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International Conferences on Mahabharat held at Tirupati and Vedic Workshop at Kozikode – contrasted in the Indian context – 2014

January 13, 2014

International Conferences on Mahabharat held at Tirupati and Vedic Workshop at Kozikode – contrasted in the Indian context – 2014

The sixth international Vedic workshop

The sixth international Vedic workshop

International Conferences on Mahabharat held at Tirupati and Vedic Workshop at Kozikode: The sixth international Vedic workshop [hereinafter mentioned as SIVW for brevity] was held in Kozhiokode from January 7 to 10 2014 and the international conference on Mahabharata [mentioned as ICMB] in Tirupati from 7th to 11th 2014. As the former had attracted Sanskrit and Veda researchers and writers from universities across the world[1] with 111 delegates, the latter attracted more than 600 registered delegates with paper presentation. Besides theoretical deliberations, Veda chanting had been a special feature of the workshop, event coordinator Vinod Bhattathiripad and programme core committee members M.G.S. Narayanan, former chairman Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), and P. Bhaskaran Nayar of Lincoln University, U.K., said at a press conference in Kozhikode on Saturday (04-01-2014). The workshop began with chanting of Rigveda by Parvathy, who the organisers said, was the only female Rigveda chanter in Kerala. However, there have been many Hindu women chanting Vedic mantras living in India even today. But, an impression has been created that women should not read or are not allowed to read Vedas. The ICMB was inaugurated with the presence and blessings of the following:

  1. Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, pontiff of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam,
  2. S.A.R.P.V. Chaturvedi, founder of Sri Ramanuja Mission Trust and
  3. Kandukuri Sivananda Murty, Saiva mutt.

The first three postings of the conference have been posted under captions as follows and their internet links are given in the footnotes:

  1. The proceedings of the international conference on Mahabharatam held at Tirupati from 7th to 11th January 2014[2].
  2. The International conference on Mahabharatam held at Tirupati from 7th to 11th January 2014 – the proceedings (2)[3].
  3. The Mahabharatam conference concluded at Tirupati on 11th January 2014 that started on 7th – the proceedings (3)[4].
The sixth international Vedic workshop -Gateway Hotel

The sixth international Vedic workshop -Gateway Hotel

The Gateway Hotel and Vishnu Nivasam: While the delegates of SIVW stayed at the five star hotel, the delegates of ICMB were accommodated at the Vishnu Nilayam comfortably. The registration / delegate fees was Rs. 6,000/- for SIVW (four days)[5] and Rs. 1,500/- for ICMB (five days). SIVW was the first international Vedic workshop to be hosted by India, as claimed by the organizers, but Indians wonder as to why such claim should have been made, as if India hosts now. The other Vedic workshops were held at[6]

  1. Harvard University, USA (in 1989, organized by Prof. Michael Witzel),
  2. Kyoto University, Japan (in 1999, organized by Prof. Y. Ikari),
  3. Leiden University, The Netherlands (in 2002, organized by Prof. J. Houben and Prof. A. Griffith),
  4. University of Texas, Austin, USA (in 2007, organized by Prof. P. Olivelle and Prof. J. Brereton), and
  5. Centre for Eurasiatic and Afroasiatic Studies (CEAS), Bucharest, Romania (in 2011, organized by Prof. J. Rotaru).

The ICMB was organized by the Oriental Research Institute (ORI) of Sri Venkateswara University and Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams (TTD). The Vedic workshop in Kozhikode reportedly focused on Vedic texts and rituals, scholarly interpretations of Vedic texts, Vedic traditions of Kerala, and the recent resurgence of interest in the Vedas in the West. While 14 scholars from universities and research institutes in the U.S. and 12 from Japan had confirmed participation, five Vedic experts were expected from France and four each from Germany and the United Kingdom[7], thus the press went on reporting. On the other hand, ICMB provided space to students, research scholars, Vedic experts, researchers and Indologists.

Wooden utensils used in Vedic rituals

Wooden utensils used in Vedic rituals

The details given by the SIVW website: The workshop committee members comprised the following:

  1. Prof. M. Witzel (University of Harvard, USA)
  2. Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar, Pune, India
  3. Prof. Yasuke Ikari, Kyoto University, Japan
  4. Prof. Julita Rotaru, Centre for Eurasiatic and Afroasiatic Studies (CEAS), Bucharest, Romania

The core committee members were as follows:

  1. Dr. P. Bhaskaran Nayar, Lincoln University, UK
  2. Prof. M. G. S. Narayanan, Former Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research
  3. Prof. C. M. Neelakantan, Former Professor (Veda), Sree Sankaracharya  University of Sanskrit, Kerala, India
  4. Prof. C. Rajendran, Professor (Sanskrit), University of Calicut, Kerala, India
  5. Dr. P. Vinod Bhattathiripad, Chief Co-ordinator, www.namboothiri.com

Advisors to the core committee were –

  1. Prof. Cezary Galewicz, Professor, University of Krakow, Poland
  2. Prof. T. P. Mahadevan, Professor, Howard University, USA

It appears that these committees are just like any other conference to control the proceedings, as I have been noting for more than 40 years after attending many national and international conferences. The program details of SIVW are available here[8].

Kozhiokode and Tirupati: To quote Elst, “Kozhikode (Calicut), Kerala, India. This is the town where Vasco da Gama first landed in 1498, thus starting the colonial entreprise in Asia”, whereas Tirupati has been a place of pilgrimage centre where all categories of Indians used to come for darshan of Sri Venkateswara. Of course, the Portuguese colonialists tried to loot this temple also as per the recordings of othe non-Indian sources. The University of Calicut, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and IIT Kanpur sponsored their scholars to the conference. Delegates from the University of Michigan also attended. The    Chief coordinator of the conference Dr Vinod Bhattathiripad told Deccan Chonicle that 15 delegates from various universities in the country would present papers. Only 80 papers were accepted by the committee[9], implying that papers were also rejected, but the grounds not known. The major universities sent the delegates at their own expenses reducing the financial burden of the organizers, he said. But, in a poor country like India, when the organizers had already decided to host “Vedic workshop” in five star hotels, how the question of “financial burden” plays a role is intriguing. The organizers decided to conduct the workshop in the country of Vedas where the spirit is still alive to provide an ‘on ground’ experience of Vedic practice and direct interaction with practicing scholars, he added.  In Tirupati, more than 600 papers were presented accommodating students, research scholars, Vedic experts, researchers and Indologists.

Indians do not know Michael Witzel but Veda Vyasa: The views of Koenald Elst, one of the delegates can be read here[10]. His comments are interesting[11] for Indians in contrast to what other non-Indians who write about Indian issues. His pointed out that “……….Michael Witzel, Wales professor of Sanskrit at Harvard. For quite some time now I have taken my distance from the counterproductive Hindu habit of treating him as a hate figure”. Good, but 99% of the Hindus do not know about Koenald / Koenraad Elst or Michael Wizel and therefore, it is surprising to know about “Hindu habit of treating him as hate figure”. As I was attending the International conference on Mahabharatam at Tirupati, I could not attend, but I was mentioning about him with many Sanskrit Pundits, scholars and professors from the Universities of Baroda, Pune, Calcutta, Tiruvanathapuram, Andhra, Madras, Pondicherry etc. Of 100, only few – two   from Chennai, one from AP and another from Pondicherry know him. Ironically none of the Sanskrit Pundits, scholars and professors responded that they do not know him even after showing his photograph!

OIT, AIT and Indians: As OIT and AIT were dominating the SIVW, they were also haunting and daunting sizeable modern students and researchers of ICMB. However, ICMB  papers have been affected ideologically with political influence and compulsion, though in person they do not agree with such Aryan-Dravidian dichotomy. As now the knowledge is open and accessible to all through modern gadgetry, and they could come to their own conclusions, no lecturing, tutoring or propaganda affects them. In that way, it appears the scholars, experts and Pundits of SIVW have been still under the clutches of OIT and AIT controlling their thought processes.

(To be concluded


[1] The special correspondent, Scholars to attend Vedic workshop, The Hindu dated January 5, 2014, Kozhikode edition

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