they must display Hindutva? It will be an act of treason if they love India to the exclusion of the countries whose citizens they are. In his book “First War of Indian Independence” (which is about 1857) Savarkar speaks of joint Hindu-Muslim revolt. But that was long before the birth of Hindutva in Savarkar’s mind.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, later also known as Tatyasaheb Savarkar, was born in 1883 in a town called Bhagur in Nasik District of Maharashtra. Even his biographers do not speak of his brilliance as a student. But his later writings, both prose and poetry, display of unusual command of Marathi language which continues to inspire Maharashtrians. It may be stated incidentally that on an occasion in England where he had gone for studies he wrote a poem asking the ocean “to take me to my motherland”. In song frame it has been sung by Mangeshkar siblings and it has become immortal in Maharashtra. In the song he tells, among other things, that mother’s cottage is better than a palace.

It has been recorded that once in his student days he pelted stones at a mosque in his town. He exhibited anti-Muslim feelings, even in his college days. He went to college in Pune. He organized groups of Hindus whom he inspired to be good and strong Hindus.

With the help of one Pandit Shyamji Krishna Verma, a strong believer in Hinduism, then resident of London, Savarkar went to England for education. An activist of “Abhinav Bharat”, a revolutionary organization for freedom of India, Savarkar took part in several activities. Dhananjay Keer mentions that he was, in 1908, convicted for outraging the modesty of an English girl and spent four months in jail as a consequence. Savarkar also displayed strong patriotism inasmuch as he studied Mazzini and translated one book on Mazzini which came to be published in Nasik and enjoyed an uncommon popularity among Maharashtrians. That, Savarkar was a patriot is not disputed.

Madan Lal Dingra was hanged for assassinating Sir William Carzon Wylie who was the eye and brain of India House. Savarkar had inspired Dingra to do the act. Savarkar had also sent pistols clandestinely and one of them was found to have killed A.M.T. Jackson, the Collector of Nasik. The pistol which killed Jackson was traced to Savarkar who was arrested in London under Fugitives Act and brought to India. I have refrained from describing the activities of Savarkar in England. Suffice it to say that those activities show his patriotism and intelligence. One thing, however, must be noted. It was never Savarkar’s hand that pulled the trigger at any time. He inspired but never acted. While Savarkar was being brought to India in a ship, he jumped in the sea through a port hole. That was in France. However, he was captured and brought back. This was the only physical act of Savarkar in the cause of freedom. What he did was undoubtedly a daring act.

Ultimately he was tried, among others, for the murder of Jackson and sentenced to life imprisonment. Also in another case he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Those days, life imprisonment meant 25 years which in Savarkar’s case meant 50 years. It was a fearful prospect which would have broken any man. If it broke the courage of Savarkar, one cannot blame him.

This is where the act of so-called bravery of the person begins. He was transported to Andaman Island to serve his sentence in the awful cellular jail. This was regarded, among the Indians, as “Kalapani”. It was the forced destination of hardened criminals.

Hard physical labour awaited Savarkar. He was received at Port Blair of Andaman on July 4, 1911. He was 28 years old. Within two years thereafter, Sir Reginald Craddock, Home Member Viceroy’s Executive Council, met him. Sir Reginald’s note recorded Savarkar’s plea for mercy. On November 14, 1913, Savarkar had written to the Government: “I am ready to serve the Government they like … Where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?” (Emphasis mine). In reply to a question in the Legislative Council on March 22, 1920, the Home Member, Sir William Vincent said: “Two Petitions were received from Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – one in 1914 and another in 1917 – through the Superintendent, Port Blair. In the former he offered his services to the governmentduring the war in any capacity and prayed that general amnesty be granted to all political prisoners. The second Petition was confined to the latter proposal. In the Petition dated November 23, 1913, he wrote: “In the end, I remind your honour to be good as to go through the Petition for clemency that I had sent in 1911 and to sanction it for being forwarded to the Indian Government”. He had in the same letter said: “Therefore the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot be the staunchest advocate of progress and loyalty to the English which is the foremost condition of that progress.” The Government which he had decided not to serve became a Government of beneficence and mercy. The rebel became a person of loyalty. Continuing further he said: “Moreover my conversion to the Constitutional line would bring back all those misguided young men in India and abroad who were once looking at me as their guide.”

“Veer” means, brave, hero, gallant, warrior as per Sanskrit and Marathi dictitionaries. This Veer gave apologies as many as five times.

After being brought back to India, Savarkar was lodged in Yaravada Jail. It was when he was in this jail that he was to be conditionally released. On January 6, 1924, he was released subject to certain conditions. Two of them were as follows:

1. Savarkar shall reside in Ratnagiri district and shall not go beyond the limits of that district without the permission of Government or in case of emergency of the District Magistrate.

2. He will not engage privately or publicly in any manner of political activities without the consent of Government for a period of five years, such restrictions being renewable at the discretion of Government at the expiry of the said period.

The option to renew the terms was with Government and not with Savarkar who accepted the conditions.

In 1937 Congress formed in Bombay. It was the same Congress upon whom Savarkar had heaped abuses all along. The Government, in their “beneficence and mercy” relaxed the conditions of detention. Savarkar was free. His followers were naturally jubilant.

But on April 4, 1950 Savarkar was arrested, unjustifiably, under Public Security Measures Act (law of detention). A habeas corpus Petition was filed by Savarkar’s son, Vishwas, and it was heard by a Bench of Chief Justice Chagla and Justice Gajendragadkar. After taking instruction from the Government, the Advocate General, C.K. Daftary, who was prosecuting Counsel in Gandhi murder case, informed the Court that the Government would release Savarkar if he gave an undertaking that he would not participate in politics. Undertaking was given by Savarkar’s Advocate on his behalf and the Court ordered the release on that undertaking. This was the last condition which Savarkar accepted.

How did he came to be known as Veer Savarkar? Who gave him that title? I am not able to find in any published literature an answer to these questions. However, personal inquiries made by me have revealed that Mrs. Bhapatkar, the editor of “Bhala”, a Marathi periodical, dubbed Savarkar as Veer. Somewhere on the road, the word “Swatantrya” was added and thus Savarkar became Swatantrya Veer Savarkar” – Freedom Fighter Savarkar who did not do anything for the country after 1913 till his death in 1966.

Nelson Mandela spent twenty three years in jail and refused to admit that he would not take part in politics. Still we do not call him Swatantrya Veer.

I have not dealt with other aspects of Savarkar’s life except his apologies and undertakings which are relevant to the title of Swatantrya Veer. It must be admitted that large number of Maharashtrians, especially Brahmins, adored him. In Mumbai when Sangha Pariwar was in power in Municipal Corporation, a road was named after him. That road is one of the longest roads in Mumbai and it runs into 3 postal districts. On this road has been erected, probably the biggest memorial in India, named after Savarkar.

During the time when Manohar Joshi was the Speaker, an oil portrait of Savarkar was unveiled in the Central Hall of the Parliament, but Mahatma Gandhi’s statue sits in the open braving the sun and winds.

Courtesy: Collected Works of Justice R.A. Jahagirdar (1927-2011) published by Rationalist Foundation, Pune, the ebook version of which can be downloaded at


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