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Eminent Scholar Inspires Audience Through a Journey From India to Greece
June 6, 2013
HOUSTON: On June 6, Houston played host to eminent scholar Dr. Bharat Gupt, who spoke on the knowledge transfers between ancient India and ancient Greece. The talk was hosted by the local history enthusiasts group, IHAR – Indian History Awareness and Research, an initiative of Arsha Vidya Satsanga.
Dr. Bharat Gupt, an Associate Professor (Retired) in English at the College of Vocational Studies of the University of Delhi, is an Indian classicist, theater theorist, sitar and surbahar player, musicologist, cultural analyst, and newspaper columnist. Trained both in modern European and traditional Indian educational systems, Dr. Gupt worked in classical studies, theatre, music, culture and media studies. Dr. Bharat Gupt was Senior Fellow of the Onassis Foundation in Greece on revival of ancient Greek theater. His first book, “Dramatic Concepts – Greek and Indian”, was directly inspired by his Greek travels and studies, and offers a fresh approach in comparing ancient Greek and Indian dramatic theories. He has also translated several chapters of the Natyashastra.
Dr. Bharat Gupt is one of the founding members of the International Forum for India’s Heritage, a network of scientists and thinkers who have come together to promote India’s cultural heritage. He has also participated in the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, the apex body of Hindu Acharyas, and the Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit, both spearheaded by H. H. Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Speaking at the Mayuri restaurant before an audience shy of a hundred, Dr. Gupt talked about the prevalence of symbolism or gestures, music and dance in Greek theater that is so close to the Indian theater model, and how modern Western theater that claims heritage from the Greek theater has omitted symbolism.
Dr. Bharat Gupt indicated that of the five types within Indian Astrology (Jyotisha), one was inspired from Greek Astrology. Indian systems of medicine or Ayurveda were so well developed that Greek armies took Indian doctors along with them.
Dr. Gupt gave examples such as the use of the word “Atmos” in Classical Greece to refer to an individual, like Atma in Sanskrit for the self. The Bull is used as a symbol of strength in Ancient Greece, while bulls are prevalent in the Indus Valley seals. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna often refers to Arjuna as the “Bull” of India.
Dr. Gupt objected to western scholars’ attempts to date the origin of Vedas with reference to its availability in “text” form only. The existence of the Vedas in vocal form and memory needs to be accepted and acknowledged. Another subtle observation was that Indians are used to calling Vedas as their “scripture”. The word scripture in the Abrahamic context specifically means a revelation by a prophet at a specific time. Since the Vedas are apourusheya (not authored by a human being) and therefore are timeless, he suggested using alternate Sanskrit words such as shruti.
Speaking critically of the Aryan Invasion Theory, Dr. Gupt called to attention the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and showed photographs of seals showing a proto-Shiva in yogic poses. Dr. Gupt also suggested that Indian temples from 300BCE were probably inspired by Greek temples.
Dr. Gupt’s talk was succeeded by an animated question and answer session. Speaking after the talk, community leader Prabha Bala said, “I enjoyed Dr. Gupt’s non judgmental and balanced presentation of ancient and classical Greece, juxtaposing similarities seen in a parallel Indian context. He indicated these in political, social, cultural, art, architecture and worship aspects, such as the symbolism of the goddess, snake, bull, exalted positions of priests and so on, leaving it up to those in the audience to draw their own inference. His skill in being able to cover a broad range of topics in so engagingly in a short duration was impressive”.
Haraprasad Sastry said, “It is understandable that Dr. Gupt did not answer the question of origin of concepts of Atma and its continuity – more research needs to be done”.
Some stated that they expected a few more evidence pointing towards India as a source of inspiration.
The meeting was called to attention by IHAR Director Dr. Rajkumar Vedam. Dr. Sarath Menon summarized the talk, Dr. Bharat Srinivasan honored the guest, and the vote of thanks was delivered by Dr. Jayakumar Srinivasan.
Arsha Vidya Satsanga would like to invite those interested in joining this new and intense initiative. For further information, please call 949-350-3495.