Tuesday, October 27, 2015

क्षुरः - kShuraH - razor, knife

Remember those days when you (or your dad) would go to the barber shop and get a shave done with the 'ustaraa' (उस्तरा)? Some even thought of having one for home, to save on the constant expense on the flimsy blades that went blunt in 3 shaves.

The word for knife in common parlance is chhura (छुरा), or chhuri (छुरी).

The famous Zanjeer movie song that went -
chakku chhuriyaan ~~~~
tez karA lo
chakku ki aisee dhaar
ke chakku ban jaaye talwar
(चक्कू छुरियाँ ~~~~~
तेज़ करा लो
चक्कू की ऐसी धार
के चक्कू बन जाए तलवार)

THAT chhuri.

The word comes from Sanskrit word - kShuraH (क्षुरः) .

kShur = क्षुर् = to scratch, to cut
kShuraH = क्षुरः = razor
kShurikA = क्षुरिका = knife, dagger

And we know how 'kSha' gets modified into 'chha' or 'kha' or 'Sha' in languages derived from Sanskrit. That is normal linguistic simplification.
kShetra (क्षेत्र) becomes khet (खेत) (field)
kShetrapaala (क्षेत्रपाल) become khetarpaal (खेतरपाल) (surname)

Only real macho guys get a shave with a 'kShuraH' anymore.
All others are safe in the hands of Mach 5 Twin Blade Smooth Glide Razor Blades.
Sounds like some space mission! :)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।

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Monday, October 26, 2015

हरिद्रा - haridrA - turmeric

So, yesterday we saw why ginger is called 'adarak'. Ardra (आर्द्र) = moist, and we mentioned turmeric as well.

The color of turmeric powder is bright yellow. And it is a common material to give the yellow color of paintings and dyes. India has been famous for its vibrant colors from time immemorial. Just see any festival dresses, or see the desert designs of Rajasthan. Even before they were writing, they were coloring and making alloys. Remember steel and brass and bronze and the Ashoka pillar?

So, turmeric was used to dye cloths as well. And the color yellow is mentioned many times in names like 'peetambar/pitambar' in shlokas for Vishnu and his avatars.

The cloth on Lord Vishu's chest is of a characteristic yellow color. And Lord Vishnu is called pItAmbaraH (पीताम्बरः = One whose cloths are yellow) or pItAmbaradhArI (पीताम्बरधारी = one who wears yellow cloths). Yellow is also a primary color in the CMYK scheme.

"On the dark skinned (shyAma) Vishnu/Rama/Krishna the yellow cloth seems like the lightening in the dark rain-bearing (hence life giving) clouds" - thus go most of the descriptions of the three. (E.g in shrI rAmachandra kRipAlu bhajuman haraNa bhavabhaya dAruNam ...)

So, turmeric has got the color that is favorite of Hari, i.e. Lord Vishnu.

And hence it is called हरिद्रा (haridrA), - "the moist one with Hari's color."

Turmeric is very beneficial for bones and immunity development and is a natural antiseptic. It was applied on open wounds (after some preparation, not directly as powder) to prevent infection as well. Taking a pinch of it with warm milk daily is a great practice for healthy bones and great immunity and no extra cost.

It is also called haritA. The word 'haladee' is also used in later works of Sanskrit, and is the name in Hindi and many other languages.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

आर्द्रिका - ArdrikA - ginger

We all love a 'kadak adarak-wali chai' - strong ginger tea (with milk, black tea leaves and sugar - of course)

Wah Taj! 
Raindrops dancing on my balcony railing ...
... while I don't have to drive :)

and all that come rushing to the mind.

But what is up with the word 'adarak'? Where did that come from?

I always wondered these things way back in middle school - where do words come from? How did potato come to India? Where did ginger come from? Imported? Do we know if we had potato sabji 3000 years ago? Or ginger cold remedy back in 2000 BCE? And if not imported, what were they called earlier? And how did the new names come up?

Seems that ginger has been around for a while.
It was called aardrika/ArdrikA (आर्द्रिका).
Comes from the base word - aardra = आर्द्र = moist

Now, if you are an old timer, and have seen raw ginger or turmeric (or if you grab the fresh ginger at the vegetable vendor) , you will know that the ginger roots are moist when fresh. So, is turmeric. And then you dry them. Chop them in small pieces or grind them to powder, and use liberally to strengthen your immunity and bones.

So what is turmeric called?

adarak is also called - आर्द्रकम् (aardrakam)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

तत्त्वम् - tattvam - essence

We all know this word to mean essence of something. But the etymology is even more enlightening. 

tat = it, that
-tva = suffix to denote -ness

For example, 
apanatva = अपनत्व = feeling something, someone as one's own, say with a good friend
mahattvam = महत्त्वम् = greatness, importance
puMsatvam = पुंसत्वम् = manliness

So why does it-ness or that-ness mean essence? 
The Supreme Divine has no gender. It is referred as 'it' or 'that'. The word that itself comes from tat.

The essence of everything is That. It. 
What more indication of the depth of the language and its philosophy!

तत्त्वमसि = tat tvam asi = tattvamsi = That Thou Art!

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Monday, October 19, 2015

आर्तिः - Arti - Distress, affliction, suffering, pain, injury

I know, you are shocked. Many of you.

How come 'Arti' [or 'aarati' (आरती) as said today] can mean distress?
We do aarati everyday to the divine in the form of our own chosen form - iShTa-deva (इष्टदेव). Have we been causing distress to the divine through this daily practice?

Perfect OMG moment!?

Well, the Sanskrit word Arti does mean distress, and it comes from the Arta (आर्त) - 'Afflicted with, struck by, suffering from, pained by'
Some other words you may have heard -
- Arta-nAda = आर्तनाद = howling for help
- deenArta = दीनार्त = pitiable and afflicted
- kAmArta = कामार्त = afflicted with love.

So what is the catch?

Well, we never 'do' aarti, but 'remove' aarti. Or as they say 'aarti utaaranaa' (आरती उतारना).

In our daily aarati, we give god a break and say, you have been removing all my problems, what about your problems? So personal is the connection of a devotee and divine, that there are times when you feel overwhelmed for the helpless god sitting as a statue in your home temple. There are poems, bhajans, etc. written with god as a very personal, venerable character that needs our protection. This of course is metaphorical, and therapeutic.

Maybe psychologically, it helps us that we are not all the time asking. We try to help what we can - wishing good and removing distress from the omnipotent!

So, next time don't say 'let us do aarti' but 'let us remove aarti'.

Happy navarAtra.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।

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Friday, October 16, 2015

भूत - bhUta - beings or ghosts?

In many Indian languages, the word bhoot/bhoota (भूत) would inspire some flurry of electrical current up the spine. It means - ghost. There are movies with names like bhoota bangalaa (ghost bungalow) that were the pioneers of the horror genre in India. And then the Bib-B starrer recent flick called Bhootnath (protector/king of ghosts!)

And yet, Shiva (शिव) is also called bhUta-nAthaH (भूतनाथः). This of course gives fan to the fire that Shiva is the Lord of the ghosts, and wanders the cemetery, smears the ashes of the burning grounds. And trust me, all this has deep metaphorical meaning that will scare 'The Brief History of Time' out of you. More on this below.

The verb 'bhU/bhoo' (/भू) is a very basic verb. Out of the ten classes of verbs, one of them is called bhu-Adi-gaNa (भू-आदि-गण) or bhavAdigaNa (भवादिगण) i.e. "group of bhU and other verbs."

bhU means - to be.
bhava - you be.
bhavati = she/he/it becomes.

It is slightly different from 'is'. We say -
He became angry.
Water becomes ice.

It is a state change.

That which *has* become - bhUta.

Now, who has become (past tense) is relative as well.
All beings you see, were not beings earlier, in these bodies. They were souls. Before that part of the Supreme Soul. Before that unmanifest 'unperceivable' para-brahma.
Upon birth (or conception, if you are a nit-picker) , they *became*. Before that they were not.
They were, but not in a form that could have been perceived by us.

So, all beings are called 'bhUta'. All of life, not just you and me, the supreme creation, but even the lowly earthworm is a bhUta.

Now, when someone dies, from this life's point of view they 'were'. Had been. Had become, not now anymore. They are also called bhUta - one who *had* become (past perfect?).

And hence the word for one who had been is bhUta. And if that "had been" tries to become "is being" we really get our spines jolted and scream - ghost!!

So, why is Shiva called bhUtanAtha? Well, Shiva is the deity of transformation, of time. And from unmanifest to manifest, spirit to matter and to spirit again, are all transformations. And at the cemetery, you change from is to has been. And turn to ash. His smearing of ash on his body signifies that all came from Time and go back to Time. Only Time rejoices in Time. All else is illusion.

So, you must be thinking how I can say that bhUta = all beings.
Is it extrapolation?
Modern day stretchable interpretation?

Well, look no further. Remember this shloka in praise of the Mother Devi?

या देवि सर्व-भूतेषु, शक्ति-रूपेण संस्थिता ।
नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै, नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः ॥   
yā dévi sarva-bhūtéṣhu, shakti-rūpéṇa saṃsthitā |
namas_tasyai namas_tasyai, namas_tasyai namo namaḥ||   

The Dévī who is well established among "all beings" in the form of Shakti (power, energy, ability), salutation to her, salutation to her, salutation to her, salutation,  salutation.

And why three times? Because 'Three is a charm'?

No silly, the three salutations are referring to the three forms of the Dévī – Sarasvatī, Lakṣhmī, Durgā. And why three Devi-s? Because three is a charm indeed! :)

Happy NNF.

The Nine-Night Festival!
May the Devi keep you safe, healthy and happy.

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

सर्वार्थसाधिका - sarvArthasAdhikA - the realizer of all purposes

There are many names of the deities in Hinduism. They are all based on the characteristics of the concept of the divine.

So you have thousand names of Vishnu, of Devi etc.

When you understand the meaning of these names, you get a better understanding of the divine nature around us. Whatever we may call it, apart from the quantitative nature of science, there is a qualitative effect on us of our surrounding. The RiShi-s tried to explain that in simpler ways through metaphors, and hence all the stories started.

After all the understanding, you realize that the Divine doesn't work for you, but through you. So, understand it, rather than blame it for your misfortunes.

One among the many of the names of Devi is सर्वार्थसाधिका  (sarvArthasAdhikA) in this famous shloka:

सर्वमंगलमांगल्ये = sarvamangalamAngalye = o mangala of all mangala-s (-A changes to -e when you are addressing)
शिवे = shive = o shivaa, auspicious one (-A changes to -e when you are calling out to shivA)
सर्वार्थसाधिके = sarvArthasAdhike = o realiser of all purooses
शरण्ये = sharaNye = o worthy of refuge
त्र्यम्बके = tryambake = o three eyed one
गौरि = gauri = o gauree (-ee change to -i when you are calling gauree)
नारायणि =nArAyaNi = o nArAyaNee (-ee changes to -i)
नमोस्तुते = namo'stute = नमः अस्तु ते = namaH astu te = salutations be for you

sarva artha sAdhikA = one who realizes/accomplished all purposes

The force of Life working through you, accomplishes everything. Devi resides in all of us in the form of power, hunger, sleep, mercy, compassion, valor, ... (yA devI sarvabhUteShu, या देवी सर्वभूतेषु ). We realize our goals by our karma, and Devi helps us do karma through our abilities.

The shloka says सर्वार्थसाधिके (sarvArthasAdhike). The last -A turned into an -e, as in aye, say, way.
This means O sarvArthasAdhikA! So we are directly talking to her, and remembering her many qualities.For words ending in -ee, the ending becomes short -i when calling.

May that Devi help you accomplish, realize all your goals through your own good karma!.

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Navaratram - नवरात्रम् - the Nine-Night festival

Happy Navaratram to all!

On 13th, started the navarAtram (नवरात्रम्) , or navarAtra (नवरात्र) as commonly, the trailing m is dropped in many Indian languages.
The word comes from - nava = nine; rAtri = night; navarAtram = group of nine nights.

nava-rAtram is not "nine nights", it is "a group of nine nights", more on that below.

There are actually a total of five such groups of 'navarAtram' in a year, though major one is in sharat (शरत्) - just before winter, a little before the crops will come in (two fortnights from now).

Saraswati is called shAradA (शारदा), who onsets of sharat season. The Hindi word 'sardi' (सर्दी) comes from sharad as well.

Mother gives birth. Father may or may not be needed for propagation of life, but mother is always needed, at least one agent, to conceive, protect, and foster life.

Earth, giving everything that we need, is our Supreme Mother. Hence, the celebrations of the Mother force, just before the harvest season.

The Mother Force, or the Life Force will always win, and this victory is celebrated during this time. "Life will find a way" - from Jurassic Park may seem more modern and hip, but the idea is very ancient and very Indian.

For nine nights, after a long day's work is over, the Mother force is celebrated in all its various aspects - the knowledge, power, resource, wrath, justice. In contrast to today's entertainment outlets, our festivals were entertainment events embraced with spiritual metaphors, stories of awe and inspiration, reflection and coming together.
May you do that as well, along with shopping and revelry.

Did you know that It is *not* nava-ratri (नवरात्रि) ! (Note the last vowel)
How could it be? Nine is plural, and rAtri is singular (night). Subtle language nit-picking?

Nine nights would be translated as 'nava rAtrayaH' (नवरात्रयः) = plural
navarAtram = a collection of nine nights! = singular

See the difference?

In modern times, in some regions, people say it as 'navarAtrA' (नवरात्रा) as well, that is more closer to the original that nava-rAtri. But it should not be a long 'aa' (आ) at the end, it is short but clear 'a', (अ) as in u of cut.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Those who travel in space

Rarely you will find a language where every letter has a meaning. And by this I don't mean  such meanings as in - "What does FRIEND mean?
F = Forever
R = Reliable
I = Indispensable
E = Entertaining
N = Noble
D = Dear."

Such meaning of letters are formed after the word is made, and centuries later when you are employed by the greeting card industry.

But in Sanskrit, every, almost every letter has a meaning, mostly as a root word from which other words are generated by specific linguistic and grammar rules. But we will not go there, too heavy!

The letter ख (kha) means 'space' as in the great frontier, or in ambiance surrounding you. Sky gets included automatically in it because from Earth, sky is the front yard to "Space - the great unknown".
So, we have words like: kha-gola-shAstra (खगोलशास्त्र) = astronotmy = the science of the orb of the space (or more literally space-orb-science)

The letter ग 'ga' is at the root of गम् / gam = 'to go'. See, even in English!
There are a large number of (a few hundred or more) words that can be made from 'gam'. While the verb formations will of course amount to a lot (for one goes, they go, you go, you all go, I go, we go ....) the nouns and adjectives are also amazingly abundant.

From the below list, I have removed the gender specific endings, to make these generic adjectives, just to keep things simpler:
    गत = gata = that who has gone
    गमनीय = gamaneeya = worth going to
    गन्तव्य = gantavya = worth going to, destination
    आगन्तुक = aagantuka = one who has come, guest? travelling salesman?

Here is how the word aagantuka forms from suffixes and prefixes:
aa (reverse) + gam (go) + -tum (desires to) + -ka (one who)

As a suffix, -ga would mean the one who goes.
I will save some words for other Kasts, and then we will see if you remember this Kast! :)

So, kha-ga ख-ग means 'One who travels, roams about, wanders in the space, sky'

So does it mean they had aliens travelling to India way back then?
Well, we all know a few space travelers ever since we know history, or our life's history.

The birds!

They are called khagaH (masculine) or khagA (feminine).
But technically, anything that moves in space/sky should be a khaga!
And you are right. So, the Sun is khagaH, so are planets, so is the firefly, the arrow, and even a kite.

So how do I know which meaning to apply? Either context will tell you clearly, or someone made a nice puzzle using the 'pun' intended of Sanskrit.

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Of what use is science to the unintelligent?

How can shāstra help a person without self-intelligence?
What will a mirror do, for the one devoid of sight?

shAstra is that which is an authority. A field or a work in that field that is authoritative work, could be any of the –logies that we know, or seminal works in these fields. It is what you fall back on when you have doubt. It could be the dharma-shAstra, artha-shAstra, or any such works that people referred to when in doubt. It can even be the Veda, Upanishad, Gita etc.

But such a shAstra can only help those who have some intelligence of their own. Why? When you don’t apply your own intelligence to the matter at hand, you will never make the truth your own; it will never be part of you. You may babble it out, but you have not understood it. If the situation changes a little bit, the solution won’t fit and you won’t know how to modify the solution to fit the changed situation. That is when, you would say “I don’t know or care, this is how it has been done always, and this is how I will do.” And therein begins the fall of humanity’s progress in whichever field it is. Chandogya Upanishad explains this very clearly in 7:17:1 and 7:18:1 about the who can understand the truth? One who meditates, contemplates, mulls over it, only then the truth becomes yours.

This happens a lot in spiritual and religious fields as well. While in Sanatana dharma aka Hinduism, there are still many previous works to refer to when in doubt, other religions don’t have that luxury or provision. And it is but natural that the conditions in the society are not same as they were 1500 or 3000 years back. Are the shAstra-s themselves flexible enough to allow reinterpretation for changed times? Are they algebra with formulas where in you can feed new values to get results for changed times? Or are they arithmetic so that we don’t know the basic principles which we can apply to changed situations.

A mirror will help you make up only if you have your own eyes. If you are borrowing someone else’s eyes, you don’t need the mirror, that other person will correct your makeup. In which case you are forever dependent on that person - be it a guru or a swami or a priest or a padre.

If you don’t open your eyes, use your intelligence and get up with some initial help from others, you will always be crawling, crying, scared, dependent, helpless like a baby, yet adamant and ever-ready to charge others, like a bull.

And now the language aspects -

यस्य नास्ति स्वयं प्रज्ञा शास्त्रं तस्य करोति किम् ।
लोचनाभ्यां विहीनस्य दर्पणः किं करिष्यति ॥ (Devanagri)
Hitopadesh 3:119

yasya nāsti svayaṃ prajñā shāstraṃ tasya karoti kim |
lochanābhyāṃ vihīnasya darpaṇaḥ kiṃ kariṣhyati || (IAST)

yasya nAsti svayaM praj~nA shAstraM tasya karoti kim |
lochanAbhyAM vihInasya darpaNaH kiM kariShyati || (ITRANS)

yasya = whose
nAsti = na asti = not is
svayaM = self, of one’s own
praj~nA = intelligence (also spelt as praGYA, or pragya)
shAstraM = sciences, shAstra
tasya = that person’s
karoti = does
kim = what?
lochanAbhyAM = from the two eyes (it is a usage thing, goes with vihIna, devoid of the eyes)
vihInasya = of the one who is devoid (that is of the one who is devoid of the two eyes)
darpaNaH = mirror
kiM = what
kariShyati = will do?

Apte's dictionary defines shAstra as:
शास्त्रम् [शिष्यते$नेन शास्-ष्ट्रन्] 1 An order, a command, rule, precept; अतिक्रामति यः शास्त्रं पितुर्धर्मार्थदर्शिनः Mb.5.148. 21. -2 A sacred precept or rule, scriptural injunction; तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रमाणं ते कार्याकार्यव्यवस्थितौ Bg.16.24. -3 A religious or sacred treatise, sacred book, scripture; see comps. below. -4 Any department of knowledge, science; इति गुह्यतमं शास्त्रम् Bg.15.2; शास्त्रेष्वकुण्ठिता बुद्धिः R.1.19; often at the end of comp. after the word denoting the subject, or applied collectively to the whole body of teaching on that subject; वेदान्तशास्त्र, न्यायशास्त्र, तर्कशास्त्र, अलंकार- शास्त्र &c. -5 What is learnt, knowledge; Śi.5.47. -6 A work, treatise;  

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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