From the Jacket
The mahatmyas constitute an important streams of the Indian tradition, putting in evidence the greatness either of a place or of a character. Among the many mahatmyas, the Kampilyamahatmya, focusing its attention on the region of kampilya, has a unique significance, as the holy tirtha of kampilya remains a subject of mystery and controversy even today.
Kampilya was the capital of the ancient realm of Pancala. The area around Kampilya, also known as Kaliksetra was the environment where King Drupada's daughter, Draupadi, manifested herself and where the tournament for the choice of her husband took place. Dronacarya, the weapon teacher of the Pandavas, Dhrstadyumna, the brother of Draupadi, and many other famous warriors of the Mahabharata have their names joint with this place.
Written in the twentieth century, the Kampilyamahatmya is a harmonic compilation on the greatness of kampilya composed from different references of Indian traditional sources; it is the result of a research begun by the grandfather of the author, that has been accomplished, through family transmission and with the help of other poets' previous works.
The book, presenting the original Sanskrit text, with its fluent translation in English, provides a plethora of information on ancient legends and dynasties of pre-Pauranic and Pauranic times, will be useful to scholars of ancient Indian mythology and history. It will prove extremely absorbing and informative for general readers as well.
About the Author
Dr. Corrado Puchetti (Padova, 1963) is participating in field research in India since 1986. After graduating in Hindi from the faculty of Eastern Languages at 'Ca'Foscari' University in Venice with a thesis on Indian alchemy, he has been collaborating with the Kampilya project in India under the patronage of the Venetian Academy of Indian Studies. The completion of his Ph.D. thesis on the History and Archaeology of the Kampiliya Region, at the Banaras Hindu University has engaged him for the last three years.
WHEN I was writing the book Ecological Readings in the Veda I
was very worried because I feared that I would be unworthy of
the task. While I still feel that I am very far from the lofty
heights, I am grateful to the Gods and to the many learned
persons and scholars who encourage me to continue along the
arduous path of learning from the Vedic lore. The passionate
urge to understand that is peculiar to Man, as I wrote at that
time, pushed me deeper and deeper along this path of studies,
trying to absorb as much insight into Vedic wisdom as my
personal limitations would allow.
Part I of the present book is vastly based on my earlier book
'Ecological Readings in the Veda' and reflects my endeavour to
express in simple terms what reason shows to be the
understanding that the rsis had of the universe. The eagerness
to attain to the Absolute Truth caused the ancient sages to
express in poetical metres the result of their observations of
nature, of their studies of the relations of causes and effects, of
the empirical and experimental science that they practised for
survival, for better living and for war. In their search for the
Absolute Truth, the Vedic and pre-Vedic sages uncovered
particular truths, which are each and every one part of the
Absolute Truth. The unveiling of Rta proceeded step by step;
each step translated into norms and regulations for everyday
healthy living; each one was then represented, reconstructed
and lived over again through rituals. Clearly the Vedic sages had
a notion of the fundamental pairs of opposites that keep the
system going, such as Lord Agni and common fire. They perceived
that matter and energy are the two interchangeable and
interdependent extremes of a continuum and that Agni
sublimates matter into energy, that solar energy and water
create matter in mother Earth and in what grows from her. They
realized that the life principle being undefinable, Hope, Bhaga,
or the urge to go on living, is indelibly linked to Life and the
sources of life were identified, hence the pair Savitr- Bhaga. The
ancient sages also saw the continuum time/space, but that
aspect of Vedic wisdom I have not dared approach.
The mental torment grew after the book was published and
I felt more and more belittled by my audacity; I am fully aware
that I was not entirely successful in expressing clearly enough
my 'readings'. The wealth of knowledge expressed in concise and
often cryptic form by the ancients is not tolerant of simple
interpretation and explanation.
One of the serious omissions of that book is the absence of a
discussion of what I consider to be one of the significant differences
between Western and Eastern philosophies. In the West Nature,
the environment, the universe were considered to be static in
time. The word evolution did not exist and when it was first used
in relation to evolving nature, it was anathemized. Nature was
taken to be immutable since first created by God, the Infinitum
Ens (the Infinite Being) and the idea is present already in the
Aristotelic principles of classic Greek philosophy that bridled all
creative thinking, from cosmogony to theatrical presentations.
Judaic, Christian, Islamic philosophies willfully disregarded
the obvious changes over time and the evolution of everything in
the universe. One of the great merits I see in Vedic and Vedic-
derived philosophies, and other oriental philosophies, is the
recognition that nothing is ever static, everywhere in the universe.
Hence the impermanence of everything, as the Epicurean
philosophers of Democritus' school knew well.
Due to these reasons I revised the first text and selected a
few hymns that support the above and that have remained living
guides for mankind over the centuries. These show both the
impermanence and continuous change of everything, the need
for mutual adjustment of the components of the system and at
the same time show that the basic laws of physics, chemistry,
physico-chemistry, movements of the astral bodies, remain
unchanged over infinite time and space, at least as man could
detect them without powerful instruments. They further show
that the interaction of the parts of the very complex time/space
continuum inevitably causes changes and evolution of the
Part I of the present book contains much of the earlier text,
revised and enlarged. The general conclusion is that the
formulation of dharma is based on fundamental ethical laws of
nature to which all living beings as well as man are subject.
Further, because of his intrinsic nature and his position in the
community, nobody can escape his dharma, though ecological
constraints influence his behaviour and karma. Any deviation
from one's dharma is an aberration that carries with it dire
consequences for the offender.
Part II is the analysis of three hymns and discusses some
aspect of two important personalities that offer much support to
the concepts expressed above. The hymn to the 'Manduka' (the
Frogs), .RV, VII; 103, describes the seasonal cycles, the role of
Visnu as Preserver and the corresponding rituals to ensure
man's participation in the cosmic drama in tune with Rta, the
Law and Order of the Universe. The hymn for the wedding of
Surya, the sun's daughter, .RV, X; 85, focuses on the biological
and social role of marriage and woman, valid even for present-
day changing lifestyles. The third is one of the shortest of the
whole .Rgveda, .RV, X; 146. It is dedicated to Aranyani, the lady
of the forest; it visualizes the forest as an ecosystem with a
strong personality of its own, but not immutable. The first
Appendix reflects the rsis' perception of different aspects of
reality, material and virtual reality, as personified in certain
traits of the Great God Varuna and the King of the Gods, Indra.
In the second Appendix I formulate the hypothesis that the
inebriating drink: soma, was originally grapes' wine, though
substitutes of the soma plant may have been and are still used
at different times and places.
Finally, I would say as I presume, that the Great Truth
discovered by the ancient sages is that the ethics of nature
dictates the dharma of man and communities, and this in turn
is subject to ecological imperatives which position the individual
I acknowledge with deep gratitude the support given by the
Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, and in particular
Dr. Uma Chakravarty from whose constructive criticism I learned
so much. Too many other generous persons have helped me and
guided me in my search; it would be impossible to mention them
all. To my publisher, Sri Susheel Mittal I am grateful for steadily
and gently pushing me out of my innate shyness and laziness.
Rsi Vasista and other rsis could distinguish wisdom from folly
and dharma from adharma, truth from non-truth. However,
when the relations between cause and effect were not apparent,
they would use impossible or 'fantastic explanations' that we
now call myths. The myth goes from the general to the particular
and substitutes explanations, it substitutes logical deductions
and jumps from the cause to the observed or desired effect.
Myths are used as an 'explanation' ad hoc and never are
generally valid. The myth gives no general explanation based on
particular effects or consequences. There are no inferences in
mythologies, this is why they are called myths, rather than
legends, rules or laws. The short-cut from cause to effect is called
a 'myth'. Myths are important for the development of the culture
typical for each civilization, because they preserve a quantum of
knowledge or wisdom of the collective mind of the people,
generation after generation. Myths gradually fade away with
time when the correct, logical, possible and factual, experimental
and scientific explanations gradually substitute fantasy. For
instance the myth of Rahu devouring the sun and/or moon is a
mythical and easily memorized way of 'explaining' eclipses,
though the correct explanation, namely the projection of the
shadow of the Earth on the sun or moon was well known already
at the time of the rsis. This could also be used as an example of
how 'esoteric' knowledge which in all cultures is the science of
the priesthood, was purposefully kept away from the masses,
either because it is too difficult to explain to the non-initiated or
because the knowledge could be misused.
In all cultures, myths and legends were also created to
engrave into the collective memory of the people the tradition
and history of their clan or race. An example from more recent
times is the deification of De metra into the goddess of agriculture
in ancient Greece; she gave the knowledge and expertise which
was purposefully transformed into a myth to ensure that the
teachings be correctly applied. My studies show (Vannucci,
under press in: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research
Institute) that the 'Great Gift' that the Greek goddess Demetra
gave to mankind was the practical knowledge of how to cultivate
hexaploid wheat. History became legend and the legend was
transformed into a myth and the religious practices called
'Mysteries' instituted by Demetra herself at Eleusis in Attika
were performed for over 2000 years out of gratefulness because
she gave the seeds of a special variety of wheat to a Greek called
Triptolemus and taught how to cultivate it.
Legends are usually the poetical presentation of history or
just wishful thinking. However the truths discussed in the Veda
are mostly the result of the study of nature and of men's place in
the universe, they are backed by carefully prepared rites and
rituals, as were also the 'Mysteries' that took place at Eleusis.
The Rsi accumulated a great wealth of correct knowledge
translated or not into myths. Much of this was used to acquire
wisdom and is expressed in the sacred texts either in mythical
or explicit language. Many hymns of the Vedas have maintained
their validity over 50 or 60 centuries.
The fundamental difference between the science of the
ancient rsis and the science of the west, lies in the aims for which
the learned persons of the priesthood sought truth: the 'unveiling
of Rta', Knowledge, in the West, was basically used to acquire
power; technicalities had priority over pure knowledge. Even
scholastic philosophy is in many ways the methodological and
technical aspect of ancient philosophies, but discusses no new
truths. In the East, as revealed clearly in the Vedas, knowledge
was gained basically for the purpose of acquiring wisdom.
Wisdom was the aim of the rsi and wisdom was applied even for
developing techniques to improve the quality-of life, as for
instance Ayurueda or yoga.
Vedic man had his views directed holistically towards the
whole universe and was amazed at what he saw: the order and
energy that reign throughout the world he lived in, these he
called Rta and Agni and he consciously worshipped the orderly
energy that is at the root of all movement, including all forms of
life. The details of how the system functions, the dynamics of the
universe and its parts were still beyond man's power of
understanding. Though he often could see the effects he could
not understand the causes. He instinctively had to obey and be
in tune with the order that reigns supreme. Hence religion and
the rites that accompany religions.
It was recently brought to my attention that speaking in
biological terms, dharma and karma may to a certain extent be
understood respectively as the genotype and the phenotype of
man as a biological species. Dharma corresponds to the hereditary
endowment, the genome, the DNA which is unique of each
individual, while karma regulates the behaviour and action of
each one of us. Behaviour and actions - the phenotype - as well
as the physical aspect are the result of the forces of the world
around us and within us: the outer and the inner worlds. All and
every individual action and each person's individual behaviour
bear consequences that act on each person's individual karma.
Part I of this book gives the general frame of mind, and the
evolution of the thinking of Vedic man over several centuries,
while man was migrating and living in a variety of different
environments, prior to and much earlier than the written text.
Part II gives some details of the wisdom acquired in relation to
societal health of the community and of the individual. It further
gives some details on the observation of the seasons, of the
respect due to Nature and its preservation, and in general to
some of the norms that should be followed for the well-being of
the individual, the family, the community, to promote health of
the body, of the mind and of the spirit.
Looking at the world we now live in, in spite of all the
knowledge, the science, the previously unimaginable
technological knowhow, the world looks very much like a mad-
house and is much less wise than the world of the ancients.
Personally I would like to express an utopic wish: that man
would distinguish between wisdom and folly.
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