In the complex understructure of India, UP sits like her invisible heart and spiritual voice. One can also address her as a headstrong folklore and tradition champion. Indeed the most populated state that celebrates its lineage in its diversity. It has an irrefutable matrix of society that hails, from two major communities, the Hindus and the Muslims—both passionate lovers of their native.
Even though, the expanse of Hinduism resonates much beyond India and goes right up to the global frontiers. UP has always been its formidable pillar in the ever lengthening axis. Rather, it has been the primordial hub of religiosity since time immemorial. If we deconstruct her, she expands to a vast region much before it was converted into administrative hedges like states and districts. Which, Gods loved and nature adored. So, one can say she has been the showcase, the playground and even the reliable archives of Hinduism since grand old times.
She doesn’t require administrate boundaries to conjoin. As, she, connects, consolidates and even identifies herself in many other ways. To begin with she is the mix of Pancha Bhoota—where the elements of Prithvi (Earth), Jal (Water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Akash (ether or the sky) combine for her cosmic creation.
If we translate this into ground realities we find. Starting from the texture of the soil, to the pitch of the lingo it is one. It has no less than Gods and super humans, as its role models. To say, some of its role models are even better known than the land they belong to won’t be a misnomer. And they all performed their incredible leelas in this very soil. We will come to that a little later.
UP has that enduring fix of festivals, along with bucolic handholding and even similarity in cereal crops to live and breathe in congruence. There is no life without water they say and water forms the lifeline of any society. To that effect there are vaguely a series of some six or seven imposing rivers, leaving aside many small ones that almost run parallel but certainly from the western side of the state to the eastern corner. And finally, they all merge as tributaries with Ma Ganga. The main stem of Ganga, begins with the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers in the town of Devprayag in Uttara Khand. As per mythology she was brought to earth by king Bhagiratha, where, eventually she grew up to the status of Ma Janani in the vast expanse of the state. She is indeed the queen mother of all the water bodies as she carries along with her almost all the rivers. Therefore, for certain she can be called the icon of motherhood the provider—an unbeatable role model again. So blessed is the state that there is hardly a district or a town that is not within the easy catch of a river. Where, inhabitants even identify themselves with the rivers, such as ‘Sarjupari’—person living across river Sarju. There are many annual melas that connect the rural fraternity and its vendors across the sub-regions like Ballia and Nauchandi, to name a few.
Hinduism has four ashrams when it comes to completing a lifetime—Brahamcharya, (Balkal … Birth to student like), Grihasta (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciation). The holy land of UP connects you to some quintessential examples of how some incarnations or avatars of Maha Vishnu have spent their time in these defined ashrams. Hinduism doesn’t come through, without UP. And all lessons of life are available here.
It teaches us, nothing is easy and everything needs to be fought for, whether you’re an incarnation of God or just a human form. Even, when, Lord Krishna was the 8th incarnation of Maha Vishnu. Mathura was under turmoil at least the night little Krishna was born in Dwaparyuga (the 3rd Yuga). He demonstrated the victory of good over evil when he killed his maternal uncle Kans. And by lifting the Goverdhan Parvat he proclaimed nothing is impossible if you are hell bent upon doing it. On bhakti (devotion) no one can beat Radha as a role model and it all happened in the Braj Bhoomi that is now divided into many districts. But Krishna leela has no boundaries.
In the same land Bhagwan Sri Ram was born in Ayodhya as the 7th incarnation of Maha Vishnu in Treta Yuga (2nd yuga). Although, he was born before Krishna I’m describing him after Krishna because he had a steady childhood, whereas, Krishna had a fighting one. But Sri Ram exemplified himself as Maryada Purshottam—the quintessential example of respecting contemporary times and fairness accentuating into super goodness. He had many mid life crises which he fought through valiantly all by himself and his devoted team. Prime was 14 years of Banvas (exile into forest) and the abduction of his wife by Ravana. Where, on the one hand he did show grief but on the other hand as a true karmyogi he found his bearings and organized himself to fight the great battle of Lanka to get his wife back. But while doing so he ensured he didn’t overstep the laid down tenets of science and its concomitants, even, when, he was an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Today, Sri Ram is a household name and a role model that is not confined to any district or a religion and where his queen Sita is an epitome of devotion. His entire leela happened along the plains of river Saryu and the famous kingdom of Ayodhya where he ruled. Important to say—role models can be followed by any person from any religion or sect.
Further, the great war of Mahabharat too, had its roots in Hastinapur near Meerut, again in UP. A well known mythological story of intensely disagreeing, blood thirsty royal cousins, that eventually escalated into a holy war. It is said, what is not seen and read in Mahabharat doesn’t exist in the world. It has again given many role models to the world while it was fought in Dwaparyug. It had many stalwarts. Some important names that one can immediately reflect upon are Krishna, Yudhistir, Bhishma Pitamah, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Kunti, Karan, Yudhistir, Bhimsen, Arjun, Nakul, Sahdev, Draupadi, Veer Abhimanyu to name a few.
Krishna derives his umbilical and founding legacy from Braj Bhoomi. From where he goes on to recite those ultimate verses of Gita, that is destined to happen, only once-in-a-planet-time, to a tranced Arjun, challenging him to pick up arms and fight for righteousness. The heft of Krishna thus becomes so very onerous for any one human form to carry as a role model. Resultantly, he spends his life in the little fragments of his teachings to promote his cause.
Post the battles of Lanka and Mahabharat you had those iconic—blazing writers and poets like Valmiki, Tulsidas and Ved Vyas capturing the vivid description of the proceedings that led to the deadly wars. Together with awesome description of the scenes of war that remain unparalleled even today.
And going forward when it comes to Vanaprastha and Sanyas we have Varanasi to teach us how to approach retirement and death as a role model. People come to Varanasi to see live Hinduism and even to die. The pyre is ever lit in Manikarnika Ghat and they say if a person is cremated there he or she goes to heaven directly.
It is one of the oldest ghats of Varanasi. It is revered in Hindu mythology that when Mata Sati, Lord Shiva’s wife sacrificed her life and set her body ablaze after Raja Daksh Prajapati, her father and one of the sons of Lord Brahma tried to humiliate her husband Shiva in the Yagya. Lord Shiva took her burning body to Himalaya. On seeing the unending sorrow of Lord Shiva, Vishnu sent his divine Sudershan Chakra to cut the body into 51 parts which fell on earth. Lord Shiva established Shakti Peeth wherever Sati’s body had fallen. At Manikarnika ghat Mata Sati’s ornament had fallen. The lesson therefore is loaded with the despicable arrogance of king Daksh and the pristine relationship of Sati and Shiva—that can’t be emulated as a role model.
In the treasured mythological scriptures such as Purans and Upanishads, battles between the Devatas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) have often been described in great detail and on many occasions. Asuras, have always troubled Devatas for some reason or the other. In fact, they were mostly stronger than the Devatas in strength, and therefore Devatas were always scared of them. Even Devraj Indra who was extremely powerful and laced with a lot of divine offence could not harm them in any manner. Many such wars were even fought, in an around, the present day UP. Samudra Mathan (Churning of ocean) resulting into Kumbh, has also seen the bitter war between the Devatas and the Asuras for Amrit (Divine Nectar). Where, Lord Vishnu had to intervene. Because, had Asuras drank Amrit they would have become immortal, and that would have meant destruction of the goodness in the world.
There are innumerable stories and one can go on and on. But the moot point is, whether, the present day generation of the state is living up to the values created by these role models.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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