Tracing Diwali legends to Mahabali and Mt Popa in Myanmar as the location of Narakasura.


Published in Ind Samachar

In the wake of cracker ban by the Supreme Court on the entire country, Diwali this year (2018) has evoked great interest among people comparing the variants of this festival in different parts of the country spanning over a period of not just one day, but five days, making people wonder which day was referred to by the Supreme Court in its stricture on fire-crackers. With most of South India celebrating Diwali as Naraka Chaturdasi, there is another dissenting voice heard from the fringe political elements in Tamilnadu condemning the festival as glorification of murder, as the story goes that Diwali was the celebration of elimination of Narakasura by Krishna. Those fringe elements had gone to the extent of glorifying Narakasura – without even knowing who he is – in their urge to sully Krishna, the Hindu deity. Analysis of these two issues, the variants in Diwali and the truth about the death of Narakasura brings us to a pleasant conclusion on the very long history and spread of Hinduism across Asia.

Basis of Diwali legends.

Starting of a new life after destruction is the basic theme in the different legends of Diwali celebrated throughout India. A popular version in North India is that Diwali marks the return of Rama to Ayodhya after the destruction of Ravana, while the fact remains that Rama returned on a Pushyami day and not on the day of Chitra or Swati when Diwali occurs. The only justification for this deviation from the original fact could have been the tradition that Diwali marks the ushering in of Light after a period of gloom! So there is something special about the day that even if Krishna’s legend is forgotten, people had felt it necessary to replace it with an olden legend of Rama without checking the veracity of it, only to be in consonance with the importance of the day. This goes to show that there is something cosmologically important for the day of Diwali. The following illustration shows the cosmic position of the day.

Pic

The illustration shows two signs in opposite ends, namely Aries and Libra. Aries marks the coming of the New Year in the northern hemisphere of the globe. The opposite holds good for the southern hemisphere, that is, Libra heralds the arrival of the New Year in the southern hemisphere. It is in the month of Libra around the time of the new Moon, Diwali is celebrated throughout India. It is a 5-day festival in its entirety starting from the 13th tithi before the New Moon and ending on the 2nd tithi after the new Moon. Within this period comes the New Year of the southern hemisphere– on the day after New Moon. Wonder of wonders, this is the New Year for only one people of India (northern hemisphere) – that is the people of Gujarat, the land ruled by Krishna!

Doesn’t it sound puzzling that what is rationally the New Year in the southern hemisphere happens to be the New Year for the land of Krishna?

If we probe deeper, we would see that the now discarded Vikrama Era started on the same day as in the southern hemisphere. Its original name was ‘Krita’ or ‘Purva’ Era indicating its origin in antiquity. It was followed by the Mālava gaṇa, whose origins can be traced to the paternal home of Savitri, famous for getting back to life her husband Satyavan from the noose of Yama. Malavi was the name of Savitri’s mother and by the boon extracted by Savitri from Yama, the sons of Malavi came to be known as Mālavas whose location came to be named after them as Malwa. That Mālavas had followed the tradition of the southern hemisphere could only mean their ancestors had their origin somewhere in the southern hemisphere.

The Vikrama Era followed by them can be related to Trivikrama in the legend of Bali, an Asura whose location can be traced to the southern hemisphere. (Usually the inhabitants of the southern parts were known as Asuras while those of the north were known as Devas. Another definition of an Asura is that he is a tormenter). The dominance of Mahabali, the Asura tells of a time when the Southern hemisphere was brimming with life. With movement of Time, the location of life shifts places. This happened when the Northern hemisphere started becoming habitable and the southern hemisphere went under water. This is made out in the story of Mahabali.

Mahabali initiated Diwali.

The narration of Vamana Purana on Mahabali sounds metaphorical of geological events of land forms experiencing tremors and going under water. Wherever Vamana went –even when he was in his mother’s womb – the land lowered. The lowered land got easily inundated with sea water. After Vamana was born and went on to meet Bali, the same thing happened. When Vamana placed his foot on Bali’s head, Bali sank into Pātāla which is the lowermost layer of the earth’s crust and the covering over the mantle. This is an allegorical description of loss of land into deep sea. The lands were lost to the seas in sudden and violent tremors causing many to lose their lives. The survivors had started a new life with new hope of a bright future.

In the legend of Bali comes the reference to Diwali!  Mahabali asked for a boon from Trivikrama that people make Deepa-dāna for three days in his memory for getting vanquished by three feet measures of Trivikrama. The three feet measures in fact refer to the tremors in the land and in the sky and then again on the land making it sink forever – the last one referring to the loss of habitat for people represented by Mahabali. Trivikrama’s boon that Mahabali would once again come back in a future Manvantra is allegorical of a future probability of the sunken lands rising up again which would then be recognised as Varaha lifting up the lands.  Vamana and Varaha avataras are thus alternating recurrences of two geological phenomena.

The three days starting from the day before the New Moon in Libra till the day after that are supposed to be the time of a massive destruction of a former civilization in the southern hemisphere. That also happens to be the New Year time in the southern hemisphere. The survivors have remembered it in two ways, as destruction of Asuras (of the southern hemisphere) and a beginning of new life and marked it with lighting lamps.

The continuity of New Year Era of the south in India by Mālavas and the people of Krishna’s country is in effect proof of migration of an olden civilization from South and South East Asia and not from Europe or West Asia, as western Indologists want us to believe. Migrations could have happened from Europe at later dates but the original customs and culture had come from the south along with the people who survived destruction. Or else kings from Manu’s times could not be expected to have celebrated the day with Lamps.

In support of this claim, there is an inscription (E.I. Vol 4, No 18) found in the northern wall of the 2nd prakara of the temple of Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam attributed to king Ravivarman of Kerala saying that the auspicious festival of ‘Deepotsava’ aimed at dispersing darkness was celebrated in olden days by kings Ila, Kartavirya and Sagara. Of them Ila was the son of Vaivasvata Manu, the progenitor of the current population of India as per Hindu texts whose name is associated with Matsya avatara. But celebration of Deepotsava by his son is proof of a further past with a connection to southern hemisphere (Mahabali) and subsequent migration to Indian mainland. He had carried the memory of Trivikrama.  One must remember that until 12,000 years ago, India, particularly north India was not habitable due to Ice Age and glaciations of the Himalayas while southern hemisphere was more hospitable for human life.

Newer legends of Diwali from Krishna’s times

As time passed by, newer episodes added fresh impetus to the old concept of Deepa-dāna. All the concepts around the 5-day Diwali except Bali Pratipada (in memory of Mahabali) can be related to a single event in Krishna’s life that happened in a place called Prāgjyothisha, which was originally located in today’s Myanmar and Thailand – known as Indra Dweepa in olden days! That event was the slaying of Narakasura!

This event recounted in Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana sounds more like a geological happening, similar to the destruction of Mahabali by Trivikrama. The etymological understanding of the names further reinforces the geological secret embedded in the event. The story is this:

The city of Prāgjyothisha was held by Naraka, the son of earth (hence he was known as Bhauma). He was fierce and tormented the people killing them often. He kept the two ear rings of Aditi under him, and made it inaccessible to the Devas. Many were imprisoned by him. His deputy, another asura by name Muru defended his city be a series of nooses around that were difficult to cross.

Then came Krishna from Dwaraka along with his wife Satyabhama, mounted on his carrier, Garuda. He entered Prāgjyothisha by clearing the way and making a road. He cut the nooses laid by Muru by his Chakrayudha (discus) and killed many asuras in a place called Nirmochana (meaning Liberation). Finally he killed Naraka and freed the people trapped by him. Then Aditi, the mother of Devas and also of Naraka appeared before Krishna. What she told to Krishna unravels the true purport of the slaying of Narakasura.

Aditi told that when she was held high by Krishna in his Varaha avatar, Naraka was born to her by rising from her. Naraka was given by Krishna and was also killed by him. Her two jewelled ear studs had been restored from Naraka and she was happy to offer them to Krishna to keep for progeny.  What does this all convey? Basically it conveys that Naraka was not a human being! There was some geological trouble happening for a long time which Krishna had stopped.

Deciphering Narakasura story

Aditi was mother earth that had risen from waters (attributed to Varaha avatara). The one who rises from her and torments people must have been a volcano. That was Narakasura. Naraka means tormenter. Because he was a tormenter he was identified as Naraka! The location name Prāgjyothisha also has a relevance to volcano. Prāg means summit and the Prāgjyothisha refers to a light at summit, which is but a reference to volcano. (The same name appears in Valmiki Ramayana as a product of Varaha, but in the western side of India. It could refer to Mount Vesuvius)

The continuous flowing down of the lava had caused series of rings (nooses) in the surroundings that looked like the handiwork of Muru (Muru means kind of dance). The spreading lava started blocking access to the surrounding regions. Krishna broke off the lava sediments and paved a way. He had even caused the volcano to crumble or implode and become extinguished. This resulted in access to two jewelled items held by the earth. Further decipherment of these ideas and the location of Narakasura can be made from two clues given in the narration itself.

  1. Krishna brought the tree of Parijata after this episode from the land of Indra.
  2. Indra’s elephant Iravata was saved from Narakasura who was threatening to take it away.

First clue shows that the land of Indra was Indra Dweepa, a name for the combined lands of Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The flower Parijata (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis ) is native to these regions (South East Asia) and the Indian sub continent also. But it was not growing in India until this episode means that it was originally found in South East Asia (Indra Dweepa) from where it was brought to India. Krishna had brought it to India (Dwaraka) at the insistence of Satyabhama. From this we can locate Prāgjyothisha of Narakasura in Indra Dweepa.

Pic

Parijata flower

The second clue shows that the volcanic flow of Naraka had gone closer to river Iravati of Indra Dweepa.

We can locate a volcano named Mt Popa (Pali equivalent of Pushpa) in the region of Mynamar 60 km away from river Iravati! Interestingly this volcano had collapsed in its north and North West side – in the direction of anyone coming from India. One can see a deep caldera in that part signalling the death of the volcano. By not growing further, the lava had not reached the river Iravati.

Pic

Mount Popa in Mynamar with fissures in the North-western slope

Once this volcano had stopped tormenting the people, the road to further south became clear where two gem mines are located. In places like Chanthaburi and Kanchanaburi in today’s Thailand are located the famous mines of two gems namely sapphire and ruby. The path taken by Krishna to these mines after crossing (slaying) Naraka (Mt Popa) looks as follows:

Pic

The recovery of the two jewelled ear studs of Aditi could mean access to these mines and starting the work of mining those gems. This could also mean that Krishna and his clan had access to the wealth of Kubera or Lakshmi! Krishna’s visit to this place could have had the motive of gaining control over the mines. Or why else should he take his wife on this journey if it was meant only for destroying Narakasura?

The ultimate success of the trip by gaining wealth for his clan was celebrated as Dhanteras (Dhana- Trayodasi). Further variation as Dhanvantari Trayodasi must have been added later for the fact that health is the greatest wealth.

The collapse of the volcano must have happened on Chaturdasi day. For the faithfuls, Krishna had caused the collapse by his discus, for others it was a natural phenomenon that could have coincided with Krishna’s arrival. The event happening in the traditional Trivikrama New Year day coinciding with the end of Mahabali must have made it a new repetition of the olden belief. But the event occurring in Krishna’s presence or by the grace of Krishna, the people would have started glorifying it as Deepa Dāna day that removes darkness from the lives of people – of that region and also of Dvārakā as new wealth had started pouring into Dvārakā.

The next day, that is., the Amavasya day was therefore a thanksgiving day to Lakshmi. As an extension, the wealth of cow is recognised after that – on the day that was originally the beginning of the New Year in Mahabali’s location. And the day after that was celebration time among the siblings. Thus we find the 5-day celebration of Diwali of current times having evolved from Krishna’s times with different regions focusing on one or more of them as time went by. Any different version in a region, say of Kali worship in Bengal is aligned with the basic concept of destruction followed by Light.

Further support to the supposition from Krishna’s life comes from the archaeological findings in Myanmar and Thailand. A vast region covering places like Kanchanaburi where the gem-mines are located was known as DVARAVATI since ancient times.

Pic

Dvaravati was originally the name of Dvārakā of Krishna. This name appearing in regions as far as Laos could only reiterate the Krishna-legend of visit to Prāgjyothisha. It also raises the possibility of movement of people between Indra Dweepa and India (Dvaraka in particular). One cannot dismiss the fact that both Gujarat and Bangkok (along with Kanchanaburi) are well known for gem cutting and polishing even today – an occupation that could have evolved at the time of Krishna whose primary objective of the trip to Prāgjyothisha could have been to gain control over the gem producing mines. Or why else he should lay the road to Prāgjyothisha?

Though Dvaravati culture started appearing from 4th to 5th century onwards, researchers are of the opinion that a proto-Dvaravati culture must have existed much before that as it would have taken a long time for the sophisticated culture to have come into place in the 4th century. There are Chinese and Buddhist sources to attest to the presence of this culture, but this culture was not Buddhist, but pre-Buddhist according to researchers.

Another interesting confirmation of Krishna’s connection to this place comes from a Khmer inscription dated at 937 CE that gives a list of princes of Chanasapura starting from one Bhagadatta. Bhagadatta is the name of the king of Prāgjyothisha in Krishna’s times. Even before Krishna went to Prāgjyothisha to ‘slay’ Naraka, Bhagadatta had left for the western frontiers of India for fear of Jarāsandha. But his name had remained, perhaps along with his descendants in Mynamar and someone with that name had started a new dynasty.

All this goes to show that the stories on Krishna’s life are not myths; that evidence of Hindu culture, names and temples in Myanmar and Thailad are not of recent origin but as old as Krishna’s times; that Diwali contains in itself more secrets than what we can imagine. All talk of diversity and variation in Diwali are of recent origin perhaps due to disconnect with our past caused by continuous onslaught of invaders. The celebration of Diwali in any part of India bears some connection with Krishna’s journey to Prāgjyothisha while the core concept remains the same ever since Mahabali was lost to the seas!

 

 

 

Who is a Tamil?


 

A Tamil is not a Tamil by virtue of having the ability to speak Tamil or for being born to parents who speak Tamil. But a Tamil is one who considers this land as his, the rivers as his and the Deities who are associated with this land and rivers as his. He may move to any other land, but only as long as he considers the deities of this land as his and follows the worship of these deities and the festivals of these deities, can he be considered as a Tamil. None others who  worship other deities can claim themselves as Tamils because just by speaking  Tamil, one can not to be considered as a Tamil. By this Christians and Muslims who speak Tamil can not be considered as Tamils, just because they speak Tamil. Even we speak English but that does not make us English people, for the simple reason that  we do not follow English culture. Similarly let not all those Christians, Muslims and Atheists who do not follow the core principle of deity- culture of the ancient Tamils be not considered as Tamils.

For all those who may find this view unacceptable, let me draw their attention to what Shahi Imam told about Anna Hazare movement. He called upon the Muslims of this country not to support Anna’s movement because they can not accept this land as their God. They can not call this land as their Mother or Goddess.  Similarly the Christian organizations have opposed Anna’s movement. For these two communities, their Gods are outside India. They can not accept the Gods of this land. The same logic holds good in the case of who a Tamil is.

A Tamil is one who swears allegiance to the numerous Hindu Gods of this land. Any one taking glory on Tamil’s literary past and culture can not accept alien Gods imported from outside. Let all those who have allegiance to outside Gods, call themselves as Christians and Muslims who can speak Tamil but not as Tamils who are Christians and Muslims.

In this context I also wish to sound a warning to all those who have defied the Hindu culture of Tamils and taken refuge in alien religions, that defiance of Gods of Tamil land would only land them in trouble as those deities which were once worshiped by their Hindu ancestors are now neglected by them after they have embraced alien religions.

They want to claim yourselves as Tamils and not want to give up the language. Giving up a language would not do any harm. But giving up the deity of the land would do. More important than the language is the deity that guarded this land. By giving up these deities / by ignoring them, they have no right to claim any connection to Tamil lands and its basic culture which is Hindu.

To cite just one text, Silapapdhikaram is full of Hindu Gods, description of worship of those God and Hindu customs. One full chapter was dedicated to the marriage of Kanangi and Kovalan which was done as a Brahma Vivaha. Numerous narrations on Karma theory and many characters coming to know of the past birth happenings etc., are revealed in Silappadhikaram. This Karma theory is the very core of the Hindu Concept. Even the decision of the Cheran King to found a temple for Kanangi was made after a discussion with his wife on concept of Godhood of Hinduism.

The entire story of Kannagi was narrated to the author by Kannagi Herself according to this text. In the last chapter of this book,  Kannagi in Deity form (after consecration) delivers an advice to the author which is full of Hindu Thought. She begins by calling people to know what is God  and search for God in order to get a better understanding. Her last advice is to do good karma in order to get a better rebirth! This certainly can’t have any resonance with the Christians and Muslims. Any one shifting to these two religions, automatically forfeit their connection to Tamil culture and therefore to Tamil language.

(Given below is the full text of Kannagi’s advice to Ilango in the last chapter of Silappadhikaram)

”தெய்வம் தெளிமின் தெளிந்தோர்ப் பேணுமின்
பொய்யுரை அஞ்சுமின் புறஞ்சொல் போற்றுமின்
ஊனூண் துறமின் உயிர்க்கொலை நீங்குமின்
தானம் செய்ம்மின் தவம்பல தாங்குமின்.
செய்ந்நன்றி கொல்லன்மின் தீநட் பிகழ்மின்
பொய்க்கரி போகன்மின் பொருண்மொழி நீங்கன்மின்
அறவோர் அவைக்களம் அகலாது அணுகுமின்
பிறவோர் அவைக்களம் பிழைத்துப் பெயர்மின்
பிறர்மனை அஞ்சுமின் பிழையுயிர் ஓம்புமின்
அறமனை காமின் அல்லவை கடிமின்
கள்ளும் களவும் காமமும் பொய்யும்
வெள்ளைக் கோட்டியும் விரகினில் ஒழிமின்
இளமையும் செல்வமும் யாக்கையும் நிலையா
உளநாள் வரையாது ஒல்லுவ தொழியாது.
செல்லும் தேஎத்துக் குறுதுணை தேடுமின்
மல்லல்மா ஞாலத்து வாழ்வீர் ஈங்கென்”

Vedic Chanting – a Perfectly Formulated Oral Tradition — Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian


 The following article explains the many unknown information on Vedic chanting. It is an eye opener too for the current generation which sees Vedas as a book whereas it is a oral wonder.

Of particular interest to me at the current juncture is the information that only 2 of the 8 forms of recitals are found in Krishna Yajur Veda which is prevalent in South India whereas all the 8 are found in Shukla yajur Veda which is prevalent in North India. As I am preparing my next article (in Tamil) in Thamizan Dravidanaa series, with inputs from commentary by Nacchinaarkkiniayar to the sutra in Tholkaappiyam (Ancient Tamil grammar work), this article adds strength to my perception that Krishna yajur veda is the oldest and was transferred from a long lost Shaka dweepa through Pandyan’s Kumari land to the Tamil speaking brahmins who spread from the lost land to the Venkata malai (Thirumala hilla) for thousands of years. Vedic knowledge of Tamil brahmins had been inherent in that community – not transferred from the North – but a continuing practice form a distant past. The below article adds a new input to that perception.

To explain to non -Tamil readers the information in my current series in the Tamil blog (the link is given in the side bar),  my perception is that the Vedas had existed 10,000 years ago in the now submerged lands in the Indian ocean which originally housed Shaka dweepa many years before that and later gave rise to the kingdom of Pandyans with the help of  Agasthya who formulated written form forTamil.

A branch of people from that olden land -that existed even before the Pandyas – moved to the Arabian sea where considerable land was above the sea level off the Arabian coast about 20,000 years ago. Vaivasvatha Manu belonged to that place from where he entered Sarasvathy river when a sudden sea-level rise happened after the end of Ice age. He and his people were carried by the surging floods that took them through the River Sarasvathy which was more than 3 kilometres wide at that time. (about 13,000 to 15,000 years ago).The sages he brought along with them settled down in the Sarasvathy basin and made Rik Vedas. The knowledge of Yajur veda (for sacrifices) was already there with them which is known from the description  that the children of Manu were born as a result of the yajnas done by them.

The knowledge of yajur vedas had existed in the Shaka dweepa (later the land of Pandyans) as the system of 4 varnas was there in Shaka dweepa. (the articles in the internet tracing Shaka dweepa to Iran or central Asia is wrong. My subsequent posts in Tamil will show why). The Tamils extended from the deep southern part until Venkata hills (Thirumala hills) even before the time when Manu settled in Sarasvati basin They had the knowledge of Yajur veda and not Rik Veda. The Krishna yajur Veda perhaps was the oldest vedas that was present in Shaka dweepa, continued in  Pandyan’s kumari lands and retained by the Tamil Brahmins.

-jayasree

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From

http://bharatkalyan97.blogspot.com/2011/07/vedic-chanting-perfectly-formulated.html

Vedic Chanting – a Perfectly Formulated Oral Tradition — Dr. S. YEGNASUBRAMANIAN
http://www.svbf.org/journal/vol1no2/chanting.pdfOur tradition believes that the Vedas are the breath of God Himself!

With that belief, our Rishis exercised enormous care to preserve the Vedas in its original form without the infiltration of any errors. Especially in the absence of writing, and through only an oral transmission from father-to- son or teacher-to-disciple, for thousands of years, this is an accomplishment of unimaginable proportion! Considering the vast magnitude of mantras contained in the vedas, such a preservation, with built-in safeguards, is mind boggling!

It is believed that the complete benefit of Veda mantras could be achieved only when the following conditions are met:
¨ Correct pronunciation of letters (words)
¨ Correct duration for utterance of letters (words) – and,
¨ Correct intonation of letters,

Our Rishis prescribed several fool-proof methods to correctly recite the veda mantras.

Six ways of recitation were considered incorrect and they are :

One who chants in a sing-song fashion , who chants fast , who nods his head up and down without actually raising or
lowering the pitch , who reads from a book , who chants without knowing the meaning , and who chants in a feeble voice , are considered incorrect .

They believed that altering the pitch even (without any change in words and duration), might lead to diametrically opposite effects, as related in the story of Vrtra who, instead of killing Indra, got killed by Indra by just a change in the intonation alone of the mantras chanted by Vrtra’s father, Tvashta.

The rules of correct pronunciation and articulation of sounds are given in the Vedanga, known as Seeksha. Seeksha deals with varNa (letters), svara: (pitch); [there are essentially three svaras, namely, anudatta (gravely accented or low pitched), udatta (high pitched or acutely accented), svarita (circumflexly accented)] maatraa (duration – a prosodial unit of time); balam (strength or force of articulation); saama (uniformity); and santaana: (continuity) during recitation.

Our ancestors devised unique methods to protect and maintain the basic Veda mantras in its original form through various patterns and combinations of recitation. The basic mantra is called vakya or samhita paatha which is a full sentence.
Splitting them word by word is known as pada paatha , which gives the knowledge of each word to the student.

Next is krama paatha , where the first word of the mantra is added to the second, the second to the third and so on, until the
whole mantra is completed. This method enables the student not only to know individual words but also how to combine words in recitation and the changes in svara that occur as a result of such combination.

Both Pada and Krama methods of chanting retain the natural order of words of the samhita paatha and so, are known as prakrti or natural. For example, if we take sentence consisting of six words a-b-c-d-e-f, in samhita paatha, it will be chanted as six separate words a, b, c, d, e and f in pada paatha will be recited as a-b, b-c, c-d, d-e, and e-f in krama paatha. Actually, a reciter proficient in chanting in the krama format is honored as a kramavit !

In addition, they devised eight other combinations which do not follow the natural order, and are known as vikriti or
artificial order. The vikritis are given in the following verse: They are, jataa, maalaa, sikhaa, rekhaa, dhwaja, danda, ratha and ghana.

Among these only jataa and ghana are prevalent (or, only !) practices in the Krishna Yajur Veda which is mostly predominant in the South. In Sukla Yajur Veda, which is mostly predominant in Banaras and in the North, (the Madhyandina and Kanva schools) all the eight vikritis were practiced.

However, today, there may not be any scholars at all who might know all these vikritis Jataa (braid) paatha In the above example, the six words in the line, when chanted in the jataa format becomes, a-b-b-a-a-b; b-c-c-b-b-c; c-d-d-c-c-d; d-e-ed-d-e; e-f-f-e-e-f and so on. As can be seen, the forward-reverseforward arrangement of words resemble the way ladies braid their hair, and so this practice of chanting is termed jataa!

Two types of maalaa (garland) exist: a)krama maalaa and b) pushpa maalaa.

This is simialr to krama paatha in that two-word units with the characteristic overlapping are the foundation. sikhaa
(top knot) is similar to jataa except that, instead of two words being repeated forwards and backwards, three words are linked.
Recitations in rekhaa (row), dhwaja (flag), dand (staff), and ratha (chariot) are more complex and the reader can refer to Wayne Howard [2] for details.

Mention can be made here that there are three of ratha, namely, dvipaada (two wheels), tripaada (three wheels) and catuspaada (4 wheels). Each wheel corresponds to a quarter verse (paada) of the text. Among these, dvipaada catuspaada varieties are the ratha types most widely cultivated today.

Ghana (bell) paatha
This is one of the most popular format of recitations and requires years of learning and practice by the student. A scholar proficient in recitation in this format is honored as a ghana paathi . Here the arrangement of words take the shape of a bell.
For example, the group of words a-b-c-d-e-f mentioned earlier, when chanted in the ghana format will be, a-b-b-a-a-b-c-c-b-a-a-bc; b-c-c-b-b-c-d-d-c-b-b-d; and so on.

The earliar illustration of six words, when written in ghana format will appear as follows:
Please note that, what was originally six words in the samhita, evolve in to about sixty words in the ghana format – a ten fold
increase in this case – that gives an idea of how complex the chanting can become with larger sections of the mantras !! We can
now appreciate the rigor a ghana pathi has to go through in his education to learn, by heart, the thousands of mantras, to be able to recite in ghana format.

Our Rishis devised all these elaborate and complicated system of chanting in order to preserve the purity of the sound, word,
pronunciation, intonation , pitch and sound combination of the veda mantras which are the foundation for our sanaatana dharma itself.

Also, repetition of words in many ways, the correct tally of words was also maintained which ensured the purity. They also believed that higher merits (punya) accompany greater complexities in chanting – for example, a ghana recitation is several orders higher in merit than jataa recitation, which is higher in merit than krama recitation and so on.

Wayne Howard [2] noted in the preface of his book, “Vedic Recitation in Varanasi”, “The four Vedas (Rg, Yajur, Sama and
Atharva) are not “books” in the usual sense, though within the past hundred years each veda has appeared in several printed editions.They are comprised rather of tonally accented verses and hypnotic, abstruse melodies whose proper realizations demand oral instead of visual transmission. They are robbed of their essence when transferred to paper, for without the human element the innumerable nuances and fine intonations – inseparable and necessary components of all four compilations – are lost completely. The ultimate authority in Vedic matters is never the printed page but rather the few members … who are today keeping the centuries-old traditions alive.”

It is unfortunate that there is very little subscription to this education these days and it is an important duty of all of us to
ensure that this education is encouraged and adequate support is given to promote and propagate it.

References
1. “The Vedas”, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1988.
2. “Veda Recitation in Varanasi”, Wayne Howard, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi 1986.

Dr. S. Yegnasubramanian ( President, SVBF) is a scientist at Bell Labs., NJ. He has been teaching vedic recitation & vedanta for several years.