Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ancient Sayings

I would like to write this post about an ancient Sanskrit writing and how it does not have any significance in today's world.

A Sanskrit saying from many thousands of years ago goes as follows. (Please pardon if there is a spelling mistake or a pronunciation mistake. I read this in English and not in Sanskrit.)

Uththamaa Aathmana Kyaathaa Pithaa Kyaathaa's cha Madhyama
Maathulena Dhama Sasurena Dhama Dhama

(If a person is recognized because of himself, he is the best. If a person is recognized because of his father, he is mediocre. If a person is recognized because of his uncle, he is low. If a person is recognized because of his father-in-law, he is the lowest.)

It says if someone is recognized in the street for what he/she is, then he/she is the best. For example: She is a gold medalist in our university.

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her father, then he/she is mediocre. For example: He is our MP’s son.

(It does not address people like Jawaharlal Nehru and President John F. Kennedy. They were born to famous fathers and became more famous than their fathers.)

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her uncle, then he/she is low. For example: She is our Managing Director’s niece.

If someone is recognized in the street because of his/her father-in-law, then he/she is the lowest. For example: He is the son-in-law of this “particular movie director”.

The above Sanskrit saying may be OK at that time when it was written. It is totally out of tune in today's world. People don't bother as to how they are recognized. They can and will say:

If my father is famous and I was born to him, it is not my fault.
If my uncle is famous and I was born in that family, it is not my fault.
If I meet a very good mannered and beautiful girl and we both fell in love and marry, don't blame me if her father is famous.

Another example of what was OK then (thousands of years ago) and out of tune today is Manusmiriti, the Code of Manu. He said a female should be protected by her father in her childhood, by her husband in her youth, and by her son in her old age. If I tell that to any woman (including my wife), she will immediately remove her shoes to hit me. I have read a little about Manusmiriti. But only in English. What he said may have been correct at that time. In his days, the world was cruel and exploitative. So he may have wanted to help women and children. Other writings by him show that he is not anti-woman. For example, he also wrote:

A house where women are ill-treated and weeping will never prosper.
If an unmarried girl gives birth to a child, it belongs to the man she is going to marry.
If a bride is pregnant at the time of marriage, the bridegroom automatically becomes the father of that child.

Pre-marital motherhood existed in ancient times? May be.

Phone is a very good example to see how things change. First there was no phone. Then phone with no numbers and you have to call the operator to give you connection. Then phone with numbers to dial. Then phone with numbers to touch. Now phone comes with us wherever we go. Had someone documented about 100 years ago how great the phone (no numbers and has to call the operator for connection) was and if we read it now.......I will leave it upto you for comments.


  1. OK...this was really nice.

    The first Sanskrit saying is relevant even to this day. Any self respected human being would want the world to recognize him solely because of him and his works. Is there a greater achievement when someone says "Oh!! he is that guy's father!! Thats when the father feels proud of his son and the son at peace that he has achieved.

    Coming to Manusmiriti, you have said "In his days, the world was cruel and exploitative." Hmmm dont know about the world.

    But have read from different sources that women were more respected and treated equal than they are today. And there was no strong concept of monogamy those days w.r.t women. :-) Our ancestors were so broad minded isn't it?

    And why about phone out of the blue?

  2. Thanks for your comments Insignia. As always it is informative and enlightening.

    You will be surprised to note that there was no Mangal Sutra or Thaali in the olden days. (I am sure Varsha Shrote will love this.)

    Why I brought the phone. That is the only thing I know, in my narrow world and narrow experience, about how things or writings change over time. May be a poor example.

  3. Oh yes, I am aware of the facts that there was no concept of mangalsutra and women were free to be around with as many men as they wished. :-)

    Yup, the phone thing seemed out of place.

    My two cents

  4. First one is true today also..Jawaharlal Nehru is not known today for being Motilal's son only, he is known more for his own qualities...Many examples are there..famous father or relatives may give a start mto someone in life, but cant make them famous for a long run.

  5. Thanks for your comments Insignia. You are right. As they say in Tamil "Thaali Pengalukku Veli" (Mangal Sutra is a fence/wall around women.)

  6. Thanks for your comments Renu. You are absolutely right.

  7. Hi! I liked all the sayings about how you are known....I guess they stand true today also. But the one by Manu about women may not hold true in today's world..everyone expects the women to protect themselves on their own, as the males in the family can't accompany her everywhere :)
    Nice post!

  8. Thanks for your comments Varsha. I am on your side.

  9. Love the post. Very deep. Makes you take a step back and forces you to think.

    By the way - I don't think that your phone analogy was out of place at all.
    I understand what you are getting at.

    The writings/sayings of philosophers, poets, and wise men (and women) from long ago was very relevant during their time.
    It is based on their experiences and what they saw.

    However in today's world are those sayings still relevant?
    In some cases yes and others no.
    Is the world still the same?
    Again, in some cases yes...and in other cases's changed (for better and for worse).

    What Alexander Graham Bell thought, said, and wrote about the phone is relevant in the 19th century.
    What Charlie Brown thought, said, and wrote about the phone is relevant in the 1970's and 1980's.
    However their words are out of date to a large degree now because the phone has evolved sooo much.

    Just like some of the teachings and philosophies of scholars from a bygone era - the human race has evolved (like the phone) and what was said back then "may" have little or no substance in today's world.

  10. Let me put quotes around this -
    "If a person is recognized because of himself, he is the best.
    If a person is recognized because of his father, he is mediocre.
    If a person is recognized because of his uncle, he is low.
    If a person is recognized because of his father-in-law, he is the lowest."

    I like what you said.
    I am not recognized for my uncle, not recognized for my father, not recognized for my father-in-law(s).
    I am recognized for me. So am I the best?

    Osama Bitch Laden

  11. These days people flaunt their relationships! And name dropping is another vice so common. And in the Indian political scene, all other qualifications pale when you are someone's son.

  12. that was a very interesting saying.. and quite a bit has been discussed about the place of women here...

    the most interesting bit for me was Manusmriti one...I am studying that right now with reference to dharma and justice.. oh I have one whole project on it...i will e-mail it to you if you would like to read it..

    and i am sure you would have guess this already that i would love this post :))

  13. Quite a random collection of thoughts and quotes.. All interesting.
    But why would your wife hit you? ;-)

  14. there are some things that are relevant while some which are don't... as we progress we should keep in mind whats good for now and change accordingly... I have read section about women in Manusmriti and it is completely obsolete and insignificant (I want to use some harsher words but well respecting everyone's sentiments ...)
    it was a wonderful article... may be some so called activists creating havoc in country reg. culture and traditions should read.

  15. We are living in a world where every day new updates are released..what was most sought yesterday has no takers today.The saying you quoted here is very beautiful in my is telling me the importance of karma(not of the past lives but of at present).

    About Manusmriti..i think it is to make men aware of their responsibilities...i don't see it as it implying women as weaker sex.

    A great post...would love to read more on similar subject from you...if you feel like.Happy weekend.

  16. Well said and expressed.

    I have a cousin who is very not call me names pl:)

  17. Manusmiriti was so female oriented...nice to know about a girl who wants to marry a guy but his parents disagree only cause the girl is physically challenged yet independant?

  18. Thanks for your comments The Cagey Bee. I am glad you found the phone analogy is OK. What surprises me was you had correctly stated about Charlie Brown, ex CEO of the biggest phone company in the world. Many people would think Charlie Brown is a character in the comic strip, Peanuts.

  19. Thanks for your comments Osama. In a cruel sense, you are right. You are known for what you are,
    whether it is good or bad. Even Time Magazine considered you for "Man of the Year" for 2001. And, you came in second.

  20. Thanks for your comments Radha. That is the pathetic condition in the Indian political scene.

  21. Thanks for your comments Neha. Please email me your project and I would love to read it. Looking forward to your email.

  22. Thanks for your comments lostworld. It is a figurative writing to say that any woman (including my wife) will not like to be told that they are dependent on men all their lives. My wife is a nice person. Don't worry. She won't hit me. (She is watching me typing this. She murmurs "sometimes I wish") ha ha ha.

  23. Thanks for your comments Rajlakshmi. Nice observations.

  24. Thanks for your comments Kavita. Yes, it is telling us the importance of karma.

  25. Thanks for your comments Numerounity. Physically challenged should not be the only criterion for rejecting a girl. What happens if she becomes physically challenged after the marriage. I will go one step further. What if the groom becomes physically challenged after the marriage.

  26. Nice posting. Do you know about these Sanskrit books?

  27. Thanks for your commens sfauthor. And, welcome to my blog. I will take a look at these books.

  28. You mean to say- the guy marries a girl who is phy ch and then he himself becomes one?

  29. A few would have become irrelevant..i do agree.. but those may be due to the lack of foresight about the technological advances( the telephone thing)..
    But the moral code for leading a social life as given in the Dharmasastra of Manu holds good even today..We do follow those things unaware of where it all started...Sensible post..Kudos!

  30. Thanks for your comments Numerounity. I said the boy's parents should not reject the girl because she is physically challenged. They should think what would happen if their son marries a not phy. challenged girl but he himself becomes one.

  31. Thanks for your comments Praseela. And, welcome to my blog. I agree we do follow many of these things without knowing its origin.

    Praseela, please visit here as often as you can. Thanks.

  32. Very interesting!! I liked both the saying!! Thanks for sharing!!

  33. Thanks for your comments Swatantra. I am glad you liked both of them.

  34. My father was a nobody. I am now a somebody. My father could not get a wage of Rs.500 a month. But now I stay in a hotel in NY or SFO in a $500 suite. Does that mean I am better than my father? No I am not. He is the best.

  35. Thanks for your comments Vivek. I acknowledge your father is the Best and in comparison with both of you, You are only mediocre. Pls keep viting my blog. Thanks.

  36. All the sayings were interesting though as you said in the days of Manu, many things were relevant enough to be made social laws.

    What I liked best is, "If a person is recognized because of his father-in-law, he is the lowest."

    The reason is that i meet a lot of interesting young men who strut around in fancy cars (note the plural) and really give others a tough time simply because they married rich and really have nothing else to boast about. It irks me that they call themselves 'men'and so on this mean note, I want to say cheers to your post:)

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