PROLOGUE TO HINDU CULTURAL DISCOURSES
(ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL PERIODS)
(DISCOURSES BY N.R. SRINIVASAN)
We used to think agriculture after the stone-age gave rise to cities and later to writings, art and religion. Now the world's oldest temple pillars recently discovered at the Goebekli Temple in Southern Turkey, 11600 years old and up to 18 feet tall as reported in National Geographical Magazine suggests that the urge to worship sparked civilization. It means Religion preceded civilization.
This news is no sensation to Hindus who are grown with the spiritual thinking of Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Tradition. To a Hindu everything about life started with the spiritual urge as learnt from Upanishads. "Man's control of nature external is called civilization. His control of nature internal is called culture." says Swami Chinmayananda.
Civilization and culture do not go hand in hand. But they can be elegantly harmonized provided the relative proportions in combining them together are known. Our ancient sages though living in the deep forests knew this art very well when they administered or guided the great kingdoms of their times as we learn from the great Epics. Our Rishis visualized the One manifested (Vedaahametam Purusham Mahntam—I know this great Purusha; Eko Viprah bahuda Vadadanti—The One wise call many) throughout the Universe so that everything was sacred to them. This brought a great reverence to life. The Ancient and Medieval Hindu culture is evolved out of this expanded vision.
For a religious Hindu it is not difficult to understand that his cultural values are developed out of the spiritual thinking. Hindus always cherish the idea that spiritual thoughts sparked civilization. Therefore the recent findings of National Geographical Magazine have not taken them by surprise but only reaffirm their traditional spiritual thinking. We learn from the Upanishads besides religion, ethics and philosophy a number of secular sciences, like grammar, music, dance, archery, biological sciences, physical sciences, chemistry, mathematics, astrology, medicine, toxicology and so on were developed and given to the world.
Religion and philosophy have been the basis of Hindu culture from the time of Rigveda. Our Rishis gave their due consideration to all others aspects of life that contribute to the attainment of peace and joy. These include social values, political institutions including judiciary, economics and financial management, sound educational system, chemical, biological and health sciences, fine arts like music, dance, drama, painting and sculpture, development of weaponry and defense system etc. Though the subject is very vast an attempt has been made on a panoramic study and view of ancient and medieval culture of Hindus and consequently a series of discourses have been delivered to the Vedanta Class on the following topics:
- Early Vedic Literature
- Administration, Economics and Justice promoted by Vedic Society
- Prologue to Complex Hindu Caste System
- Complex Caste System of Hindus
- Hindu Culture and Education System through the Ages
- Hindu Rituals and Mythology
- Early and Medieval Hindus' Contributions to Science and Technology
- Fine Arts of Hindus Originated from Eternal Tradition
- Rangoli and Kolam
- Hindu Calendar
- Status of Women In Hindu Society through the Ages
- Hindu Diet Codes, Scriptural Sanctions and Ethics
- Time Measurement, Breath and Cosmology
- Time Measurement
- Ashtaanga Yoga of Pataanjali
- Ayurveda, Knowledge of Life
- Manu and His Smriti (Ethical code of Manu)
- Yajna, Vedic Fire Sacrifice
The above discourses essentially focus on the culture that dominated during ancient and medieval periods though its influence can be seen in present day life of Hindus which underwent great changes due to long periods of foreign domination under Moghul, French, Portugese and British Rulers since the medieval period.