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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Interpret and Distort

There was a talk by Dr. N. Gopalakrishnan in 'Udayamrutam" in Amrita TV on Avittam day. The learned Professor, like so many others, talked about the socialism of Mahabali's days, misinterpreting the lines, "maanusharellarum onnupole" of the Onam song,  This was taken to mean that all were equal. .

The complete line from the song read " maanusharellarum onnu pole aamodathode vasikkum kaalam"  meaning that everyone was living happily and not necessarily that they were equals. This is clear from the following other lines of the song.

"ella krishikalum onnu pole, nellinnu nooru vilavathundu' meaning all type of paddy cultivation, Punja, Nanja, or Mundakan (Khariff, Rabi or Zaid} virippu or kole all yielded a hundred times. It does not mean that all cultivated variety of plants were alike. The song continues:
"valsaram onnakum chinga maasam, utsavamaakum thiruvonathhinnu.
maanusharellarum onnu pole, ullasathodangu anugrahichhu"
(New Year day will be Chingam first, thiruvonam will be a day of festivities, everyone in unison and with fervor proclaimed)
"maanusharellaurum onnu pole, manassum thelinjangullasichhu"
(Everyone without exception, celebrated with a carefree mind)

This is the risk of transposing an alien concept to a different era. Obviously all were not equal during Mahabali's period too. He was a king, Vaamanan was a mendicant without even a cent of land, Shukracharya was an honoured, royal priest. But Bali's kingdom apparently scored very high in the 'well-being index'. Well-being index has very little to do with material wealth or possessions and is evaluated under the following parameters.
Satisfaction with leisure & social life
Satisfaction with family life
Having control at work
Positive attitude to personal wellness
Solution-oriented coping rather than avoidance-coping

In a Gallup poll lowly Hawaii fared better than rich Virginia. 

That is the story of the non-existent socialism of Mahabali's time. Even the dialectical materialism of the Marxists presupposes the existance of contradictions in every society in every era which act as catalists for class struggle and revolution.

Another instance of interpretation and distortion is the interpretation of this sloka from Gita
"aparyaptham tad'asmakam balam Bhishmabhi rakshitham
paryaptham thwidamethesham balam Bheemabhi rakshitham'

'aparyaptam' 'paryaptam' in most interpretations of Gita have been stated as 'unlimited' and 'limited' instead of 'inadequate' and 'adequate'. The first interpretation confers an advantage on the Kaurava army and the second one on the Pandava army. The second interpretation appears more logical as the ensuing exhortation of Duryodhana to Drona is to protect Bhishma by surrounding him with the best warriors of the Kaurava army.

Yet another instance of transposing a relatively modern concept for interpreting  a sloka from an old scripture and grossly distorting the meaning is that oft quoted stanza from 'Manusmrithi'
"Pitha rakshathi kaumare, Bhartha rakshathi yauvvane
Puthro rakshathi vaardhakkyae, na sthree swathantrya marhathi'.

The last line 'na sthree swathanthrya marhathi' has been misinterpreted to mean that women do not deserve freedom(liberty) instead of the intended meaning that woman, who is looked after by her father, husband or son at various stages of her life, should not be left to fend for herself at any time. In an era when everyone was expected to live in strict adherence with one's 'dharma' individual freedom did not have much relevance, whether you are a man or woman. But 'swa thanthram and 'para thantram' were quite important. Her biological handicaps would have made survival difficult for a woman, left alone to fend for herself. 




1 comment:

  1. The distortion of the Onam song is done deliberately as if being equal in all respects is good for us. How dull, drab, monotonous,boring, colourless and would be if all are equal in all respects devoid of the spirit of competition and urge to excel?