Monday, January 6, 2014

Glimpses of united Hindu resistance in mediaeval Bengal

During centuries-old Islamic rule in India there had also been the emergence of several Hindu empires led by fiercest, ablest Hindu monarchs and generals conveying desires of the subjugated Hindu community to attain freedom. Bengal was no exception to this too; several Hindu chieftains rose up through centuries and prime of them included Raja Pratapaditya and, Raja Sitaram with a few others. But none of them could match Raja Ganesha or Raja Kans or Raja Danujamardanadeva; his stupendous rise in the politics of mediaeval Bengal (in 1415 AD) by overthrowing the Ilyas Shahi dynasty or the first independent Muslim dynasty then fragmented Islamic hegemony in the region and this was based on his vengeful or rancorous activities. His supremacy perturbed Sufi saints or Darbesh such that Sheikh Nur Qutub-ul-Alam, well-known Muslim Chisti saint, sent a letter to Ibrahim Shah Sharqi or the Sultan of Jaunpur to raid Bengal and relieve them from the rule of this Kafir or infidel.

Raja Ganesha’s rule witnessed several ups and downs – his son was converted to Islam under compulsion and then reconverted to Hinduism. Nevertheless, with the help of other Hindu kings he formed a confederacy that posed severest challenges to the dream of establishing an Islamic empire. It is worth mentioning, Raja Ganesha assisted by other Hindu kings controlled entire Bengal even if for a brief period – remaining a dream for others in the following centuries only.    

On the word of a British historian, “Raja Kans is the most interesting figure among the kings of Bengal. We feel that this obscure Hindu, who rose to supreme power in Bengal, and who for a time broke the bonds of Islam, must have been a man of vigor and capacity.”

An account of this battle, might of Sheo Singh has been narrated by Mulla Taqyya, courtier during the reign of both Akbar and Jehangir, and it has been translated into English from the original Farsi language by Sri Kishori Mohan Maitra of Asiatic Society.

It is in the following lines.

“When Raja Kans, the Hindu zamindar, became dominant over the whole of the province of Bengal, he determined to wipe out the Muslims, and made it his aim to exterminate the root of Islam from his kingdom. During that time, Sheo Singh, the zamindar of Tirhut, rebelled against his father, Raja Deva Singh, and made an alliance with Raja Kans and thus became an independent ruler of the province of tirhut. He grew in power and through the incitement of Raja Kans, he began to rob and plunder the muslims of his territory and caused most of the missionaries and leaders of Islam in Darbhanga to taste the beverage of martyrdom and thus made his holiness Makhdum Shah Sultan Hussain an object of his injury. At this time, the successor of Makhdum Shah was Alaul Auq at Pandua, when Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi sent an army in the year 805 (Hizira) at the request of Nur Qutubul-Islam, the worthy son of Alaul Huq with a view to wage war against the wicked Kafirs of Bengal in order to suppress Raja Kans. When the royal retinue reached Tirhut, Sheo Singh made a stand against him. Although the Sultan was on his way to Bengal, when heard the news of Sheo Singh reaching the neighborhood of his camps, the flames of Sultan’s anger rose high and with great courage, he turned the range of his attention in his direction. In the end, he (Sheo Singh) found that it was not possible for him to oppose him ((Ibrahim) in open battle. He escaped into some other direction till he reached Lehra, which was the strongest fort there and he took shelter there. After some tine, the fort was conquered and he was taken prisoner. The whole territory of Tirhut was again transferred to his father as a loyal servant of the Sultan. As all the roads, which were being blocked, were open again, the Sultan set out in the direction of Bengal in order to suppress Raja Kans.”

“Sheo Singh along with Raja Kans or Ganesh tried to form a Hindu brigade in Bengal, orchestrate a Hindu uprising to avenge the Hindu persecution. Singh, despite being defeated in the war against Ibrahim, demonstrated great valiance and it seemed once that the Hindu king would emerge victorious. Relations between Sheo Singh and Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi had been sour as Sheo Singh, no matter being a subordinate king, introduced coins in his own name.” (Source: Annual Report of the Archeological Survey of India; 1913-14, pp. 248-49) 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fierce Protest in Media outshines antagonists

Hindus must Protest or Perish

The picture attached to this report is of a letter written by an individual named Suktara Sarkar of Joynagar in South 24 Paraganas and speaks eloquently of the burgeoning Hindu persecution there. The letter was published in the Bengali edition of The Statesman, premier daily in the metropolis of Kolkata, on September 22, 2013 and it does not stage anguishes of the author only but of the incredible situation there as well.

The letter, from its very beginning, terms Mamata Banerjee as the sole spokesperson of Muslims and how she considers Islamists as her greatest aide to seize the political control. This has ensued in rising torture of Islamists on Hindus; not a day in the district passes when crimes perpetrated by Muslim rogues remains unheard. But all these are condoned for the sake of Muslim votes, the biggest asset in this almost seven-decade old Indian independence and democracy. The saga of escalating Muslim domination can be found from a single estimation – as per birth register of a few village panchayats in Block – Joyanagar 1, Block – Joynagar 2 in South 24 Paraganas district, fertility rate in Hindu families is 1.37 on average while the number is 5.71 in Muslim families. Muslim population explosion takes place flouting the national aspiration of controlling population and in a political system where everything depends on numbers, the consequence is too obvious. Bengali Hindus are always at the receiving end thanks to their spinelessness and disunity and the way Bengali Hindu refugees from Bangladesh are hounded confirm the status they enjoy in the state. The author ends by pleading with the Bengal Chief Minister to impose Jizya tax on Hindus to manage rising financial expanses – a notion that they will abide by for sure.

The letter does not exemplify Hindu pessimism in public but narrates how they inhabit the state which is going to see their complete absence soon. Suktara Sarkar seems to be the last person to expect any apposite measure from the administration to deal with this gravest crisis. So the individual decides to protest in public through narrating the heart-rending reality dominating Bengal. If Bengali Hindus hope to live in Bengal, they must follow the brilliant example set by the author and come to street to make the deaf governance hear. If they sidestep dreaming that their obedience to constitutionalism will awaken the governance to check the fast worsening reality, disappearance of Bengali Hindus is too obvious.  

Suktara Sarkar is not found as despondent here but through this letter of protest the cruel truth has come to light. The letter is one of the best instances of protest yet which Hindus should emulate and execute in the best way that suits them. Protest is an act of making a strong public expression of disagreement and disapproval; the best and only ploy to wrest justice when a social system breaks down in particular.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.” – Howard Zinn.

Only fierce protests can save Hindus. They have lost Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir already; they can’t afford any more loss, particularly Bengal which is regarded as one the intellectual centers of Dharma through centuries.


(Letter published in Dainik Statesman on September 22, 2013) 
 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Salute Gopal Mukherjee – Savior of Hindus on August 16, 1946

Who can save the community that loves to revere its destroyer and discard its savior together? All these are said of Bengali Hindus bearing the brunt of calamitous August 16, 1946 yet; on the fateful day, while Hussain Shaheed Suhrawadry was their destroyer, Gopal Chandra Mukherjee (alias Gopal Pantha) was their savior. However, despite risking own life to save his co-religionists and enduring all struggles to achieve the success, Gopal Mukherjee has been blanked out from history and now it’s the time for penitence.  

Let’s throw some light on Gopal Mukherjee who was neither a politician nor had any political inclination. He was just a common man but nationalist par excellence. On the other hand, Suhrawardy was a terribly powerful political leader, at the helm of affairs of Muslim League and also the last Chief Minister of undivided Bengal. Taking all his might into consideration, Suhrawadry asked Muslims to fortify the general strike and later the mass meeting at Maidan (called by Muslim League) on August 16. The day had already been termed by Mohammad Ali Zinnah (All-India president of Muslim League) as Direct Action Day to partition India to have Pakistan finally. All were sure of its far-reaching effects, let alone Muslims, but our Hindu ancestors failed to grasp this – what an irony.  

Hindus had believed that the Direct Action Day would be another display of non-violence struggle like that of Gandhi or contemporary Anna Hazare. Perhaps the slavery of more than a millennium had failed to wake them up from the deep slumber. Hence, even if Muslim cadres started attacking Hindu localities on the morning of August 16, Hindus failed to comprehend what was in near future. For that reason liberal and secular Hindus went to the Muslim League meeting, embellished by the presence of Com. Jyoti Basu, Suhrawardy and Khwaja Nizamuddin, while flags of Muslim League and Communist Party adorned the podium. Jyoti Basu was also witnessed to voice the slogan of Muslim League – First Pakistan, then independence to India.

Once the meeting ended, tens of thousands of Muslims, already armed, pounced on their preys – Hindus and Hindu-owned shops. For the next three days – August 16, 17 and 18 – Islamic onslaughts created a new saga – the worst account of non-Muslim persecution in recorded history. Hindus, genteel and simply unprepared to preclude this onslaught, were murdered in their thousands; myriad genocides of Hindus brought public life to a halt. Streets in Calcutta got red with blood of Hindus shaming the basic definition of humanity. Till now, words fail to describe the genocide, not to mention those days. The Statesman defined this period with its legendary headline “The Great Calcutta Killing” while other scribes termed it as – “Week of Long Knives.”

On the word of Phillip Talbot, a journalist present in Calcutta at that time, in a letter to Walter Rogers of the Institute of Current World Affairs:

It would be impossible to describe everything that we saw. A sense of desolation hung over the native bazaars. In street after street rows of shops had been stripped to the walls. Tenements and business buildings were burnt out, and their unconsumed innards strewn over the pavements. Smashed furniture cluttered the roads, along with concrete blocks, brick, glass, iron rods, machine tools ñ anything that the mob had been able to tear loose but did not want to carry off. Fountains gushed from broken water remains. Burnt-out automobiles stood across traffic lanes. A pall of smoke hung over many blocks, and buzzards sailed in great, leisurely circles. Most overwhelming, however, were the neglected human casualties: fresh bodies, bodies grotesquely bloated in the tropical heat, slashed bodies, bodies bludgeoned to death, bodies piled on push carts, bodies caught in drains, bodies stacked high in vacant lots, bodies, bodies.

"Watching a city feed on its own flesh is a disturbing experience", Talbot concluded. "In spite of our war heritage of callousness, I know that I was not alone in sensing profound horror this last week as Calcutta, India's largest metropolis and the second city of the Empire, resolutely set at work to cannibalise itself". Talbot's letter is remarkable because of the clarity of his testimonial. He was an outsider and a witness whose detachment and compassion were severely tested as he wrote about the carnage all around him. "In human terms, estimated casualties ran from the Provincial Government's absurdly reductive report of 750 dead to military guesses that 7,000 to 10,000 people might have been killed. Already more than 3,500 bodies have been collected and counted, and no one will ever know how many persons were swept down the Hoogly, caught in the clogged sewers, burned up in the 1,200 fires, or taken away by relatives who disposed of their bodies privately. A reasonable guess, I think, is that more than 4,000 people died and 11,000 people were injured in what is already being called 'The Great Calcutta Killing' or 'The Week of the Long Knives.”

And sole blamable person behind this violent catastrophe was none other than Suhrawardy. He was the person who annunciated in the said meeting that both administration and army would be paralyzed to have cherished Pakistan. All these were enough to incite Muslims but so innocent were Hindus that this declaration failed on their deaf ears only.
In Lalbazar, another drama was going on – Suhrawardy had placed himself within the Lalbazar Control Room to make administration effete (completely) to help his comrades to polish off Hindus en masse and thus, better their struggle to achieve Pakistan. He was not alone – to make the task a great success, three notorious Muslim culprits viz. Bombaiya, Mina Panjabi, Munna Chowdhury had been placed in New Market area, Cornwallis slum area and Harrison Road respectively. All of them participated in killing Hindus directly.

The onslaught proved to be enough to perplex Hindus in the beginning. The shock was so great that they could not even think of any reprisal. What were reputed political leaders doing then? Nehru, at that time, was the Prime Minister of interim Central Government; both he and his political guru – Gandhi – acted as best definition of namby-pamby politicians. The majority of Hindus considered this as their only destiny. In such a situation, only a few Hindus could realize the need of a brutal reprisal or else Hindus in Calcutta and the greater part of Bengal would cease to exist soon. First and foremost among these few Hindus was Gopal Chandra Mukherjee. He used to live at Malanga Lane, in Bowbazar of Central Calcutta. He owned a slaughter house (of goats) as well and that's why he was more famous as Gopal Pantha. However, despite all these his patriotism was second to none. He was a relative of Anukul Chandra Mukherjee (famous revolutionary) and follower of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. He had no confidence on the weird theory of non-violence propounded and also propagated by Gandhi in the Indian scenario. Gopal had the conviction that force was the most essential attribute to drive out British from India. Privately he had good relation with few leaders of Congress, most imperative of them was Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.      

Gopal Mukherjee, based on his own ideology, had formed and used to conduct a small organization named Bharatiya Jatiya Bahini – Hindu youths used to learn and practice the knowledge of power and arms there. Even if people were not conscious of the same, the same organization raised the first Hindu defence in August, 1946. His disciples became successful in overcoming Muslim rowdies and Gopal was termed as savior of Hindus.

Well, there were others also in the civil war. Jugal Kishore Ghosh was one of them while on the other hand, Sikhs and cowherds acted gallantly. And the entire leadership was provided by Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee.   

Without doubt, Hindus had initial setbacks (severely) but when they started reprisals Suhrawardy had to call in Army; meanwhile, Muslim League leadership got the idea of the utter loss. G.G. Ajmiri and Mujibur Rehman, chief of students’ organization of Muslim League and member of Muslim National Guard respectively, pleaded with Gopal to stop the bloodbath.

This was followed by the anti-Hindu pogrom in Noakhali that started on October 10, 1946 on the auspicious day of Kojagari Laxmi Purnima under the leadership of Ghulam Sarwar. It’s the darkest chapter in record history when the entire humanity was raped.

Then it was 1947 and on August 14 India would be divided into two parts leading to the birth of Pakistan. It was decided that on August 15 India would have independence but Mohandas Gandhi settled – he would not remain in Delhi on that day but would be at Noakhali to console tortured Hindus there. With this end in view he came to Kolkata on August 9. But Suhrawadry and his accomplices requested Gandhi to save them in the metropolis of Kolkata. Muslim police personnel, witnessing fierce Hindu attacks, were just fleeing and moving to East Pakistan; hence, they were not safe in the city. Hearing all these Gandhi remained in Kolkata instead of moving to Noakhali – his mission changed rapidly – rather than helping persecuted Hindus in Noakhali, he preferred to save Muslims in Kolkata. Hindus, in large numbers, were found to ridicule Gandhi but he went on asking Hindus calmly to cast aside hatred to Muslims and submit their arms and ammunitions to him. Gandhi, personally, requested Gopal twice to surrender but he remained unmoved. When secretary of Gandhi asked the reason behind his obstinacy, Gopal Pantha said "I will not lay down even a nail if it has been used for defending Hindu honour."    

Gopal Mukherjee was born in 1913 and breathed his last in 2001.

Only a few days back, Dipu Mani – Minister of External Affairs of Bangladesh, came to Kolkata and went to Midnapur to see the ancestral residence of Suhrawardy. Suhrawardy was born in that house. All these prove we are spending our wealth to preserve the property of Suhrawardy – foremost criminal behind the bloodbath of 1946 – but have forgotten Gopal Mukherjee – the truest and most valiant Kshatriya who saved Hindus. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.   

Political parties in India, whether in state or centre, prefers to serve as slaves of Muslim block votes and leave no stone unturned to hide the real and cruel facts of 1946. As a result, those incidents are raising their ugly heads once more across Bengal and in this context, Hindu Samhati is endeavoring to bring forth the chronicle of Hindu valiance on August 16, 1946 and following days.  

We do invite all to pay homage to Gopal Mukherjee, our valiant ancestor, and vow to defend Bengal on August 16, 2013.




(Gopal Mukherjee) 


(Anukul Mukherjee)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Battle of Rajasthan – Hindu martial prowess crushed brutal Islamists

Islamic invasion into India (down the centuries) has been culpable enough to ravage the entire nation, exterminate Hindus, desecrating their religious bastions, faith also and thus, introduce an alien ideology in this land that speaks of violence only. What is most striking, all these have been recorded in history and as far Islamists are concerned they have myriad of such annals. But this is a partial truth.

Hindus, as well, never gave up and waged violent battles from time to time to thwart the violent march of Islamic radicalism into India. They sacrificed themselves, their kith and kin and sometimes even the posterity but the specter of violence or death never made them retreat.   

Battle of Rajasthan that was fought in 738 AD was a historic victory for Hindus, becoming successful in inflicting a crushing defeat on Islamists or invading armies from Arabia, hell-bent to wrest power from Hindus and thus plant the seeds of Islamic power in India. The triumphant Hindu alliance, led by Gurjar Emperor Nagabhata I of Pratihara Dynasty in North India and Emperor Vikramaditya II of Chalukya Dynasty in South India, faced the Islamic imperialists on the border area between Sindh and Rajasthan and indeed their valor proved to be too heavy for Islamists marching all the way from Arabia.  

It is worthwhile to mention, to check the advance of brutal Islamists, Nagabhata I entered into an alliance with Jaysimha Varman of Chalukya Empire who assigned his own son Avanijanasharya Pulakesi to support Nagbhata and the joint command of two forces beefed up the Hindu dynasty of Mewar, then under Bappa Rawal, engaged by then in a war against Muslim radicals in the border of Rajasthan.   

The battle that ensued between Hindus and Muslims was outstanding in every manner since not more than 5, 000 – 6, 000 Hindu infantry and cavalry fought against the Muslim army comprising more than 30, 000 Islamists. But this disparity failed to dampen the spirit of Hindus, fighting desperately to retain own independence and above all the sanctity of Dharma. Hindu warriors had estimated the consequence of loss in the battle; not the temples, Hindu cities would be vandalized, despoiled only but it would bring a disaster on Hindu women (to be looted) and the foundation of Dharma also.

As a result, Hindu warriors fought fiercely, astonishing Islamists extremely. Desperate Hindu warriors killed Emar Junaid, commander of Arab forces and also infamous for his treatment against Hindus, and the strong Muslim army, bereft of their leader, got both demoralized and disorganized soon. They had to retreat and at this time, Hindu warriors did not miss a chance to attack them to recover independence once more. The dispirited and beleaguered Muslim army had to go back to the Indus river resulting in the stoppage of Islamic invasions into India for (almost) the next two centuries.    

Albeit, Tamim ibn Zaid al-Utbi, succeeding Junaid, tried recurrently to invade the Hindu dominions in Rajasthan, he faced loss at every time. The joint command of King of Kanauj and Gurjar Emperor Nagabhata I restricted Islamists to the territory of Sindh across River Indus.  Anecdotes confirm that the defeat was so crushing for Islamists that even the Islamic Caliphate geared up to stop them from adopting any adventures to the Hindu kingdoms.   

The best appraisal of this Hindu valiance came from Suleiman, well-known Muslim historian. He stated that owing to defeats, “a place of refuge to which the Muslims might flee was not to be found.” He also termed Gurjar Emperor Nagabhata I of Pratihara Dynasty that in “India there is no greater foe of Islamic faith than he.”

It’s the time to revive this martial prowess of Hindus once more.






Saturday, May 4, 2013

Be the new Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Arjuna

Hindu warriors can save Hindus only

Karna

Karna was a great warrior, in many ways greater than Arjuna. They may have been equal as archers, but physically, Karna was by far the stronger of the two. And even in sticking to one’s principles, Karna appeared more steadfast compared with Arjuna. But in Karna’s life there was one fatal flaw. He made his friendship and loyalty to Duryodhan higher than anything else, even higher than right and wrong, and even higher than God. While loyalty is a great value, in such cases when it overrides one’s sense of dharma and even the direct calling of the Divine in the form of Shri Krishna, such loyalty leads one to a tragic end.

Karna used all his strength to serve his friend Duryodhan, without even one selfish thought for himself. However, his loyalty was so blind that he would even follow his friend when he was doing something totally wrong, selfish and harmful to others. Karna knew what he was doing was wrong and paid the price for it.

Bhishma

Bhishma was another person who never performed a selfish action in his whole life. He was mighty, learned and respected. But he too ended up fighting on the side of adharma, and came to a tragic end. He was actually an impediment to the establishment of a righteous kingdom. Why? Because he put his personal oath on a pedestal and made it the focus and obsession of his life.

That oath was that he would unquestioningly follow and do the bidding of whoever was the king of Hastinapur (Delhi). This vow, he would never break as long as he lived, even when it involved fighting his own beloved nephews who he knew had done nothing wrong.

Sticking to a vow is important, especially today when people make promises and break them the very next day. But the Mahabharata demonstrates that if attachment to a personal vow becomes an insurmountable impediment that prevents one from doing what is clearly the right, and ends up making a person serve evil, such a vow should be discarded and set aside.

Bhishma put his personal vow above anything else, even when that vow became an instrument of evil. He disregarded Krishna’s advice, which was that to drop the vow for the greater good.


Drona

Drona was an employee of the king of Hastinapur, who happened to be Dhitirashtra, the father of Duryodhana. He was employed to teach all the princes of that kingdom in the art of warfare and statecraft, and was considered the very greatest teacher of the era. For his services, he was remunerated handsomely. Before he got this job, he was very poor and therefore was very grateful to the King for employing him.

When Duryodhan was doing wrong, Drona was fully aware of it. On some occasions he even tried to stop Duryodhan, at which Duryodhan would say: “Do not bite the hand that feeds you.”

When the battle finally dawned, Drona fought on Duryodhan’s behalf and was eventually slain in a scheme engineered by Krishna. Drona, despite being an outstanding warrior, and well versed in morality, put his loyalty towards his employer before the more important and fundamental question of dharma.

Arjuna

Arjuna was a great man. Yet he had weaknesses that were actually absent in Karna, Bhishma and Drona. He was in some ways foolhardy, saying and doing several stupid things that could have landed his brothers and himself in serious trouble.

For example, at one point, Arjuna had made a vow that he would take the life of anybody who insulted his ‘Gandiva bow’, which he was exceedingly proud of. During the Mahabharata war, it happened to be Arjuna’s eldest brother and leader, Yuddhistir, who dealt the fatal insult.


Arjuna drew his sword and was about to kill his own brother, and was restrained only by Krishna’s presence. Instead of killing Yuddhistir, Arjuna instead insulted him in public. But then, Arjuna felt bad for insulting such a virtuous person as Yuddhistir, and said that he would commit suicide as there was no point even being alive after doing something so vile as insulting his own brother in public! Once again, it was only Krishna’s presence which restrained Arjuna. Krishna eventually talked Arjuna out of suicide, but Arjuna was sad that he had not kept his own word,and felt very bad. Krishna gave Arjuna a loophole. According to dharma, praising yourself in public is a sin that is as bad as one’s own death. So Krishna said to Arjuna that just praise yourself in public, and your vow will be fulfilled. And thus were the lives of both Arjuna and Yuddhistir saved!

Yet despite this foolhardy streak in his character, Arjuna is the one who is etched upon the heart of humanity as the ideal to which to aspire.

This story illustrates that while Arjuna was far from perfect, he had one overriding quality which sets him above and apart from the others. To Arjuna, it was Krishna’s words that were absolute. He would follow Krishna’s words even at the expense of other principles or promises that he held dear. Therefore he had the grace and favour of Krishna’s guidance throughout his life.

Therefore, Arjuna’s fate was to be the hero of the era, and the instrument of God in being the restorer of dharma to society, rather than a tragic figure who ended up wasting their huge life potential in fighting on behalf of a fake cause. Arjuna put Krishna as his highest guide and ideal, and despite his faults, stands out as the most successful and glorious of the four.

Sources: Excerpts from

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kerala’s temples outstanding for their simplicity and traditional style

Kerala temples have many unique features, which were originally found all over India, but have disappeared, according to former director of state archaeology, R Nagaswamy.

"They are outstanding for their simplicity, purity, and age-old traditions rooted in Vedic ethos, which continue to be maintained and no changes have been made in the heritage structures such as addition of any shrines or modification of existing ones," Nagaswamy told TOI in the light of his recent visit to Kerala.

Kerala is a land of hills and the builders of temples could have used stones in plenty but instead they have retained all materials like, stone, bricks, stucco, wood, metal, lime and thereby preserved the 3,000 to 4,000 years of architectural techniques, particularly mastery over wooden architecture, he pointed out?

Nagaswamy noted that in Kerala they have preserved geometrical designs in plan and elevation as found on Vedic sacrificial altars, which is mainly due to their deep interest in ancient mathematical sciences.

The articulation of timber work rising to several stories of complex designs is retained. Another important feature is the 'dhvaja sthambah' in which they portrayed the Ashtamurtis, eight directional deities, at the base, which is not found in other parts of the country, he said. Tiled structures are again used more in Kerala temples than in shrines elsewhere in the country.

Nagaswamy said the unique contribution of Kerala temple architecture is the installation of tall 'deepa sthambah' (lamp stand) rising to more than 10 feet with the figure of a turtle as the seat. "In every Kerala temple, we can see in front of the Gopuras, big 'ammai valakus', stone tortoise-shaped lamp-stands, which symbolically represent the primordial support of the Universe integrating beauty, symmetry, aesthetics and religious heritage," he narrated.

"They do not disturb the space inside the prakaras (perimeters) with thoughtless structures, which are specifically prohibited by the traditional architectural texts. They are very particular that the environment of the temple should be strictly preserved and do not allow the trees and plants to be indiscriminately cut or treated with scant respect. They worship trees and integrate them as part of the temple culture. With the result, a visit to any Kerala temple presents an extraordinary sense of nature's rhythm and its place in religious environment," he observed.

Another unique feature of Kerala temples is the presence of "lovely and usable" tanks where boys perform 'sandhya vandana' and elders can carry out water-related rituals. The use of elephants in Kerala temples is much more compared to temples in other states. There is also no concept of animal sacrifice as 'Bali' with offerings of flowers and incense considered adequate for the purpose. Temples in Kerala also manifest the expertise of local artisans in wood carvings?

The concept of 'Tantrasamccaya', work composed by 15th century Vedic scholar Narayan Namboodiri, is followed in all Kerala temples, Nagaswamy said. It explained how to lay out temples, the system of worship, chanting of Vedic hymns and mantras, and creative use of spaces in the temple complexes for music and dance groups on designated auspicious days and chariot festivals during which invariably decorated elephants would be taken around. Narayan Bhattatri in the 17th century continued the tradition. Unfortunately, the ancient Vedic schools in Kerala which spawned great masters of music and dance closed down about 50 years ago due to lack of patronage.