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How “lives mattered” for our ancestors

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Since 2013, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” has taken shape within the United States and then spread all throughout the world. With the U.S. election in 2016, presidency of Donald Trump, and the multiple police shooting and police brutality incidents, this movement has reached a greater traction.

This movement has collated other movements as well, such as “Women Lives Matter”, “Black Lawyers Matter”, and the opposing groups that raised the slogans such as “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.”

But how is this related to India, you might ask. This new slogans, new movements and the social and civil justice, going on in the United States. Yes, it has spread throughout Europe and yes, there were such slogans in Shaheen Bagh as well. But why bring it up here?

Because, our ancestors understood this, and dealt with it. While the modern India is obsessed with facial whitening creams, our ancestors saw beauty differently. They saw beauty in the mind, and not the skin. So, to them, all those who were in the mind for the benefit of the world, would be considered beautiful. All those mattered. 

Take for instance our beloved Krishna. According to the Monier Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary, Krishna means “black, dark, dark blue, the all attractive.” Yes, our ancestors understood that being black, dark could also make the person attractive, such that he became our God. Our ancestors looked at the message that he lightened us with through the Sreemadbhagabad Geeta, and not if he was dark or light.

This is not only for Krishna but for Krishnaa as well. Krishnaa, or whom we mostly know as Draupadi, is described as a beautiful woman and highly regarded throughout the Kuru-Panchala region. She was credited for her beauty within the mind, making her Yagnaseni, and not for the color of her skin. We have similar situation with Gauri, wife of Mahadev who is credited by her fair skin. Gauri, which means “white, shinning and brilliant” goes complete opposite of Krishna, and at the same time both are revered as Gods. And let us not forget Maa Kali, also called Shyama, and Kalika, as she is described as black, and being our mother.

The examples can go on and on with Krishna Dwaipayana Vyas, Dhumravarna as Lord Ganesh, and the more recent Gauranga, also known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. To our ancestors, Shiva as “karpur gauram” or white as camphor, Hanuman as Haemshalbdeham or having a body like golden mountains, and Vishnu as “meghavarnam” or the color of clouds. To our ancestors, the color of the skin never mattered. It is to us that the differences started coming in.

This is not only for the color of skin but also I’d add gender issues as well. Our ancestors looked at women equal to men, and women were given higher grounds than many other ancient cultures. Patanjali and Katyayana wrote that women were educated and enjoyed equal status with the men. They married at a later age, and were able to choose their husband (as it can be seen from the swayamvar ceremonies). They were considered scholars from the Rig Vedic period as Gargi Vachaknavi and Maitreyi are mentioned competing equally with men. 

To add the icing on the cake, is not limited only to women. Iravan, son of Ulupi and Arjun from Mahabharat was a transgender. According to scholars, he was in the Mahabharat since the early Vedic period, or 2000 – 1500 BCE. Bahuchara Mata, Ardhnarishwar and many more are considered examples of our diversity. From then to now, to include someone who is transgender in a religious scripture was not considered blasphemy but shows the ever accepting nature of Hinduism and the Dharmic philosophy.

These examples all point out the greatness of Hindu philosophy. Our ancestors understood differences in community to be normal, and yet we were told to find unity. We were told to march forward in a common goal and work together in harmony. To our ancestors, differences were part of the nature itself and as the world itself. Yet, as foreigners started arriving, they started to impose the idea that we needed to promote based on race, culture and now “lives mattered.” 

But O Westerners, look upon the mirror yourself. Do not teach others what you are yourself.

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