Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bharatmata, where did this diety come from

In Bharatavarsha, for sure we never lacked for dieties. Whether these were forces of nature(Indra, Agni) or representations of philosophical ideas(Vishnu, Shiva, Kali etc) there was always a constant churn of gods,goddesses being born, dying and reborn under different names as our ancients were always trying to understand the world, physical,metaphysical and spiritual, around us.

Earth dieties were usually feminine whether Prithvi or kul devata(goddesses of the grove) and therefore hardly unfamiliar to the ancients. Curiously we have here a macro goddess(indeed the entire earth) and micro(associated with sacred groves).
Curiously while we certainly had a concept of a nation -Bharatavarsha named for Bharata muni, we never sought to deify this idea as we did with so many others. Why was that?
It is really hard to get an answer to non action even more so when it comes to the history of ideas. However there is strong circumstantial evidence in the plularism of Vedic society. That no enlightened being insisted on national unification except in the case of rare individuals like Sagara, Bharata, Rama and the Pandavas may well imply sans the presence of spiritually attained individuals like aforementioned, religion under a centralized nationalism is more likely to suffer as religion may get tainted with politics
The examples for these are legion. The close relationship between the Sassanids and the Zorastrianism quickly led to its downfall. Similarly with Islam and the Caliphate, it barely last a few hundred years before quickly falling to foreign Turks and Mongols.
No sooner had King Solomon monopolized the Temple and its associated priesthood by filling it with people from his own tribe(Judah) and thereby built a strong centralized empire, than the empire fell apart after his death and the kingdom split in two  under less spiritually accomplished kings thereby becoming rife for the Assyrian invasions.
Certain people go on and on about the negative effects on Euro colonialism and yet go ahead and eulogize Bharat Mata in the same breath!
And yet there was no Bharat Mata until a semi Westernized Bengali patriot Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay invented her out of whole cloth. The purpose of this essay is not to disparage Bankim and his immense contribution to the nationalist movement as well as the rich Bengali literary tradition.
Bharata Mata was a necessary diety which was created by "Rishi" Bankim at the time in order to fight the Asura British. And Vande Mataram was the mantra.But let us not forget that Bankim himself was exposed to Western ideas including representation of nations as women , the most famous of whom is the iconic Columbia representing United States as seen regularly when we go to the movies produced by Columbia studios
                                                        Columbia on a war memorial
But Bankim would undoubtedly be more familiar with Britannia above due to his exposure to British education.
However please note that in our national personification we are missing the male equivalent of Uncle Sam and the British Bulldog.
One wonders if this is why Indians are currently such mama's boys! Please note that ancient Hindus refer to the homeland as both matru bhumi (motherland) , pitru bhumi(fatherland) and punyabhumi(land of righteous action)
The diety of Bharatmata is as we know an incomplete diety since the other aspects of the homeland were ignored. This is again not to disparage Bankim's immense contribution but let us keep in mind that his effort was overwhelmingly political and not religious in nature even as Anandamath was about Hindu ascetics battling the East Indian company. Their hostility to the British stemmed from mundane issues such as taxation and other exploitation rather than outright religious bigotry.
Often in our culture, a diety is often felicitated as a great force to be reckoned but when its time is due and it is relegated to patala loka.
Seeing as how I would rather have a decentralized and a more localized Hindu nation, Im afraid Bharatamata's good works are behind her and due to the tyranny of the Indian central government she is now to be considered an asura
                              However seeing as how even Asuras are accorded the proper respect due to their past deeds, the most famous being Bali, I would not mind saying VANDE MATARAM every now and then!


  1. Very well written YSV.In this article I agree with each and every point that you have put up,except one.But that is not for the sake of contradiction but to compliment
    the overall analysis you have made.The deity of Bharat-mata is truly an incomplete concept when it comes to the representation of patriotism as a whole.I think the
    Sita-Rama deity is a better alternative than Bharatmata for the representation of national integrity,because the Ramayana covers every aspect of the average Indian's life,and in a broader sense this coverage is not bound to Hinduism alone but to the Indian culture as a whole.But this is just my personal opinion.Bankim Chandra probably designed Bharatmata under the partial influence of Western culture.But I think the major impact on his mindset was from our very own Bengali traditions.This is because of the prevalence of Durga and Kali worship with the love and respect as we have for our own mothers.I believe actually this thing had influenced Bankim Chandra to shape the deity solely as a mother goddess(even it has the word Mata in its name) .The concept of a nurturing mother is something that is common to every culture,religion,creed etc.Probably Bankim Chandra,at that point of time,wanted Bengalis to rally up their patriotic passions arround this feeling of maternal love.But your point of western influence might also be true.I was just presenting a different perspective on this issue.Anyway as you have already mentioned,Bankim Chandra didnot have to worry about highlighting hindu ascetics in his novel, or a sanskrit-based mantra,because ascetics of all religions in those days were treated with reverence by all sects of people.But in these days of secularism,"Hindu ascetics" would have been the central point of a major political debate,I can assure you of that :)

    1. Thanks Jam. By the captain standards Shri Bankim was a Rothschild agent because used Western ideas and motifs to represent India! LOL

      Of course not all ideas introduced by the West are bad obviously. Nation state, democracy and freedom of expression(though the latter two have precedence in Vedic culture) contributed to our independence movement.

      The failing is not so much of Bankim whose contribution was more than enough to sustain centuries of freedom struggle, but the post independent leaders such as the captains favorite Nehru and Indira who turned her into a monster. I say let this Asura be cast down to naraka!

  2. YSV what's your opinion about the Rama-Sita deities as a sign of national unity?This idea(it might be outright stupid :) ) just flashed in my mind while reading this post of yours and the flaws in the concept of Bharatmata.I look forward to your critical opinion on this.Please note I am speaking for Rama-Sita dual deity not from a religious perspective but for the fact that this divine couple represent everything that is central to the Indian way of life.Even the Supreme Court of India in 2011 most probably had mentioned that Hinduism is not a religion but the way of life in India.The religion is Vedic Sanatan Dharma.Anyway this is a wholly different issue,I just mentioned this to clarify my neutral stance on the religious aspect of Rama.

  3. Keep in mind Rama Sita "Jodi" was ultimately a failure! It ended in though not divorce but a thorough separation and Sita returning where to she came from. All because of some comment by a dhobi! One can blame circumstances such as the exile and Ravana's kidnapping but there was friction before hand.
    Rama was a bit haughty and hot tempered while Sita was naïve, selfish and foolish. Why did she insist on accompanying her husband in the forest.?Lakshmana's wife Urmila had the good sense not to bother him because it is not a suitable place a woman especially a princess. Later they had to unnecessarily fend off Rakshasas who took a fancy to her. And on top of this she had the audacity to recommend to Rama that he ditch his weapons after witnessing some sages living peacefully in the forest. Not realizing that it was because of warrior kings such as Vishwamitra and Rama that the place was relatively bereft of Rakshasas in the first place and therefore Rishis did not need their own militias
    Also there is the episode of accusing Lakshmana of having designs on her during when Rama went to hunt for the deer(a demon in disguise)
    A somewhat prickly prince and an immature, unstable princess is a terrible combination and I would never compliment any couple by saying they are Rama Sita Jodi ;-)
    If you ask me there were greater kings than Rama. King Sagara accomplished more by invading and defeating mlecchas and hosting Sagara Manthan(which is named after him) as well bringing Ganga down to earth. Kritivirya Arjuna defeated Parasurama and Ravana , which Rama would emulate later though in his case their defeat would be final. Also hosted far more yagnas than Rama

    Of course Rama is a great and just king. And we can admire his triumph in adversity and overwhelming odds not to mention his yogic powers(his knowledge of divine weapons and brought people back to life) but in the end the poets for whatever reason latched on to him than other kings as they figured it would be better propaganda for the Ikshvaku lineage! But paid tributes to Sagara and Kirtivirya by including their exploits in Ramayana.

    It reminds me of how the Bible was edited in a way by Christians so that it proceeds in a linear fashion where the final climax is birth,life and resurrection of Christ.

    Ramayana I believe is history for sure but Sagara and K Arjuna are not given their proper due because of the Rama bhaktas!

    1. Thanks for your reply YSV

    2. If the Ramayana is considered as an allegory, as I happened to read somewhere, Sita being a little naive, immature and foolish is understandable. Rama stands for supreme consciousness (Para Brahma) and Sita for Jiva and Sita (Jiva) comes under the influence of Maya /illusion (in the form of Maricha as Mayamruga) and lands up in the custody of Dashanan Ravan (Ravana's ten heads symbolize 5 Jnanendriyas and 5 Karmendriyas) or in other words the Jiva is separated from the Divine and lands up in a human body. ysv_rao can shed more light on this.

    3. We have to make a distinction between flesh and blood personalities later elevated to(or considered godly on earth) such as Rama, Krishna, Pandavas, Sagara, Buddha etc and dieties who were "created" by sages to express forces of nature and/or philosophical concepts such as Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma etc.

      So Ramayana, Mahabharata are not allegories but tales of actual people of course some of embellished with rich symbolism sometimes to illustrate a point and sometimes to conceal!
      So Ravana having 10 heads was as you said a symbol of his considerable intellectual endeavors in different fields. But he was a real person I believe.

      So the captain does have a point about the foolishness of Amish Tripathi of casting Shiva as an actual flesh and blood yogi.
      It is another matter that Shiva is portrayed a yogi. As it would've been yogis who developed the idea of Shiva . He is the head of the underworld which is why he is covered by Nagas. Ganga being revered by yogis believe the internal Ganga flows from the head all the way down and hence Ganga is locked up in his top knot.

    4. Anu to be more precise, Sita is the Kundalini shakti and Rama is the pure consciousness in the Sahashrar.The whole of Ramayana is actually an allegory your inner spiritual journey of raising Kundalini.Capt claims that Uttar Kand of Ramayan is fake and R-injected(hell according to Capt the whole world except Kerala is R-injected!).So by that logic we would have to reduce one chakra ,because 7 kands of Ramayan signify 7 chakras :) While Amish Tripathi did make a mistake in casting Shiva's character,I believe Shiva,just like Rama had appeared in flesh and blood at one point of time in history.Actually Shiva was the yogi whose pastimes compelled the proponents of Sanatana Dharma to integrate Tantric philosophy into their fold.This integration is manifested through the marriage of Shiva with Parvati.None of this is my own knowledge or realisation ofcourse unlike the Capt :) I came to know this concept of visualisation of Shiva while reading the sayings of a realised Aghori yogi of the early 20th century,recorded by a spiritual seeker in his book.YSV your counter-views are welcome on this.YSV one more request,you should put up the recent comments part in your blog as Anu suggested.It will be easier to follow the discussions :)

    5. To reiterate, I do not believe Ramayana is an allegory in a manner you describe. Rama was a flesh and blood individual from the line of Ikshvaku descended from Sagara and Trishanku.

      Be careful with numerology (7 chapters= 7 chakras) it can lead you to confusion and PN Oak territory.

      also again with Shiva I disagree. While Shivas appearance is based on a yogi , it doesn't mean there was ever a yogi called Shiva elevated to a god. It simply means the diety of Shiva and its associated philosophy was associated with yogis in the Himalayas.
      And his marriage to a diety associated with royalty (Parvathi) simply implies he was accepted into mainstream Kshatriya community and therefore into Hinduism where hitherto he was existing on the fringes due to very abstract philosophy and odd lifestyle associated with Shaivites

    6. Forgot to mention: The diety of Rama is different from flesh and blood Rama of course. And while hailed as an avatar of Vishnu, he is accorded all sorts of titles and powers. But in the original Ramayana, he is hardly omnipresent and omnipotent. He simply has no clue what happens to Sita and like a good detective he pieces together clues to figure out where she went(until he met Jatayu) and like a great general he has to achieve an army to match Ravanas from scratch.

      Compare these restrictions to how say Shiva and Vishnu are described. Yes they have difficulties and challenges but not in the physical realm.

    7. Actually I should have clarified myself here and you have rightly pointed out the flaws in my comment.Firstly Rama was a flesh and blood individual and there is no doubt about this.I pointed out that the Ramayan somehow coincides with your inner spiritual evolution.Here I am little less logical than you,i.e,I believe that Rama as an Avatar of Vishnu,had enacted his life in such a way that it coincides to our inner spiritual journey.You can attribute this similarity to Valmiki's genius also.But what you have mentioned on PN Oak territory is true :) .We should not trivialise numerogical similarity in mythology.

      "And his marriage to a diety associated with royalty (Parvathi) simply implies he was accepted into mainstream Kshatriya community...." - Yes I was also trying to make a similar point but in a different manner.Anyway we can never verify whether Shiva existed or not in flesh-blood.So I accept your argument here as it has strong base.

  4. Sir,

    I wanted to tell this before, but why not we have an avatar of Vishnu as a fatherland representation for India? My shortlisted favorites are:
    1. Matsya - Saved Manu and the Vedas.
    2. Kurma - Supported Meru mountain as a base.
    3. Varaha - Saved mother earth (Bhumi Devi) from the deep seas.

    My personal favorite is the Varaha avatar. Look at the warthog, how it digs the earth to eat its food. I'm not talking about the common domesticated pig, but the warthog in the wild. Uncle Sam, the British Bulldog and the Indian Warthog.

    But isn't Indonesia represented by Ibu Pertiwi (Mother Earth, Pertiwi is a modification of Prithvi) alone with no paternal representation? And Iran represented only by Cyrus the Great?

    Whatever, Varaha Avatar is our fatherland representation.

    1. @Iniyavel

      If any Vishnu Avatar deserves to be the fatherland representation of India,I think the most appropiate would be Rama.If u think a bit deeper,the life of Rama is the life of an average Indian,with all ups/downs,struggles,pain, joy,caring for family,doing charity according to capacity and trying to uphold dharma as much as possible.In short Rama is the representation of the average Indian through ages,and it is quite apparent that even nonhindu population was influenced by this Indian way of life,hence their assimilation into the Indian society.
      My other vote would go to the immortal Lord Shiva :) Shiva represents the typical village side Indian through ages,living just on the minimum amount of necessity that's essential to survive,and with zero ego of his own.In short,that was Shiva :) but just one caveat here,Shiva represents the pure Tantra Dharma in its true essence,as it was practised in eastern side of India before the dominance of Aryan vedic philosophy.However this version of Tantra Dharma is no more practised at present.In Shiva's time,Tantra Dharma was the household religion of eastern India,but nowadays everything has got mixed up,and the tantric practice has been removed to jungles,hills and secret places(though it was never meant to be a secret religion originally) :) Thus in the present circumstance I think Rama is more eligible for the post :P

    2. Rama is great, but sir already told above why it's not a good idea. I also thought the same, but why Varaha avatar is because he saved Bhumi Devi. And Matsya Avatar saved Manu and our precious Vedas. My mother does see the Star Plus serial Siya Ke Ram. Me, occasionally. Sita is amazing, she lifted a weapon placed before God Shiva which Ravana couldn't. But only God knows how much Sita and Rama suffered when in exile, though that was meant to be the start of Ravana's end. As an aside, towards the end of his life, Ravana in his arrogance placed Sani facing the ceiling and walked over him. What happens when Sani's vision falls on anyone? That individual eventually suffers. So Ravana's death came even faster.

      Regarding Shiva, I'd love to but I don't know if it's appropriate. As for me, he's Almighty.