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WANDERING ROUND THE COUNTRY- GATHERING HONEY
Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
Just as wandering in the forest of Vedas and gathering and drinking the honey of Brahmananda from the flowers of Vedanta statements is a great act of honey-collection (Maadhukaram), wandering round the country (Desatanam) is a smaller honey-collection exercise.
It was said that Desatanam is a Maadhukaram. It is seen in experience that if one were to undertake a tour of the country with the aim of learning and adopting the different superior modes of conduct and qualities prevalent among people of various parts of the country, he will easily attain superiority in this effort in comparison with others. As we are used to taking note only of deficiencies, apparent and real, seen in other parts of the country, we take false pride that our conduct is the best and look down upon others. This leads to a situation where we reject even good modes of conduct and qualities noticed in others and thus do not effect improvements in our own life. One should be like the bee gathering the honey of good qualities from the flowers of virtuous life of people in different areas. The traveller on tour of the country is a bee from this perspective.
In our area we note that when people sit for taking food, they do not bring each his own water-pot; they will borrow from someone who has brought, many people drinking from the same pot, or they suffer from hiccups and get angry. In this holy Bharata country, north of our Tamil Nadu is Vaduga Nadu or the region of Telugus. Once we cross our region limits, we will not notice such pitiable sights while taking food. Even a child will bring his own water-pot. When women sit for food, they check whether anyone is yet to join them; if so, they will wait for any length of time for that person to join; they then remember Bhagavan, offer the food to Bhagavan and then only touch the food served. Even a child is trained not to violate this practice. While sitting for food, they do not sit wearing the dress which they wore after the morning bath, but even a child wears a different ‘fresh’ (madi) dress. Those who are more strict with Vedic practices, take bath again and wear dress laid for drying in the morning and then sit for food. In the night, they do not eat food wearing the dress which they wore in the day. Even if there are 2000-3000 persons sitting for food at a time, all these rules are being observed by them. This practice is seen not just with brahmanas, but also with vaisyas, farmers etc.
Many of the brahmanas there have complete knowledge of Vedas and Sastras. On auspicious occasions in their homes, they invite such scholars of Vedas and Sastras and honour them with honorarium. This is called ‘Sadasyam’. In important towns, many ‘Sadasyams’ are held every year and vidvans are honoured suitably in accord with their scholarship.
When people from such an area look at Tamilians sitting for food without water-pot, starting to eat as soon as food is served, starting to leave when some others are still eating, sitting for food in any ‘impure’ condition even without washing feet etc., we can guess as to what they would think of us. Many from the Telugu area, who were unable to eat observing their practice properly during their visit to Tamil Nadu, have returned on empty stomachs. (Midday bath and water-pot, prescribed for grihastha in Dharma Sastra, is being followed to this day in Telugu region as a rule.)
Proceeding northward, we have to cross the southern part of the Central Provinces, viz. Maharashtra. They also generally follow the above said rules in the matter of taking food in a group. They observe Ekadasi vratam more strictly in comparison with even Andhraites. They will not even give alms of rice on Ekadasi day. During the four-month period from Ashadha Sukla Dvadasi to Karthika Sukla Dvadasi, they observe ‘Sakavratam’ and feed a lot of brahmanas. Such practices (Ekadasi fast, Sakavrata etc.) observed by Smartha brahmanas in Maharashtra have spread to Madhvas also there. Even when feeding thousands, they place a separate seat for each and decorate with ‘kolam’. They do not use the next day any food item where flour is mixed with water, as such left-over item is considered ‘impure’. Worship of Dattatreya, Ganesa and Satyanarayana is much prevalent here. Siva Puja is generally observed. Bhajan in the tradition of Tukaram, Samartha Ramadas, Gnanadeva et al, specially bhajan in honour of Pandarinatha are much prevalent here. Maharashtra extends upto Nagpur.
Proceeding 20 miles north of Nagpur, the Hindustani country starts. The practices there are different in many respects from those in Maharashtra and Andhra. In Andhra and Maharashtra, cooked food items are not carried to other places by hand, in carts or trains. In Hindustani country, they will not even touch food unless cooked by oneself or his family.
From 20 miles north of Nagpur upto the banks of Ganga, non-vegetarians are less than 20% of the population. Muslims, Christians and very low caste Hindus only eat non-vegetarian food.
In the Hindustani country, with the exception of areas where Punjabi and Bengali are spoken, there is generally no practice of eating in a group. One will not touch the roti or rice touched by another person. The rule is not to touch food cooked with water. People of all four varnas, viz. brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaisyas and sudras follow this rule. Men and women of the farmer caste, working in a brahmana household, will not eat the balance food. The restriction on not eating food in other peoples’ homes, stipulated in Dharmasastra, is being observed only there. People of Kanyakubja group are very keen in this matter. That is perhaps why Hindustan is called so. It is stated in Dharma Sastra that there is no violation of the restriction on eating food with outsiders in the special case of certain specified relatives. People of Hindustani country do not generally eat even with those specified relatives. On auspicious occasions like marriages they eat with such exempted relatives with aversion as they are not used to it. If we ask them what relation they have with such close relatives, they say they are ‘bhat khanevala’ (relative with whom eating food is permitted). Only if one is sanyasi, he can eat in brahmana households food including vegetables cooked with water etc. This restriction does not apply to food items prepared by frying in oil or ghee or out of cheese. These items may be consumed by anyone.
Once there was food (bhiksha) arranged for approximately 50 sanyasis in Kashi. Food was prepared and served by Tamilian cooks. A brahmachari disciple had come along with one sanyasi. He also got a leaf plate for himself. He asked that he be served all items not cooked in water. All items were accordingly served to him. When food was being served to the sanyasis, a small drop of the dal being served to them fell by accident on his leaf. He immediately got up and left.
There is no brahmana- abrahmana controversy in the Hindustani country including the northern parts. In order to put an end to such controversies of recent origin in our area, modern people think that the solution lies in mixed group eating of food with no reference to caste. They hold tea and dinner parties frequently for this purpose. This route is not suitable for well being either in this world or in the next. There is true respect on the part of the whites or abrahmanas only towards those who sincerely follow the rules of eating food. The more this sincerity in regard to food restrictions wanes, the more will be the decline in regard of the general public towards brahmanas and their attachment to Hinduism. Hence the loss to Hinduism is due only to mixed group eating. The proof of this is the absence of the brahmana- abrahmana controversy in the Hindustani country where the rules of not eating in outside places are strictly followed. It is a huge disappointment to think that the medicine for the illness of this controversy is mixed group eating. The proven medicine is indeed the strict observance of the rules of desisting from eating outside in accord with Hindu Dharma Sastra. Hindustani country is the proof of this being the proven medicine. It may perhaps be thought that because Muslims are there in greater number, this controversy (brahmana- abrahmana) has not had a chance to arise there. But the fact is that the percentage of Muslims in the populations in Hindustani areas like Central Province and Bihar is less than in our Tamil country. Still the brahmana- abrahmana controversy could not arise there. This is because the medicine for treating that illness is strictly being adopted there. The rules for eating are being followed by all- brahmanas, vaisyas and sudras. Other than chanting Vedas, which is additional for brahmanas, even the farmers are no less in other matters of conduct. Hence there is no scope for controversy of high and low in the matter of group eating.
People of all the four varnas not only follow the rules of eating, but they also have not left the practice of ‘sikha’ (tuft of hair). In the Hindustani country, it is only the Muslim who has no ‘sikha’. We have read in newspapers that in Hindu-Muslim fights, in order to show to the government officers that Hindus have killed Muslims in greater numbers though the truth is otherwise, Muslims cut the hair of the dead bodies.
Nilakkudi Krishna Iyer is the executive officer of the Tiruvavaduturai Matham in Kashi. There was a court case of the Tiruvavaduturai Matham in Kashi. In order to end that case, Krishna Iyer brought a lawyer from Kashi to Tiruvavaduturai. Another Saiva lawyer of this area had also come there. After the business was over, the Mathadhipati (head of the Matham) blessed and applied ‘Vibhuti’ on the forehead of that Saiva lawyer. The Kashi lawyer murmured something to Krishna Iyer at that time. Mathadhipati enquired as to what it was. Krishna Iyer evaded; but on the insistence of the Mathadhipati Krishna Iyer said: “The Kashi lawyer was struck with wonder at the Hindu-Muslim unity in this country in that even Muslims apply vibhuti here. I replied to him that Muslims do not apply vibhuti here. The Kashi lawyer responded that the Tamil lawyer is just applying vibhuti from the Mathadhipati’s hands. I replied that he is a Saiva. The Kashi lawyer said that as the Tamil lawyer did not have sikha, he thought he is a Muslim.” This incident occurred recently within the past five years. Even in these times English-educated Hindustanis wonder at Hindus not having sikha. In Bengal and Punjab this is not a wonder. We are now discussing Hindustani country only.
In Manusmriti, the area between rivers Ganga and Yamuna has been called ‘Madhyadesa’ and that between rivers Saraswati and Dhrishadvati is ‘Brahmarishidesa’. Manu teaches that all people in the world should regulate their lives based on the conduct of the brahmanas in that region.
In Hindustani country even non-vegetarians do not touch onion. In Gujarat and Rajaputana (Marvadi area), non-vegetarians among Hindus are less than 20%. Marvadis do not touch sugar or candy, purified with bones. Palm (brown) sugar and candy are specially prepared for them. Cow sheds have been built everywhere there. In the freedom wars conducted by Maharashtra brahmanas some two-three centuries ago, Sivapuja used to be conducted on the battle-field itself.
Followers of Vallabha Sampradaya in Marvad and Gujarat areas do not use tap water even today.
In areas south of Maharashtra, viz. Konkan, Tulu and Malayalam, that too specially in Malayalam, bath by pouring water on one’s body is not considered a proper bath; proper bath is only when immersing in water. Nobody enters temples without wearing ‘fresh’ (madi) dress after bath. More than 90% of brahmanas in that region are well-read in Vedas. The Tamil brahmanas living there perform ‘Rudraikadasini’ every month on the day of birth star.
What will a farmer in Hindustani country think of the brahmanas here, who do ‘soucham’ (cleansing after morning duties) in river Kaveri, enter restaurant without taking bath, eat vada and upma mixed with onion, sit on chairs adjacent to Muslims, drink from the same cup used by Muslim and, coming out, claim that they are superior brahmanas?
There are about 150 Samskrit schools in our Madras province. In United Provinces alone, there are 1500 schools. In Bihar province also, same number of schools exist. The main reason for existence of so many schools there is that all that every student needs is only a little of wheat flour. Even in childhood, he prepares his own roti. Hence establishing a Samskrit school is very easy there. In our region, if we ask someone who marries after 50 years of age as to why he spoils the life of a young girl, he replies that he needs her for preparing food. It is crystal clear (like a gooseberry on one’s palm) through Desatana Maadhukaram (gathering of honey through tour of country) that the faulty habit of not being able to prepare one’s own food becomes the cause of many cases of bad conduct, evil ways, destruction of education and spread of hatred among communities (jatis) in our country.
In Bengal the dharma of widows is being followed strictly. Widow of any jati does not have hair on head (has shaven head); desists from non-vegetarian food; prepares her own food at home; does not take even a drop of water on Ekadasi day. On the day of the first Abdika sraadham, men use a part of their wealth for that sraadham. Those who are specially Vedic minded, perform six sraadhams every year on respective tithis, for three Pitrus each in Pitru and Matru vargas (paternal and maternal lines). They sing on Lord Krishna and dance. Every farmer and traveller in bus will melt and weep profusely on remembering Ambika. This emotion is at the root of the slogan ‘Vande Mataram’ chanted all over India.
In Mithila region in north-west of Bengal, there are a number of brahmanas. The king of Darbhanga is himself a brahmana. He in fact belongs to the cultured class of Srotriyas. In that region, 70% of brahmanas are scholars. Maithilas are predominant among the authors of our Sastra texts. Generally they avoid taking danam (gift).
Women of all castes in Bihar Province do not leave their homes at any time. They are therefore not seen outside homes.
To the south of Bengal is Utkala desa. The present name of it is Odisha. In every town in that region, in temples of Siva and Vishnu, special Pujas, festivals, festival halls, ponds (where raft festivals for Bhagavan are held) and many types of musical instruments are noticed. Brahmanas in that region are seen with dense sikha like the olden day brahmanas here. People of all castes there will take bath after passing excrement at any time. 80% of brahmanas there perform Sivapuja and Vaisvadevam even now without fail. Nobody smokes cigarettes there. Among the brahmanas there, there is the practice of initiating into upanayanam even a small boy, if he happens to be the only heir in the family; he performs Sivapuja. This Sivam (auspiciousness) is the honey gathered during the tour of the country.
Thus some code of conduct prescribed in Dharma Sastra is being followed and zealously protected to this day in every region. Though there may be some cases of conduct opposed to Dharma Sastra in every region, the principal aim of Desatanam is to absorb the good aspects of conduct in accord with Dharma Sastra, being followed enthusiastically in different regions and to elevate oneself.
VEDA DHARMA SASTRA PARIPALANA SABHA
Translated by: P R Kannan, Navi Mumbai
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