Sunday, May 11, 2014

Varanasi and Annam Bhatta

Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is continuously in the news for the past few weeks.  As Varanasi goes to polls tomorrow,  tensions run high.  It was a high profile and big decibel campaign and everyone is looking expectantly at the future.

The first I heard of Kashi (Varanasi) was as a child when someone in our town went there on a pilgrimage.  With no communication facilities except a post card that might be received after several days, those going to far away Kashi and returning after the darshan of Kashi Vishweswara and Annapoorneswari were considered extremely lucky and achieved a coveted goal in their life. When returning from Kashi, they usually brought the water of the sacred river, Ganga stored in sealed copper containers. After a few days rest, they would make another trip to Rameswaram and fulfill the second part of the pilgrimage.  The Ganga water brought from Kashi would be used for the "Abhishekam" of Lord Rameswara.  Thus the twin trips of Kashi and Rameswaram was the dream of many a devout elders.  After completing this ambitious pilgrimage, they usually arranged for a grand function.  The occasion was addressed as "Kashi Samaradhane" or "Ganga Samaradhane". A pooja was followed by distribution of some more copper containers filled with Ganga water to the invitees and relatives.  This was an occasion for celebration and a grand feast used to be the highlight for the youngsters in the locality.  The sealed copper containers with Ganga waters in them, received thus by others would receive pooja in their respective houses everyday. The container would be opened and Ganga water offered with due respects, as the last drops of water and tribute to a family member moving away to the heavenly abode.

Another context in which I had heard of Kashi as a child was with reference to the city being a great center of learning.  It is said that Kashi is one of the earliest inhabited city in the world and its history dates back to several thousand years.  Any scholar from other parts of our country was considered as a true pandit only when he went to Kashi, lived there for sometime and pursued higher studies.  Just as "Foreign Returned" was a distinction some four or five decades ago, "Kashi Returned" was considered an achievement for centuries.  Benares Hindu University (BHU) founded by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya exemplifies this spirit even today.  BHU will be celebrating its centenary year two years from now.  The rigor of stay and studies at Kashi was symbolically alluded to with the quotation "काशी गमन मात्रेण न अन्नं भटटायते द्विजः", (Kashi gamana matrena na annam bhattayate dwijaha), meaning "A scholar does not become Annam Bhatta merely by going to Kashi".

Who was this Annam Bhatta?  I enquired with some elders but did not receive a satisfactory reply from them.  Many quotations are often used without understanding their actual meaning and this is probably one such.  Many families in the districts of Kolar and Bangalore have the names of Annam Bhatta for generations.  The full name of Annam bhatta is actually Annadana Bhatta, meaning one who generously feeds others. These families have a common Gotra, Haritasa.  On enquiries with them, it is learnt that these families have migrated to these districts from Kurnool area of the present Andhra Pradesh or Rayalaseema. There was a practice of naming a new born after the grandfather or great grandfather and Annambhatta was probably an ancestor of these families.  (Please CLICK HERE to read about "Family Tree" of these families).   Sometime ago, there was a music concert near our house and traffic on the road was closed to accomodate the concert.  i went there to see what was the nature of the concert.  As we were waiting for the artistes to arrive, I saw one girl reading a Sanskrit book in dim light of the street.  I borrowed the book from her and read for a few minutes.  This was a book by name "Tarkasangraha" by Annam Bhatta.  It was a very interesting book on Logic, the science that deals with the principles governing correct or reliable inference. Motivated by this, I studied the book later on and was fascinated by the simple and lucid style followed in the book and yet its scholarly treatment of the subject.

Annambhatta lived in the 16th century and came from a family of Advaitavidyacharyas.  Raghava Somayaji was a well known ancestor of this Telugu speaking family.  He was the son of Tirumala Acharya, and author of several commentaries on "Nyaya Shastra" and Grammar books.  He lived in the golden period of 16th century.  This era is well known for a number of stalwarts and their works.  This period was a very active span of time in philosophy and literature as well with the confluence of masters of all the three schools of thinking; Dwaita, Advaitha and Vishishtadwaita.  Rajaguru Tatacharya was a known Vishishtadwaita stalwart representing the Vishishtadwaita school during the Vijayanagara period.  Vijayendra Tirtha and Vadiraja Teertha were the torch bearers of the Dwaita school in this era. Appaiah Deekshita and Bhattoji Deekshita were acknowledged scholars of the Adwaita school. Annam Bhatta holds his own special place among the luminaries of this distinguished period.

"Tarkasangraha" is a primer and an introduction to "Nyaya System".  An English translation of the book (46 pages only) by Balwant Narhar Bahulikar (1903) is available on the net.  "Dipika" is a commentary on "Tarkasangraha".  A reading of the book makes the meaning of "One does not become Annambhatta by just going to Kashi" very clear.  Annam bhatta did not become a great man by merely going to Kashi.  That many could do.  He worked hard there and came out with very valued works on Logic and Grammar.  he is remembered for the outcome of his visit to Kashi.

Who wins in Varanasi in the election tomorrow is not the issue.  What the winner does thereafter is the moot point. Annambhatta went to Kashi to pursue higher studies.  That was only the beginning.  He spent his time with dedication and succeeded there.  He gave us works like Tarkasangraha and many more.  He became famous and is remembered today not because he went to Kashi, but due to his achievements there.  The one who wins in this election in Varanasi will not be judged on mere emerging a victor in the election.  He will be judged based on what he does or does not do thereafter.  

19 comments:

  1. Very nice to know about 'Annam Bhatta'


    R Jagannathan, BMSB.

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  2. Fine eye opener on the importance of Varanasi/kashi. True winning elections and occupying a position is not the end of it. Real success/failure is judged on the performance which is least expected of the present day politicians.

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  3. Concluded very well. Inference is interesting.

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  4. May the Lord of Kashi give us a true 'Annam Bhatta' this week!

    Cyril Madtha

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  5. Excellent. First for clarifying what Annam Bhatta is ! Then for the comparison. Informative
    Rajashekar

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  6. Beautiful insight of the man behind the “Compendium of Logic”- Annam Bhatta!!

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  7. I could relate the joy of reading such a great work from the treasure of our literature. Wish to read in the regional language. Certainly an interesting one.

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  8. educative and very informative. As you have rightly concluded, we wish and pray that the victor in the elections earns the title "Anna Bhatta" by dedicating his services for the betterment of the nation and sincerely work towards the same.

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  9. Nice.....Good information .. Definitely you are " Knowledge Bhatta " to us ... Gopinath Lingappa. BMSB

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  10. Nice informative article , as always !

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  11. padma govindaswamyMay 17, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    I liked it very much,As aiways.

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  12. Annambhatta's Tarkasamgraha has been one of my favourite readings, just for the reason that the work is very straight forward. It may be regarded as an outline of ontology and epistemology along side logic as accepted in Nyaya and Vaisesika schools of Indian thought for centuries.

    What is phenomenal, is the way the 16th century scholar has been brought to the present world scenario through this article !

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  13. Very nice insight. Many of us do not know this.

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  14. Annam bhatt is mool purush of garikapati family. My father late garikapati Lakshmi Narasimham has written garikapati family history in telugu. He has given brief history of annam bhatt based on a raja sasana available to our family.

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  15. We are fortunate that we had such great souls and scholars amongst us.but at what time and stage we missed the thread?
    I have heard the saying Kasikku ponavanellam annam battana?was thinking this refers to annadhanam at kasi..probably a ritual at kashi!
    Thanks for enlightening

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