Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

I mean happy Jewish New Year! We did a CTRL-ALT-DEL a little early this evening to celebrate Rosh Hashanah! (Yep, Jewish months begin at sunset!) This morning as I wished my Jewish colleague new year, I was surprised to know that their "Ten days of repentance" festival beginning today coincides with our Navratri. Also they will be celebrating Yum Kippur (which I knew only as a war!) next week as we observe Saraswathi Puja. This Saraswathi connection sent my pulses racing. Why?!

Its widely accepted that the world religions can be roughly grouped into three categories. (a) The Dharmic religions of India like Brahmanism (later Hinduism), Buddhism, Jainism and the recent Sikhism (b) The Middle eastern religions like Judaism, Zorastranism (our own Parsi's), Christianity and Islam. (c) The Pagan religions of the Mediterranean like the Roman, Greek and Egyptian religions. Ofcourse there are other smaller quasi cults/religions. Besides Christianity is as much a pagan religion as its the Church of the Christ.

Judaism should naturally interest us since both Hinduism and Judaism are more a way of life than religions. Besides 'India' and 'Palestine/Arabia' are the only places today where one can claim his/her Motherland to be his/her spiritual homeland as well. Last month I read an article by Khalid Ahmed in the Daily Times (Pakistan) where he wondered whether the Hindu God 'Brahma' and the Jewish 'Abraham' were the same.

Khalid Ahmed's linguistic analysis included stuff like 'Abrahm' is 'Brahma' with 'a' moving to the front, Brahma's wife 'Saraswathi' sounds like Abraham's wife 'Sarah' and our mythological first man 'Manuh' is like 'Nuh' or 'Noah of the floods'. The book I'm reading these days ("India, a History" - John Keay) also mentions how Indian and Palestinian mythological histories start with the 'Great Floods' and culminate in 'The Great War'.

It turns out that Jewish boys accept religious responsibilities after B'nai Mitzvah just as we do after Upanayanam. They also wear a sacred cloth (not the shawl) on their chest similar to our 'Poonal'. Just as Jewish boys cannot render 'Thorah' and other religious scriptures before they become Bar Mitzvah, we cannot render the vedas before we become Brahmacharis. They trace their ancestory to the 12 houses viz the House of David, Benjamin etc. We trace ours to the Gothra Rishis.

Jews follow a solar cum lunar calendar, so do we. They fast several days a year, so do we. They perform religious rituals on the death anniversaries of their ancestors, so do we. They have a festival of Lights which occurs in late Fall or early spring. Our festivals of Light Deepavali and the Karthigai Deepam occur roughly about the same time. They have a day of repentance every year to atone for not fulfilling everyday religious obligations. Exactly what we do at 'Avani Avittam'.

As a side note, I have always wondered why Tamils celebrate Deepavali with much fanfare. The Naragasuran myth must have obviously come from the Brahmanical Puranas of the north. When Tamils do not give a damn about Ram Navami and Krishna Jayanthi, will they fall over themselves to celebrate a supposed event in Krishna's life? And also why crackers? Afterall crackers are also burst at funerals? Is it because Mahavira attained Mahapari Nirvana on that day? Considering that Jainism (Samanam) was one of the predominant religions of the Tamils, I would not bet against Deepavali (atleast in Tamil country) being a Jain festival.

And finally, one of the most serene movements in my life was when I sat alone in front of the Buddha Statue at the famous 'wooden arch' cave at Ellora. I followed it with a visit to what I consider the greatest temple ever made, the Kailasnath temple or the famous cave 16. I dream of visiting Angkor Wat, Kailash Manasarovar, the Wailing wall, St Peter's basilica and Anuradhapura some day. Hmm..in the past few weeks I have been to the Santa Monica church, the Malibu and Iskcon temples and am waiting for my friend to take me to a synagogue. Well, thats a start, isn't it?

9 comments:

Jaikumar Ganesh said...

Awesome dude !! This blog has rekindled my interest to read more !! Way to go

Anonymous said...

The article is good.

Proponents of Indo-aryan migration theory will not find this surprising.

--
Vijay

Anonymous said...

:D ... Indo-aryan... Still the connection between Dravidians and Aryans is one I find intriguing!

on all this I end with my fanous quote:

"I've never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith - it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe."

Somu

GuNs said...

Boy oh boy !!

Somebody has been travelling !! Dude, I sure wanna travel far and wide just like you. Pray that I get a chance sometime in my life.

-PeAcE
--WiTh
---GuNs

Shradha said...

I raised my eyebrow more than once reading this. I noticed the bar mitzvah and upanayana connection myself, I think after I read Eric Segal's Acts of faith. The book gives a lot of insight on judaism though the story line is not all that great. Btw I have always wanted to visit the Golden Temple (another place of worship) in Amritsar. I probably will go there next year :)

Anonymous said...

brahma and abraham is quite a striking resemblence - do we know where brahma was mentioned by the vedic people?
-puru

arun said...

balaji,
frankly i dont think anybody cares about the actual purpose of the fesitival...how many of us celeb pongal with the spirit it was supposed to be?how many chrsitians crave abt jesus and true meaning of xmas? so wat does a festivial do? its a time,an occassion just for a change from daily routine, ppl get busy preparing themselves for something. in this regard i wud consider a festival no different from a party. no blasphemy here. both bring the same result. so i think its ok the way it is. just be happy. i.e we dont have to know abt the history behind diwali to celeb it.
-arun

Balaji said...

I'm all for secular festivals! Just that I feel sorry, Tamilians have forgotten their glorious Jain heritage.

-Balaji.

Anonymous said...

Arent Islam and Judaism similar too ? Meaning, Hinduism is similar to Islam ?

If all religions are essentially the same product being packaged under different brand names, why all the conflict and killing in the name of religion? Maybe a world without God would have been better (or safer) ? A less virulent form of Communism with all the extreme stuff taken out could be the solution ? no ? whatever.

Deepak.