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Destination Germany

Joachim Osterheld is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin.  The main areas of his research concern problems of contemporary Indian history and politics and the history of Indo-German relations.  Until the end of the 19th  century there were only a few Indian visitors to Germany, as for instance Swami Vivekananda.  With the defeat of Germany in World War I the expectations of the members of the `Indian Independence Committee' in Berlin for supporting India's struggle for freedom remained unfulfilled.  Nevertheless, the period that followed is considered as a climax of India's interest in  Germany.  Dr. Joachim Osterheld in his lecture (Nov. 20th) Destination Germany-Subhash Chandra Bose and The Indian Community in Germany during the first Halt of the 20th Century' spoke about the prominent visitors like Rabindranath Tagore, father and son Nehru and M.N. Roy and their activities in Germany.  His lecture laid special emphasis on Subhash Chandra Bose.


Vedanta and the West

Vedanta is considered to be the top most school of Indian Philosophy and is as old as the Rgveda.  Ram Murti Sharma in a lecture (Oct 7th) spoke on Vedanta and the West.  In the lecture he spoke of Vedanta as a tenet as propounded by Adi Sankaracharya.  He said after Adi Sankaracharya, there is a row of ancient and modern scholars who have elaborated Vedanta in their own way, scholastically and critically.  To the West, Vedanta was brought by Friedrich Max Muller, through the Veda, which carried the Sacred knowledge of the East, the revelations of our Rishis.  In West, Max-Muller was the first to publish the Rgveda in the series, `Sacred Books of the East'.  Thus, it was through the Veda and Upanisads that Vedanta came to light in West.  Max Muller also published his lectures on Vedanta in `Sacred books of the East'.

The translation of `Badarayama' and Vyasa's Brahmasutra with its Sankarabhasya was aptly done by G. Thibaut, which was published from Oxford, in 1890.  Furthermore, there are a large number of scholars in England like Goffery Perinder Paul Hacker and Alston who did commendable work on Vedanta.  In France, the first Indologist Anquetil Duperron (1731), who came to India to study Hindu scriptures, for his mission, spent his entire life in India, publishing the translation of the Upanishads in Latin.  After the first Sanskrit Chair in Paris, in College De France in 1914, Indological studies touched a new high.  In Germany apart from Max Muller, there were scholars like Bartholomaus Zeiegenbalg (1682), Paulmitz (1791).  Roer (1815), Alfred Ludwig (1832) and Paul Deussen (1919), who left landmarks in the field of Vedantic Studies.  In Italy, Garzilli worked on Badarayana's Vedantasutra.  Another scholar in Italy, Stefano Piano published his paper Cosmos, Rebirth and Illusion in Hindu Christian Cosmology and Religion.  In facts Vedanta was studied seriously in most parts of the world like Austria, Mexico, U.S.A., Canada, Japan, China, Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Poland, Croatia and Russia.

The practical side of Vedanta was presented by Swami Vivekananda who apprised the West that mere materialism is the cause of all worries and for peace and prosperity spiritualistic insight is necessary.  Prof. Ram Murti Sharma, is a former Vice-Chancellor, of Samspurnananda Sanskrit University, Varanasi and Kashi Vidyapeetha, Varanasi.  He has authored several books and delivered hundreds of lectures at national and International forums.


Concept of Educatedness

Swami Vivekananda has said that the purpose of education is primarily drawing out the best in the human being; or, manifestation of the perfection already in man. However, the concept and purpose of education is now largely restricted to intellectual development, that too only partial in the form of performance in academic examiniation.  On the other hand, educatedness is the search for the total quality mind in the human being.

In a lecture (Oct. 29th ) Dr. M. Mukhopadhyay, Joint Director of National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, discussed educatedness as a four-stage process in hierarchy (taxonomy) fashion.  The first and the most elementary stage is, being informed which is today wrongly equated with the educatedness itself.  This is only the first step.  The second important stage of educatedness is being cultured - the way an individual deals with himself/herself, others, place, objects, plants, animals, etc.  The third higher stage is the emancipation, liberation from the narrow definitions of human beings in terms of language, religion, caste, creed, nationality, gender, etc.  The emancipatedness is rising above these definitions without losing the natural identity.  The final stage is self-actualization-actualization of the human life in all its planes namely physical, intellectual, mental and spiritual.

Dr. Mukhopadhyay said the four stage process of educatedness is valid for all stages of life.  Every stage, be it childhood youth or age, has all the four facets of being informed, cultured, emancipated and self-actualized, though the explicit behavioural parameters are different.  Dr. Mukhopadhyay is a specialist in educational policy planning and management.  He has been involved in the educational policy and planning in the country for about 20 years.

Abhinaya in Kerala Theatre Dance

Dr. Shanta Nedungadi, a renowned dancer, presented a lecture demonstrationj on the Science of Abhinaya in Theatre Dance of Kerala - with special reference to rasaabhinaya.  The lecture (Nov. 15th ) began with the construction of abhinaya as a holistic and multi-dimensional concept, the ultimate objective of which is a static elevation.  She then explored the various aspects of rasaabhinaya in the context of the Sanskrit shlokas where the eye-movements and other details have been described in great depth for each of the nine rasas.  These were taught to her through the oral tradition by the veneered Guru Manni Madhava Chakkyarr.

Demonstration of the various emotions and moods is depicted through a couple of poetic ideas, which is followed by a short "Shlokattam".  The lecture demonstration concluded with a brief presentation of two passages from a Kathakali play.  Shanta Nedungadi, born and brought up a in a culturally rich ambience, is the daughter of Smt. & Shri. T.M. B. Nedungadi, one of the main founders of the International Centre of Kathakalai, New Delhi.  She received training in Kathakali for more than 20 years under renowned teachers like Guru Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Guru Madhava Panikkar, and an intensive training in Abhinaya from Guru Maani madhava Chakkyaar.  She trained in Odissi for 10 years with Guru Surendranath Jena of Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi.  She learnt Mohiniattam from Smt. Kalyanikuttiama and Smt. Tara Rajkumar.  She teaches political science in Delhi University and has published books and articles on foreign policy.


Haiku the Japanese Poem

On a withered top of the tree

A crow, alone is perched 

It is evening of autumn 

This is a Haiku poem, Haiku is a form of highly specialized Japanese poetry, which uses a set number of syllables.  It is short, in fact the shortest from of poetry in the world.  It has a few basic rules - the poems use a metre of 5-7-5 syllables in three lines (17 syllables in all); each line should be complete in itself in expressing an idea; season should be mentioned; and there should be spontaneity.  Haiku is not a poem written in contemplation. In older days, it used to be popular in the royal courts in Japan to compose Haiku.  The most respected man would start the first three lines, which was followed by others.

Prof. Satya Bhushan Verma spoke about Haiku in a lecture (Dec. 31) in which he traced how it came to India.  He said Haiku came to Indians through English.  The English translations of Haiku had naturally lost the spontaneity and  when presented to the Indian readers, they did not have the original charm, he regretted.  The first time any Indian poet ever mentioned Haiku was the reference to it by Rabindranath Tagore in his travel diary on his visit to Japan. Subsequently, there were others.  Notable among the later poets who attempted Haiku both translation and composing was `Agyeya'.

Haiku is part of the Zen thought, Prof. Verma said. Composing poem was part of the religious practice of Zen. Zen is the philosophy that went to Japan from China.  The philosophy owes its origin to India- it comes from dhyan, the Sanskrit word.  Giving several examples, Prof. Verma explained as to how a Haiku poem leads the mind to think and provokes imagination.  There is philosophy of life in these three short lines, he said.  For instance, the poem 

A leaf falls

Lo! Another Leaf falls

With the wind

This poem on contemplation conveys the transitory nature of life.  He said the reader has to be sensitive to understand Haiku.


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