Devlok With Devdutt Pattanaik: 3 Read online


  DEVLOK with Devdutt Pattanaik 3



  1. Rites of Passage

  2. Surya Dev

  3. Fathers

  4. Versions of the Ramayana

  5. Radha

  6. Christianity and the Bible

  7. Shabri

  8. Buddhism

  9. Dwarka

  10. Gramadevata

  11. Dravida

  12. Ravana

  13. Khajuraho Temples

  14. Yoga

  15. Eight Types of Marriage

  16. Hero/Prophet

  17. Kingship

  18. Jainism

  Author’s Note

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  Devdutt Pattanaik writes, illustrates and lectures on the relevance of mythology in modern times. He has, since 1996, written over thirty books and 600 columns on how stories, symbols and rituals construct the subjective truth (myths) of ancient and modern cultures around the world. His books with Penguin Random House India include The Book of Ram, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana, The Girl Who Chose and the ‘Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik’ series, among others. He consults with corporations on leadership and governance, and TV channels on mythological serials. His TV shows include Business Sutra on CNBC-TV18 and Devlok on Epic Channel. To know more, visit

  By the Same Author

  Myth=Mithya: Decoding Hindu Mythology

  The Book of Ram

  The Pregnant King

  Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata

  Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

  Shikhandi and Other Queer Tales They Don’t Tell You

  Jaya Colouring Book

  Sita Colouring Book

  Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik

  Olympus: An Indian Retelling of the Greek Myths

  Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik 2


  Rites of Passage

  India is all about sanskar (culture) and riti–riwaz (rituals and traditions). These are also known as rites of passage. What is the meaning of the word ‘sanskar’?

  A simple meaning would be an experience of culture. It has been given a lot of importance in the Vedas. There is a concept in the Vedas called akriti (shape or form) which is of two kinds—prakriti and sanskriti. Prakriti is what is natural or default upon which man adds his own shape. This is sanskriti. From here, sanskar arises. Prakriti has another word for it called sansar, i.e., the world that is formed by karma—action and reaction. Man changes sansar by adding sanskar. ‘Ka’ is added which, in the Vedas, is associated with god, with the human intellect. Man is one animal who asks questions from ‘ka’—why (kyun), when (kab) and where (kahan). Animals do not ask these questions. The shape that arises from these questions is called sanskar. It’s a sophisticated idea that from sanskar, one experiences being human. An animal does not have any training. It has inborn or instinctive knowledge. A bird learns to feed and fly on its own. Man needs to learn to become human. Hence, sanskar or rites of passage. There are two ways of looking at sanskar. One is what I arrive with from an earlier birth, of the past. One is that of upbringing, which I experience in this life through the rituals in society.

  In TV serials today, we often hear the word ‘sanskari’, particularly in reference to women. What does it mean?

  The English translation of it would be ‘cultured’. If you go to someone’s house and find it neat and tidy and you are offered water, you feel that it is a sanskari house. If you are not offered water, you feel they do not have sanskar. Whether a child has brushed or bathed before eating and so on tells of his upbringing. Children are the report card of their parents. They show whether their parents have given them sanskar or not. Another indicator of this is how you behave with other people. Even an animal looks after himself. But how you treat others (mehman-nawazi) tells of your upbringing. How you treat your daughters-in-law, strangers, guests; how you look after your house; and how you behave when you have money and when you don’t. Rama is sanskari even in the jungle. As the famous sentence goes, you can remove Rama from Ayodhya, but you cannot remove Ayodhya from Rama. This suggests that sanskar and discipline are embedded in Rama.

  What is the connection between sanskar and dharma?

  Dharma is a wider concept. A human being’s dharma is humanity. How do you express it? Through rules, rites and sanskar. These are the mediums of showing your humanity. Today, dharma uses religious terms. She goes to the temple, so she is sanskari. That’s not quite correct. Religious does not mean sanskari.

  In our culture, how many sanskars are there?

  The list is variable. In the Purva Mimamsa, brushing of teeth and bathing are also sanskars. Sometimes it’s sixteen, sometimes forty-eight. The rites of passage are divided into four groups—wedding, birth, growing up and death.

  Tell us about wedding sanskars.

  In India, it’s been called an experience. Today, a marriage has to be registered legally and is seen as a contract. This has come from Islam. There’s a give and take between individuals and it is seen as an institution of god. This is not in the shastras. There it is an anubhav, an experience. You are a human being and you have to experience grahasth life, which means you have to assume the duties and responsibilities of a householder. The original idea is that men and women are independent. The notion about women being dependent on men is a later addition from the Manusmriti. In the Vedic times, men and women were independent. Vivaah brought them together to experience living together and having a child. So some rituals are very important in a marriage ceremony. One is kanya-daan where a father gives away (daan) his daughter and the other, panigrahan, in which the boy accepts the hand of the girl. Today it’s simplified as a varmala ritual. Another ritual is saptapadi. You take seven steps together where you agree to share seasons, food, wealth and prosperity, children, knowledge and love. So vivaah is the meeting of two individuals. In India, it is also the meeting of families and communities. The environment of the house changes after a wedding. Mostly, a girl enters a new home. Sometimes, boys go too. Arjuna marries Chitrangada but she never goes to his house. Rather, he goes to her house.

  Was the kanya-daan concept always there?

  In a swayamvara or gandharva vivaah, there was no kanya-daan. It was present in arranged marriages, and when patriarchy became prominent, a woman was considered an object that belonged to the father to give away. Many girls today don’t like this concept. The important aspect of sanskar is that your experience is socially approved. You declare socially. Otherwise, a man and woman can simply live together. Sanskar is always public. When a girl enters a household, many changes occur because she brings her values. Her cooking style and home-management style will be different. In earlier times, she would bring seeds as she travelled from one village to another, bringing new vegetation into her new home. She is said to be Lakshmi. In a manner, she is also Saraswati as she brings new knowledge and new thoughts. If you go into the details, you’ll find that vivaah does not connote physical relations. Vivaah is social. There’s another ritual, garbharansanskar, where there is a physical relationship. In earlier times, there used to be child marriages, so the boy and girl would live with their parents. When they became physically mature, called gaunasanskar in some parts of India, there were rituals to prepare the boy and girl for physical relations. One was to see Arundhatitara. The boy and girl would never have touched each other. The ritual is there for the boy to touch the girl in a manner that she is co