Devdutt Patnaik distorts Hindu Dharma and blocks critical comment

By: Ram Jagessar (Ran Nam)

Devdutt Patnaik wrote “Forest and Field in Dharma Discussion” on his website

(writing reproduced below in this write-up). He often distorts and frequently puts wrong interpretations of Hinduism and Hindu samskriti. On his write-ups, many comments are posted. But just after a handful of critical comments on randomly  selected blogs on his  site he has started  moderating  the  comments and blocking ones he doesn’t like. There’s no need to  guess the reason why.  He’s terrified of analytical and critical comments from, Hindus who know he is writing and talking utter nonsense.  It’s the first time he is  getting such comments on his blog site and it’s causing  him  a lot of grief to him.

I have put my following comment there, which has not appeared there. My comment:

This is such embarrassing drivel that I am more than ever convinced Devdutt knows little or nothing about Hindu dharma and does absolutely NO RESEARCH before dashing off blogs like this stinker.

Here I will deal only with his strange and wrong sided explanation of what he believes is a key divide in Hindu dharma- between forest and field. He says of the forest “Forest is the default state of nature. In the forest, there are no rules. The fit survive and the unfit die. The stronger, or the smarter, have access to food. The rest starve. There is no law, no authority, and no regulation. This is called ‘matsya nyaya’ or law of the fishes, the Vedic equivalent of the law of the jungle. This is prakriti, visualised as Kali, the wild goddess who runs naked with unbound hair, of the puranas.”

Some things come to mind immediately.

1.This is the western Social Darwinian view of the forest, red in tooth and claw , survival of the fittest and so on, not the Hindu view at all.

2. The law of the jungle is NOT the Hindu outlook on the forest.

3. Prakriti is NOT visualized as Kali the wild goddess who runs naked with unbound hair. If you look at this website The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism. you will get a better idea of what prakriti is. It is certainly NOT the Vedic equivalent of the law of the jungle, but more like an original and natural state of creation.

  1. Kali has nothing to do with Devdutt’s jungle state or forest without rules. Look at this web site and you will see what Devdutt did not research, who is Kali in Hinduism

All of this drove me to do some basic, very basic internet research on the forest in Hinduism, which I know Devdutt did NOT do before writing his juvenile blog. The results came as a shock.

Hinduism does not regard the forest as a place without rules, governed by the law of the jungle where the fittest survive and the rest starve.

Rajiv Malhotra has done an excellent analysis of the forest as the key symbol for Hinduism, a place of inclusivity and diversity, a place of wealth and riches, of shelter for all, a revered symbol that many worship and seek to preserve. Look at his article on civilizations of the forest and the desert, which does a lot better than I can explain

We all remember the stories of swamis and yogis going into the forest to do their tapasya and find their inner peace. The famous forest ashramas of old were where- in the forest, dummy Devdutt!

When the little brahmin boy gets the sacred thread and his brahmachari bundle to go to the gurukul in ancient times, where was this gurukul?

Who are the people who traditionally revered the trees in the forest and elsewhere, the tree huggers who see the forest as an intrinsic part of nature that protects and serves us? It’s we Hindus of course. Where is Devdutt pulling this nonsense about the forest as law of the jungle eat or be eaten state in Hinduism?

My little researh shows that Hindus actually have a deity for the forest Aranyani, not Kali. Who is Aranyani and what is our true attitude to the forest. Check this out  ARANYANI: Indian/Hindu Goddess of the Forest…

ARANYANI: Indian/Hindu Goddess of the Forest…

“…Forests have always been central to Indian civilization. It represented the feminine principle in prakrti. In the Hindu pantheon, forests have been worshiped as Goddess Aranyani, the Goddess of the Forests and Animals that dwell within them. Forests are the primary source of life and fertility. The forest as a community has been viewed as a model for societal and civilizational evolution.

The Indian civilization was guided by the diversity, harmony and self-sustaining nature of the forest. Aranya means forest. The Aranyakas form the third part of the Vedas. They were developed by the hermits, living in the forests. They reflect an explicit transition in the philosophy of life of man. So ‘Aranya Samskriti’ the culture of the forest was not a condition of primitiveness but one of conscious choice. Indian culture considers the forest as the highest form of cultural evolution.

As a source of life nature was venerated as sacred and human evolution was measured in terms of man’s capacity to merge with her rhythms and patterns intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. The forest thus nurtured an ecological civilization in the most fundamental sense of harmony with nature. Such knowledge that came from participation in the life of the forest was the substance not just of Aranyakas or forest texts, but also the everyday beliefs of tribal and peasant society.

The forest as the highest expression of the earth’s fertility and productivity is symbolised in yet another form as the Earth Mother, as Vana Durga or Tree Goddess. In Bengal she is associated with Avasthhaor or Banbibi, the lady of the forest. In Comilla, Bangla Desh, she is Bamani, in Assam she is Rupeswari. In folk and tribal cultures especially, trees and forests are also worshiped as Vana Devatas or forest deities. In the Southern Indian states, the concept of Vana Devatas means forest spirits.” (1)

What a difference is this from the absolute rubbish of DP’s pre kindergarten mumblings of the forest as a place without rules where Kali is running around naked.

As I have said, absolutely no research and precious little thought seems to have gone into this preposterous piece of flotsam on the forest in Hinduism. I don’t wish to comment on the rest of this blog. This forest explanation is blunder enough for anyone. I just wonder: Davdutt Pattnaik has over 1,000 blogs on his page. Can any or all of them contain such dumbells as this one?

Forest and Field in Dharma Discussion


treefallPublished on 8th June, 2016, on

Forest and Field in Dharma Discussion

In the Sama Veda, the hymns of the Rig Veda are turned into melodies. These melodies are classified into two groups: aranya-gaye-gana or Forest Songs, and grama-gaye-gana or Settlement Songs. This divide plays a key role in the understanding of dharma. Forest is the default state of nature. In the forest, there are no rules.

The fit survive and the unfit die. The stronger, or the smarter, have access to food. The rest starve. There is no law, no authority, and no regulation. This is called ‘matsya nyaya’ or law of the fishes, the Vedic equivalent of the law of the jungle. This is prakriti, visualised as Kali, the wild goddess who runs naked with unbound hair, of the puranas.

Humans domesticate the forest to turn the forest into fields and villages for human settlement. Here, everything is tamed: plants, animals, even humans, bound by niti, rules; riti, tradition; codes of conduct, duties and rights. Here, there is an attempt to take care of the weak and unfit. This is the hallmark of sanskriti or civilization, visualised as Gauri, the docile goddess who is draped in a green sari, and whose hair is tied with flowers, who takes care of the household.

The Ramayana tells the story of Rama who moves from Ayodhya, the settlement of humans, the realm of Gauri, into the forest, the realm of Kali. The Mahabharata tells the story of the Pandavas who are born in the forest, then come to Hastinapur, and then return to the forest as refugees, and then once again return to build Indraprastha, then yet again return to the forest as exiles, and finally, after the victory at war, and a successful reign, they return to the forest following retirement.

As children, we are trained to live in society – that is brahmacharya. Then we contribute to society as householders — grihastha. Later we are expected to leave for the forest — vanaprastha, and then comes the hermit life or sanyasa, when we seek the world beyond the forest.

According to the Buddhist Sarvastivàdin commentary, Abhidharma-mahavibhàsa-sàstra, forest or vana, is one of the many etymologies of the word ‘nirvana’, the end of identity, prescribed by Buddhist scriptures, which is the goal of dhamma, the Buddhist way.

Rama lives in a city, and so does Ravana. But Rama follows rules. Ravana does not care for rules. In other words, Ravana follows matsya nyaya though he is a city-dweller, a nagara-vasi. That is adharma. If Ravana uses force to get his way, Duryodhana uses his cunning, also focusing on the self rather than the other. This is adharma. Dharma is when we function for the benefit of others. It has nothing to do with rules. Which is why Krishna, the rule-breaker, is also upholding dharma, for he cares for the other.

In the forest, everyone is driven by self-preservation. Only humans have the wherewithal to enable and empower others to survive, and thrive. To do so is dharma. It has nothing to do with rules or tradition. It is about being sensitive to, and caring for, the other. We can do this whether we are in the forest, or in the city. And so it is in the vana or forest, that Krishna dances with the gopikas, making them feel safe even though they are out of their comfort zone.

Without appreciating the forest and the field, Kali and Gauri — the animal instinct and human capability — any discussion of dharma will be incomplete.


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