Will Vedanta University be the modern renaissance for a region of India, which has sustained setbacks in developments from our visionless political representatives?
November 12, 2010
Odisha has two grand and many unparalleled creations of marvel, all in the vicinity of the state capital Bhubaneswar. This is not the first time I have been seeing these marvels of grandeur, some of Odisha’s most powerful Kings established in this eastern state of modern day India, way back in the 11th century. They are temples at best and temples at worst but they remind us all of the grand design and the grandeur that existed in the erstwhile Odishan dynasties. It’s a historical artifact as far as the veracity of calling it Odishan, Utkal or Kalinga goes but I will much rather call it by its modern day name.
The structures that are standing are a witness to what actually might have existed a millennium ago, way back in the 11th century when most of India was reeling from invasions and influx of alien civilization, the Turks, the Mughal, the Islam and so on. One of these grand creations is the so-called Black Pagoda and the other one is the Jagannatha Puri as called by our own Indian people who are from the other parts of the country. But in the region where these have been heralded as our heritage and pride the first one is the Sun temple, Konarka, a world heritage site of which India has more than 20 and the other one is called the Puri Mandira or the Bada Deula meaning the Grand Abode of the Lord Almighty.
He may not be heralded as the Lord Almighty of the Universe in all traditions and religions but this is how the people of this region grow up believing. They believe that the deity in this temple is one who transgresses the barriers of race, caste, region, affiliation and so on and is an Almighty Lord Supreme to everyone’s faith who believes. The temples are as grand in size as the Victoria Memorial of Calcutta, which was a favorite tour I made when I was in high school. The shear grandeur and the large area, which these encompass, are quite comparable. May be you compare with the capitol building of any state in the United States or the Bidhan Soudhas of the Indian Nation. But beyond that there is no logic in my argument to compare.
Now these have been in place for a millennium albeit quite a lot of these structures are damaged because of several reasons. One of the prominent being the effect of the seawater on the stone of which the temples are made. These temples are situated about 30 kilometers apart on the seacoast. The other reasons could be the age through which they have sustained all sorts of geological changes and Tsunamis and the likes. Actually I wonder how most of the so called historians never thought that Tsunami and Cyclones could be a frequent occurrence in these region, it’s a 1000 yrs we are talking. But then most of the historians of the last century and so forth had been busy making a British and Islamic angle to everything.
I think these are rather the kind of petty scholars that very seriously believed that history is some kind of tunnel into seeing the glory of past. If there is anything I would say and swear it on with my little scholarly attitude it is anthropology. You observe people that come and live from very different places and they reflect the history that mankind has endured. Why take a fictitious clue and invent angles that become a spine of philosophical thinking for centuries to come. Why not base on something as simple as observing the true condition and varieties of people.
So this is possibly the tenth visit I made to these grand creations and amazed myself more with their shear vision. The Konarka of which I am posting a picture here is replete with sexual imagery very popular with Indian temple architecture; the Indian Kings were a humorous type certainly, as well as replete with the daily activities of those societies. Eg how a person who is returning home on his horse after the day’s profession is looking tired and his head bent downwards. This could as well be that the person is returning from a war and lucky that the horse is carrying him back. But that latter example is also found and the tour guides are usually correct, I believe, about the variety of examples afloat on the wall.
So you would find Lesbian Lovers, the practice of Oral conjugation and the several conjugation mudras defined in the famed love book the Kama Sutra. I don’t have a copy and I never turned several pages of this book. I was never interested; you would think I am a monk but the Indian academics training are incomplete without something called the Sreemad Bhagbat Purana. When I describe our academic or literary traditions I would fail in giving you a truthful account if I don’t tell you that this is one of the things that’s very popular with our students and I think this is really something that should have been banned, but our moral degradation knew no bounds and our conscience had no clear cut tradition. We were often taught by vandals and drug addicts and the political classes are always finding a clue how to rule over the conscience of a student mass. But it may also be true that despite of the nationalistic drum beatings we never had a scholarly system or tradition and our great political masters and statemen were conferred great honor as Pandit and scholars. It’s a shoddy affair anyway and I would cut a small turn here.
So the Grand Abode, Puri temple is grander, at least how its standing now. Its crowded like a busy Chicago downtown. But to our credit not completely clean. And most painful to my eyes that there are all sorts of handicaps and beggars that are there to receive the mercy of Lord Almighty. If the administration doesn’t think that this is a great international tourist destination its because the so called non Hindoos are not allowed inside this temple. SO now that I have described it as an Universal Gods abode I may think that the Hindoos are not educated enough to see the fact that it’s a regressionsist psyche. But then how much can you criticize them, being one of them, not attract their hidden ire for being a blinded person that all religions are designed to be like that. To keep the indignant feeling of my progressive psyche as opposed to their regressionist psyche I call myself an atheist. And I am one. I just thought Lord is benevolent and He must be like one before He will have any meaning to the larger cross section of humanity.
Its in the backdrop of this physical sight I took my visit to the grand temple last week. I entered the temple with family and lost them in the crowd. Yes its really crowded usually. Inside of the temple is quite clean and a little more disciplined. The only unkind folks you have in sight are the ones that are carrying huge pots of Lords Byanjana or the traditional food that the devotees are going to devour. Well these folks are carrying huge pots in the crowd and if you come in front of them they are going to shout like you are some kind of abrasive imbecile trying to block their natural path, which isn’t natural at all because it’s a crowd. So it’s all a show up. This is how it’s built up too, to harass the Hindoos, so the Hindoo take a note of the Lord Almighty.
How much of it the Kings really had a hand in it when they were alive. Most of these Kings are the kind and generous souls of today and become scholars, scientists, Land Lords or even Nobel Lauretes. In the past they had a connection with Royality or Nobility as its said. And since the Kings are not there to take a note its all bizarre. The other hilarious tradition is the one where the staff of the temple hits your head with some kind of wooden stick and you have to encash his holy gesture. If you don’t !! Well I didn’t as I left my wallet back home, so I didn’t care and kept moving. It was mad rush but I had a good view of the Lord and His famed companions, the siblings.
In this mad rush and the lack of provision I spent a couple hours and it was serene and grand. The moment I got out it was back to unyielding crowd, cacophony of a bizarre group of mythical folk musical idiots. I tolerated this and got back home after a great evening in the seashore from where I purchased two conch shells of which I will take a picture and show you how beautiful they are. But I will put these pictures in another article where they belong. Also I wanted to tell you if you come from the USA, Europe or Japan or any place like Mumbai or Bangalore that you have a Café Coffee Day, right by the temple, so you can enjoy your time inside a comfortable modern setting while enjoying the world class food and drink. I just created a scene with my mother and brother in law telling them I am not going into the rusty Indian restaurant by the side; it was so crowded and rusty. They yielded and I went to the café with the kids. It was great fun actually. But now I am getting old and funkier, still so crazy for all the fun, so you may be feeling helpless as well.
Now this grandeur reminds me one thing. The prosperity of this region is quite connected to one much talked about vision, the Vedanta University. I have already written two articles on this and I thought I must go one article every year; the folks at the helm of affairs are going almost nothing at the rate of 4 years. I am also not quite happy given the political angle to this vision. OK our sullied democracy is a good back up to our inefficiency and lack of sensitivity to our own sad conditions. But who makes the political representatives so swollen with arrogance that they may come up thinking like they are our Bhagya Bidhataas, the Lord of our Destiny. Neither is the general intelligentsia a fettered slave of the so-called ruling party of the region that despite of their inefficiency and rampant mismanagement the intelligentsia should buy their stories of the meddling of the government at the New Delhi nor are we any interested to understand how the unwarranted bureaucracy and ministers are playing foul with a legitimate and legally granted scheme.
When the environmental clearances of the Vedanta University project were revoked, the facts should have been put forth in a matter of a week. If the ministry of Environmental Affairs at New Delhi such an efficient and “we mean business” kind then they should have been ready with everything. Weren’t they the ones that actually gave the formal go ahead to the Vedanta University Project? The permission and the so-called clearance were given to the project and this was valid for two months before the ministry or more accurately the minister Mr Jairam Ramesh invalidated the clearance. Mr minister, why you want to play your silly games with the fates of an already underdeveloped region. You may have an issue to take up with your political opponents. But our rights, dreams and fortune is not your playmate that you can play to your whim. Please answer, if you come across this article. You are still answerable in the eventuality of not coming across this. But Indian democracy hasn’t truly become a transparent democracy that the likes of me can ask you questions directly on twitter.
Lets say this venture is given a go ahead, because at this level, when there is hardly any real hindrance to the University, irrespective how its been delayed by a year or at best two, how is it really going to change the situation in the region. OK let me be a little pragmatic while at the same time charge the project with some of my own wishes. From the beginning let me make it very clear that this project might not find the most effective people, to take the project to its visioned shape, despite of the fact that Odisha offers the least amount of political vendetta and regional propagandist obstructions. I am just trying to parameterize, intuitively, by setting all political vendetta and its affiliated activism such as Mr Khanduri C. Swains fake land disputes and Mr Kuji N. Beheras unwarranted jumping and bumping. Once that’s zero or even negative, which is to say, these undergrads or college drop outs understand the benefit of the University’s grand proportion they may even be supportive, although that might be categorized, as Ultra Devotion is a Thief’s Syndrome, which does not apply to me, as I am not a devotee, we still have a situation.
The situation is this. The shear effectiveness and capability of the project implementing organization. What does really, their vision mean when it comes to carving out an unique academic citadel in a region which has its tremendous resources but lack of truly enlightened visionaries and leaders with the right educational background to spearhead this project. We don’t want to assign responsibilities to the likes of Dr Balakrishna Srivastav and Dr Mrs Durbala Sribastav because they happen to have some kind of shining career. Everyone in present times has a shining career. We are living in a time when an utter fool is called a scientist because he happens to be doing scientific research.
Where is the vision, the leadership, the dynamism, the background and the ability to handle complex vision like a grand start up of this kind. OK, one good answer may be to envision a governing structure which acts on the inputs of a learned body of academics of international fame. Lets say we employ for the post of the provost or dean not just a guy called Sam Pitroda, but a truly revered and honorable scholar who may be a Dutch scientist holding a post in Duke University or a Russian genius holding a post in Germany or a great Indian scientist hired in an university in Italy.
Why go by the political drum beating and invent and reinvent all angles till we run out of the two pis and continue revolving till we realize we are wasting our time in useless hopes. Its in this back drop that I think the project implementation team has lost a pretty many good chances of producing real progress for the project over the last 4 years. Even though this is a huge project they could really have gone with some ambitions. What they rather did was to go with a lot of fan faring and lobbying. They produced video clips to attract the benevolence of the Odiya farmers but not the intelligentsia. If they were to purchase Chroniclers of higher education and a journal or two like Nature they were going to come out completely clean at the same time making huge national and international support. What they did, and its doing rounds in every circle in Odisha, call it rumor or a lie, is that they funded the so called ruling party’s political interests. That is they bribed.
If they are to bribe because they have to be successful at any cost, then nobody in this world is going to believe a single thing they are going to tell us and Manmohan Dash can not come to their rescue. More than that why would Manmohan Dash care about any political under hand transactions. How does it benefit his personal dreams of seeing the educational and scientific growth of a region like this? Truth has been keeping quiet for too long, and its time we know a little truth but not only what truth occurs to us, but also, the ones that we do not want to discuss. Because only such can bring more light to the actual conditions of our situation. I think 4000 acres of land at Puri and another 2000 acres at another place, which is quite nearby, say Bhubaneswar itself or even its immediate vicinities with lots of lands available, say near Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) site, is a pretty good remedy to the problems of land debate in Puri.
The proposed international airport in Bhubaneswar, which again has become a vexed issue can come up in an area which is within 50, 60 kms of Bhubaneswar. This is something I have proposed many times. Why continually invent regional idiocies. Why not take the international standards as a good measure and a good practice. Many of the international airports are actually located 50, 60 kms apart from the main city. The present chief minister or his sycophants may be interested to have the airport named after his legendary father, but as a regular citizen I don’t give a damn. Why not have the airport completely out of the bounds of the Bhubaneswar city and name it Greater Bhubaneswar International Airport. Then the Vedanta University, IIT, NISER and the airport can be connected via an expressway like Mumbai Pune expressway. I know its sensing up all the nay sayers to the University as well as the great class of political bandits. But I am just giving you a vision. I may not live enough of this myself, but that is exactly why I am a scientist and this is exactly how I want the younger generation of scientists to behave like, ideal and self less for the benefit of a greater mass and a greater community.
There is a good deal of vision already articulated in the Vedanta University website and they will expand when the University comes into concrete shape. But I believe the present tussle is not the only obstruction the University is going to face over the years. Its just a start up experience and its actually good its this way. But judging by my personal experiences and enterprise I find the project implementation to be quite inefficient. So when it comes to shape it is bound to face constant angles of doubts, requirements, issues, expectations, socio cultural dynamism and operational complexities. It can to much extent solve these by directly harnessing presently available solutions in the international scenario, but lets also remember the composition of the Indian academic structure. Also going by the vision of the University its made to be a global perspective and an international enterprise, specifically saying it has to create and sustain a huge international community in the bounds of the cities it envisions. Its possible and this is how it should proceed. What remains to be seen is how it persists.
The other angle is the first step in the University project implementation. The University has envisioned and is going to construct a super specialty research hospital. This is a pretty visionary step. As I mentioned there is a large queue of handicapped and medically ill people in the vicinity of Puri Temple. They come seeking the relief and mercy from Lord Almighty. When the hospital comes up I hope it caters to the need of such a cross section of medically depraved people. The health facility can also base a great deal of research on the regional and national needs. While I am not going to direct anyone here, at least for the moment, it is worthwhile to mention that not just health, Odisha and India itself needs invention and customization to its special needs in every sphere of its existential requirements. We need to recognize our needs and create a research base in our academic settings, which takes care of such needs, and invent the appropriately scientific and modern solutions. We have to give up on the regressionist attitude of calling every traditional methods and know-how a brilliant scientific contribution of our great fore fathers. If Vedanta University acts as an academic and scientific powerhouse then that’s the only reason why we must welcome this venture and we must see that our vision less political representatives are not a hindrance in such because this is what we had been waiting for. This is what will elevate our future to the best of the world.