Lithuanian Darna - The Central Value of the Baltic Culture
by Jonas Trinkunas
The archaic Indo-European religion and mythology was still surviving on the Southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea in the Middle Ages. We have opportunity to observe in the traditional Lithuanian culture the roots of the main ideas of Indo-Europeans.
The old Indo-Europeans had assigned much attention to the essence of the harmony between man and world. The Indo-European tradition had obvious manifestations of harmony all over the world and in the man's life.
When we want to describe the culture of our nation, we speak about its harmony, and how everything works in this harmony. Harmony - Darna is the constant objective in all spheres of human life. The same objective exists in people and in the cosmos. Darna is understood as the main value, as total beauty and goodness.
The idea of Darna (harmony) lies in origins of Baltic culture. The rule of darna, or harmony will lead to change and growth. Morality is the most important ideal of nature and man and is attained and maintained through the persistent effort to attain harmony. Darna - the rule of harmony has always been of significance in the ancient faith. (1)
Even new forms of art - melodies and colours in native culture are accepted only those, which fit to the already existing forms. Darna is the constant purpose in all spheres of man's life.
I would say darna is one of the main features of nature and culture. As it was of great importance, it could easily be observed in customs, rituals and religion.
The striving of darna is typical to all cultures, but it seems it discloses itself in different ways. In Lithuanian traditional culture and in the language the idea of darna is widely manifested, it branches like the world tree. Maybe only the top of this tree did not spread such blossoms like Indian dharma, as if it stopped somewhere in between.
The Baltic Lithuanians preserved their language, one of the oldest of Indo-European languages, close to Sanskrit. The manifestation of harmony can be observed when studying the etymology of Lithuanian words.
Lithuanian darna and derme as harmony are connected by many relations with the words of the living language, which express the most important things in man's life and the world.
The word "darna" (harmony) has associations with a harvest (derlius), morals (dora), wedding (dereti), a musical harmony (derme), and other words with the same root "dar-". All these words have connections with the words "doing" and "work". So the principal position is active.
The harmony of man and world is striving by constant effort. Words of the same root "darbas", "derlius", " derejimas", "derme", "dora", "darna" and others fall into the same semantic field. The first word is "darbas"(work), the other related words are derived from it.
Darbas - work is the form of the creation of the world. Myths and sagas tell that God also works. The same is said about man. The work-darbas itself is not only mechanical fulfilling of the task or undertaking. Work for our ancestors was the main way of life, which included the whole man's life and his existence. Lithuanian folk songs about work, plowing, preparing of hay and others hide in themselves constant joy of the affection and love and the concern in the result, what he grew by his five fingers.
The field worker combined his work with the forces of nature, taking into consideration its changes. The most important was to feel and understand that everything what is alive belongs to one community. The related words derived from "darbas" exactly show this total unity.
Darna, derme - is peace, unity and harmony. Dereti - means managing to live together, to agree, to fit, to be useful, to be beautiful. Darna between people is happiness. If somebody lacks this darna he must negotiate in order to make peace and unity.
Darna - is not only the condition of the existence of the world, it is the beauty itself. Darnus - means beautiful, of good complexion, harmonious and suitable.
Derme is the harmony of sound, the essence of songs and music. Darna of the song also expresses harmony between man and world. This is seen in the contents of traditional Lithuanian songs, where the stars, the trees and all nature are portrayed as man's brothers and sisters. The parallelism between things of nature and man reveal that man, trees, birds and all living things experience the same reality.
The Baltic Prussian word "druvis" means religion, belief, health. Latvian word "druva" means soil - the sphere of work and the darna of people.
Darna is not constant and not the happiness which changes, at some extent it depends on the efforts of man and Gods. Darna itself is not the aim of man's life, darna is the means to keep and protect life.
We can talk about darna only when there are many acting forces. Darna is created by the interaction between different and contrary forces.
There is assertion in Iranian Avesta, that the Life was created by two origins (gods), there are two gods- creators of the world. In Lithuanian mythology, this is Dievas - the god of heaven, and Velnias - the underground god. They struggle with each other, trying to trick and out-do each other, and in the end - they create the earth - with mountains, plains and rivers. Perfect darna (harmony) could only be created through the interaction of the powers of different origin.
The most harmonious process is growing. The world of harmony shows itself by growing - in the life of nature. "Dereti" means to grow and present harvest. The universe is a tree, which grows, or as we would say - "dera" and we see and feel its "darna". Man is also like tree. He also grows and makes "darna"
For the Lithuanian field workers grain was the most important plant for food. The field worker was simply committed to grow and prepare his grain. The importance of this work is shown by the habits and songs of harvest which preserved the sacred spirit till our days.
Lithuanians say about harvest "uz-derejo", and the whole wealth in the autumn is "derlius". Derlius is the fruit of " darna". "Derme" also means "derlius"(harvest). "Derle" is rich growing. "Dereti" means success. "Growing" as "derejimas, derle" is the main state of a harmonious world, or as we would say "darnus pasaulis". To harvest grain meant "su-doroti". The main words of the field worker show the unity between man's work and growing nature.
Wedding was one of the most important and complex traditions - striving to create and preserve the family. Here we also see the unity of the main terms. "Darbas" or work generated corresponding words for wedding traditions. The cycle of the wedding traditions also had its own "dora". "Doroti" or "su-doroti" meant the most important ritual and result of the wedding. Dictionary of Lithuanian language presents good examples: "After growing the son doesn't want to "doroti", e.g. to get married; The parents "sudorojo" their children, e.g. - put them into place after making them marry one another; The "Sudorota" bride, after waking up, is taken for a dance. The last phase of matchmaking tradition in the texts of the XVI century is called "dorai".
Later the word "dora" gradually divides from the traditional context and gets the meaning of morality.. "Darna, derme, dora" spreads into wide field of the Baltic spiritual culture, which surprises us by its "darna" (harmony).
Morality is the brother of darna. It is expressed by words dora, dorumas, dorove. These are moral notions, connected with justice. Doras - means right, honest. Darnas - means decent, polite.
Man lives and the world exists due to harmonious interactions rudimentary to be and through man's own correct and moral behavior. Such differing pairs like light -darkness, fire - water, man - woman and others, do not necessarily imply a good - evil relationship. These opposite pairs are not static. They not only interact but also change and grow. From the human standpoint, there are neither absolutely good nor absolutely evil gods or goddesses. Goodness is born from interaction of differing but not of hostile forces, with man's interactive participation.
Blogis - Evil is harmony's downfall, the absence or inability to restore harmony. This is most evident in nature's devastation, man's activity against nature and her order.
In the outlook of the Balts, the expenditure of darna includes also very important world of religion.
Dharma is the most important idea in Hindu culture and religion. Hindu Dharma became the highest idea of all Indo-European religion and philosophy. Dharma as the cosmic principal, the highest law is the brilliant idea. Sanskrit has preserved the oldest semantic roots of Dharma. The word dharma is derived from the root dhr in the sense of dharane, to sustain, to uphold. The earth- dhara, the grain - dhana and so on. Indian Dharma is one of the main notions of the Indian world-view, which was borrowed from the Indo-European tradition. We can find the source of the word Dharma very near to the Baltic roots.
A Greek word for harmony is one of the most important terms in Greek philosophy and culture, and very close to a Lithuanian word for harmony, darna. Harmony is concordance between the whole and its parts, between exterior and interior, between content and form. Life, moral and music are the spheres where harmony manifests. Many Greek philosophers for example Heraklit spoke of the idea of harmony. (2) I think that it is the idea of old Europe and Indo-Europeans.
Hindu sage Jai Swaminarayan have said, "At this supremely sensitive time in the history of the world, there is a great need for an all-encompassing ideology to support and sustain the very existence of Mankind. Our noble sages and seers from Vedic times have assured us that this can be accomplished through Dharma.” (3) The Lithuanian Indo-European intellectual tradition was broken by Christianity, which has brought an alien religion. The Christian influence and its stratum are recent and can be easily detached, and the Romuva movement is going in this direction.
1. Jonas Trinkunas, Darna as principle of morality. - Of Gods and Holidays. The Baltic Heritage, Vilnius. 1999, p.158
2. Herakleitas. Fragmentai. Vilnius.1995
3. Global Dharma conference. 2003, Edison, USA
Lithuanian Darna, Central Value of Baltic Culture by Jonas Trinkunas, 7th World Congress of Ethnic Religions Congress, Athens, 2004