A good friend @emanin on Twitter recommended me to listen to Njanappana. I never knew about Poonthanam or his work before. Njanappana is a poem on Bhakti Vedanta by Poonthanam – a 16th Century poet. Its is a glowing example in my view of an important feature of Hindu Culture. What? Read on.
You might have come across the following lines before:
अपि स्वर्णमयी लङ्का न मे लक्ष्मण रोचते
जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी
It is believed that this is part of Valmiki’s Ramayana. These lines also appear as Nepal’s Motto. Nepalese quote this just as we quote “सत्यमेवजयते”
Note: I must add here that I didnt come across these lines in Valmiki Ramayana as far as I have read. I only read http://www.valmikiramayan.net till now. I would be glad to be provided with any authentic links where these lines are quoted as part of Valmiki Ramayana
Back to the point. It is my firm belief that Hinduism survived even as Abrahamic religions and Atheism took over the world in the past 1000 years primarily because of its inherent feature to reinforce Patriotism. This is a very important point. This is a point on which whole idea of Hindutva bases itself. Vandemataram is possible only in India because of the same reason.
Sometime ago, when I was discussing World War II with some of my friends, a question popped up: “Why did Hitler even intend to kill Jews?”. The answers I received were many. One sounded logical. “Hitler served in the army in WWI. After WWI, Germany was in complete disarray. They lost Rhine. There was polish corridor and what not! During this time, common German suffered while high society (mostly Jews) enjoyed all the wealth they collected. This instilled extreme hatred in Hitler’s mind toward Jews”.
Note: Please do note that I do not agree with that point of view. I only intend to prove a point. Please read on.
So the obvious question is “Why Jews never cared about state of affairs in Germany?”. Had they cared, they would have acted to protect common German by doing something. My knowledge on this topic is still weak. So I continue with the idea that High Society Jews didnt do much for bettering common German’s life. It was at this time, the following question stuck me:
Even Vysyas in Hindu Culture are attracted to money. Why, all Hindus are attracted to Gold as well as money, and power too. Then why does a common Hindu care so much for India? What is the reason?
Swargadapi Gariyasi provided an answer. But since original Valmiki Ramayana doesnt quote it, some say it was added after British invaded India. Some go so far as to say it is an addition after Islamic Invasions started. But that doesnt answer my original question.
Njanappana – a poem by a 16th century poet Poonthanam reinforces my belief. The poem is filled with references to Bharata Khandam – yes Bharata Khandam, not Hindustan. Please listen to the complete poem. Below is a rendition by Radhika Thilak.
This is a Malayalam poem. Here is a link to translation.
I will quote some places where Bharata Khandam is referred to and praised by the poet as the only land for Salvation.
The poet first gives some general understanding of how Salvation can be achieved. He then explains Karma. He quotes Yoga too (in stanza 7). Then he moves on to Bhakti as a tool for salvation. Poonthanam being a devotional poet gives an idea on how Bhakti can help humans to reach salvation. Then while describing Karma, Poonthanam says (in Stanza 19)
Karmangalkku vibhuvayitolloru ,
Janama desamee bhoomi yennarinjalum,
Karma nasam varuthenam engilum,
Chemme mattengum sadhiya nirnayam.
Please know that this our motherland,
Is the land to do Karmas,
And it is definitely impossible,
To destroy the residual karmas any where else.
Comment : The poet tells us that though the rewards for the Karma done here is elsewhere, Those Karmas which do not merit us heaven and do not merit punishment in hell are to be only spent here,
This is the first reference to Bharata Khandam. You can find this part in Video 1 at 09:38.
From here on Bharata Khandam is quoted several times by Poonthanam. Read this for example (stanza 23 to 27)
Lavanambhdhi madhye vilangunna,
Jabhu dweeporu yojana lakshavum,
Saptha dweepukal adhil undethrayum,
Uttamamennu vazhthunnu pinneyum.
In the huge sea of salt,
Exists the Jambu islands,
Ten lakh miles long,
Within it are the seven islands,
Praised by scriptures as most holy.
Comment: From this verse the poet describes the earth. It is supposed to be divided in to seven islands and our country is in an island called Jambu Island
Bhoo padmathinnu karnigayayittu,
Bhoo darendran adil allo nilkunnu,
Idhil ombadhu gandangal undallo,
Adil uttamam bharatha bhoo thalam
In the peak and center of the lotus of this earth,
Stands the mountain of Maha Meru,
And there are nine major parts of this earth,
And the most sacred is the Bharatha country.
Comment: This island has in its center the Maha Meru mountain and has 9 countries including our mother land, the Bharatha country
Karma kshetramennallo parayunnu.
The great recognized sages,
Tell this as the temple of sacred duty.
Comment: The poet says that the sages call our motherland as Karma Bhumi.
Karma bheejam adeennu mulakkendu,
Brhama lokathil irikkunnavargalkkum,
Karma bheejam varatti kalanjudan,
Janma nasam varuthanamengilum,
Bharathamaya ganda mozhinjhulla,
Parillengum eluthala nirnayam.
The source of all Karma is this land,
Even for those great souls in Brahma Loka,
And it is here only that Karma is destroyed.
If one desires salvation,
And though it is for sure that these can’t easily be done,
Anywhere else other than in Bharatha Ganda.
Comment: The poet talks about the superiority of our land.
Athra mukhya mayulloru Bharatha
Mi pradesamennu orkkanam,
Yugam nalilum nalla kali yugam,
Sugame thane mukthi varuthuvan.
Please do remember that this land of Bharatha,
Is the most sacred land known,
And in the vast time periods this Kali time period,
Leads to salvation most easily.
Comment: From the creation of earth to the grand deluge, the Hindus have divided the time in to four large time periods(Yugas). The last of these is Kali. Though more suffering is there in this time period , just by repeating the name of the Lord it is possible to attain salvation only in this time period.And so it is great.
You can listen to these stanzas in video 2 from 00:40.
It doesnt stop there. The poet goes on to say that “only Bharata Khanda is the place where one can attain salvation”. Let us continue from Stanza 29 to 31
Athu chindhichu mattulla lokangal,
Pathi moonnilumulla janagalum,
Mattu dweepugal aaril ullorum,
Mattu gandangal ettil ullorum,
Mattu moonu yugangalil ullorum,
Mukthi thangalkku sadhyam allaygayal,
Kali kalathe ,Bharatha Gandathe,
Kalithadaram kai vanangeedunnu.
Thinking about this,
Those living in the other thirteen worlds,
Those living in the six other islands,
Those living in the other eight countries,
And those living in the other three time periods,
Realizing that they would not get salvation easily.
With folded hands do salutations,
To the Country of Bhratha and the time period of Kali.
Comment: Because of this all other beings who do not live in Kali time period in our country, salute the beings who live here in this time period.
Athil vannoru pullayittengilum,
Ithu kalam janichu kondeeduvan,
Yogyatha varutheeduvan thakkoru,
Bagyam porathe poyallo deyvame,
Bharatha gandathil pironnuru,
Manusharkkum kalikkum namaskaram.
To be at least a grass in that country,
And be born now in this time period ,
We were not lucky enough oh,God,
And so our salutations to the men,
Of Bharatha country and Kali time period.
Comment: They repent that they are not lucky enough to be born at least as a grass here in this time period so that eventually they can very easily attain salvation.
Ennellam pukazhtheedunnu mattullor,
Ennathu endinnu nam paranjeedunnu?
Kalaminnu kali yuga malayo,
Bharatha mi pradeshavum allayo,
Nammalellam naranmarum allayo?
Chemme nannayi nirupippin ellorum,
Hari namangal illathe pogayo,
Narakangalil pedi kuragayo,
Navu koodahe janama mathagayo,
Kashtam! Kashtam! Niroopanam koodathe,
Chuttu thinnunnu janmam pazhuthe nam.
Why do we tell that,
All those who are not here, sing our praise thus?
Is not this the time period Kali,
Are we not living in the country of Bharatha,
And are we not born as human beings?
All of you please think about this,
Should we go without the names of Hari,
Should we be less afraid of going to hell,
Should we live without a tongue?
Alas! Alas ! without proper thought,
We destroy our lives in vain.
Comment: The poet laments that we who are men born in the Bharatha country in the age of Kali are wasting our lives.
You can follow these lines from 2:35 in Video 2.
Again in Stanza 47, the poet quotes Bharata Khandam
Enthinnithra paranju viseshichum,
Chindi chheeduvin avaolam ellorum,
Karmathinde valippavum mororo,
Janmanngal palathu kazhinjennathum,
Kalam innu kali yuga mayathum,
Bharatha kandathinde valippavum,
Athil vannu pirannathum ithra nal,
Pazhuthe thane poya prakaravum,
Ayussinde pramanam illathathum,
Arogyathode irikkunna avastthayum,
Innu nama sangeerthanam kondu tan,
Vannu koodum purushartham ennathum,
Iniyulla naraka bhayangalum,
Innu vendum niroopanam okkeyum.
Why was all these special things told,
All of you think as much as possible,
About the largeness of Karma done,
About how we have taken many births already,
About how the present is the Kali time period,
About the largeness of the country of Bharatha,
About how all these days we were born there,
About how all the past period was spent without meaning,
About how we do not have much life span left,
About how we were healthy all along,
And how by singing of holy names of God,
All fortunes would come about,
About how the fear of future hell,
Has to be thought about today.
Comment: Instead the poet requests us to think of getting salvation easily by singing the holy names of God.
You can follow these lines in video 3 at 02:08
Sure, the poet is only trying to impress upon listeners that Bhakti is the best way for Salvation. However, that Poonthanam in 16th century quotes Bharata Khandam so vividly, tells us something. And that is
Concept of Bharatam as a unified country was present in common Hindu’s general life style as early as 16th Century, may be even before this.
There was a clear picture in every Hindu’s mind that all the land north of Himalayas till Kanyakumari was Bharat or Bharat Vansh.
Since the poet continuously quotes Bharata Khandam to stress that this is “Karma Bhoomi”, it means Hindu Culture is the cause for this notion.
So far, I could think of these three definite points.
In conclusion, it would be logical to say that “Spirituality in Hindu Culture reinforces patriotism“. This is something which is not possible in any other religion. Islam goes so far as to say “you cannot call your motherland as God because Allah is the only God”. This is a very important high point for Hinduism because Patriotism remains a state concept in other countries, where as in India, there is a possibility to make Patriotism a spiritual concept. It was done before by Chanakya, though we cant prove it. This is possible because of Hinduism and nothing else.