Category Archives: Culture Corner

Amgelo Devu – Karkal Sree Venkatramana Devasthan

Dakshina Karnataka is truly Gods own country. It was as if the Gods resided here and blessed this land with bountiful resources, wealth and spiritual leverage.  For all of us Konkani’s Lord Venkatramana is our presiding deity, our guardian and to many our own family member. No wonder, many of us still call Lord Venkatramana “ Amgelo Devu”.

To me I have always been fascinated with Karkal Venkatraman Devasthan and Mulki Venkatraman.  These two blessed areas are actually intertwined in history. I will in this article highlight only the former and Mulki will mentioned in my next E Samachar article. So please read on.

Karkal is situated about 60 kms from Mangaluru. Lord Sree Srinivasa is worshiped as the main and the presiding deity (pattada devaru) of the temple and is popularly known as ‘Chappara Srinivasa’. The daily deity (Uthsava Murthy) Lord Sri Venkatramana is also known as ‘Bhakta Vatsala’ who fulfills our wishes, answers any prayers made with devotion, instances of miracles in answer by the Lord here are cited by many. It has been recorded that the idol of Lord Sri Venkatramana was brought to Karkala by Soma Sharma who is a ‘Vasista Gothreeya’ Gauda Saraswath Brahmin while migrating from Goa along with him. Sohire Prabhu’ family provided him the accommodation. Although the temple was built some time in 1450 AD, the main deity was reinstalled on 15th April 25th, 1537.

In those days there were no Vaishnava temples near Karkala and the only Vaishnava temple near by Goa was ‘Tirupati Sri Venkateshwara Temple’. So Prabhu and Sharma family thought of building a temple. People over here motivated them and supported them. They built a temple and installed the idol of Lord Sri Venkataramana and started worshipping. This may actually be the oldest Venkatraman Devasthan in Dakshin Karnataka.

It is recorded in the temple books that a group of dacoits had attacked the temple during 1500 A.D, the priests of the temple had tried to prevent the main idol of the Lord and certain other valuable belongings of the temple from being taken away or destroyed by the invaders, by casting them away into a well near Mulki.

 After the situation cooled down, the priests went back to Mulki and got back all the valuable belongings which they had cast away into the well, except for the main idol of the Lord. One day person from Mulki found the main idol in the well. By knowing this ,the people of Karbala rushed to Mulki to get back the idol. However by the time they reached Mulki, the people over there had installed it in ‘Shree Veera Vittala Temple’. From this incident, the people of Karkala assumed that the Lord wanted to grace the land of Mulki by his presence there. They found themselves in a dilemma as to what had to be done. They found it hard to believe that the Lord wanted to preside over Mulki, instead of Karkala. As if a solution to their dilemma, Lord appeared in the dreams of the people of Karkala and asked them to hand over his idol in Mulki to the people of Mulki. The Lord told his devotees that in the days that would come by a hermit (sanyasi who used to collect Kanika from the devotees to be taken to Tirupati) would come to Karkala and give them another idol of the Lord in which he would have enshrined himself. As per the predictions, a few days later a hermit from Tirupati, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Venkatramana came to Karkala and handed over an idol of the Lord to the people. That idol was installed in the temple. The hermit laid down a condition that the idol would be taken every year to Tirupati along with the Kanika received and the hermit settled down in Karkala itself.

The Kanika received in the name of the Lord of Tirupati is offered religiously to Tirupati Temple, periodically in a pilgrimage called Rama Dandu.So far five such Yatras in the History of the Temple, the latest being in 1970, have taken place. Once a year in a grand and ceremonious procession Lord Shri Srinivasa is taken out in Golden Mandapa and Lord Shri Venkatramana in the Golden palanquins for Vanabhojana which literally means an outing to the forest in a magnificent Hagalu Utsav,to the eastern part of Karkala. Since Tirupati is in the east, Lord Srinivasa is supposed to have been taken to Tirupati. Incidentally, this is the only day in a year when the Lord Srinivasa is taken out of the temple. Thus, the word given to the hermit is symbolically kept up year after year. The presiding deity over here Lord Srinivasa is called the Lord of Tirupati by the devotees, as the daily poojas here are like the ones offered at Tirupati. Therefore, Karkala is also known as “Padu Tirupati” (Western Tirupati). The gold, silver & wooden “Vahanas” and the other paraphernalia of the temple, speak volumes about the glory and the greatness of this temple.

Karkala Venkatraman Devasthan had their Punarpratishtan in 2017.  Late H H Shrimath Sudhindra Thirtha Swamiji of Kashi Math insisted that the temple can be restored provided every detail to the last letter be maintained as it was before. Rs 21 crore was estimated to be the cost of all expenses. People of Karkala and well-wishers donated Rs 42 crore. Such is the love for our Venkatraman Devu our guardian.

Karkal Teru

Normally I would have provided a brief prelude to our Sri Venkataraman Devasthan – Karkala before writing about the auspicious Theru that starts May 1st-May 5th, 2022. That said keeping in mind how big this write-up would be, I decided to first talk about the Theru.

Did you know the Karkala Theru may have started 295 years ago in the year 1827. This is an annual festival that happens during April – May in the Honour of our Lord Srinivasa. It lasts for 6 days with different rituals on each day.

Day 1

The day starts with Vishnu Sahasranamam chanted by the priests followed by Dhwajarohana. Dhwajarohana includes a silver flag that has the Lord’s face on it that is hoisted on the Dhwajasthambha. This marks the start of Theru. This is followed by Suthubali which includes the procession of the idol around the temple. This starts in the evening. The day ends with dinner provided to the whole town after giving offerings to the Lord.

Day 2

Day 2 consists of the same thing except Dhwajarohana. There is Suthubali, Samradhane (the feast to town people) and evening prayers.

Day 3

The day has Suthubali after which the Lord is taken to every house near the temple and placed in front of the Tulsi plant. This is known as Katte pooja. The Lord is brought back to the Temple. The day ends with Samradhane again. These dinners are sponsored by some or the other family every year

Day 4

This day includes Suthubali again. Suthubali happens all the 5 days in the evening. This is followed by Sanmana javan, which translates to honouring the guests. The feast of this day includes special dishes. Every married woman is given Turmeric and Sindoor. Warm sandalwood paste is put on men and kids. While feasting, the people are also fanned with a huge hand fan. This is followed by Mriga bete. Mriga bete translates to deer hunting. People go to Ramasamudra and a man (belonging to the family that has been doing this ritual for years) holds the bow and arrow and hits a wick.(earlier it was supposed to be a deer but now they just hit a wick). After this, before bringing the idol back to the temple, it is placed in Padmavati Temple for sometime. Later after reaching the temple, small chariot (ratha) is pulled for procession with the lord’s idol in it. This day is called “Sanu Theru” or small Theru.

Day 5

This is the most critical day of Theru, hence called the “Hodu” or big theru. After Suthubali, the idol is brought out and is again revolved around the Brahma ratha (the main ratha). The idol is put on the chariot and flowers of gold, silver and bronze are thrown to the crowd gathered near the ratha. The procession starts from the temple and continues only for a few steps. This is followed by the Samradhane. Stalls of food, toys and accessories are put across the streets. Everything from earrings to ice cream is sold at this fair. At midnight, the ratha is pulled by all the people (mostly men) till Gopura and is brought back after Pooja.

Day 6

The most fun of all the 6 days is the last day where people play Okulu. Before this, the Silver flag is brought down from the Dhwajastambha marking the end of Theru. Okulu is the same as Holi. People throw turmeric water on each other and also bathe the idol in it. After playing, everyone goes to Ramasamudra and takes a bath in the water there.


Ancient India’s Contributions to Math

The Indian civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, has a strong tradition of math, science and technology. In ancient times, India was a place of great mathematicians. According to research, India was actively contributing to the field of math centuries before, teaching the world how to count. Many of the old Indian thoughts and methodologies have shaped and strengthened the foundations of mathematical calculations.

The Fibonacci sequence is a set of numbers in which each consecutive number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. Pingala mentions these Fibonacci numbers in relation with the Sanskrit tradition of prosody, and it first appears in Indian mathematics as mātrāmeru. Mathematicians Virahanka, Gopala, and Hemacandra later gave ways for producing these numbers, long before the Italian mathematician Fibonacci brought the interesting sequence to Western European mathematics.

Some of India’s mega-epics, such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as philosophical works like the Bhagavad Gita, were all poetry. In fact, the Mahabharata has around 1 lakh shlokas in its original poetry form.

As we can see, Pingala 2500 years ago described the Fibonacci Series and its extension, Pascal’s Triangle, as part of Chandas Shastra, with reference to Matra-Meru, and the concept has been utilized by Sanskrit poets for more than 2000 years.

Sanskrit poets, as well as Indian classical musicians (including Hindustani and Carnatic genres), have contributed to this tradition. For example, here’s an intriguing presentation (video embedded below this paragraph) of rhythms in Konnakol form, which is a type of Carnatic music, and you can see how it aligns with Pingala’s Chandas Shastra, which we now refer to as the Fibonacci Series.

Another important mathematical finding was The Chakravala method of Algorithms. The chakravala technique is a cyclic algorithm that can be used to solve indeterminate quadratic equations, such as Pell’s equation. It is usually assigned to Bhāskara II (c. 1114–1185 CE), however some say it was created by Jayadeva (c. 950–1000 CE). Jayadeva noted that Brahmagupta’s method for solving these types of equations could be generalized, and he went on to describe this general method, which was later developed by Bhāskara II in his Bijaganita treatise. The Chakravala technique was named after the Sanskrit word chakra, which means “wheel” and refers to the algorithm’s circular nature. No European performance at the time of Bhāskara , or much later, exceeded its amazing height of mathematical intricacy, according to C.-O. Selenius.

Many mathematical discoveries were made in India, some of which you may know about, while others not so much, these discoveries include; the Binary numbers, ruler measurements, the decimal system, numerical notations, the concept of zero, and much more. These are just a few that I loved researching about. It’s incredible to think that without modern technology, these mathematicians and scientists could achieve such heights that their discoveries are still known and are used today.

This article is part of a series titled “The Ancient Mysteries”

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Goem Bab Waman Varde Valaulikar

Before I let you know why I am writing about Waman Varde Valaulikar let me first tell you who he is, where did he live and what did he do.

Waman Shenoi was born on 23 June 1877 at Bicholim, Goa. He attended primary school in Marathi till 6th standard and then joined a Portuguese primary school, where he completed Fourth Standard. After discontinuing studies due to financial constraints, he taught himself Sanskrit and English at home. He went to Mumbai in 1893 and continued with his studies there, completing High School in 1898. He was married to Shantabai in Mumbai and had two sons and two daughters.

It is believed that he earned the nickname “Goembab” when he was going along with his uncle Chintamanrao to Mumbai aboard a steamer. A friend on board the ship remarked to his uncle “I hear you are taking this Goembab (Gentleman from Goa) with you to Mumbai.” The young and idealistic Waman later used “Shennoi Goembab” as his penname.

Waman Varde had started writing in Konkani at the time he was working in Mumbai. His wife was illiterate but had a very good knowledge of Konkani language and folklore. He made her recite the tales and proverbs and put them in writing which were published later. “Goenkaaranchi Goianbhaili Vosnook” (Goan migrants outside Goa) was a series of history lectures given by Shenoi Goembab at the Saraswat Brahman Samaj, Mumbai, in 1927. Another historical book he wrote was “Albuquerquan Goen Koshem Jiklem” (How Albuquerque Won Goa).

“Mhoji Baa Khuin Gelli?” is regarded as the first modern Konkani short story. It was published in “Gomantopnishat”,   which is a two-volume collection of fiction and non-fiction. The second volume contained “Sonvsar Budti” (The drowning of the world). It used the story of the Great Flood to discuss various philosophies and includes parts from various religious works.

According to him the only way Konkani language can be popularized is, if it is brought about by its youth. This was revealed in his essays “Amrutacho Pavs” (The Rain of Nectar) and “Konkani Vidyarthiank” (For Konkani Students) Infact one of his major contributions was towards children’s literature. “Bhurgianche Vyakran” (Children’s Grammar) was written in a series of question-answers that he used to teach his son and “Bhurgianlo Ishtt” was a collection of short stories.

He also translated many works into Konkani the chief among them being Molière‘s Le Médecin malgré lui, which he translated as “Mogachen Logn” (Love Marriage) and Shakespeare‘s OthelloHamlet and King Lear.  He is most remembered for his translation of the Bhagavad Gita into Konkani: “Bhagwantalem Geet“.

In an autobiographical reference, Goembab credits the Barão de Cumbarjua (Baron of Cumbarjua), Tomás Morão, with opening his eyes to the fact that it was Konkani, and not Marathi, which was the mother-tongue of Goans. In anecdote he recounts in Konkani Bhashechem Zoit, Goembab indicates that in about 1899, he had written a book “O Mestre Portugués” for use in the Marathi-Portuguese schools that had been established by the Estado da Índia in Goa since 1871. In that book, Goembab indicates that he had introduced lessons covering grammatical rules, meanings of words and sentences for teaching the art of translation.

He had observed how Konkani had diminished in status among Goans and Marathi and Portuguese had taken the place of respect among the educated, upper class Hindus and Christians respectively. Konkani was used only to communicate with their employees, the poor and downtrodden castes.

He believed that no matter how many languages a person could communicate in to earn a living, he was lost if he could not communicate in his mother tongue, the “language of your soul” as he called it.[1] “We have been shining under others’ lamps”, observed Shenoi Goembab. He began telling Konkanis about the sweetness of their mother tongue and of its rich past. He started writing books to propagate his views. Not only did he see the Konkani language as an inseparable part of every Goan’s and Konkani’s identity. He also saw it as a movement against Portuguese rule in Goa. Shenoi Goembab wrote 7 books in the Roman script and 22 in Devanagari. This included short stories, dramas novels, poetry, essays, linguistics, philosophy history.

Konkani language was in decline, due to the use of Portuguese as the official and social language among the Christians, the predominance of Marathi over Konkani among Hindus, and the Konkani Christian-Hindu divide. Seeing this, Vaman Raghunath Varde Valaulikar set about on a mission to unite all Konkanis, Hindus as well as Christians, regardless of caste or religion. He saw this movement as a nationalistic movement against Portuguese rule. Almost single-handedly he crusaded, writing a number of works in Konkani. He is regarded as the pioneer of modern Konkani literature.

Some of his notable works are as under:

  1. Goenkaaranchi Goianbhaili Vosnook (Goan migrants outside Goa)
  2. Albuquerquan Goen Koshem Jiklem
  3. Mhoji Baa Khuin Gelli?
  4. Sonvsar Budti
  5. Amrutacho Pavs (The Rain of Nectar)
  6. Konkani Vidyarthiank (For Konkani Students)
  7. Bhurgianche Vyakran (Children’s Grammar)
  8. Bhurgianlo Ishtt was a collection of short stories.
  9. Mogachen Logn (Love Marriage) and 
  10. Shakespeare‘s Othello Hamlet and King Lear.  
  11. Bhagwantalem Geet (Bhagwat Geeta in Konkani

Shenoi Goembab was ahead of his time and often stressed on the need to eliminate caste barriers and get the lower castes educated. He said, “let’s make Pandits (scholars) out of Gawdes (farmers)”. In a short span of about 69 years Waman Shenoi did so much for Konkani’s. No other Amchigello has ever achieved so much for Konkani’s as him. Kudos to his dedication and a spark of activism that stayed on during his entire life.

Despite all the financial hurdles he faced, his efforts for the language of Konkani are why we all are still speaking this beautiful language. It has also been the precursor for being recognised as the State language in Gomantak or Goa today. One can also say that all this and more resulted in Konkani being recognized as one of the 29 official languages of India.

His death anniversary, 9 April, is celebrated as World Konkani Day (Vishwa Konkani Divas. So this April 9th don’t forget to cherish these memories.

Shenoi Goembab was posthumously awarded the Konkani Person of the Millennium award by Mandd Sobhann (a Mangalore based Konkani organisation), on his 54th death anniversary.

Proud to be a Konkani

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Samvatsara Padvo (Ugadi)

Wish you all a very happu Ugadi. May this Shubhakruta Nama Samvatsara brings lots of happiness, prosperity and good health in everyone’s life. This year Ugadi falls on 2nd April 2022.

The name Ugadi (Yugadi) is derived from the Sanskrit words “YUGA” (time period/era) and “Adi” (beginning), thus it’s “ Beginning of a new time period/ era”.

Ugadi is also called Samvatsara Padvo in Konkani, Gudi Padwa in Marathi, Ugadi in Telugu. Ugadi falls on the “Chaitra Shuddha Padyami” or the first day of the bright half of the Hindu month of “Chaitra”. In North part India, people celebrate Ugadi as Chaitra Navaratri from Chaitra Padyami to Ram Navami. During this festival, the season of spring ( Vasantha masa) is believed to have arrived at its fullest potential, and everywhere the colors of the festival can be seen. New leaves on the trees look amazingly beautiful. It signifies a period when the earth starts to recharge itself for a new beginning with the help of Sun’s energy. Ugadi marks the start of earth’s energising period.

As per the Hindu calendar, it is a celebration welcoming the new time period called a year Samvatsara. This generally falls in late March or early April of the Gregorian calendar. We celebrate this festival because Hindus believe that it was on this day Lord Brahma created the Universe. As per Hindu mythology, during the evolution of the cosmos, Brahma, the creator commenced the act of creation of the universe on this day.

The term “Samvatsara” is a Sanskrit word for “year” in Vedic literature. It starts with the month “ Chaitra” when the Sun enters the sign of Aries and the first day after the New moon. It’s believed that the yugas began when the two biggest planets, Jupiter and Saturn were at 0- degrees of Aries. Jupiter takes 12 years and the Saturn takes 30 years to complete one revolution around the sun respectively. So, if we take the LCM (lowest common multiple) of 12 and 30 to find when they will intersect, we get 60. Therefore, every 60 years, both Jupiter and Saturn will be positioned at nearly the same sidereal coordinates where they started off at the beginning of the Yuga, thus forming a sixty-year cycle. This is why there are 60 Samvatsaras. Once all the 60 Samvatsaras are over, the cycle starts over again. The first Samvatsara is “Prabhava” and the last one is “Vyaya”. This Ugadi starts with SHUBHAKRUTA nama samvatsara.

The calendar dates back to the Shalivahana era, which is supposed to have been built by the great legend Shalivahana and is responsible for initiating the “Shalivahana shakha(era)”. 

An important aspect of the Ugadi festival is “Panchanga Shravanam”, (almanac reading), the hearing of recitation of forecast from the traditional lunar calendar (Panchaang) by the eldest member of the society or the priest in the temple giving out predictions for the upcoming year. Usually, every family visits the nearby temple wearing brand new clothes to take the blessings of their “Ishta devata” before starting the New samvatsara (year).

The special symbolic dish of Ugadi is “bevu-bella” or “Ugadi pachhadi”. This dish is made from a mixture of neem flowers/buds, tamarind, chilli powder, unripe mango, salt and jaggery. It is the first dish to be eaten in the morning, on Ugadi day. This dish signifies the essence of life through its ingredients. Each ingredient signifies a different taste. Neem (difficulties), chilli (anger), tamarind (challenges), unripe mango(surprises), salt (interest), jaggery (happiness).

Special dishes are cooked for the occasion and enjoyed together by families. Madgane, khotto,sheeta, dalitoy, upkari, phodi etc. are some of the special amchigele food preparations for Ugadi.  Sweets are shared with friends and neighbors.

Many new ventures are started on the day of Ugadi. People commence the construction of their new houses, undertake new business endeavors, make important purchases like a new vehicle, etc., and sign new deals.

Ugadi is all about leaving behind the past and starting new fresh expectations and a positive frame of mind. Thus, the festival is celebrated to welcome a New start in life with expectations of happiness, well-being, growth, and prosparity.

Is Ravana the first aviator, a myth or a fact?

Many think the Wright Brothers invented the first plane in 1903 but the truth is that demon-king Ravana was the first known person in the world to fly an aircraft around 7,000 years ago.

When explaining the purpose of research conducted based upon the ancient architecture that startles its audience to News18, Shashi Danatunge, ex-Vice Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority stated, “King Ravana was a genius. He was the first person to fly. He was an aviator. This is not mythology; it is a fact. There needs to be detailed research on this. In the next five years, we will prove this”.1

If Ravana was the world’s first aviator, the Ramayana also claims that Hanuman, the Hindu monkey-god, could fly without the use of a ‘pushpaka vimanam’ or a Ravana-style aircraft. This raises the question of whether The Vimana was a myth or a reality. According to Valmiki Ramayana, it describes Ravana riding “The great golden aerial chariot, Pushpaka”.2 Ravana had acquired aviation skills and built his own aerial vehicle. The Tourism Ministry has taken up the challenge of proving that aerial chariots were in fact a reality, as mentioned in Hindu mythology.

Ravana does have an aerial vehicle in the original Sanskrit version of the Ramayana in which he abducts Princess Sita, although there is no evidence of its mechanics or that it resembles a bird (or peacock) in design. Indeed, vimanas, or “flying castles,” are a common visual metaphor in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain texts from South Asia, some of which date back more than 2000 years.

Martin Wickramasinghe wrote The Dandumonara Kathava, a little children’s book based on one of these famous folk stories. The peacock’s design is depicted in these stories: its wings flap to create lift, and the operator “peddling” (padinav) from his pilot seat controls pitch and direction with three ropes (tied to ailerons?). While the Sinhala term for this device (dandu-monara, or “wooden peacock”) is unique, the core story topic and the notion of the bird-machine can be found in numerous regional literature and oral traditions across India. The dandu-monara appears to be a representative of a wider literary genre in Sanskrit literature that deals with mechanical contraptions, including human and animal machines, which are found in the Pañcatantra (an old collection of folktales) and the Kathasaritsagara (“Ocean of the Streams of Stories”).

The Samarangana Sutradhara, a technical treatise written by the poet-king Bhoja (fl. 1025), includes a chapter on machines that blurs the lines between magical and technical in its descriptions of elaborate plumming, automatically refilling oil lamps, motorized menageries, robotic soldiers, and alchemically enabled combustion engines. There are several particular directions on how to build flying aircraft in the text:

laghudārumayam mahāvihaṅgaṃ dṛḍhasuśliṣṭatanuṃ vidhāya tasya udare rasayantramādadhīta jvalanādhāramadho’ sya cāti pūrṇam, Having built a great bird made of light wood, with a fine, tightly knit outer covering, and placing within its belly a mercury mechanism (rasa-yantram) functioning as a receptacle for a blazing fire,

tāruḍha puruṣastasya pakṣadvandvoccālaprojjhitena anilena

suptasvāntaḥ pāradasyāsya śaktyā citraṃ kurvannambare yāti dūram

Through the power of that mercury (pāradasya śaktyā) and the force of the air released from the wings [of the bird] flapping in unison, a man mounted atop it may travel a great distance through the sky, painting pictures [amid the clouds], his mind altogether serene.

–Bhoja’s Samarangana Sutradhara, chapter 31, verses 95 and 96 (Translation)

These Ancient Hindu inventions gave courage and assured that mankind could evolve and enhance technology to further aid the world and its people. The first-ever flying vehicle existed some 7000 years ago, it was called “The Vimana”, a couple of thousands of years later the Wright brothers invented the first plane. Some examples of recreated technologies in this day are; targeted missiles back in ancient India they were known as “Astra’s” and test-tube babies, the first test-tube babies were known to be Gandhari’s 100 sons, the Kauravas, and many more.

These technologies would, later on, be discussed further in the next articles. Hope to see you soon!

This article is part of a series titled “The Ancient Mysteries”

Feature image source


– Henry, Justin. 2019. “Ravana’s Mechanical Flying Peacock.” Council of American Overseas Research Centers.

– Lakshmi, Rama. 2015. “Indians invented planes 7000 years ago — and other startling claims at the Science Congress.” The Washington Post. nes-7000-years-ago-and-other-startling-claims-at-the-science-congress/.

– Moorthy, Saathiya. 2020. “Ravana the aviator, mythology or science? – South Asia Journal.” South Asia Journal.

– Satish, DP. 2020. “Sri Lanka Says Enough Facts to Prove Ravana Was 1st to Use Aircraft, Asks People to Help With Research.” News18, July 19, 2020. aft-to-fly-asks-people-to-help-with-in-depth-research-2723371.html

– “Sloka & Translation.” n.d. Sloka & Translation | Valmiki Ramayanam. Accessed February 6, 2022. 3.

– “Sri Lankan government asks people to submit proof that Ravana used the first aircraft.” 2020. Deccan Herald. t-proof-that-ravana-used-the-first-aircraft-863219.html

Gotra – A Scientific Reasoning

In the last article on Gotra we read about what is a Gotra, what are the various Gotra’s. In this write up let’s analyze why these Gotra’s were established and what is its scientific rationale. We all know that most Hindu families, marriage within the same gotra is prohibited since people with same gotra are siblings. Let’s look at reasons why this has been the practice for thousands of years amongst Sanatana Dharma. Gotra is always passed on from father to children among most Hindus, just like last name(surname) is passed on worldwide. Additional rule in the Gotra system is that, even if the Bride and Bridegroom belong to different Gotras, they’ still cannot get married even if just one of their Gotra Pravara matches.

It is generally a well accepted norm that women after marriage not only carry the last name of their spouse but also their Gotra. Why would they do this? Is there any scientific rationale for this practice which to many modern liberal thinker’s reeks of Male dominance. Truth is that its anything but that. Let’s analyze this further.

Genes & Chromosomes

Humans have 23 pairs of Chromosomes and in each pair one Chromosome comes from the father and the other comes from the mother. So, in all we have 46 Chromosomes in every cell, of which 23 come from the mother and 23 from the father.

Of these 23 pairs, there is one pair called the Sex Chromosomes which decide the gender of the person. During conception, if the resultant cell has XX sex chromosomes, then the child will be a girl and if it is XY then the child will be a boy. X chromosome decides the female attributes of a person and Y Chromosome decides the male attributes of a person.

When the initial embryonic cell has XY chromosome, the female attributes get suppressed by the genes in the Y Chromosome and the embryo develops into a male child. Since only men have Y Chromosomes, son always gets his Y Chromosome from his father and the X Chromosome from his mother. On the other hand, daughters always get their X Chromosomes, one each from both father and mother.

So, the Y Chromosome is always preserved throughout a male lineage (Father – Son – Grandson) because a son always gets it from his father, while the X Chromosome is not preserved in the female lineage (Mother, Daughter, Grand Daughter) because it comes from both father and mother. A mother will pass either her mother’s X Chromosome to her Children or her father’s X Chromosome to her children or a combination of both because of both her X Chromosomes getting mixed (called as Crossover). On the other hand, a son always gets his father’s Y Chromosome and that too almost intact without any changes because there is no corresponding another Y chromosome in his cells to do any mixing as his combination is XY, while that of females is XX which hence allows for mixing as both are X Chromosomes.

Women never get this Y Chromosome in their body. And hence Y Chromosome plays a crucial role in modern genetics in identifying the Genealogy ie male ancestry of a person. And the Gotra system was designed to track down the root Y Chromosome of a person quite easily. If a person belongs to Kashyapa Gotra then it means that his Y Chromosome came all the way down over thousands of years of timespan from the Rishi Kashyap.

This is also the reason why females are said to belong to the Gotra of their husbands after marriage. That is because women do not carry Y Chromosome, and their Sons will carry the Y Chromosome of the Father and hence the Gotra of a woman is said to be that of her husband after marriage.

Shrinking size of Y Chromosome

Y is the only Chromosome which does not have a similar pair in the human body. The pair of the Y Chromosome in humans is X Chromosome which is significantly different from Y Chromosome. Even the size of the Y Chromosome is just about one third the size of the X Chromosome. In other words, throughout evolution the size of the Y Chromosome has been decreasing and it has lost most of its genes and has been reduced to its current size. Scientists are debating whether Y Chromosome will be able to survive for more than a few million years into the future or whether it will gradually vanish, and if it does so whether it will cause males to become extinct! Obviously because Y Chromosome is the one which makes a person male or a man.

A Y Chromosome must depend on itself to repair any of its injuries and for that it has created duplicate copies of its genes within itself. However, this does not stop DNA damages in Y Chromosome which escape its local repair process from being propagated into the offspring males. This causes Y Chromosomes to accumulate more and more defects over a prolonged period of evolution and scientists believe that this is what is causing the Y Chromosome to keep losing its weight continuously.

Y Chromosome which is crucial for the creation and evolution of males has a fundamental weakness which is denying it participation in the normal process of evolution via Chromosomal mix and match to create better versions in every successive generation, and this weakness MAY lead to the extinction of Y Chromosome altogether over the next few million years, and if that happens scientists are not sure whether that would cause males to become extinct or not. And that is because Scientists are not sure whether any other Chromosome in the 23 pairs will be able to take over the role of the Y Chromosome or not.

Now let’s look at a very contentious issue. Will humanity survive or it really does not matter if Males become extinct? The reality really may be that the females do not need the Y Chromosome to survive after all. Since all females have X Chromosomes, it may be possible to create a mechanism where X Chromosomes from different females are used to create offspring, say like injecting the nuclei from the egg of one female into the egg of another female to fertilize it and that would grow into a girl child.

Theoretically one may ask a few scientific hypothetical questions:

a)    Will the human body choose to go only a X Chromosome route?

b)    Will the human genome pick another chromosome from the group of 23 to conceptualize foetal union? 

c)    Will that human be a more advanced version?

The bottom line is yes, there is a strong possibility that humanity may still exist with only Females and Males may go extinct after all. A grim reminder to all.

Gotra System helps to protect the Y Chromosome from becoming extinct

Its only now in the 20th Century that the modern-day scientists have concluded that children born to parents having blood relation (like cousins) can have birth defects. But keep in mind this was known to the Ancient Rishi’s thousands of years before. For example, lets assume if there is a recessive defective gene in a Male / Female. What this means is, this defective gene can be expressed in the child and may lead to serious birth defects. It is also possible this defective gene may not be expressed for many generations because the corresponding gene in the pairing Chromosome is stronger and hence is preventing this abnormality causing gene from activating.

Now there are fair chances that his offspring’s will be carriers of these genes throughout successive generations. If they keep marrying outside this genetic imprint, there is a fair chance that the defective gene will remain inactive since others outside this person’s lineage most probably do not have that defective gene.

Now if after 5-10 generations down the line say one of his descendants marries some other descendant carrying this defective gene, then there is a possibility that both are still carrying the defective gene. In that case their children will have the defective gene express itself and cause the genetic abnormality in them as both the Chromosomes in the pair have the defective genes. Hence, the marriages between cousins always have a chance of causing an otherwise recessive, defective genes to express themselves resulting in children with genetic abnormalities.

So, thank our Ancient Rishis for creating the Gotra system where they barred marriage between a boy and a girl belonging to the same Gotra no matter how deep the lineage tree was, in a bid to prevent inbreeding and eliminate all recessive defective genes from the human DNA.

All I can say is we have to be amazed at such insights coming from our Ancient Rishi’s thousands of years before the Modern-Day scientists had figured it out.

Know your Gotra

In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor. However, all families having same gotra need not be cousins. Based on our ancient scriptures people’s castes (Brahmin, Kshatriya Vaishya, Shudra) were never determined based on lineage instead was based on the person’s abilities. That said this system of Gotras were started as a way of identifying one’s lineage from the 8 great Rishi’s of Sanatan Dharma. They can be descendants of sons or disciples or even adopted sons of the Rishi, who is the root and whose name is used as Gotra. For example, if a person says that he belongs to the Kashyap Gotra then it means that he traces back his male ancestry to the ancient Rishi Kashyap.

Gotra means cowshed (Go=Cow, tra=shed) in Sanskrit. Pāṇini defines gotra for grammatical purposes as apatyam pautraprabhrti gotram (IV. 1. 162), which means “the word gotra denotes the progeny (of a sage) beginning with the son’s son.”

The assumption that this system was started by Brahmins for Brahmins needs to be looked into deeper and to assume that this system with a purpose to classify and identify the families in their own communities not amongst other castes is erroneous. Even the Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra all have own Gotras although many of them do not identify themselves. For examples the system of Gotras was probably forgotten amongst the Sri Lankans as they never mention this during their marriage ceremonies and priests often classify them under Shiv Gotra if one does not know their Gotras.

Hindu Brahmins identify their male lineage by considering themselves to be the descendants of the 8 great Rishis. So, the list of root Brahmin Gotras is as follows:

  • Angirasa
  • Atri
  • Gautam
  • Kashyapa
  • Bhrigu
  • Vasistha
  • Kutsa
  • Bharadwaja

The offspring of these eight are gotras and others than these are called gotrâvayava. These eight sages are called gotrakarins from whom all the 49 gotras (especially of the Brahmins) have evolved. For instance, from Atri sprang the Atreya and Gavisthiras gotras.

In almost all Hindu families, marriage within the same gotra is prohibited since people with same gotra are considered to be siblings. There are medical reasons for this, and this will be addressed in my next article.

Gotra is always passed on from father to children among most Hindus, just like last name(surname) is passed on worldwide. However, among Malayali’s and Tulu’s it is passed on from mother to children. Additional rule in the Gotra system is that, even if the Bride and Bridegroom belong to different Gotras, they still cannot get married even if just one of their Gotra Pravara matches.

Keep in mind the Gotra is a lineage, akin to a family name, but the given name of a family is often different from its gotra, and may reflect the traditional occupation, place of residence or other important family characteristic rather than the lineage. People belonging to a particular gotra may not be of the same caste in the Hindu social system. People of the same gotra are generally not allowed to marry. At weddings, the gotras of the bride and the groom are read aloud to verify that they are not breaking this rule.

Relevance of Gotra’s: The reason why these Gotra’s become more important for all of us is its deeper medical reasons why this needs to be followed. One must acknowledge the depths to which our Ancient Rishi’s have studied this system.

In my next article I would like to address the medical reasons why the Gotra classifications need to be followed especially during marriage.

About the author…
Compiled from various sources by Niranjan Kamath

Navrathri Festival

Navratri, the festival of nine nights is celebrated across India with great fervor. The nine nights celebrate the Mother Goddess in her various forms, culminating on Vijay Dashami. There are many legends surrounding the festivities; the most prevalent one being that Goddess Durga defeated the demon Mahishasura on this day, the triumph (Vijay) of good over evil.

Amongst the Konkani communities too, Navratri is celebrated with great fervor. Through the nine days, families worship the Goddess, praying for strength, wisdom and prosperity for their family.

Navratri marks the beginning of the paddy harvesting season in Karnataka. On the first day of Navratri the Tandla Madki, the rice pot in the house is cleaned and decked with flowers, preparing to receive the new harvest. The Paddy, kaanas, is also tied to front doors, welcoming the Goddess home. The bringing of new rice is symbolic of continued prosperity for the house.

Suvasini pooja and Kumari pooja are performed by many households during Navratri. While one reveres married women as an embodiment of the Goddess, bestowing her with vhonti and haldi-kumkum; the other honours young girls and includes haldi-kumkum and token gifts for them. Generally, school supplies and small toys are included in the Kumari Pooja gifts.

Days 7 and 8 are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati.  Kids and elders in the house place their books and musical instruments in the Pooja room and pray for knowledge, wisdom and success in the coming year. This time is also considered auspicious for Aksharabhyas. Young children are initiated into reading and writing by writing “Om”, “Shree” etc. On a bed of rice.

Day 9 is celebrated as Ayudha Pooja. Ayudha means weapons, but in the modern context has come to imply any tools of your trade. Therefore, everything from laptops and mobile phones to cars and bikes are worshipped on this day. Kids spend the previous evening polishing their bikes and decorating vehicles before the Pooja is a competition in itself!

According to the Mahabharata, the Pandavas hid their weapons in a Shami tree while in incognito for a year. On Navami day they came to retrieve their weapons, and paid obeisance to both weapons and tree before moving forward, hence the celebration of Ayudha pooja on this day.

On Vijay Dashami, the new rice is used in preparing a meal, called Nave Jevan. Shami branches are also exchanged with friends and family on Navami and on Vijay Dashami as a symbol of goodwill with greetings of a Kannada phrase that loosely translates to “May our love and goodwill grow”.

About the author…
Shweta Pai is a Project Manager by day and a new mom. When not mesmerized by her baby boy, she likes to read about food and the stories behind various Konkani traditions.

Choodi Pooja

Choodi Pooja, is observed during Shravan month in Karnataka, and is of great importance to Konkani’s all over. In 2021, Shravan Month in Karnataka begins on August 9 and ends on September 7. Tulsi Plant and Lord Surya are worshipped during Choodi Pooja, which is observed on Fridays and Sundays in Shravana Maasa (month). The main ritual involves exchange of a small bouquet of flowers by married women.

Choodi is derived from the Kannada word ‘Soodi,’ which means a tied bundle. The main ritual involves arrangements of flowers and herbs in a small bundle. Usually a bundle will contain four to five flowers, Darba grass and two or three herbs. A sweet mixture of puffed rice, coconut and jaggery is prepared on the day and offered during puja. Some people prepare Panchakajjaya, a sweet made of five ingredients.

Locally available herbs and flowers are used to prepare the Chudi. Some of the common flowers and herbs used include Ratnagandhi, Shanka Pushpa, Darba Grass, Gauri Pushpa etc. The flowers are arranged with some artistic sense.

First a Tulsi Puja is done. Next is the worship of sun. The freshly prepared Choodi is offered to Tulsi. Next a puja is performed at the entrance of the house and this if followed by a Pooja in the Puja Room. Young women will offer Choodis to elderly women and take blessings. Elderly women will also gift young women with Choodis.

You can also watch the attached video link from our own community members performing Choodi Pooja and explaining the meaning behind why we celebrate choodi pooja.

Reference Links

Adapted from an article written by Abhilash Rajendran  Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Compiled from various sources by Niranjan Kamath