Jan 20, 2022

Princess Fitna

Among his lesser known accomplishments, Aurangzeb imprisoned his favorite daughter Zeb-un-nisa for life. Zeb was born almost exactly 9 months after Aurangzeb's nikah with his chief consort, the Safavid Irani Dilras Banu, but given that he was what Jehangir would have called a majzoob-e-madarzad  -- absorbed in holy rapture right from the mother's womb (or in Jehangir's sense of the term, a congenital idiot) -- we can safely rule out that he had put the bun in the oven before the qabools were uttered. 

She quickly grew to become a favorite daughter. He once showered 30,000 gold pieces on Zeb when she had become a hafizah of the Qur'an. But she also loved music and the fine arts, and was herself a singer of some renown. She was a fine poetess in Persian, and wrote under the name Makhfi - the one disguised, concealed. Her collected works are available as the Divan-e-Makhfi

When Aurangzeb ascended the blood-spattered throne, Zeb was only 21, but he was already discussing affairs of state with her. He would send all the princes of court to welcome her when she swung by. None of these honors were afforded to her 3 younger sisters.

But Aurangzeb was a Sufi in the mould of Imam Rabbani (whose missionary career grew wings after the death of Akbar and the ascent of Jehangir). As his walk of faith entered steeper territory, his tolerance levels were thrown off kilter. 

No one really knows why Aurangzeb turned on Zeb. Some say it was because she wrote sympathetically to her younger brother Muhammad Akbar who had publicly accused Aurangzeb of not being Islamic enough -- of all things political, he chose this accusation... I suppose when a revolution is in progress, ambitious people fall over one another to declare their devotion to the cause.

Another theory is that she had a brief affair with the son of the vazir of Shahjehanabad - but whispers of her secret trysts and affairs were not uncommon before, she being a single woman with privileges and all that. 

But those were minor, as affairs go. The major portion of dalliance and pining was reserved for the Maratha Shivaji, whom she is also rumored to have helped escape Mughal captivity, and whose meteoric rise and legacy single-handedly destroyed the Mughal empire.

Whatever the truth is, she was charged with fitna, sedition, her accumulated wealth was seized, her pension canceled, and she was placed under lifelong incarceration in a fort. A refreshing change in parenting from Shah Jehan's incest fetish.

I'd imagine that being a bird in a cage is every Persian poet's ecstatic nightmare, at least the melancholy and defiant ones (meaning most of them). Our princess, like all spinsters, was telling everyone she is lonesome-coz-she's-too-wholesome, and so her poetry is set to that register since the good times when she was abbu's favourite.

سر گرانی نرود از سر او تا دم صور
هرکه او مست به دامان ایاغی نبود

तुरही-धमन तक भारी 
रहेगा सिर उसका।
सोम के प्यालों से जो 
न सहस्कृत हो पाया॥

"'Til Israfil's (Raphael's) trumpet blows (to herald the Resurrection), that sullen, heavy-headed inebriation (of materialism) never leaves one / Who is not instead intoxicated from the chalice of the Wine (of Enlightenment)."

عشق چون آید برد هوش دل فرزانه را
دزد دانا میکشد اول چراغ خانه را

आकर काम चित्त-बोध को
मोह लेता है कुछ ऐसे ।
चोर सियाना जो देहली-दीप को 
चुरा लेता है पहले॥

"Love comes and robs the heart of wit and wisdom / Like the clever thief who snatches the lamp of the household first."

مخفی هر لحظه من از بخت سؤالی دارم
تا به یک بار کند لب به جواب آلوده

मख़्फ़ी पृच्छा है मेरी 
दिष्टि से पल पल।
कि वह होंठ पर एक बार लाए 
उत्तर का कश्मल॥

"Makhfi, I question Luck every passing moment / Hoping that Her lips be tainted with an answer just once."

گرچه من لیلی اثاثم دل چو مجنون بینواست
سر به صحرا میزدم لیکن حیا زنجیر پاست

यद्यपि हूँ लैला सरीखी, 
मजनूँ-सा है अवाक् मन।
मरुमुख है मस्तक किन्तु 
पैरों पर है लाज का बन्धन॥

"Although I am Leyla, my heart is voiceless like Majnun; / I have turned my head toward the desert wilderness, but chastity and shame enchain my feet."

خورشید جهان تابم و نشناخت مرا کس
افسوس که صاحب نظران را نظری نیست

आदित्य हूँ जगताप और 
न किसी ने पहचाना।
खेद, कि विचक्षणों ने 
वह दिव्यचक्षु न जाना॥

"I am the light of the world, and no one recognized Me; / Alas, those with eyesight do not possess vision (or, so-called experts lack the right theoretical framework and insight)."

مخفیا در روز محشر بینصیب از کوثر است
زبان در کام کش مخفی و پای صبر در دامن

मख़्फ़िया यम-सदन में रहेगी 
अभागिन ऋत-पान से ।
तालू में रखें जीभ-खेचरी मख़्फ़ी
और धीरज-पाद आँचल में॥

"Makhfi, the concealed one, is not destined to drink of the fount of Kauthar on the Day of Resurrection & Judgment; / Tuck your Tongue into your palate, Makhfi, and pull your feet of Patience under your skirt."

آنکه دست دوستی بر دامن حیدر نزد
که آخر پنجه شاه ولایت دست من گیرد

नरसिंह के वसन को जो
न छूआ मैत्री का हाथ।
कि गुरुराज के नखाग्र से हि 
हो मेरा कर-संघात॥

"For the one who hasn't yet placed the hand of alliance upon the robe of Haidar (the lion, Ali), / May the tips of the paws of the King of Guruship grab mine."

Aurangzeb had replaced the customary Hindu Rajput chief queen with a Muslim Irani from Safavid Persia, but being remotely Shi'a under a Rabbani-inspired dispensation can be tricky.

A friend said to me recently: geopolitics is all-pervading. 

Mar 26, 2021

Angry Schismatic Monotheism

Khordad saal mubarak. Quickly dumping an old conversation: a brief case study of Zoroastrianism as an Angry Schismatic Monotheism and it's life-cycle. 

I differentiate 'Angry Schismatic Monotheism' from 'Integral Dharmic Monotheism' in its inner state of mind and external relationships - with no regard for textbook definitions of 'monotheism'. The idea of 'one' Supreme Being is not alien to 'pagan' faith traditions and certainly not Hinduism. While it is ridiculous to speak of numerical 'one' for an entity beyond space and time (and therefore number), even more nuanced discussions of a 'one' fail to consider the intensional and extensional semantic warp and woof that results in an almost predictable pattern of behaviour and culture: mental maps, moulding of affects and economy of instincts. 

This is reflected in the balance and relationship between Bhakti and Shakti, or devotional and political expression (where devotional is original spiritual creativity rather than dogmatic passion). If one is excessively impassioned and the outreach connected with the other is remarkably lacklustre, it is a symptom to be considered. Hopefully of interest to Dharmic traditions.

Borrowing from Hinduism

According to their own internal narrative, there was an internecine war, they lost and were pushed out, and then Zarathushtra Spitama brought a people in despair “glad tidings” and new moral courage. The cosmic dispensation had kathenotheistically revolved, it was said, and the people of Ahura had now been chosen over the people of the Daevas. Nevertheless, Zarathushtra himself and many Magi and others after that continued to borrow or steal knowledge and tradition from the Hindus. This and other details are also recorded by Roman students of this tradition – The 4th century CE, Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus made the following observations in his Rerum gestarum libri 23.6.31-36: “When Zoroaster had boldly made his way into the unknown regions of Upper India, he came to a certain woody retreat, of which with its tranquil silence the Brahmans, men of sublime genius, were the possessors. From their teaching he learnt the principles of the motion of the world and of the stars, and the pure rites of sacrifice, as far as he could; and of what he learnt he infused some portion into the minds of the Magi, which they have handed down by tradition to later ages, each instructing his own children, and adding to it their own system of divination.” Asho Zarathushtra converted the chieftains of a few immediate kshatriya clans, and then they later created a confederacy. They also infused this modified Brahminical knowledge into other existing priesthoods in the Middle East – the Magi were an existing pre-Zoro priesthood in that region.

Continued prosyletizing tendencies

Thus, Zoroastrianism expanded by conversion of existing priesthoods in addition to chieftains – just as Islam would later do in Persia. Further, with time, this confederacy expanded and began to convert people of not just other clans but other ‘ethnicities’. It was a strongly proselytizing faith, and also an imperialistic one. Eventually, a particular confederation clicked and they rapidly expanded and created a new empire in the Middle East and C. Asia. Their policy was to offer the faith to select elites among the conquered peoples, but generally not to force it upon them. However, temples specifically of the Devas in the Middle East *were* destroyed as a matter of ideology - the winning of temporal power lead to acting out a vengeance they nursed. Other non-Deva cults could continue to practice safely, as dhimmis of a sort. Other peoples near the Caucasus such as some Armenians, Ossetians, etc. were also converted, and near-Hellenic peoples as well.

Strengthening of Jati-exclusivity during distress from Greek invasion

The first great setback was the Macedonian invasion by Alexander. Massive libraries and centers of knowledge were destroyed. After the invasion, the Greeks wanted to blend the two civilizations, and even adopt and patronize the local Zoroastrian priesthoods. But now, after intense humiliation including their daughters’ arranged marriage to Greek generals and other events, the Iranian nobility was unwilling to acknowledge that this new Hellenic nobility could also blend in with their civilization. They began to cite the lack of genetic qualification, since the positions of the “7 chosen clans” of the Avesta were already taken! The dialogue via books written by Zoroastrian priests during those centuries of Seleucid rule is interesting to read. They even cited the bad breath of Hellenic princesses as a sign of inferiority – possibly referring to dietary habits. It is unknown how far the Seleucids were willing to acculturate as they wooed the Persians, but clearly the entrenched priesthood and the Iranic aristocracy were behaving like hedgehogs.

During this period, they created a strict birth-based qualification by divine right – whereas during the great Achaemenian times, it was enough to be a 3-generational progeny of “Arya”. The Seleucids were finally driven off the Iranian plateau by the Ashkanis (Parthians). Having liberated their homeland and regained political sovereignty, they failed to change the rules and social modalities. An entrenched priest-king nexus was definitely alienated from the masses by that time. Instead of creating more liberal modalities for an infusion of new blood and fresh talent, they actually made it even more severe.

Initial flirtation with Christian influence and later rejection

“Yazdegerd I’s reign was a landmark for the Christians in Iran. With the counsel of Roman bishop Marutha, he acknowledged the Church of the East in 410; this led to the establishment of the Iranian church, which would declare its independence from the Roman church in 424. … One of his gestures of generosity was to permit Christians to bury their dead, which Zoroastrians believed tainted the land. The number of Christian elites in the bureaucracy increased, a flow which continued until the fall of the empire in 651.”

"Abda, the bishop of Ohrmazd-Ardashir in Khuzestan, and a band of Christian priests and laity levelled a Zoroastrian fire temple in c. 419–420; the court summoned them to answer for their actions. … Although Abda hesitated to answer, a priest in his entourage replied: “I demolished the foundation and extinguished the fire because it is not a house of God, nor is the fire the daughter of God.” Abda refused to have the fire temple rebuilt, and he and his entourage were executed. At another location, a priest had a sacred fire put out and celebrated mass there. Yazdegerd I, forced to yield to pressure from the Zoroastrian priesthood, changed his policy towards the Christians and ordered them persecuted.”

Schism of the liberals

Eventually, this ossification gave rise to several waves of new ideologies to counter Zoroastrian “orthodoxy”, movements that became very popular, such as Mazdakism, etc. “In 484, Persian king Peroz I was killed on campaign, and most of the Sasanian army was destroyed. This disastrous defeat provoked a crisis of succession and touched off more than a decade of unrest, during which time a renegade Zoroastrian priest named Mazdak (who preached common ownership of possessions—and women) became an influential figure. Mazdak eventually fell out of favour, and Khusro I had him executed in the late 520s. But Mazdakism lived on, and influenced Islamic mystical sects well into the Middle Ages. Soviet scholars, enamoured of Mazdak’s proto-communism, also took up the cause of Mazdakism, and tended to extol it above any other aspect of Iranian history.”

These were anti-establishmentarian, anti-clergy, and eventually anti-Zoroastrian and anti-Iranic, as we shall see. Not only were these widely popular with the masses who felt “oppressed” or “excluded”, but these movments eventually shaved off sections of the elite priesthood – sections that knew there was only flimsy scriptural grounds for the hidebound caste-basis of their current society.

Some very gifted members of the aristocracy had defected to these new rebellious ideologies and schisms, and eventually they created their own counter-priesthoods or cabals. This movement was periodically crushed – but continued to survive, eventually reaching the conclusion that something radical had to be done to dislodge the entrenched priest-royal aristocracy. The aristocracy, meanwhile, always used the argument of the “protection” of the faith from the Greeks and now Romans, whom they were constantly at strategic war with.

Salman a.k.a. Mobed Dinyar a.k.a. Ruzbeh

It is a little known story, that Salman al-Farsi, one of the key companions of Muhammad, was a member of a radical Mazdaki sect. Salman was one of Muhammad’s closest companions, advisors and aides, and was himself an aristocratic Persian convert whose tactical AND gnostic knowledge Muhammad thrived on. Tactically, most famous was his idea at the Battle of Khandaq (the Trench) that saved Islam from being snuffed out in the bud. This “Salman” was originally “Ruzbeh”, and was a fully anointed Zoroastrian high-priest (mobed) whose initiatic name was Mobed “Dinyar”.

It is said that Mobed Dinyar became affiliated with the new Mazdaki sect of Zoroastrianism, to which the Zoroastrian orthodoxy was vehemently opposed, and so the young Mobed Dinyar bore a grudge against Zoroastrian orthodoxy and was part of a movement to subvert it from within. The Mazdakis did have some royal Sassani support for a time, and so the intra-priesthood power-struggle involved heavy-weights on both sides. The lopsided anti-people policies of the pro-orthodoxy Sassanians was an additional reason the Mazdakis wanted change at any cost. Quite likely the renegade priest Modeb Dinyar and other Mazdakis thought that they needed a force from outside also to topple and finish off the old order and inject Mazdaki ethics into society.

Muslim adaption of Mazdaki memes

What are some Mazdaki Zoroastrian memes? Mazdak instituted communal possessions and social welfare programs. He has been seen as a proto-socialist. In some ways Mazdakism was a Zoroastrian heresy, deliberately rubbishing some sacred totems. Mazdakism was also a typical gnostic sect that believed in “12 powers”, etc., which later played itself out in the “12 imams” descending from Muhammad. Also recall the “12 tribes of Israel” found in Mormonism and other Western Gnostic orders.

The Prophet had great regard for Salman, and once told his companions, “There is a race of people who will even go all the way to the moon in order to gain knowledge.” When they asked which nation (qaum) that was, the Prophet tapped Salman (sitting next to him) on the thigh and said, “his nation”. Salman also became the first historical person to make a translation of the Qur’an into a different language – Persian in this case – immediately after the invasion of Iran by the Arabs. (His translation and attempt to immediately Persianize Islam was unfruitful).

Apart from social organization and individual responsibility, Zoroastrian memes can be seen in Islamic gnosis as well as practice. For example, in terms of practice, the 5 daily prayers of Islam are a direct replica of the standard Zoroastrian practice: Havan Gah -> Salat-ul-Fajr (dawn) Rapithwin Gah -> Salat-al-Dhuhr (noon) Uzyeirin Gah -> Salat-al-Asr (afternoon) Aiwisruthrem Gah -> Salat-al-Maghreb (dusk) Ushahin Gah -> Salat-al-Isha (night)

There were pre-existing Zoroastrian pockets in Arabia specially in Yemen among the ruling elites who were the vassals of either the Sassanid or the earlier Achaemenid dynasties. Also, there were small Zoroastrian pockets in the fishing villages of the Persian Gulf. All these ere converted to Shi’ite Islam. As a rule, wherever you see Shia pockets today in the Arabian Peninsula, namely where Arabia meets the Persian Gulf and in the mountains of Yemen, there existed pockets of Zoroastrians in the ancient past. All this because of the schism from within, due to an imposed, immobile social order that defied history.

Even linguistically the imprint is deep. Almost all the words in the Qur’an that deal with the Paradise and certain gnostic concepts are Persian in origin (e.g. “firdaus” and “deen”). Also, the angels Harut and Marut who knew all the sciences and arts according to the Qur’an are of definite Zoroastrian origin. The idea of future Mahdi (Zoroastrian Saoshyant), the “bridge” of consciousness to the other realms (Avestan ‘chinvat’), etc. are all Zoroastrian. Even the “night journey” of Prophet Mohammad is a copy from the fictional journey of a priest mentioned in the Zoroastrian Arda Viraf.


The renegade priest Mobed Dinyar (aka Salman al-Farsi) was instrumental in orchestrating the attack on the Persian Empire (while reaching a compromise with the Byzantines) and he weakened the defence of the Persians with the connivance of sympathetic Mazdaki insiders in the court of the Emperor after making promises of positions of power-sharing and pelf to his collaborators. So Salman is the link to internal Persian defectors. This undercurrent of subversion and tension within Iran also explains the wholesale conversion and defection of significant portions of Persian aristocracy immediately after the Islamic invasion. The “inversion” angle within Islamic hadith is also prominent – with the greatest hate-speech reserved for those communities whose memes have been adopted and/or inverted to the maximum. Early Islamic hadiths have the greatest hatred for Jews, followed closely by the Zoroastrians. Still, just like Imam Ali translated 40 Hebrew scrolls into Arabic as his unique contribution, so did other senior companions translate and experiment with Zoroastrian works, including the ritual of the smokeless fire.

Salman’s return

Mobed Dinyar aka Salman al-Farsi had also become very controversial in the Islamic community because of an incident, when he ran away and left the Prophet and his group. He did so because he felt there was something evil or wrong with it, and this was around the time of the “Satanic Verses”. Later the Prophet retracted those verses and said they had been whispered by Satan and not by Allah. Some time after that retraction, Salman returned to the community and the Prophet publicly forgave him so that other community members did not attack him. Still, many were angry with him for such a humiliating gesture that disturbed a lot of junior members’ faith. After the Prophet died, some hadiths narrate how Salman would often be taunted and called names for betraying the Prophet that time. 

Thus, while the Macedonian invasion and rule for centuries did not break the integrity of Zoroastrianism in spite of massive destruction of knowledge-bases… the inner schism due to entrenched aristocracy and immobile social structures past their use-by date did the job and eventually orchestrated the second great invasion via a faith that they themselves co-created. They were all expecting a “Saoshyant” to come and restore Iranian religion to some just and graceful state, and a section of them thought Islam was it. More mistakes after that calamity.

Snowballing defections

After the Arab invasion, as I said, a large part of the Iranian nobility that sensed the impending techtonic shifts for a long time, defected to Islam. More importantly, so did a significant part of the priestly and scholarly class – not just the Mazdaki-type radicals, but even some of the silent members who were part of the status quo by default. Most of the founders of Islamic jurisprudence, the Sunni madhabs, and even those who systematized and reformed the Arabic script and grammar – were all Persian converts.

Nevertheless, the wholesale capitulation of Iran under Arabs was unexpected, even by the radical subversives and defectors. While Iranians were needed to run the affairs of administration, they were unable to engineer a Persianization campaign. Instead, it began to look increasingly like Iran would become Arabized like Syria (a process well laid-out in Islam, to make non-Arabic converts into “mu’arrabeen”).

The evolution of gnostic schools within Islam were continually borrowing from Mithraism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Many of its most famous adepts were executed by the Caliphs on suspicion of heresy. But they had all tried to write and preach using an Islamic metaphor, because only that was permissible.

Thus, a counter-movement was afoot, though suppressed in Iran, to keep some form of Persian language and culture alive.

Military efforts

One noteworthy attempt to throw off the oppressive Arab yoke was by by Babak Khorramdin.

Another attempt was by Abu Moslem al-Khorasani.

Cause for incompleteness

In both cases, while they struck blows and even achieved military success – and they had the support of the remaining Zorosatrian priesthood in Iran – … they did not reinstall Zoroastrianism after victory, but merely settled for an Iranicized school of Islam, where the new faith would remain but the cultural equations would be altered. Why did they not take the opportunity to reinstall the Zoroastrian priesthood? Because a large part of the intelligentsia were not in favour of them making a comeback. It is a measure of their unpopularity.

In addition, the new avenues for power projection and economic markets opened up by Islamic conquest, from Andalusia through Egypt to Iran were too good to not align with. Egypt especially was already showing signs of being susceptible to alliance with an Iranic-lead Islam rather than the Arab (and later the Shi’a presence in Egypt).

Rustic pagans

It is noteworthy that within Iran, much of the countryside remained Zoroastrian for centuries. The urban centers and upper classes, though, were Islamized. The serfs and part of the mercantile classes were allowed to remain Zoroastrian. The biggest pushes to forcibly convert them came – not under Arab rule – but under later “native” Iranic-nationalist Shi’a rule, the Safavis and the Qajars.

Early settlements

Some of the mercantile Zoroastrian communities had already set up small communities in India’s Gujarat just before Islam. After the invasion, part of the aristocracy and priesthood fled to join them. Later, more merchants followed, and also people of the professions. These together formed the Parsi community, comprising the 4 castes of Iranian orthodoxy.

During the extermination drive by the Qajars, when life for Zoroastrians was extremely humiliating – being treated as untouchables as per the Islamic concept of “nijasah” – many came to India in the last 2 centuries. These formed the “Irani” Zoroastrians, who are distinct from the “Parsis” in, both, culture and also ideology and attitude – more on this later.

The evolution of gnostic schools within Islam were continually borrowing from Mithraism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Many of its most famous adepts were executed by the Caliphs on suspicion of heresy. But they had all tried to write and preach using an Islamic metaphor, because only that was permissible. One such, a Kurd called Shahabuddin Suhrawardy, was also executed on accusation of being Zoroastrian. He had gone to the extent of calling the angel of revelation Soroush instead of Jibreel. Kurds are the stereotypical 'sardarjis' of the Middle East, and can be rather bold and in-your-face, and this guy was not even making any effort to substitute Zoroastrian terminology with Arabic. One of his disciples, Azar Kaivan, was from a practicing Zoroastrian family. After his guru’s execution, he fled to Gujarat, and set up a gnostic school at Navsari.

  • 1. The Zoroastrians in India were mainly priestly and mercantile. There is little evidence of them nurturing a military ethic among their small community – but that is understandable because I doubt if their Hindu hosts would have been comfortable with that. However, at one point the Hindu sovereign did demand that 500 able Zoroastrian young men volunteer to fight the impending Mohammedan attack. I don’t remember the details of this episode, but anyway the end result was utter defeat of the Hindus and all 500 Zoro comrades were wiped out.
  • 2. Since the invasion of Iran and after, there is no evidence of Parsis inviting any Hindu sovereigns to launch an attack on Iran to push back the Islamics. We see no strategic collaboration between Hindus and Iranians in two thousand years. Even during Seleucid rule, Hindus made the Seleucids tributaries, rather than aid the Iranics to overthrow them.
  • 3. The Khshnoomi histories of Iran mentioned a 100-year period of Indian rule over Iran, with distaste. I don’t know what period this refers to specifically.
  • 4. As the Parsis settled in India, they Sanskritized themselves, wrote in Sanskrit, and adopted many Hindu articles and practices in their own ceremonies. They were also instructed that they could live and practice here, but not proselytize among the Hindus. However, initial waves of immigrants were allowed to marry local widows, since there were more males than females. The modern Parsis add that these were “brahmin widows”, but there is no evidence of that.
  • 5. Some Zoroastrian immigrants to India under Islamic rule found that it was more profitable to become tutors in Persian language and culture to India’s new Islamic nobility. Even as late as the 1800’s we see that. E.g., Mirza Ghalib’s own tutor was a Zoroastrian immigrant from Iran.
  • 6. The FIRST immigrant influx of Zoroastrians to India was much earlier – to Punjab, not Gujarat – after Alexander’s invasion. The massive refugee influx was a point of deliberation for Chanakya and others – about whether to allow them to settle or not. Chanakya, if I recall correctly, was against allowing them to settle, or if they were allowed to settle, to completely Hinduize and not maintain any separateness or cultural links with Persia.

Jati-exclusivism during post-British times

The release of Islamic oppression and the beginning of prosperity under the British was, counter-intuitively, the death-knell for Zoroastrianism. After the British usurped India, the Parsis became one of their closest compradores. This was because of the inherent race hierarchy theory of the European colonialists, and that put the Parsis very high on that totem pole. Skin colour became a prized possession for Parsis. Moreover, as they imbibed the new colonial masters’ theories, they began to reform their own doctrines accordingly. They accepted the “Aryan race” theory completely, and reinterpreted their scripture accordingly, rejecting their own traditional narratives.

Further, like Brahmoism and other neo-Vedanta movements, they also tried to show that their scriptures were compatible with every new-fangled philosophy coming out of the Paris and Vienna circles. Further, they began to expunge parts of their own theories and practices that were incompatible with European sensibilities. For example they denied any practice of “idol worship” in Zoroastrian history, although ancient Fire Temples had many deity forms along all sides, of the Yazatas, etc. They said these were merely decorated, and not “worshipped”, whatever that means – because the Zend Avesta itself worships them. They said there was no concept of reincarnation in Zoroastrianism – although for centuries they believed in it – though frankly I am not certain if that acceptance of reincarnation was an osmosis from the Gandhara-Buddhist and later Gujarati-Hindu proximity.

Anyway, they denied any relation, and all in all, wanted to show that Zoroastrianism was much closer to Western Christianity – and yet “Aryan” and not “Semitic”. Similarly, they revamped their Fire Temples, no longer sat on the floor in traditional manner but instead on chairs or pews. Most importantly, they emptied their faith tradition of any overt emotive content, making their congregations stiff-upper lip affairs. Gone were the bhakti and singing, gone were the lamentations while reading the mystical journeys of Arda Viraf. It became a more “philosophical” cult – and I know from my own family that that is sorely dissatisfying for the rank and file Parsi, and especially their women. Even today, many “spiritual” seekers among Parsis end up pursuing some form of Hinduism or Buddhism. The women had to westernize, not just in terms of education, but also some of the “liberal” thought currents. As you know, many of them became part of this liberal socialite crowd. Jinnah’s wife was Ruttie, a Parsi.

Basically, just as we had Macauliffe done to Sikhism, we had a MAHA-Macauliffe done to the Parsis. Now they tried to connect this to their faith by suggesting that the truly revolutionary changes in the world and their own community was a harbinger of the awaited Saoshyant, and a revival or Zoroastrianism was imminent. They had hitched their hopes for a Zorosatrian revival onto the Anglo-Saxons, and the Brit Queen became “aapro raani”. They were so totally taken in with this race-theory and the apparently anti-Christian currents in the West, that they thought that the Brits (and now the Americans) would deliver Iran-zameen to them on a platter, and a new pan-Euro-Iranian “Aryan” civilization will emerge. Even today, the Yazidis and other Kurdish (especially Kurdish Zoroastrian groups) think the US is about to create an independent Kurdistan any month now. Yet, we repeatedly see their hopes dashed, even as they completely hitch their fate to the Anglo-Saxon, but not the Hindu.

Weak and recidivist cultures must choose their allies carefully, and never succumb to flattery by other powerful civilizations offering to be allies and saviours. It may be more prudent to join hands with allies who are also still weak and suffer from the same enemies, and whose full interest lies in helping you also – i.e., they need you as much as you need them.

Irani Zorastrians

The “Irani” Zoroastrians who migrated to India were different from the “Parsis”. They spoke modern Persian, and followed the Fasli and Qadimi calendars, while the Indian Parsis follow the Shahenshahi system. More importantly, the Irani Zoroastrians are liberal – they believe in accepting converts, while the Parsis are now very conservative – since after British rule their supposed “racial purity” became their top asset. Moreover, they had fully imbibed the caste-philosophy, and now hold that Zoroastrianism is a faith specially designed only for those with a particular genetic imprint – and so there is no question of converting. This is rather strange, because my own mother’s family – who are high priests – are actually of Turanian Tatar descent, and not even really core Iranian. They were clearly converted much after Zarathushtra, and became acculturated after they had conquered Merv in Khorasan – present day Turkmenistan.

As a result of this caste-mentality, the Parsis refused even to convert increasing numbers of Iranian seekers. There was a trend during the Shah’s time when it looked like he was very sympathetic to them, and large numbers of Indian Parsis were even migrating to Iran. After the Islamic revolution they cannot officially convert anyone. But a golden couple of decades were lost, because the Parsi Panchayat in India refused to accept Iranian converts. Today, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, there was a huge movement in Tajikistan and even Russia towards Zoroastrianism – but once again the Parsi Panchayat disallowed conversions. One “renegade” Parsi priest who started an institute in Mumbai to train Russian and Tajik converts – was physically attacked and officially ostracized by the Parsi panchayat.

Schism of the liberals (again)

“Liberal” Parsi women increasingly marry outside the community, and many men do, too. At first the Parsi Panchayat ruled that only if both parents are Parsi, can one call oneself Parsi. It was then amended to father being Parsi. A whole community has emerged of children of Parsi mothers and non-Parsi fathers who want to practice. They now have their own Fire Temples – not recognized by the Panchayat. I don’t know whether this is an “evolution” or a final “dispersal” for the community. There are a lot of Westerners who profess an interest in Zoroastrianism – but without training in rituals and adopting a certain lifestyle, it is only airy philosophical fluff.

The dynamics between later Hinduism and Buddhism is worth studying to understand why we have since had this repeated process of counter-religions and counter-priesthoods emerging in India, that often mutate to become not just an antinomian voice within the civilization but downright anti-national. The Indic and transnational Buddhist mercantile networks were at the forefront of arguing for peace and compromise with the new Islamic empire. Little did they know that they would be culled once their role as useful idiots was complete. The hostile foreigner has taken advantage of (1) the intrinsic disaffection and grievance that these counter-religions had against Vedic civilization, and (2) their transnational links. The leaders of these movements were often drawn from gifted ex-members of the Vedic upper class, who had an insider’s knowledge of its own weaknesses or hypocrisy.This is exactly what eventually happened to Zoroastrianism also after their reinstatement post-Seleucids – and is incredibly still happening in Mumbai… Most of the litigation and agitation is from liberal Parsis who are typically also Communists. I know UVW who, with her husband, is a prominent activist for Adivasi rights – they’re both hard Left. Her other pastime is to defy and litigate against the Parsi Panchayat. They both also think Hinduism is the cause of all evils. When she needs a spiritual retreat, she goes for a Buddhist Vipassana course! smile emoticon You will find a similar pattern with leaders of most Leftist movements in India, whose leadership comes overwhelmingly from those with a brahmin caste background.

In order to resolve the devolving cycle of repeated attrition and disaffection, some sound sociological, organizational and psychological principles need to be discerned.

Dec 19, 2020

Gun and Gomukh

Is Kshatram relevant to personal spirituality? Or is its domain mainly political organization and self-defence? Popular notions of Varna-vyavastha today would suggest that the fount of spiritual and material knowledge is Brahmana, Kshatriya is the energetic implementer, organizer and protector, and so on.

Spiritual Capital à Cultural Capital àSocial Capital àPolitical Capital àEconomic Capital àInfrastructure Capital à And so on

On a related note, is the Khalsa now irrelevant, since Aurangzeb is dead? Or is it the razor's edge that makes Dharma relevant? Common to hear that Khalsa was a stopgap arrangement in order to beat back Islamic jihadis, and should have been disbanded later on. Instead, a martial Khalsa remains the backbone that many have wanted broken, and Nihangs are the equivalent of the Juna Akhada in that region. Why so?

Don't be Autistic

A closer reading of the Indic tradition suggests there were always two, not one, founts of spiritual knowledge and power. In fact, this isolation and autism of knowledge culture and martial culture is a massive self-goal for the civilization:

"The nation that will insist on drawing a broad line of demarcation between the fighting man and the thinking man is liable to find its fighting done by fools and its thinking done by cowards."

-- William Francis Butler, The Great Lone Land

Butler was an officer in the British Army in the second half of the 1800's and early 1900's, and served in various parts of their colonial empire, including Burma, India and North America. He had a passion for history and biography. His superiors saw merit in his recommendations on how to encroach upon and establish authority over native peoples with the least amount of disruption, and those ideas were put to good use. The goal of a colonial is to make sure, in some cases, that the colonized people retain a productive usefulness, and even though they may be rebellious and yearn for autonomy, they should be permanently neutered as a civilization - never really able or even willing to play the big game of global domination. The quote above must be seen in that context.

The Vedic/Hindu tradition does not appear to draw a hard line at all, explicitly stating that the two are inseparable:

यत्र ब्रह्म च क्षत्रं च सम्यञ्चौ चरतः सह।

तं लोकं पुण्यं प्रज्ञेषं यत्र देवाः सहाग्निना॥

- यजुर्वेदः २०.२५

"Where Brahma and Kshatra march united, like the Devas with Agni, that society has merit and wisdom." - YajurVeda 20.25

Segregation and super-specialization will naturally lead to autism, preening narcissism and the lack of empathy those carry with it, thus making one unfit for spiritual leadership.

Don't be Ghey

Further, the ultimate state of samadhi is often juxtaposed with the character and spirit required for true martyrdom in battle, a mind unrattled by fear or hatred, but absorbed in love of Vishnu and ferocious devotional service to the Devatas:

द्वौ सम्मताविह मृत्यू दुरापौ

यद् ब्रह्मसन्धारणया जितासुः।

कलोवरं योगरतो विजह्याद्

यद् अग्रणीर्वीरशयेऽनिवृत्तः॥

- श्रीमद् भागवतम् ६.१०.३३

"There are two ways to meet a glorious death, and both are very rare. One is to die engaged firmly in Yoga (union), in a state of absorption in The Brahman (Supreme Being) and having mastered the mind and life-force. The second is to die on a battlefield of bravehearts, leading men from the front, and never turning one's back in retreat. These two kinds of death are recommended in the shaastra as glorious." - Shrimad Bhagavatam 6.10.33

And there is no suggestion that one is a 'lesser jihad', either. Or that one is merely a metaphor for the real, greater, inner struggle. Perhaps the metaphorizing tendency is attractive to a people who are easily convinced they have no option left except 'inner' struggle, in order to sublimate their frustrations.

The one important difference is that martyrdom here has a psycho-social dimension - it is achieved in the company of similarly minded bravehearts, both on one's own side and the adversary's.

Don't be an Adrenalized Nutcase

However, Kshatram (Lordly Power) is not synonymous with Balam (Might). The two terms are used separately:

क्षत्रेण क्षत्रं जयति बलेन बलम् अश्नुते यस्यैवं विद्वान् ब्रह्मणो राष्ट्रगोपः पुरोहितस् तस्मै विशः संजानते सम्मुखा एकमनसो यस्यैवं विद्वान् ब्रह्मणो राष्ट्रगोपः पुरोहितः।

- ऐतरेयारण्यकम् ८.४०.२५

"By lordly power he conquers lordly power (Kshatram - power generation and projection)

By might he attains might (Balam - use of force),

Who hath for Purohita to guard the dominion a brahmana with this knowledge, 

For him are his people in harmony, with one aspect and one mind, 

Who hath for Purohita to guard the kingdom a brahman with this knowledge."

- Aitareya Aranyaka 8.40.25

Thus, political capital must be rooted directly in spiritual capital, not social or cultural or intellectual capital, although those logically precede the manifestation of political capital.

How does political capital form? Essentially, it is Dharmic people bonding over a learning curve, in activities that are expansionary in nature rather than introspective, purely aesthetic, intellectual or merely as consumers of existing culture. That can only happen by tapping into an original creativity free from restlessness and a preoccupation with exercising available force.

Kshatriya Parampara does not mean Political Dynasty (nor Vyayamshalas)

But even if one had enough bhang to tranquilize Shakasthana, it would not lead to the generation of a valuable spiritual product without yajna and tapasya. The core texts of Dharma hold Rajarshis belonging to Kshatriya Paramparas to be responsible for the generation of critical and widely used Darshanic material. In the Bhagavad Gita, spoken on a battlefield by one Kshatriya to another:

श्रीभगवान् उवाच

इमं विवस्वते योगं प्रोक्तवान् अहम् अव्ययम्।

विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत्॥1॥

एवं परम्परा प्राप्तम् इमं राजर्षयो विदुः।

स कालेनेह महता योगो नष्टः परन्तप॥४.२॥

"Bhagavan said, 'I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to Vivasvan, the Sun Devata, and He instructed it to Manu, the father of Mankind, who in turn taught it to King Ikshvaku. This supreme science was received through the disciplic succession and understood by Rajarshis (saintly kings) as such. But in course of time the succession was broken, and the science lost, O Scorcher of Enemies."

          - Bhagavad Gita 4.1-2   

In his commentary to 4.2, Adi Shankara uses the word Kshatriya Parampara explicitly: एवं क्षत्रिय-परम्परा-प्राप्तम् इमं राजर्षयः राजानश्च विदुः इमं योगम्। 

Shri Madhva specifies what particular Darshanic elements are being referred to: बुद्धेः परस्य माहात्म्यं कर्मभेदो ज्ञानमाहात्म्यं चोच्यतेऽस्मिन्नध्याये। पूर्वानुष्ठितश्चायं धर्म इत्याह इममिति।

Shri Jayatirtha further elaborates that the idea of Jnana-Karma-Samuchchaya, as distinct from Jnana-Karma-Samanvaya, is the Kshatriya take on process philosophy. Adi Shankara ji recommends samanvaya, which entails that one engages in Karmas (ritual processes as well as worldly activities) until one has certain realizations (Jnana), after which those can be abandoned as one graduates to higher echelon inner processes solely of Jnana, and so on. Upon attaining jivan-mukti, even Jnana, Veda, etc. are no longer of any use. Whereas the samuchchaya process philosophy of the Kshatriya Parampara holds that Karma and Jnana are helically intertwined throughout one's life. A Karma will continue to yield different fruits of Jnana as one matures, and the Jnana one accrues will make the simplest of Karmas blossom and reveal deeper secrets. Thus, they inhere in one another. Even after complete liberation, such a yogi will continue to perform Karmas and teach Jnana purely for the devotional pleasure of the Supreme Being (Bhakti is its own reward - तत्स्वरूपत्वात् in Narada Bhakti Sutras), and in order to set an example for the rest of society, as Prahlada Maharaja did.

Jayatirtha further states that this also means that Grihastha Ashrama must not be neglected, circumvented or abandoned, and that only through Karma is one's knowledge perfected. After all, the first 6 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita discuss in some detail how Karma and Sankhya find their consilience in Buddhi, intellect. All these subjects are directly sourced from Kshatriya Parampara.

The historical problem mentioned by Krishna is that, because of its nature, and because it sits at the commanding heights of political power, Kshatriya Parampara often tends to die out, and needs to be revived from time to time by eternally liberated souls.

Two Engines of Spirituality

In a shloka that could earn Him the ire of the proletariat, petit bourgeoisie and feminists all at once, Shri Krishna calls women, Vyshyas and Shudras 'tainted births':

मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य योऽपि स्युः पापयोनयः।

स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम्॥९.३२॥

"O Son of Prtha, though they be of tainted birth, women, Vyshya and Shudra, attain to the highest Path once they take shelter of Me."

- Bhagavad Gita 9.32

That leaves us with Brahmanas and Kshatriyas as untainted. Note, some interpret the verse as meaning that 'tainted births' are a separate class from women, Vyshya and Shudra - but in any case, Brahmana and Kshatriya Varna are being considered a cut above the rest.

This clubbing of Brahma and Kshatra as a higher echelon category of being is common. Another example, speaking of the Atman Itself:

यस्य ब्रह्म च क्षत्रं च उभे ओदनः भवतः। मृत्युर्यस्योपसेचनम् क इत्या वेद यत्र सः॥कठ १.२.२५॥

"He to Whom the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas are as rice, and death itself as daal, how thus shall one know of where He abides?"

- Katha Upanishad 1.2.25

The Pragmatist Sovereign and the Idealist Officer

But what is the inter-relationship between the Varnas? There are many views, and Indic tradition is such that any text that is devoted to a particular Varna or Ashrama will extol its subject Varna, Ashrama or Sampradaya above all, as is only appropriate. Nevertheless, some are considered the abstract essence or at least a very high-level view of matters. Bhishma Pitamaha's discourses on his bed of arrows is one such. After glorifying the characteristics and place of the other 3 Varnas, he has this to say about Kshatriya (Mahabharata, Shanti Parva, 63.24-29):

बाह्वायत्तं क्षत्रियैर् मानवानां लोकक्षेष्ठः धर्मम् आसेवमानैः।

सर्वे धर्माः सोपधर्मास् त्रयाणां राज्ञो धर्माद् इति वेदाच् छृणोमि॥२४॥

"The best dharma of this world of men, which depends upon the strength of one's arms, is served by Kshatriyas. All the dharmas of the other 3 Varnas are subordinate to (and protected under) Raja Dharma. Thus do I hear from Veda." (24)

Kshatra is built on the mentality of developing physical strength: the strength of one's limbs and cherishing of weapons. The worship of Strength is in order to develop the strength to Worship.

यथा राजन् हस्तिपदे पदानि संलीयन्ते सर्वसत्त्वोद्भवानि।

एवं धर्मान् राजधर्मेषु सर्वान् सर्वावस्थान् सम्प्रलीनान् निबोध॥२५॥

"Just as the footprints of all essential created beings are subsumed in the footprint of an elephant, understand, O King, that all dharmas and their various states of being are included within Raja Dharma." (25)

अल्पाश्रयान् अल्पफलान् वदन्ति धर्मान् अन्यान् धर्मविदो मनुष्याः।

महाश्रयं बहुकल्याणरूपं क्षात्रं धर्मं नेतरं प्राहुरार्याः॥२६॥

"Less inclusive (more specialized) and less fruitful are other dharmas, say men who study Dharma. The broadest and greatest service to the summum bonum is afforded by Kshaatra dharma and none other, say the Aryas." (26)

Other dharmas are susceptible to autism and can lose sight of the big picture, lose the living touch with all sections of society, and may not experience the relevance of all occupational lifestyles to spiritual health and balance.

सर्वे धर्मा राजधर्मप्रधानाः सर्वे वर्णाः पाल्यमाना भवन्ति।

सर्वस् त्यागो राजधर्मेषु राजंस्त्यागं धर्मं चाहुरग्र्यं पुराणम्॥२७॥

"Raja dharma is primary to all other dharmas. All Varnas are protected and nourished by it. O King, every kind of sacrifice and relinquishment is included in the duties of a Kshatriya. And sacrifice is considered the most archaic and best of Dharma." (27)

मज्जेत् त्रयी दण्डनीतौ हतायां सर्वे धर्माः प्रक्षयेयुर्विबुद्धाः।

सर्वे धर्माश्चाश्रमाणां हताः स्युः क्षात्रे त्यक्ते राजधर्मे पुराणे॥२८॥

"If the Policy of Punishment dies out, then the Vedas shall sink (to Patala) and all dharmas shall wither and become comatose. The dharmas of all Ashramas shall also die out if the archaic Kshatra is abandoned or lost control of." (28)

Once a society loses its Kshatriyahood and sovereignty, all other Varnas merely hark to their natural strengths and run on auto-pilot, as it were, climbing whatever ladders are placed before them by their new colonial masters. The various Jatis become ladder-climbers, but none of them become nations that actually build ladders and landings for others to climb. Thus, they keep modifying and 'adapting' their dharma to circumstances wrought by Adharmics, rationalizing every such adjustment by specious logic, until their dharma dies out completely over the generations, while they individually scale the heights of 'success' as defined by the parameters of their colonized environment. Alternatively, a group may choose to remain in stubborn defiance of the changes in environment and turn inward, segregating itself to remain "pure", and as a result will simply fail to exercise any influence and gradually sink to the bottom. As Guru Gobind Singh said: राज बिना नहीं धरम चलै हैं। धरम बिना सब डलै मलै हैं॥ "Without sovereignty Dharma does not work. Without Dharma, everything is out of place."

The sovereign must be a pragmatist, and the officers of the state must be idealists. If the sovereign tries to act like an idealist and the officers of state try to play the role of pragmatist, it is an inversion of Dharma. The apparent 'faults' of Rama are only from an idealist perspective, not a pragmatist. Kshatra social hierarchy is based on pragmatic and politic requirement and qualification, with a will to exercise autonomous power and cultivate strength. Whereas an intellectual Brahminical hierarchy is based on highlighting ritual principle and preserving a theoretical model of idealized reality. For the Kshatriya mind, only scripture and science that rests on the edge of the sword of optimizing sovereignty in Present Time is relevant, all else being of only academic interest.

Denzil Ibbetson's book 'Panjab Castes' dwells on the devolution of society there once Kshatriya castes were defeated or destroyed - their role as the fount of social honour (bestowing station and rank to individuals and groups) fell upon the Brahmins, and the implementation of that principle changed, resulting in a gradual transformation of Hindu society there. Later, under the Sikh Gurus, the Kshatriya principle was restored, and society there once again underwent a transformation. 

सर्वे त्यागा राजधर्मेषु दृष्टाः सर्वा दीक्षा राजधर्मेषु चोक्ताः।

सर्वा विद्या राजधर्मेषु युक्ताः सर्वे लोका राजधर्मे प्रविष्टाः॥२९॥

"In Raja Dharmas, all sacrifices can be seen. In Raja Dharmas, all initiations are uttered. In Raja Dharmas, there is a consilience of all systems of knowledge and art. In Raja Dharma are all worlds joined." (29)

For someone or a group of individuals to be able to cultivate the qualification and exercise the responsibilities of Kshatriya dharma, they would need to make every type of sacrifice, cultivate every type of strength and ability, experience every initiation and grow into maturity, and with the eye of individuation be able to perceive the interconnectedness of various facets of life and society. 

Koel and Crow

Kshatriya Darshanic material can appear deceptively similar to what is today considered Brahminical sampradaya - the japa, kirtan, vratas, nitya-karmas, meditation. E.g., Sikhi is sought to be held as from the same mould as other Bhakti Movement sampradayas, with merely regional/caste differences. But is it? Did any other sampradaya create a school that anyone with qualifications can join and transform himself? An infrastructure of charities and places of worship that serve whichever wider community they are part of, a martial Khalsa culture that fought from Assam to the Deccan, a Nirmala scholarly Vedantic limb that today is a recognized center at Kashi, created mainly from lower caste aspirants at that time? No, there is a Varnic difference at play here.

Kshatriya organizational attitudes can also appear deceptively similar to Angry Schismatic Monotheisms of the West Asian variety - individuation from the stalk of society, rebellious sovereignty, disregard for certain idealist 'traditions', identity based on Maryada, and so on. E.g., Sikhi is accused of imitating 'Abrahamism' in several respects. But is it? No, there is a fundamental and vast Dharmic difference here.

So in both cases, this is a false superimposition. काक-पिक-न्यायः - the 'logic of the crow and the koel' - both appear almost identical, but sing very different tunes. Instead of premature judgment based on superficial reading or mere social acquaintance, better to immerse and experience the moral and transformative undercurrents of a sampradaya, its adhishthata Devata. Hineinfühlung.

Gun and Gomukh

Mao said that power flows from the barrel of a gun, but sustainable power flows when it is mated with the rosary, in that cloth bag (gomukh or gomukhi) this soldier is carrying. 

Kshatram and Balam are incumbent not just upon the actual sovereign, but for the vast majority of individuals who consider themselves citizens of a free nation. It must form a vital component of invdividual sadhana, no matter what Varna they belong to. Service to Rashtra is one of the limbs of sadhana, and each person is a brick in building Rashtra. In future posts, let's take a brief look at this, in theory and historically. 

Until then, don't be ghey.

Sep 19, 2019

Pilgrim, not Tourist

In memory of a trip to Iceland a couple of winters ago, for the Ásatrú rather than the Aurora, where I missed meeting the devotees, but chanced upon the Lights:

I had wanted to attend a service of the Ásatrú pagans at a temple there. On the appointed day, having spent most of the day in the south-east, I had to drive back cross-country to Reykjavik in the evening. I left my friends at a hotel and started the long drive westward.

On the way, I stopped to get gasoline. Narrow, unlit, icy highways, one lane on each side with no divider. It was Ekadashi that fortnight, and I was tired. A quick 20 minute nap was a good idea for a weary, fasting traveler. So I parked at the gas station and pulled back my seat.

Two hours later, I woke up. Once again, everyone who knows me was right - I can never seem to wake up on time. I would have cursed out loud, but what's the point of fasting from food while entertaining negative thoughts? So I decided to drive onward. A narcoleptic's only solace is an awake solitude, and my mind was fresh.

About 30 minutes on the high road, even in the dark, from the corner of my eye, I spotted a person off to the side, setting up a tripod for his camera. Moments later it struck me that I had read how the Lights can be photographed using such equipment. I peered out and saw a clear, star-studded sky. I pulled off to the side the next opportunity, stepped out and stood scanning the sky. As my eyes adjusted and searched. I saw them, dancing gently. I stood gazing at the subtle cosmic display for about 45 minutes, until it felt too cold. Then got back in and drove on. In about 5 minutes of driving, the skies were cloudy again. The following day, when some French and Polish fellow-travelers caught up with me in Reykjavik, they couldn't believe it. In their 10 days there, they didn't get a glimpse.

Ever since, I've noticed Ekadashis tend to close with a surprise. To the hot springs, volcanic geysers and dancing night lights of the far north:
स तु देशो विसूर्योऽपि तस्य भासा प्रकाशते ।सूर्यलक्ष्म्याऽभिविज्ञेयस्तपतेव विवस्वता ॥४.४३.५७॥
"That region has light and heat as if from a sun, even though there isn't one."
Kishkinda Kānḍa, 4.43.57
And offerings from India to the Poetic Edda:

"Helvegen" इति गीतस्य भाषान्तरणं कर्तुं मम प्रयासोऽयम् -

Norwegian—————————————————--English translation

Hvem skal synge meg—————————————Who shall sing me
i daudsvevna slynge meg———————————-into the death-sleep sling me
når eg på Helvegen går————————————When I walk on the Path of Death
og dei spora eg trår er kalda, så kalda—————--and the tracks I tread are cold, so cold

का माम् गास्यति रे
मृत्यु-स्वप्ने पाशयन्ती रे ।
भूर्गतौ चरामि यदा
तन्वर्तनिः सदा शीना, अतिशीना॥

Eg songane søkte——————————————-I sought the songs
Eg songane sende——————————————I sent the songs
då den djupaste brunni————————————when the deepest well
gav meg dråper så ramme——————————--gave me the drops so touched
av Valfaders pant——————————————-of Death-fathers wager

अहं गाथां प्रार्थये
ऽहं गाथां समार्पये ।
गभीरतमात् यदा कूपात्
बिन्दून् अदात् स्पृष्ट्वा
भूपितुः पणः॥

Alt veit eg, Odin———————————————--I know it all, Odin
var du gjømde ditt auge————————————where you hid your eye

सर्वं वेद्मि हे रुद्र

क्व गूहसे स्वनेत्रम् ।

Årle ell i dagars hell—————————————-early in the days end
enn veit ravnen om eg fell——————————--still the raven knows if I fall

पूर्वं दिनानां स वेत्ति

द्रोणो नश्याम्युत नेति ।

Når du ved Helgrindi står ———————————When you stand by the Gate of Death
og når du laus deg må riva———————————-And you have to tear free
skal eg fylgje deg———————————————--I shall follow you
over Gjallarbrua med min song—————————--across the Resounding Bridge with my song

भूतोरणे स्थितो यदा
मोचयितव्यश् छित्त्वा ।
तदानुगमिष्यामि त्वाम्
नादसेतोः पारम् सगीतम्  ॥

Du blir løyst frå banda som bind deg!———————--You will be free from the bonds that bind you!
Du er løyst frå banda som batt deg!————————--You are free from the bonds that bound that you!

मोक्ष्यसे बन्धनाद् येनासि बद्धः।
मुक्तोऽसि बन्धनाद् येनासी र्बद्धः।

Quote from Håvamål -- The High One's Speech, Poetic Edda

Døyr fe, døyr frender——————————————-Cattle die, kinsmen die
Døyr sjølv det sama——————————————--You yourself will also die
men ordet om deg aldreg døyr——————————but the word about you will never die
vinn du et gjetord gjevt—————————————--if you win a good reputation

म्रियन्ते गावो म्रियन्ते गोत्रिणः
मरिष्यसे स्वयमपि त्वम्।
तवोद्दिश्य न मरिष्यते श्लोकं
यदि विन्दसे सुकीर्तिं परम्॥

Døyr fe, døyr frender ——————————————--Cattle die, kinsmen die
Døyr sjølv det sama———————————————-You yourself will also die
Eg veit et som aldreg døyr————————————I know one that never dies
dom om daudan kvar——————————————-the reputation of those who died

म्रियन्ते गावो म्रियन्ते गोत्रिणः
मरिष्यसे स्वयमपि त्वम्।
एकं तु जानाम्यहम् अमृतम्
मृत्यूत्तरं सुयशः परम्॥
म्रियन्ते गावो म्रियन्ते गोत्रिणः
मरिष्यसे स्वयमपि त्वम्।
अम्रियमाणं जानाम्येकम्
जीवितचराणां यशःकायम्॥