INDIA- the Cosmos of Humanity with Unity in Diversity!!
Whenever I need to eat alone at home i..e. during most of my dinner time, I always watch some or the other TV series to compensate for the lack of company (I am not so used to taking meals alone, you see). In the last 15 months of my stay in Europe I have completed all the seasons of Friends, HIMYM, Vampire Diaries, Big Bang Theory, Coupling and right now I am following Malcolm in the Middle. On the night of 24th January I decided to give Malcolm a break and thought will watch the first few minutes of the first episode of ‘The Story of India’ – a BBC documentary aired in 2007 as a tribute to 60 years of my country’s independence. The reason behind this act was the fact that one of my non-Indian friends watched it, loved it a lot and suggested me to go through it and well, I had some assignments to do and hence I didn’t have much time to sit and finish one episode of MITM. I assumed that I know enough about my country anyways and so I can just go over the one hour video quickly and see what was so special about it and then go back to my work.
But believe me when I say this – I sat there for complete one hour, from the first second till the last one, following Michael Wood (the British Historian who wrote down and narrated the story) word by word. And after a thrilling hour spent wandering from the seashore of Kerala till the bank of Ganga through Harappan civilization, Rigveda and the Mahabharata, I came back to present – amazed and literally spellbound!! It was the perfect combination of some really appreciable research, an effective method to present the today and connect it with the past, some incredibly awesome people behind the camera, a superb way of narrating the story, the fact that the story itself is ssso immensely interesting and to add to these – the background music could not have been better!!
The seven most important things that I learned from the video which I think are worth being noted down here (with the assumption that Michael Wood is right, because I have not really done much follow-up research) are –
1. First Indians : 70,000-80,000 years ago our first ancestors walked out of Africa, crossed the Arabian Sea and came to South India. Some of them stayed here and became the first Indians. The rest of the world is populated from here – the ‘Mother’ India 🙂 Those first Indians can be traced back in Kerala even now – their gene pool has been preserved because they strictly follow a marriage rule which allows them to marry only their first cousins. By testing the DNA with the hope of tracing ancient markers to get clue for migration history, we have actually picked up the descendants of the ‘first’ Indians. (Yes, you get to meet them in the video). It’s not just genesis that has been passed down from those early days, but also a culture and some rituals. The mantras and chants are passed down in brahmin families from centuries through generations as an oral tradition. He has recordings of few ancient brahmins in Kerala practicing sounds passed down from long ago, sounds with amazing patterns but no meaning, having the nearest analogue as the bird sounds. These are the sounds closer to nature, perhaps sounds which were originated before human speech came into existence (spoken languages developed only 10000-15000 yrs ago).
2. Harappan Civilization : From hunter gatherer (stone age) human moved on their path to civilization through agriculture and by forming societies. This process of civilization started in Indian Subcontinent as early as 7000 BC, even earlier than the ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Archaeologists have excavated the remains of a highly organized society, vast cities in the plains of Indus – the Harappa civilization (the high period of Indus Civilization was from 2900BC to 1900BC.). And yaah, he does take us to the ruins of Harappa which are now in Pakistan.
3. From Indus to Ganga: With shifting and drying up of rivers, civilisations rise and die. As the Himalayas were formed, the path of the monsoon was changed. As climate changed, i.e. in the later Harappan stages, people followed the river and moved eastwards to the central part of Ganges plain where the new India grew.
4. Birth of a language – Sanskrit : This is where we find the evidence of the first Indian texts which were written in Sanskrit – the mother of all modern languages and dialects that are practiced in the northern Indian subcontinent. Vedas have been orally transmitted from a very ancient time – the oldest one of them being the Rigveda the earliest manuscripts of which can be dated back to 1500BC – making these thousand hymns to be what he correctly puts as the ‘songs and words of the Bronze age’, Interestingly, they have found a very close similarity between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. For example the words for mother in these 3 languages are – Mater (latin), Meter (greek) and Mata(Sanskrit).
5. Following Rigveda : Through this Rigveda the story of our past has been revealed. There is evidence of movement to East by the Aryans around 1500BC through North-West and is now believed that they are the people who brought Sanskrit here (Seriously??? I thought it was originated in India itself!!). The heart of Aryan cities then was in Peshawar where Woods actually went and tried to find Soma’s plant – following Rigveda’s description of a sacred drink Soma – special to ancient Aryan rituals (yes he finds it there). Soma does not grow in humid climate and is no more a part of Hindu rituals now – the clues from Rigveda hence points to Central Asia as the place of Soma and may be origin of Sanskrit (?).
6. Ancestors of Aryans : Trying to follow where the ancestors of Aryans must have come from, we move to central Asia where the archaeologists have recently excavated a lost civilization. The materials found there somehow resembles what Rigveda describes as Aryans to have, they have even found some bowl-kinda thing where they assume that the sacred drink of Soma was made during those days, and on top of it there are remains of Rathas as mentioned in Rigveda. Around 1700-1800BC Aryans from here must have started moving to Iran and India, carrying a new language with them.
7. Mahabharata : By around 1000BC, Aryan tribes in India were fighting among themselves for supremacy and a better survival. This period has been written down as the longest and the greatest poem ever – the Mahabharata. According to the Mahabharata, God and Human were fighting together in this great epic war – the last time in Indian history that such divine connection has been embedded in a story. It was necessary to figure out if the Kurukshetra war was more than a myth – but doing this is of course a bit tricky. But then well, according to the text, the Hastinapur City was washed away by a great flood and in reality too we see giant erosion marks in one part of the Hastinapur City today, which might have happened due to some uncontrollable river or a great flood!! Moreover pottery here is just so similar to what Mahabharata describes to be at that time.. May be there is truth behind the legend!! 🙂
I seriously seriously suggest that you watch this documentary – collect the series from someone, search on web or download from torrent – but irrespective of your nationality, just go through them once. In these 6 episodes he has actually tried to present to us the 10,000-year epic history of the Indian subcontinent – showcasing the country’s beauty, colourful diversity, incredible drama, deepest thoughts and richness in an unparallel way (No! I am not the Brand ambassador of BBC or this show!). After the documentation when Michael Wood returns from India, he says – ‘I came away feeling that India is the only place that has incorporated the modern without rejecting the old’.
Here is the first part of the first episode.. Watch it yourself and get inspired to download the whole series –
PS: Proud to be an Indian!! 🙂 I love my country!
PS2: For the second part of this series – go here :)!