Saint Ved Vyas relating the Bhagwatam to Shukdeo (3100 B.C.)

The Encyclopedia of Authentic Hinduism by H.D. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati (the most important site on Hinduism, the Upanishads, modern Physics, Bhartiya, Sanatan Dharm and more)

(25) The literature.

Brief descriptions of the notable masterpieces of the literature of England, and the story of Dionysian worship by the Greeks and the Romans.

1. Dionysus (also called Bacchus).

 He was a god of the Greeks and Romans. Dionysus was god of fertility and god of wine, merriment and wild behavior in both, Greek and Roman mythologies. He was a famous god. Two main celebrations called Dionysia were held in March and December every year in Athens. His worship was very common in those days. In Rome at some secluded area or on the mountain slopes his celebrations were held. The followers were more women and less men. While going to worship, a group of people, men and women, in a bewildered state of frenzied ecstasy used to kill an animal on the way. Tearing the animal apart, eating its raw flesh, drinking its blood, and frantically rejoicing and dancing they moved ahead. They believed that the animal they ate was the form of Dionysus because Dionysus himself was represented as a bull. In this way while consuming the animal they believed that they were taking Dionysus in their veins, and so, assuming to be possessed by Dionysus, they danced and enjoyed the vulgarity of their drunken behavior. Sometimes, in a state of drunken frenzy a woman also enjoyed tearing apart her own baby as a sport.

Euripides: He was the first person to create a drama on Dionysus or Bacchus. Not much is known about Euripides, but he was unhappy in his life although he was married twice. He wrote a number of plays of which “Bacchants” (406 BC) was his masterpiece. He died tragically. While walking in the woods, a set of hunting dogs, darting ahead of some king who was going for hunting, charged upon Euripides and tore him apart. Some writers say that he was torn apart by the frenzied women worshippers of Dionysus. Either way, he had a terrible tragic death.

The play: (It is called Bakchai in Greek, Bacchae in Latin and Bacchants in English.) In the play, Dionysus comes to the city of Thabes which is ruled by a pious man named Pentheus. Dionysus comes in disguise as a charismatic young man accompanied by a number of women called the ‘maenads.’ People of Thabes do not accept him as a god. King Pentheus was also suspicious about Dionysus and his followers. So he arrests them and throws them in jail. But Dionysus escapes and makes the king insane. In bewilderment, the king walks towards the hills. The mother of Pentheus (Agave) along with the maenads goes to the hills to worship Dionysus and on the way she kills Pentheus. The play is shown in great detail and has a tragic ending with scenes of vulgarity throughout.

A scene of the play of Dionysus as described by William Arrowsmith (b. 1924) in his English translation “The Bacchae” is as follows:

“No, no, Mother! I am Pentheus, your own son, the child you bore to Echion! Pity me, spare me…But she was foaming at the mouth, and her crazed eyes (were) rolling and frenzy. She was mad, stark mad, possessed by Bacchus. Ignoring his cries of pity, she seized his left arm at the wrist; then, planting her foot upon his chest, she pulled, wrenching away the arm at the shoulder…He was screaming with what little breath was left. They (were) shrieking in triumph. One tore off an arm, another a foot, still warm in its shoe. His ribs were clawed clean of flesh and every hand was smeared with blood as they played ball with scraps of Pentheus’ body.”

“His mother, picking up his head, impaled it on her wand… But all the victory she carries home is her own grief.” (lines 1120 to 1145)

Dionysiaca: It was written by Nonnus. Nonnus was in the 5th century AD. He was the most notable Greek poet of his time. He was converted to Christianity. He wrote Dionysiaca which is a very long and elaborate description of Dionysus (Bacchus) in a poetry form. He was a writer of imagination. Including all the stories of Greek mythology about Dionysus he added a lot of fancies of his own mind and represented Dionysus as a world conqueror. Detailing the birth, growth, triumph, adventures and the military expeditions of Dionysus, he wrote the longest account of his expedition against the Indians. It was all his own addition; there were no such things in the writings of Euripides. He also elaborated the frenzied behavior of the followers of Dionysus who killed an animal, and, eating its raw flesh and drinking its blood, they believed that by that act they were absorbing the powers of Bacchus in themselves. The story of Dionysiaca also contains the detailed behavior of love, hate and jealousy of the Greek gods.

Such writings, that were the scholarly masterpieces of those days, in fact, reveal the true image of the society of that time.

2. Beowulf.

It is considered to be an excellent epic of western literature, which was composed sometime in the 8th century AD by an unknown poet. It is written in the Mercian dialect of Old English from West Midland, Britain. It was most likely sung by minstrels for many years before it was written down. Beowulf reflects the long held Teutonic (pagan) beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon people mixed with the Christian beliefs of that time. The language of Beowulf very much resembles the modern German of today.

The story: Beowulf is a young landlord in the kingdom of Hygelac. He is invited by the neighboring king to save his kingdom from a dreaded monster that was terrorizing the kingdom for twelve years. Beowulf comes, fights with the monster and kills him. The whole town celebrates the victory of Beowulf. That very night the mother of the monster avenges the death of her son by her fierce attacks but she is also overcome and finished by Beowulf. He returns back to his home. After sometime King Hygelac dies and leaves his throne to Beowulf. Beowulf once again had to fight a fire-breathing dragon. He encounters the dragon, and a fear of death enters the back of his head. He still fights and terminates the dragon. But the dragon’s poisonous bite makes him die a painful death. The epic ends with the detailed description of his funeral.

3. Hamlet.

Written by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Most of the Shakespearean dramas have a tragic ending that expose the total disappointment of life.

Hamlet is prince of Denmark. Resenting his father’s death he further resents his mother’s marriage to his uncle Claudius who becomes the next king. One night the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears and tells him that he was murdered by Claudius, and demands Hamlet to take revenge. By intellectual trickery Hamlet discovers that Claudius was guilty. Hamlet visits his mother in her sitting room and notices that something moved behind the curtain. He jumps up and stabs through the curtain. The person falls dead; he was Polonius, the king’s personal advisor. Claudius exiles Hamlet to England; but Hamlet comes back to Denmark and discovers that the woman he loved, Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, has gone insane with the tragic death of her father. Her desperate love for the killer of her loving father scatters her wits and she drowns herself.

Ophelia’s brother Laertes, with the help of Claudius plots a revenge to kill Hamlet in a dual with a specially prepared poisoned sword. On the other side Claudius has also prepared a poisoned wine for Hamlet in case Hamlet survives the dual.

Hamlet appears on the scene. Laertes fights the dual, wounds Hamlet, but he is also wounded by the same sword. Hamlet’s mother, weary with her own grief, comes and happens to drink the poisonous wine that was prepared by her husband for Hamlet. Hamlet, feeling the presence of death crawling through his veins, to enjoy the last thrill of his revenge rushes to Claudius, kills him, and he himself falls dead. Laertes, dying with pain, collapses and dies. Hamlet’s mother watching the death scene of her husband and son closes her eyes forever. The dead bodies of all the four characters of the play covering the whole of the stage create a gloomy atmosphere in the hall. The audience, holding their breath in a sad excitement, go home with enough material to have a nightmare in their dream. Thus ends the famous drama of Shakespeare with a spine-chilling thrill of ancient murderous living.

4. Romeo and Juliet.

Written by William Shakespeare. It is a tragic story of worldly love. The play is set in Verona, Italy. It relates to an ancient family feud between Montague and Capulet that disturbed the peace of the town.

The Capulets are holding a family celebration where Romeo (a Montague) comes in disguise and sees Juliet, the beautiful daughter of Lord Capulet. They both look at each other and fall in love at first sight. She was only fourteen. She shows her love and meets Romeo in a secluded area under the cover of the night. Secretly, they get married with the help of a well-wisher and, after spending the first night together, they sadly depart as they know that their families won’t accept the marriage.

Juliet’s cousin, Tyblat, when he discovers the arrival of Romeo in the party, wants to take revenge. Shortly thereafter, he fights with Romeo in a dual to kill him but, instead, he gets killed by Romeo. In the meantime, Juliet’s father had arranged her marriage to a young man called Paris. The wise old Friar Lawrence, having a sympathy for Juliet, decides to give both a chance to meet together. He devises a potion that could put a person in a deathlike state for some time. Juliet drinks the potion and passes out. Her father, thinking her dead and grieving on his bad luck, puts Juliet in the tomb. But the secret message of Friar Lawrence could not be delivered to Romeo on time, while, in the meantime, he already hears about the death of Juliet. Bewildered, he runs to the tomb, sees her lying like dead, he drinks the poison which he had carried with him, and dies. Minutes later Juliet opens her eyes, and sees Romeo, the love of her heart, dead. In desperateness, she pulls the dagger from Romeo’s side, stabs to her chest, and dies. The drama ends with a moaning scene where both families were present.

Remarks: You must have noticed that the entire English literature, novels, dramas and the poetries, reflect the image of the social living of those days which was possessed by the personal vehemence of ambition, jealousy, love, hate, revenge and the bitter disappointments of life. The vulgarity of savage behavior, the stories of dragons and monsters, the hair-raising tragic climaxes of Shakespearean dramas, the stories of survival from cannibals, the depiction of the underworld crime and the unforgettable painful memories of Bronte’s work, all refer to the heartbreaking disappointments and the emotional miseries of the material world. There is absolutely no teaching of social upliftment of any kind and the talk of spirituality is out of the question. In the following pages you will see that the total history of the western world runs along the same lines as it is portrayed in their literature. But if you carefully study any of the ancient Sanskrit literature of Bharatvarsh you will find that, directly or indirectly, one way or the other, it encompasses the subject of God and God realization.



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