Safeguarding folklore: Baidyanath Saraswati

This column is an attempt to elucidate the intellectual experiences of scholars in their related fields of interest. Henceforth we begin a series based on their observations in a form of memoir.



24-28 April 1989

I represented the Government of India at the UNESCO meeting of the Special Committee of Government Experts to prepare a draft recommendation to the Member States on the safeguarding of folklore, held in Paris, on 24-28 April, 1989. Governmental Experts of 48 Member-States of UNESCO and one Associate member took part in the proceedings of the Committee. One non-Member State, one intergovernmental organization, and nine international non-governmental organizations, and representatives of Palestine also attended the meeting as observers. Finland was appointed Chairman. Its name was proposed by the Soviet, seconded by India and Egypt. India was appointed as one of the four Vice-Chairmen.

The Text of my Interventions


India supports the draft in principal, with deepest appreciation and greatest humility. That means, Mr. Chairman, my task is to examine the document with a very great sense of responsibility. Allow me to respond briefly.

            I feel, the safeguarding of folklore should be carefully considered in terms of an evolving outlook. Some clarity is needed on the academic recognition and social perception of folklore. Two critical questions may be addressed at the very outset of this venture: How do we accept folklore? And why do we want to preserve it?

            I submit that we accept folklore as inherent rationality, the wisdom of being and becoming, and not as pre-logical mind; we accept folklore as fundamental experience of human life, and not as vestige of pre-industrial societies; we accept folklore as responsible partner in the re-construction of a new world order, and not as one taking refuge in security; we accept folklore as creator of its own future, and not as passive receiver of a given incontestable destiny; we accept folklore as dynamic force, and not as static and fragile object.

            Why salvage folklore? Only to satisfy modern manís ego? Must it stay as a museum specimen, for tourist attraction? Let us realise that the preservation of folklore is as much ‘our’ need as ‘theirs’. The post-industrial society, with all its scientific and technological glory, has begun to feel a loss of meaning in life. It wants to look back at folklore for its own redress, for its own future goal of recreating a cohesive lifestyle. Once this is admitted, the perspective in safeguarding folklore will be very different from what has been presented in the draft text. It must be borne in mind that it is not the object but the perspective that needs to be changed. Modern manís perception of folklore is constricted by his poor sense of history. We can no longer hold the nineteenth century outmoded view of folklore. This is the time to evolve a new paradigm for understanding man in his totality, to appreciate the interrelatedness and mutual dependence of man, nature, social structure, and cosmology. I may mention here, by way of example, that the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, has addressed itself to this very important task.

            To evolve a holistic worldview by reflective consciousness we shall have to deconstruct the prevailing notion of binary opposites: folk/classical, oral/textual, illiterate/literate, rural/urban, traditional/modern, etc. Such dichotomies exist nowhere, certainly not in India as also in other countries of folklore, either at the emperical level of life situation, or at the emotional level of life crisis, or even at the aspirational level of life function. Perhaps an official statement is required for a better comprehension of the problem, as also for adopting or devising appropriate ethical code and effective strategies of safeguarding folklore.


‘Safeguarding’; ‘recognising the extreme fragility of the traditional forms of folklore, etc.’; ‘stressing the need in all countries, etc.’

            The assumption in these statements imply that folk culture has no survival mechanism of its own, and that its future lies with the post-industrial modern urban societies. And hence the task of ‘safeguarding’ folklore. This is not, I believe, the intention of UNESCO. Nor is such a statement, at any rate, true.  As the light and leaven of the human world, traditional societies are dynamic and timeless. They have built up an ideological system of change and survival in their own image and likeness. Their crisis begins with the emergence of ‘modern political’, the high tech, urban-elite, affluent -consumer-culture. My suggestion is that we leave them alone to face the crisis, to transform according to their own genius and to live their own glory. Or, if we feel so irresistibly drawn, help the process of self-reconstruction and self-preservation, only from outside. But let us realise that we all live in a state of human emergency. We have to look back to traditional wisdom, we need an insight into the deeper strata of reality.

            I suggest that the loaded term ‘safeguarding’ be replaced by ‘rejuvenation’.  By ‘rejuvenation’ I mean the following process: eliminating the discursive elements of colonial legacy; restoring the perfect form; overcoming the imposed cultural crisis; generating confidence in the self-organizing system rather than dependence on exogenous agency; and developing a critical sense of awareness and appreciation of transcultural and transregional realities.

Definition of Folklore

No definition is perfect in all respects. But the definition proposed in the draft text is not only incomplete, it is nonpertinent. It presents a distorted view of folklore, touching upon only one aspect, namely, its structural character. That too has been projected in terms of group principle and gregarious elements, as highlighted in the following expression: ‘Folklore (in a broader sense) is a group-oriented and tradition-based creation of groups or individuals reflecting the expectations of the community as an adequate expression of the cultural and social identity; its standards and values are transmitted orally, by imitation, or by other means’. The implicit claim in this statement is that folklore is bereft of a meaningful world-view. Orality and imitation signify a low level of transmission, a reminder to the pre-cultural people in a gregarious state. Both are not true.

            Any definition of ‘culture’ must have two parts: one regarding the vision of man and another regarding the order of life and society in accord with the image of man. I suggest that overcoming the prejudices, the folklore may be re-defined anthropologically as the first set of facts. With an undivided vision, it considers man as an integral part of the cosmos and a latent harmony of all orders; it prepares human institutions for creative freedom. Sociologically, folklore provides a holistic experience of life, shared intuitively, collectively and territorially in all spheres, activities and aspirations that give every being a distinct social and cultural identity. Its standards and values are authenticated by traditional insights and collective wisdom; its telos and traditions are transmitted orally, or by such other effective immeasurable means as revealed to humankind.

Conservation of Folklore

May I invite your kind attention, Mr. Chairman, to a pertinent question! How do we distinguish between the ‘living folklore’ and the folklore that seem ungainly  pedantic? Here I see a methodological problem. In the case of a written ‘textual culture’ it is possible to make a distinction between what is living and what is dead. But, how do we trace the dead elements of an ‘oral culture’? Is it the mythic form of a folklore that we are looking for? Another set of questions that we must ask ourselves is: What is the justification of preserving those elements which the culture itself has discarded? Must it be preserved for the satisfaction of ethnographers, for modern manís fascination? If not, what pride or aspiration will that culture draw from a linear history of civilization? Should we not, then, clarify our standpoint on the very purpose of conservation?

On Controlled Use

India would support the view of retaining the term ‘controlled use’. It is the ethical responsibility of the custodians of the folklore-property to safeguard against its possible misuse. I can cite a number of instances of its misuse. For instance, most of the visual anthropological films reconstruct the past stage of ‘savagery’, with which some of the so called ‘primitive’ societies are allegedly associated. Or again, depict the modern man ‘civilizing’ them. As we know, many of the so called ‘tribes’ have changed remarkably, not only in their material culture but also in their values and aspirations. Any depiction of the old elements as part of their culture will counteract the new value system. Those who have no respect for traditional culture, which is neither primitive nor modern, must refrain from misinterpreting folklore. They have no moral right to do so, and should have no access to the archives treasuring the folk cultural heritage. I plead the usefulness of retaining the term ‘controlled use’.

Dissatisfaction on Definition

I am not at all satisfied with the amendments made in the definition of folklore. Infact, only stylistic change has been proposed, while the substance and perspective of the first draft remain intact. As I had said before, the expression ‘oral’ should be qualified in such a manner as to dispel any doubts of its misuse, taking it in the evolutionary sense. ‘Orality’ and ‘writing’, in my opinion, are competing modes of transmission of knowledge. The ancient Indian civilization had reached the heights of its abstract thinking through the ‘oral’ transmission of knowledge. The expression ‘imitiation’ adopted here gives the sense that ‘oral’ and ‘imitiation’ are primitive modes. I suggest that the word ‘imitiation’ may be deleted.

Concluding Remarks

My Chairman! as Indian delegation, I have made several interventions, generally raising heart-searching questions. We feel greatly concerned with the problem under review. For, India has the largest treasure of what is called here ‘folklore’, and yet at the societal level we do not make artificial dichotomies between mythos and logos, folk and urban, traditional and modern. It is not easy to answer who is preserving whom, and how. When Gandhiji addressed himself to the problem of exploitation of the people he did not raise any slogan of ‘safeguarding’ and preserving the folk culture. Following the Gujarati equivalent for the term, he defined ‘civilization’ as ‘good conduct’ and  wanted the modern Indian nation to follow the wisdom of traditional culture. We the industrialising nation do not want to go through the same perilous experience of social disorder, broken families and biting sense of rootlessness, as most industrialised societies in the West are facing today. Future industrialisation will have to be built upon a far more humanistic ground, with a far greater ideological tolerance. We must not plan a living museum of man with a new series of evolutionary stages of culture. Folklore is not to be preserved for satisfying the modern man’s vanity. It should not be treated as an ‘object’ of curiosity. Traditional societies need not be romantiicised but it must be given what is due. People must have the freedom to pluck flowers, as they think worthy, and to arrange them in a bouquet as they wish. This is very important, Mr. Chairman, and I hope the views expressed by India will find due reflections in the final draft recommendations.



23-27 May 1990


Participated in the European symposium on ‘Folklore and the Contemporary World’, held in Kiev, 23-27 May, 1990. It was sponsored jointly by the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, Institute of Art Studies Folklore and Ethnography, Ukrainian SSR Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Culture of the Ukrainian SSR, and Society for Preservation of Cultural Relics and History of the Ukrainian SSR.

Of the Symposium

The symposium was organised into six working sessions: Folklore and the Contemporary World, Folklore and the Youth, Folklore and Mass Media, Contemporary Folklore Functioning, Problems of Systematization and Catalogues of Folklore Samples, and Specialist of Folklore Training.

            Among the participants, there were performing folk artists and professional folklorists, mostly from Eastern Europe and USSR. I was the lone participant from India. The organizers made me a special speaker at the opening plenary session and also at the closing session. Two television companies and a number of journalists and writers interviewed meóthe universally accepted way of showing concern. At the same time the Ukrainian love and concern for India became manifest.

            Combined with the international festival of folklore, the symposium provided a rare opportunity to experiencing folk culture. The city festival demonstrated the richness and exuberance of the living folk music, dance and costume of Eastern Europe and USSR, reflecting upon a wide-ranging cultural traditions. I was pleasantly struck by the fact that the wheels of industrialization have not yet crushed their aesthetic sensibility completely. The youths were blooming with enthusiasm; most of them wearing embroidered dress for which Ukraine is famous. Dancing and singing marked the occasion.

            While people in the streets were making exhibition of their traditional culture, the scholars at the symposium were discussing the future of folklore. The presentations of the Ukrainian scholars were confined largely to description of material culture elements such as costumes, musical instruments and architecture. Since they were concerned largely with the reconstruction of regional history, there was no insistence on downgrading or upgrading folklore. There were presentations on the Ukrainian Folklore Programme in Canada and USA. Some of the scholars highlighted the problem of distortion of folklore in mass communication and the oscilliation of folklore between the two extreme levels created by the ‘proclaimed’ (international festival, for example) and the ‘real’ (spontaneous) folklore in its natural surrounding. Their description of the problem of deconstruction and decontextualization of folklore, the status of folklore in East European countries, the methods of preservation and conservation of folklore, and the low prestige of folklore in the universities and academic disciplines required a synthesis of ethnography.

            I spoke on the “Modes of Transmission of Knowledge and the Limits of Modern Mediaî. This was different from all other presentations. My contention was that the very idea considering folklore as the vestige of pre-industrial societies to be denounced or preserved only in the form of a museum specimen is wrong. Folklore has the promise of locating and interpreting how the human world of simple life works. I pointed out that India is a land of many cultures, many languages, many forms of religious beliefs and practices, many different forms of costumes and ornaments, many types of houses, agricultural tools and implements, many customs and social laws and kinship systems; but in this plurality each one of them is considered authentic and aesthetically harmonious with another. Considering the modes of transmission of knowledge, cultures may be classified into three basic types, namely, Oral, Textual and Transcendental. Of these types and further subtypes one is different from another, but not unrelated. Their organic interrelationship is explained in terms of cosmocentric view of man and culture. In such a perception of ontological reality there is no place for making distinctions between folk and urban, orality and literacy, popular and elite, and so on. Further, Indiaís experience of traditional urban centres (sacred cities) has been very different from that of the Western expression of industrial, commercial cities. Drawing attention to the basic opposition between the traditional and the modern media.  I maintained that the change from traditional to modern media, involves replacement of one order of reality by a different order of existence. Contending the universality of modern media, I pointed out that it is not a human-wide universality. For, it carries a particular ideology of the modern Western science and technology which is wholly incompatible with the sacred science of traditional cultures all over the world.

            I felt good at many questions that were raised. Arrangements were made for simultaneous translation of my speech into Ukrainian language. I was left with no doubt that the Ukrainians in particular and the scholar of Eastern Europe in general have respectful concern for India. In their search for alternative models of cultural reorganization, India stands as an ideal reference point. Recalling my experience of the 1989 UNESCO conference on folklore, I felt that the mission is fulfilled only now in 1990 Kiev. For me this participation has been a memorable event.

Reception of the Pneuma

During informal discussions with a number of scholars, I spoke about the concept and the prospect of the IGNCA. Many of them expressed their desire to be associated with our research activities. At the institutional level there were definite offers of collaboration, specially from Professor A. Kostuk, Director of the Academy of Sciences, Kiev, and from Professor A. Kargin, Director of the Academy of Sciences, Moscow. I would call their interest in evolving a new perspective in folklore as the reception of the pneuma.

            Kostukís centre at Kiev impressed me very deeply as a place free from bureaucratic tension, marked by conspicuous austerity, untouched by computer, and efficient in conservation of folklore. The Ukrainian intellectuals are currently involved in re-evaluation of their cultural heritage. History and material culture are their entry-points. The youths are searching their roots and identity. Their urge for revitalization of traditional culture is strong, but seem to have no clarity on what is that which they are looking for in their past history. The present situation in USSR is interpreted largely in terms of a deep crisis in communist ideology that may eventually lead them to political disintegration. There is another aspect of the problem which, I think, needs greater attention. My own feeling is that the ethnic movements in the USSR and elsewhere in the world, which appear as a search for roots and freedom, are infact the expression of a much deeper cultural crisis brought about by the new techno-political forces of modernity. I will not be surprised if these movements end up as anti-tradition.

            Folklore research in the Ukrainian SSR has reached to a stage where the old concern with peopleís political history continues along the new interest in understanding traditional cultures. The cathedrals, which were closed on the advent of Marxism, are now opening up, and the number of youths going to the church is increasing. It is true that the intellectuals today are relatively free in their speech and thought, but they have not yet allowed themselves a dialectical rapport with peoples and traditions of different ideology. Americans are perhaps the first to approach them. They have taken up study of the Ukrainian culture in a big way. There is already a Ukrainian Research Centre at the Harvard University. I have had the opportunity of discussing the problem with the visiting scholars from America and Canada. It appeared that they were more concerned than having a life-experience and appropriate intellectual tool to provide authentic interpretation of traditional cultures. This, in my opinion, is true for most Western scholars. India holds a unique position as a living example of traditional culture, and the IGNCA is perhaps the only one of its kind that may provide a worthwhile tool for interpreting tradition.

            Visited the Museum of Folk Architecture and Domestic Life of the Ukrainian SSR, located near the settlement of Pirogov. Dr. Dimitriy Ivanovich Komarenko took me to this fascinating place. Located in the green hills and woods, the museum was founded in 1917, and formally opened in 1976. It has nine large sections covering the basic ehtnographical regions of Ukraine from the eighth to the early twentieth century. It displays the architecture and the everyday life of the village. The dwelling houses and outbuildings, wells, windmills, and wooden church demonstrate settlement pattern. Huts with tall thatched roofs reminded me of village India. Traditional features of the village plan occupy more than 120 hectares. Some of the huts displaced traditional artefacts such as furniture, pottery utensils, looms, agriculture tools and implements. The entire plan of the museum is fascinating. It is something like our Rashtriya Manava Sangrahalaya at Bhopal.

            Visited the Taras Shevehenko Museum. Here are the most excellent collections of paintings, drawings and writings of Shevehnko, the great Ukrainian poet, artist and nationalist of the nineteenth century, who was brought from Serfdom in 1838. He is regarded today as one of the most revered artists, comparable to our Rabindranath Tagore.

            Excursion to Drieper river. On the hilly right bank and on the low left bank of this river is situated Kiev, the capital of the Soviet Ukraine. Visited the Botanical garden. Went around the streets of Kiev to observe the concluding day of the city festival. Painting seems to be the most favourite preoccupation of the Ukrainian people. Embroidery, wood-work and pottery indicate the leading trend in traditional arts. In most cases the producers were also the sellers, a feature comparable with Indiaís rural market.

            Visited the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art at Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra. It has more than sixtyeight thousand artefacts. Rich in the collection of rugs and carpets, the eighteenth-nineteenth century fabrics and embroidery, wood-carvings and other handicrafts including pisanka, the ornamental eggs, and rushrick, the handwoven towel used in ritual. The folk-paintings by Maria Primachenko (b. 1908) are remarkable, comparable with our Jamini Royís paintings. Maria lives near Churbonel. She is invalid and a non-literate, but even at this age and suffering from physical disability she paints and composes poems. The style of her painting is called petrikivaka.

            The monastery ensemble, Kievo-pechersky Lavra, is a great monument which was created over nine centuries. It was founded in 1051. The word pecherskay is derived from the old Slavonic word, meaning a cave. The monks used the caves for cells. This place was once an important cultural centre in old Russia. The Trinity Gatechurch, built between 1106-08, a part of the original fortification, reminded me of the gopura of the South Indian temples.




17-25 May 1994

Attended the international conference on ‘Animals : A Reappraisal – The Post-Cartesian Vision of Animals in Art, Education, Ethics and the Law’, held at the Victoria University, Toronto from 19-22 May 1994. Professor Paul Bouissac was the organizer of this 3rd international conference of semiotic Review of Books.

            Among the participants there were scholars from Canada, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, The Netherlands, U.K. and U.S.A., I was the only participant especially invited from India.

            The conference was organized into seven sessions, besides the inaugural and the two workshops. It began with the presentation from Madam Shirley Williams, an Ojibwa Elder (Native Studies, Toronto University), Prof. Osaga Odak (University of Nairobi) spoke on ‘Humans and Animals in Rock Art’. Prof. Leesa Fawcett (York University) concluded by a speech on ‘Situating Animals’. The inaugural session was followed by three concurrent workshops : ‘Animal in Education, Culture and the Media’; ‘Animals, Ethics and the Law’; and ‘Animals in Psychoanalysis’. The 19th evening was marked by poetry reading on ‘Animals’. The main themes discussed in the seven sessions included ‘Our Invisible Heritage’, ‘The Privileged Others – Animal Ontologies in Traditional World-views’, ‘The Cartesian Turn’, ‘The Great Divide challenged – Cultures, Gender and Primatology’, ‘The Reappraisal of Animals in a Shifting World-view’, Animals in Discourse – Towards a Political Ontology of Animality’, and ‘Animals in Representation’.

            On organizing a conference, there were few lessons for me : that a four-day conference with about fifty participants can be managed almost single-handed; that the combination of workshop and seminar with short presentations helps better understanding of the subject; that larger circulation of paper abstracts sustains the interest of the audience; that the full-length papers should be provided only on demand and with the consent of the author; that academic deliberations on technical subjects need no media reporting; and that the pattern of expenditure on organizing an international conference should be 3/4th on travel support and hospitality, and only 1/4th on infrastructure.


General Observations

The big divide between the Western and non-Western scholars was quite clear in respect of their attitudes toward animals. The mainstream modern Western scholarship took extreme views on understanding animality – mainly through anthropocentric and anthropomorphic concerns. The non-western scholars (from India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia), on the other land, demonstrated a cosmocentric view in which animals and humans are ontologically separate but interacting and interrelated species as part of Nature. The ‘animal activists’ – all from the West – vehemently opposed the custom of cock-fighting, bull-fighting and such other aspects of reducing animals to an object of human use. The Indonesian, Kenyan and Malaysian scholars defended these customs as cultural and economic necessities.

            The Western scholars have done a lot of serious thinking on animals. Some important issues raised by them included Ethical implications of the changing image of animals; Japanese primalogy and the affect of its acceptance into international science circles; Cognitive ethnology illustrating the complexity and versatility of animal thought; catastrophe and ontology across epistemological disciplines dealing with animal being; Consciousness in animals; Nature as relational animals; Animals and the environmental movement between anthropocentrism and bio-ecodeterminism; Classical animality in the narrative of Pliny’s natural history; Pythagoras and Plato on animals; Philosophers, social scientists’ understanding of animality; Ecofeminism and animal rights; Cartesian animal mechanism and its legacy; From animal to animal; Animals in Western art and thought; etc.

            There were three presentations on India, including my own. Prof. Anthony K. Warder, a senior Sanskrit scholar in the University of Toronto, spoke on the perception of animals in Indian literature. I was somewhat disappointed by the manner in which he touched upon the animal theme in Indian texts. Prof. N. Wagale, presently associated with the University of Toronto, demonstrated what and how theDharmashastra has recommended the consumption of animal food. He laboured to prove that the Brahmins of the Vedic age performed cow sacrifice and ate beef. This was promptly challenged by Prof. Warder. My presentation on animal ontology in Hindu vision and tradition was very well received (if demand for the paper is any index) but not adequately discussed. It was a challenge to Christian creationism and Darwinian evolutionism. In the concluding workshop the issues raised by me figured prominently but no scholar seemed to avoid considering man as an animal. I had taken the position that following the Hindu exhatology, animals are the earliest forms and the interspecies biological connections are established in no-time and it is the soul (the life force) that switches from one from to another. I attempted to furnish cosmology of the First Three that finds expression in Hindu scriptures.


The First Three

A helpful way of understanding the mystery of the Universe is to pursue a didactic formula :


            Brahman Zero, God one

            God one, Animal two

            Animal two, Man three


The Universe at large has an ontological independence of its own. It is characterized by the term Brahman, from the root brh, to expand. The notion of nada or sabda – Brahman refers to the cosmic sound of origin. Related with the notion of sound in bindu, the dimensionless point, literally a drop. The concept of Sunya (zero) denotes the notational place as well as the void. When applied to Brahman the concept of zero becomes unthinkable. Metaphysically Brahman is identified with both fullness and emptiness. The relationship between the unmanifest Brahman and the manifest universe in formed by a divine entity called God. As an aspect of Brahman, God is transcendent; as an architect of the temporal world it is immanent. Brahman is without name, without form and without function. God is with name, with form and with function. As an innermost aspect of Brahman, God operates within the self-organizing brahmanda (the egg of Brahman), the Universe at large and hence has no absolute freedom. But within its own sphere it exercises its intrinsic powers, and so are named the God of creation (Brahma), the God of life sustaining force (Visnu) and the God of dissolution and death (Mahakala Shiva). One God assumes many forms out of nothing and nowhere; and hence many gods with many names, with many forms. They are so much a part of the form and function of the observable Universe that with the extinction of the Universe they all dissolve in the same manner and at the same moment as the observable universe dies. God takes three kinds of incarnations : that which has power all for the time being, that which is only partial incarnation, and that which is complete. The incarnations of Visnu are countless. Of the ten incarnations of Visnu, the first three are animal forms (fish, turtle and boar); the fourth is composite form (lion-man), the fifth is dwarf, and the next five are fully developed humans. As God has assumed the powers of Brahman so have the animal derived the quality and powers of God. The cow represents Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, plenty and nourishment. The bull represents the virile strength of Visnu. The elephant symbolises the life-giving force of nature. The horse is a symbol of sovereignity. The lion is called ‘five-faced’, the lord of the five elements of nature (sky, air, fire, water, earth). It denotes the strength and vigour of several gods such as Indra, Parjanya and Agni. The peacock dance is symbolic of the awakening of Nature on the onset of rains. The crow is regarded as a soul animal. The cock is embodiment of fighting spirit. The swan is described as a macrocosmic gander, the divine self in the body of the universe. The turtle is regarded as a representative of the Supreme God and the universal soul. Animals derives the power of the god, but in some cases the position is reversed. It was with the help of monkey that Rama, an incarnation of Visnu, was able to vanquish Ravana. Rahu, the snake-like animal, harbours hatred against the sun and the moon, and it always tries to seize them. Of the twelve zodiacal signs seven are animals. As the vehicles of the lord of eight quarters are included the elephant (east), the buffalo (south), the crocodile (west), the bull (north-east), the goat (south-east), and the deer (north-west). Of the various superclusters of the Universe there is a world of cow. Taking an ontological view of all these and other examples of animal weirdness, the entire Universe can be seen as a living animal with enormous divine complexities. Man is also a kind of animal (pasu, the ‘roped one’). So is the lord ›iva – Pasupati, the lord of animals. All beings are pasu, because they are ‘roped’ by the law of rebirth. The animals seem to set standards for man. Man aspires for the productive power of a bull; the swiftness, energy and strength of a horse; the majestic mane and courage of a lion; the docility and inoffensiveness of a deer; the self sacrificing quality of a hare; the intelligence of an elephant; the keen sense of audition of a snake; the dance of a peacock; the beautiful gait and sweet voice of a swan; the solemn modesty and humility of an ant; and so on. Since these attributes are the animal’s transpersonal powers derived from God, it can be safely argued that all the three – God, Animal and Man – derive their attributes from a common source, Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic Intelligence.

            This thesis has an important consequence of man-animal relationship based on complementarity, not contrarity. Long years ago, the ancient sages had realised this. They not only chanted the mystery of the cosmos and the glory of God but lived in a positive symbiosis with the animal world unlike at semitas. Hindus do not see God, Animal and Man in terms of phylogeny. Contrary to modern western sciences there is no path of ‘evolution’, no ‘selection’, no ‘survival of the fittest’. No species develop out of other species. The number of species is fixed. Each species is unique in itself. Eschatology provides the idea of interspecies biological connections out of time, in no-time. It is the soul, the lifeforce, that moves from one form to another. Animal ancestors (totems) play a decisive role in social life. Both God and man may enter into animal species in their next birth. The fortune that is amongst men and gods, is believed to be in the animal. Gods and men live in positive symbiosis with the animal world. Their purpose of existence is to maintain the original symmetry of the two worlds to which the God provides supersymmetry.


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