next up previous
Next: The Origin of Morning Up: Technology Quo Vadis Previous: Technology Quo Vadis

The Dawn of Human ``naagarikata'' (Civilization)

Human ``naagarikata'' (civilization) originated in India (and in some other places in the world too, but we will discuss its origin in India) more than 20,000 years ago with the composition of ``vEdAs'' (knowledge) as a quest for understanding natural phenomena. Everything in the world appeared highly mysterious at that time and our ancestors living in India tried to understand the causes for these mysteries. In this process they posed many questions for study and investigation. You see these questions again and again in the vEdAs, upanishads, and purANAs composed around that time. Here are some of those questions

What is lightning?
Where does rain water come from?
Can't humans fly like birds?
What is death?
Why must every living thing die?
What happens to a living thing after death?
What is the difference between the state of living, and state of ``not living''?
What is the spark of life?
What is the purpose of human life?
How can man attain immortality?
Why does the sun go down the horizon every night, only to rise the next morning?
Where do the sun, moon, and the stars get light energy from?
Why is it hot in summer and cold in winter?
Why are there waves in the sea?
Why are some people beautiful, some ugly; some healthy, others sick; some enjoy, others suffer; etc.?
Why are some women so fertile, while others are sterile?

These are very deep and philosophical questions, and I feel very proud of my ancestors for having posed such deep questions which stimulated the development of human intellect. Our ancestors did not like darkness, death, and sterility. They developed the concept of ``prANa'' (spark of life), and wanted to understand what it is. They developed the concept of immortality, and sought to find out how to attain it. They theorized that there is a divine juice ``amrutaM'' drinking one drop of which confers immortality on oneself. One of their main obsessions was to find this ``amrutaM''. Human population was very very low at that time, and they worshiped high fertility. Couples with a large number of children commanded great respect in society. Their yearning for knowledge was expressed in the following chant from ``bruhadaaraNyakOpanishad'' in ``RugvEda'' (RugvEda is perhaps the very first document composed by mankind, and this chant in Sanskrit is perhaps the very first poem composed by man).
asatO mA sadgamaya
tamasO mA jyotirgamaya
mrutyO mAmrutaM gamaya.
The meaning of the various lines in this chant is
From ignorance lead us to knowledge
From darkness lead us to light
From certain death lead us to immortality.
In those days the form of writing which we take for granted today was not yet developed, and there was no medium like paper to write upon. So, they developed an amazingly simple oral tradition for preserving and passing on knowledge to the next generation. They composed their findings in the form of poems which can be sung in a manner very pleasing to the ear. Some people were given the responsibility of memorizing these compositions and reciting them daily so humanity would not forget and loose them for ever. These people became the ``brAhmaNas'', it was their social duty to learn all these compositions correctly by heart and recite them every day, and thus pass them on continuously from one generation to the next. Our ancestors were very concerned that these compositions collectively called the ``vEdAs'' (bank of knowledge) may be lost for humanity if the brAhmaNas did not recite them daily, that's why brAhmaNas became the most important members of society and their work (memorizing the vedAs, reciting them daily, and passing them on to the next generation) became the most important work in society. When a man is doing his ``vEda paaraayaNa'' (reciting the vEdaas) at home, his children naturally learn the vEdaas easily by listening. This led to the custom of brahmin's children becoming brahmins themselves. This custom gradually led to the ``caste system'' in India.

next up previous
Next: The Origin of Morning Up: Technology Quo Vadis Previous: Technology Quo Vadis
Katta G Murty 2001-09-27