Symbol is one of the important aspects in Vedic and Punranik (post Vedic) philosophy. The impact of such philosophical angle is deeper and core for human life and its existence. Struggle of human to have an inclusive life is not modern but, it seems it does exist in the ancient time also. Symbols in ancient Indian or Hindu philosophy exist in various forms. The geometrical forms, human form, gods, demigods, nature almost everything that a human being can imagine. Here, we will explore how the various symbols are taken as base of philosophy and its representation as minority or rare group in the main stream.
How one can include the rare race, off stream thinkers, different and opposite thoughts can be included in the main stream.
One of the most important symbol strikes in the mind of any eastern philosopher, yogi or common Hindu belief learner is Nataraj. When we say Dance, one can immediately link it to Nataraj. Nataraj is the god of dance. Nataraj literally means the king of dance forms, performing artists, precisely the performing angle of human society. When one says and looks as dance forms sculptured on many temple walls, one can see representation of female figures showing Bhav and Bhangimas (Emotions and formations) predominantly. Even in modern days you will find society accepts female as a dancing entity than male performers. In many advises myself, I have heard statement like “It’s not meant for you, it’s for women”, “Why do you have to dance ? its for female; that’s not meant for men”. I am sure such statements must have been heard and taunted to many male dancers.
If it is so, then the question remains, if dance is an art mainly for female then why the lord of the dance is Shiva? Why a man in form of Nataraj? I always felt like, to make a common man understand the importance of including the off stream interests of minority class in to the main stream and to give these lessons, Hindu philosophy must have made these off stream or representative minority class as deity of that interest class. Hence we see Nataraj in forefront of any temple, worship or monuments where majority of the dance steps are done by female figures.
Let’s take another example. Hindus worship power or the strength in a particular form, this form is called as Durga.
In the situation of war, usual convention goes as a soldier or a warrior as men. Society far way thinks that the strength is occupied by men. Many war situations are shown with men fighting and dominated by male figures. This representation also shows how strong men are dominating the war situations. However the presiding deity of war or war like situation is not a male figure in Hindu philosophy. It is Durga in female form. Durga is shown with many unique qualities. She rides on lion or tiger. Usual convention thinks that these animals cannot be defeated or controlled without masculine power. Durga holds and operates all sorts’ of weapons, taken from many gods and demigods and nature. Commonly female are considered as fragile, delicate and weak in stronger aspects like war or fight. They are not given preference for participating and winning the war. It is interesting to observe that majority of wars began with Durga’s worship in ancient India. Rama worshipped Durga before he started his deciding war against Ravana. Similarly Krishna suggested Pandavas to take blessings from Durga before their war against Kauravas. If it is so, then why is Durga- a female form is presiding deity of male dominated area? This representation of Durga as presiding deity of war or masculine power is just to make the world understand importance of inclusion and representing all being as per their interests and equality in all human areas.
Another example of such symbolism is Ganesha. Ganapti or Ganesha meaning Pati – leader of Ganas i.e. people. Ganapati has a head of Elephant and a very heavy body. He is obese and fat. Usually fat ones are considered not having capacities to lead people or warfare. However he is the god who is worshipped before beginning any auspicious or meaningful work. He is adhipati (leader of leaders) of 64 different arts including dancing, literature to war strategies. This is absolutely interesting representation of inclusion of people who are usually a matter of laugh and tease in the society, such as differently able or fat individuals. It is to remind people of having an inclusive life and have a better world. Usually younger generation or young people in their teen age are not commonly considered with stable mind and as good strategist; however representation of young Karthikeya is the war strategist, Senapati – leader of soldiers and a person with stable mindset. This is to make people understand the younger people do come with new thoughts and world changing plans. Do embrace these minorities and let the world welcome change as important aspect for better universe.
One of the most important symbol and goddess worshiped all over world is “Sarawati”. There are two mentions of Saraswati in Vedas and Puranas. In one form she is a holy river in its virtual form. The other mention of Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. It is considered that if you take blessings of Saraswati one can gain best knowledge and respect in the society. In modern world where women are not treated fairly, not included in forefront of the society. The symbloilisation of Saraswati as river is unique. This comes in Rig Veda, this is the only female figure probably mentioned in Rig Veda. The river is holy and probably one gives strength knowledge and empowerment. The river Saraswati is dried in desert and no more existing, just like the respect for women in society is declining. Why would Vedas worship a dried river? This is again a symbolism or rare things happening around you, go ahead and include them in the main stream of the society. The goddess Saraswati is worshiped before beginning any learning or education. She empowers and blesses people with knowledge and education. Foolish society discriminated women from basic rights, education and bringing them in main stream for centuries. In many cultures still she is not considered equal to men. She is deprived for the basic education, freedom needed by human etc. If this was or still has the mindset of society, then why Saraswati is kept as the foremost deity to worship for education, art or liberation? Just to indicate people do not discriminate and bring them in mainstream.
When we say creativity and new ideas, usually old people are ignored by society. Society believes that the old people are now retired and can’t bring any new or creative stuff. Brahma represented as on old man is a god of creation of universe and new beginning. Brahma has the attire and looks of old man with white hair, wrinkles on his face, but in forefront of creativity. I always get amazed with such symbolization. This is a unique representation of how one can respect minority and create a wonderful society. That is why Vedic period was so progressive.
In current so called globalised world we still discriminate people based on their gender, cast, sexual orientation, color, race, financial status etc. One sage called Ashtawakra literally meaning eight bends in his body. Person with hunch back and 8 broken limbs of the body. He is a philosopher and a great thinker of human life and its goal. Once society laughed at him, discriminated him, he is now considered as a person who consolidated whole Vedic knowledge. A person who brought radical and alternative thoughts to society. Dialogue between him and King Janaka is considered as the important communication piece in spiritual knowledge. This is again an example to accept differently able person in main stream.
Maitreyee, Sulabha, Gargi are few exampkes of inclusive society and progressive social system. Alternative and off stream thoughts have contributed far more in Vedic and post Vedic period. Discrimination is not the things we have learnt from the old thoughts. Struggle by every individual is inevitable but the environment which helps them or makes them to prove their potential is important, not just to prove their potential but also to create more mature society. Our aim should be as global society believe in quote “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” Although the caste system is being spoken and informed by Lord Krishna in Sri Mad Bhagwad Geeta and in Purushsukta, but both the scriptures never ever proclaimed discrimination and advocated differentiated society. Society needs all sorts of people, all abilities, majors and minors, minorities or large believers.
Society will work and progress beautifully if we all include each one of them in main stream. Just another example from Vedic period is, the top class of the society is not due to the economical status. Brahmins, who would acquire and preserve knowledge, they would live their life on charity and alms given by the society. They would big castles or mansions, they shall stay in small huts at the time of respect in the society they are the one who would get it. In modern world big countries, corporate speak and utter words like respect, equality and inclusion, Vedic and Post Vedic philosophy can be the yardstick for how to include these values in a beautiful progressive society.