“Loud May We Speak, With Heroes In Assembly” – An Indo-European Reflection On ANZAC Day

[pictured: a parade of New Zealand veterans of the Gallipoli campaign – the original ANZACs – ANZAC Day 1958]

I wrote this on ANZAC Day last year after I got home from Temple [there are, no doubt, some rather interesting potential resonances to be explored in it having been Hanuman’s Day; particularly given the symbolism of the conch-shell blown by the Pandit during the course of that evening’s Aarti].

It is presented here without alteration – not due to any particular salience in our ongoing mission of exploring our Indo-European past; but rather as an instance of those efforts both changing and improving how we view the present.

For those outside Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC Day is our shared commemorative observance for our nations’ wars and veterans.

“Ordinarily, on ANZAC Day, I do as a many others do and post pictures and stories of my relatives’ and ancestor’s service in New Zealand’s armed forces [or, in one rather memorable case, not-quite the French armed forces]. But this year, I’m doing something different.

I happened across an excellent quote from the RigVeda [the oldest part of the Hindu scriptures and hymnals – dating from somewhere between three and a half and five thousand years ago]. And as soon as I saw it … it really resonated with me, and what we do here in this country on ANZAC Day.

“Loud may we speak, with Heroes in assembly!”

It’s a refrain which occurs in almost half the Hymns of the Second Mandala; and amongst scholars of the Vedas a number of potential interpretations have been advanced for its meaning, and the reasoning for its near-constant inclusion therein.

The plain and obvious meaning would be that the ceremonies & rituals in question ought be performed with gusto and vigour: both due to the honour of carrying out these rites in such noble and venerated company – but also because the militaristic actions of these valorous figures has *made* the continued practices and existence of the community possible.

Obviously, each of these reasonings is pretty *directly* applicable to ANZAC Day. We are honoured at our Parades and Services by the presence of our Veterans. And we endeavour to honour them in return through the proper performance of the recognition of their contributions and their sacrifices. If you are a metaphysical sort, the notion of the Pitris – the spirits of one’s dead ancestors and relatives – also being present at the commemorations in Their honour, is quite a resonant one.

But, as is often mentioned, we are free to carry out our Traditions, and exist as a national community precisely *because* of those aforementioned soldiers. So, indeed, the second explanation is an important one. Due to their actions, “Loud may we speak” – and thus, in thanks and reverence, loud *should* we speak in acknowledgement.

Although there *is* also a third potential reasoning for Rishi Grtsamada’s particular choice of leitmotif. The deliberate choice to connect the Ancient Rites to Heroes and Heroism is not simply an act of acknowledgement for past deeds. Nor even ‘only’ a thanks-giving for present circumstanes enjoyed as their result.

Instead, it is *also* the upholding of a cycle. Whereby the affirmation of mighty deeds & commitments on behalf of one’s people helps to keep alive that which made them possible on into the future.

Because as much as we might long for a world in which our Armed Forces are no longer necessary – and as valuable a philosophical doctrine as Ahimsa [‘Non-Violence’] arguably is in our personal lives – the plain fact is that we shall continue to depend upon the noble service of New Zealanders on as far as the future likely extends.

So, to quote another translation of the same verse in closing – “May we speak loftily at the ritual distribution, in possession of good heroes”.

For certainly, New Zealand has undoubtedly been – and will be yet – “in possession of good heroes”. And I have no doubt whatsoever that the moving – and often highly personal – tributes we offer each year on this most hallowed of days (the “ritual”), are “speak[ing very] loftily” indeed!

At the time of the Adityas Varuna [i.e. the Setting of the Sun] and Mitra [i.e. in the Morning] – We SHALL Remember Them!”

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