Contemporary challenges facing Hindu society – Gautam Sen

Durga Puja Kolkata

Gautam SenHindu society is also stirring silently, but with heartening self-confidence. The wave of a massive movement … is spreading from the … obscure tribal districts of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh to adjacent regions and beyond, across India. It draws its inspiration from the likes of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Chanakya and promises to overturn the long-held accepted norms of acquiescence to threats against Hindu society and the retreat that usually follows. – Dr Gautam Sen

Waking up to the sonorous voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, reciting the intensely poignant Mahisasuramardini, announcing Mahalaya, is a moment of extraordinary significance for Bengali Hindus. Its memory prompted me to reflect on the catastrophic fate of contemporary Bengal. Dolorous is the word that instantly comes to mind, when contemplating the intellectual, spiritual and moral disintegration of Bengal. Its historic antecedents are in the attempted partition of Bengal under Lord Curzon and its eventual occurrence four decades later. The trauma of the experience gave rise to a self-destructive malaise, paradoxically and inexplicably, presided over by communist refugees fleeing Islamic Jihad in East Pakistan. The final political chapter is being written by the banal phenomenon of Trinamool Congress. Under the bizarre rule of its leader, idolised by many Bengalis, a major growth sector of the local economy is middle class prostitution, testament to the moral nullity that has overtaken its society.

The Bengal renaissance that led India into modernity, reaching back into its Vedic past, gifting the world Swami Vivekananda and a galaxy of luminaries, has all, but evaporated. No profound reflections by a sage like Rishi Aurobindo, unprecedented scientific endeavours of a Jagdish Bose and Meghnad Saha or poet of Tagore’s astonishing talent or the renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray, have emerged in recent decades. And nor is there in the horizon a new grammarian, linguist and moralist, echoing Montaigne, like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, taking humanism to new heights, clad in modest dhoti. Instead Bengal’s post-independence educated class unleashed nihilistic bloodlust on society in the name of a Chinese warlord, Mao Zedong, in cahoots with Islamic Jihad and then fled to a salubrious life abroad. This cynical and self-seeking cabal has since been virtually urging US and Western imperialist intervention to curb India’s alleged descent into Hindu fascism!

Of course Hindu civilisation itself has also been in retreat for more than one millennium, although its reluctance to acquiesce to an ultimate coup de grace is both remarkable and puzzling. In the aftermath of the transfer of power in 1947, completely erroneously labelled peaceful, this historic hiatus of an endless pause from socio-cultural erasure appears to have been broken. Hindus are now descending rapidly towards cultural and spiritual oblivion.

Gandhi & Nehru (1942)Independent India had fallen under the suicidal spell of an eccentric, the kindest accolade he could be accorded, and he nominated a primus inter pares ill equipped to secure and defend the civilisation of Indica. It was also at his insistence that the new government of India was obliged, by the threat of a fast unto death, to fund the very war the state of Pakistan unleashed against India within months of partition. His tragic murder consigned the fate of Hindus and any prospect of social and spiritual renewal to the ideological detritus of the departing colonial power. The outcome has been a conspiracy to impose an ideology on the fledgling republic that eventually empowered Islamic Jihad, Christian resurgence and grand larceny as its abiding motifs.

The chosen nominee for the premiership of independent India was himself from a morally bankrupt Kashmiriyat political tradition of incoherence and imbued with vaulting self-regard that had already surrendered its own community to predators, although the endgame awaited the 1990s. His family subsequently sought to turn popular Indian democracy into indefinite dynastic rule, by nurturing every latent fault line and endangering the nation’s very survival, until boundless greed overwhelmed all judgement and common sense. It is they, who were responsible for the immeasurable tragedy of the Punjab, in a vain and imbecilic attempt to augment regional political power to dominate the Centre. Their earlier catastrophic follies in relation to Tibet and Kashmir are open IOUs to fate that hang like a sword of Damocles over future generations. The recent rise of Narendra Modi, who ended the unfolding calamity abruptly was considered to be the moment of a reversal of rapid decline, though it could not be and was nothing of the sort.

In the meantime, Hindus are in confused retreat on multiple fronts. The best outcome they can apparently hope for and many earnestly seem to desire, is to become like Koreans, with the accretion of a degree of prosperity, but without history or their rich and vibrant antecedent traditions and culture. Korea is now largely a Christian nation and its remaining Buddhists dismayed at waning state patronage of their age-old religious and cultural heritage. What historical national identity Indian secularists would prefer without Hindu antecedents is a mystery, since all culture and memory permeate it. The defining societal hallmark of this terrifying prospect is the growing insignia of the Ambanis and Vijay Mallya rather than the sage Adi Shankaracharya and divine Swami Vivekananda. Wealth, its grotesque display and obscene consumption, imitating the imperialist and racially arrogant elites of the US, is the warped longing degrading the humanity of Hindu society, as it has done elsewhere. Self-restraint and genuine concern for the welfare of the many in desperate circumstances, the essence of self-realisation and godliness, appear to have been substituted by the moral universe of Hades.

Abroad, Indian humanities and social science academics have been whipped, en masse, into an incomprehensible and incoherent frenzy of rage against imaginary signs of supposed Hindu self-assertion. So ferocious is their desire to curb this alleged Hindu descent into fascism, embodied by Narendra Modi’s modest electoral success, they are evidently willing to join hands with Islamic Jihad to protect the oxymoron of Indian secularism. Some among them not-so subliminally seek armed international intervention to protect their terrorist allies from the wrath of the Indian state, under the guise of minority rights, and, presumably, to prevent church window panes being broken in India. The genocidal impact of such intervention, visible in the Middle East, is possibly regarded as an incidental bonus!

Foreign governments like the US and the UK, which have always had malign intentions towards India, want to use it as a pawn against China, though the prospect of betrayal in a Sino-US deal that institutes condominium is the most probable outcome. Significantly, both governments and their European allies, aided by the Republic of Korea, are waging a deadly war simultaneously to permanently subvert Hindu civilisation through religious conversion. In a recent visit to Nepal, I was stunned to be told by several knowledgeable public figures that the Church privately boasts about how a third of the population has already embraced Christianity. Christianity has indeed advanced in Nepal through allurement, subterfuge and outright bribery, including a multimillion dollar inducement to a former prime minister. The dramatically successful campaign of religious conversion in Nepal, across India and within the UK itself, abetted by some infiltrated British Hindu social and religious organisations, highlight the perversity of the situation.

Narendra ModiYet the rise of Narendra Modi represents a moment of respite and hope. Having inherited a parlous nation, in the throes of economic, political and moral chaos, the appropriate priorities for reversing its decline are easy to debate and dispute. And the authority and power he and his government enjoy are not unfettered, as political and social life in India brutally demonstrated in the past two years. The incumbent government is besieged on many fronts by an array of truculent adversaries, determined to thwart even the most indispensable policy measures. International conspiracies, originating in foreign capitals, aided by treasonous domestic surrogates and incited by a suborned anti-national media, abound visibly. The urgent task of national economic revival is preoccupying the Modi government’s attention and socio-cultural initiatives appear to enjoy less prominence. However, the task of securing the nation’s future in a hostile world, by creating national productive capacity and ensuring future electoral consolidation, surely depend on the overall policy stance adopted by Narendra Modi.

Hindu society is also stirring elsewhere, silently, but with heartening self-confidence. The wave of a massive movement, Hindutva Abhiyan, for example, is spreading from the apparently unpropitious and obscure tribal districts of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh to adjacent regions and beyond, across India. It draws its inspiration from the likes of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Chanakya and promises to overturn the long-held accepted norms of acquiescence to threats against Hindu society and the retreat that usually follows.

» Dr. Gautam Sen is President, World Association of Hindu Academicians and Co-director of the Dharmic Ideas and Policy Foundation. He taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.

Sri Aurobindo


Rig Vedic Polytheism and Punya Bhumi – Vijaya Rajiva

Gods venerate Mahalakshmi

Savinirmadi: Woman Scholar of Kolar (10th century)The link between Hindu monism and Rig Vedic polytheism establishes the richness of both dimensions: the Infinite Divinity and the infinite manifestations of this Divinity in the Gods and Goddesses that Hindus worship. – Dr Vijaya Rajiva

The Rig Vedic worship of many Gods and Goddesses provoked commentators from Abrahamic faiths (mainly Christians) to call the system polytheism (the worship of many gods). Many Hindus and respectful foreign students of Hindu philosophy now prefer the more neutral term, pantheism, to denote the Hindu pantheon, as polytheism was used in a derogatory way.

Modern Hindus are no longer intimidated by the polytheist label. Hindus believe that their land is punya bhumi (sacred earth) inhabited by the Gods and Goddesses of the universe, who are invited to special open air feasts (yagnas) and also housed in temples built for them by devotees. Perhaps no country in the world has so many temples, from north to south, east to west and no other religious tradition has invoked the presence of deities in the Vedic yagnas, and their successors in the Agama traditions of ritual and worship.

The Hindu bhakta knows that the Gods actually EXIST, but the educated Hindu elite are reluctant to admit to their heritage thanks to the massive indoctrination by the Macaulayian educational system and the missionary onslaught on Hinduism which denounces it as “pagan”, “polytheist”, etc. They contrast it with their ONE true god in whose name they have visited death and destruction on the planet.

Recent commentators from the Hindu side, such as Swami Devananda Saraswati (a Dashanami sannyasin) and earlier still, the philosopher-historian, the late Sita Ram Goel, have pointed out that the contemporary educated Hindu elite have been misled by their ill-conceived identification of monotheism and monism, and their inability to understand that the difference is crucial to understanding polytheism.

Sita Ram Goel prefers the word panentheism to polytheism (to describe Hinduism) since the former emphasises the special Hindu concept of ishta-devata, the special deity to whom a worshipper can relate to (a phenomenon unique to Hinduism).

The crucial difference between monotheism and monism is that the former believes in a ONE true god, and denounced the Gods of other faiths as “false gods”, whatever that means, for how can a God be “false” if the concept of God is real?

Monism believes in the infinite existence of the Divine, which is characterised by Existence, Consciousness and Bliss (Sat, Chit, Ananda). This is better known as Advaita Vedanta or Non-Dualism (unity, non-divisiveness). Its best articulation came with Adi Sankara. There are two other major Vedantas, the Qualified Non-dualism of Ramanuja and the Dualism of Madhva.

Modern practitioners of Monism are many, the most renowned being the Kanchi Mahaswami Chandrashekarendra Saraswati who specially highlighted the importance of the many Gods in Hinduism:

“… a yagna is making an oblation to a deity in the fire with the chanting of mantras. In a sense the mantras themselves constitute the form of the deities invoked. In another sense, the mantras, like the materials placed in the fire, are the sustenance of the celestials invoked….” (Hindu Dharma: Chapter on The Vedas).

Elsewhere, the Mahaswami remarked that the devout Hindu also sees the forms of the celestials appearing in the yagna fire.

These preliminary remarks are intended to emphasise the link between Hindu monism and Rig Vedic polytheism. It allows for an enriched Hindu polytheism where the devotee does not consider his / her chosen deity (ishta-devata) as the only true god, and does not anathematise the Gods of other faiths, as happens in Abrahamic monotheism. This is, of course, the difference between Abrahamic monotheism and Hindu polytheism.

Abrahamic monotheism must be rejected by Hindus for two reasons: 1) political, and 2) religious.

Politically, monotheism has been the source of conquest, violence and intolerance, both in Christianity and Islam. It is important that Hindus are always vigilant to this dimension in the interests of security. The security question arises not only in the crude context of everyday dangers such as the throwing of a severed cow’s head by miscreants inside a Hindu temple or the verbal abuse of Hindu scriptures and temples, but the equally looming danger of sophisticated inculturation. Here we perceive both Islamist and Christian attempts to find their monotheistic doctrines reflected in the Rig Veda, and the sophisticated attempts to wrest the “Rishi tradition” as they call it, from the Hindus, distort it and appropriate it for their own purposes.

In this project, the Vedas are no longer dismissed as “paganism”, but viewed as harbingers of the two monotheistic faiths. This can range from the crude attempt by evangelical Christian (and Islamic counterparts) to find references to Jesus in the Rig Veda, and / or references to the coming of the prophet and so on, to the more sophisticated attempts by scholars (mainly Catholic, but also such persons as Dr Zakir Naik) to find parallels in the thinking of the Veda and their own scriptures and beliefs.

In this way, inculturation, or the process by which another culture is absorbed—subsumed—into one’s own, has become a current trend. The aim, of course, is to eradicate the visited local culture. It is not some gentlemanly exercise or purely scholarly enterprise. The agenda is clearly there.

The link between Hindu monism and Rig Vedic polytheism establishes the richness of both dimensions: the Infinite Divinity and the infinite manifestations of this Divinity in the Gods and Goddesses that Hindus worship. One can theorise about this link, as have the great Hindu philosophers such as Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva. But for our purposes it is important to keep in mind that these manifestations are the murtis (derided as “idols” by monotheists) that Hindus consecrate and install in temples and worship. Hence, the importance of murti reverence and temples in Sanatana Dharma.

When the barbarian invaders arrived, their first task was to destroy as many temples as they could. Thousands of Hindus lost their lives in defence of these temples. The shocking desecration of murtis by Islamists and Evangelicals continues to this day, though on a smaller scale, and mainly by Evangelicals and in some cases by Islamists.

If the underlying unity between monism and Hindu polytheism is not clearly understood, many Hindus get misled to believe that the ONE god of the monotheists is the same as satchidananda (Infinite Divinity) and go on to downgrade Vedic polytheism as an accidental / incidental feature of Hinduism which Hindus outgrew in their historical development and are now presumably moving towards the higher (sic) faith of Abrahamic monotheism. This is a profound mistake and merely parrots the narrative put forward by the ONE god-ists. Nor is the ONE god the same as the ishta-devata of Hindus. The ONE god is held by its followers to be the ONLY true god with all other Gods being FALSE Gods. Whereas the ishta-devata is only one among many Gods and each devotee is allowed to worship freely his / her own ishta-devata (who may be different from the kula devata or even the grama devata).

The difference is politically significant since the ONE god-ists are prone to intolerance, violence, conquest and proselytisation, as happened historically and continues with a renewed sense of urgency by the Evangelical today. Hinduism, thus, is always in danger of attack from the ONE god-ists. The punya bhumi is the land peopled by the Gods and Goddesses of the Rig Veda and many other divinities and eminences of the Indic tradition who are not mentioned specifically in the Rig Veda. It has to stay that way.

The further philosophical / religious / spiritual dimension of the satchidananda-polytheism link is that while Vedanta stresses the former aspect, the latter is important for the householder (grihastha). The four stages of life (varnashrama dharma) each have their own dharma. Even Adi Sankara, as far as is known, stressed that the householder must fulfill his / her duties before taking up the last stage of sannyasa. In this he was different from the Buddha, for whom the monastic life could be taken up at any time that the individual desired.

» Dr Vijaya Rajiva is a political philosopher who has taught at a Canadian university in Montreal.

Rudra Yagna

Theology of monotheism is disguised materialism – Sita Ram Goel

Moses & Jehovah

Sita Ram GoelOne may spend a lifetime searching this theology of Monotheism for a factual or rational proof of what it proclaims so pompously. But the search will be in vain. For, all the time it assumes what it wants to prove, and proves what it has already assumed. At its best, it is a syllogism of which the major as well as the minor premise are arbitrary assertions. – Sita Ram Goel

Let us for the time being forget the Freudian analysis of Christianity and Islam, though that analysis provides an intimate peep into the psyche of these primitive creeds. Let us have a look at the philosophy underlying their doctrines, and find out if they have any share in the spiritual seeking which is intrinsic to human beings and which stands systematized in Sanatana Dharma.

Christianity and Islam differ on many points of detail. But they share a common view of what they invoke as the creator and controller of the cosmos, as well as of the cosmic process. In the language of theology, they describe their basic dogma as Monotheism as opposed to what they denounce as Polytheism and Pantheism. It is this basic dogma which needs a philosophical probe deeper than that to which it has been subjected so far.

The term Monotheism casts such a magic spell on certain minds that they stop at its literal meaning—the concept of one God as opposed to many Gods. But the literal meaning tells us little, almost nothing, about its theological inspiration or its practical implications.

In the theology of Monotheism, God is extra-cosmic. He created the cosmos out of Nothing in order to demonstrate his almightiness and, consequently, kept himself outside and above the Cosmos. There is nothing in God’s creation which can partake of God’s divinity. The elements and forces of Nature are devoid of any divinity whatsoever. The sky is empty space, and the Sun and the Moon and the Stars are only bright spots in that sky. Matter is absolutely material, and animals and birds are mere brutes unless they are domesticated when they show some improvement. Trees are timber, and the flowers embody no more than colour and fragrance. Air and water and fire and earth are what they are, and point to nothing beyond.

It is only man who is placed on a higher pedestal because the Almighty God blew his own breath into the handful of dust which he used in order to manufacture Adam, the male ancestor of the human race. Woman cannot share man’s status because Eve, the female ancestor of the human race, was carved out of Adam’s rib without the benefit of God’s breath being blown into it. Man is thus the best of God’s creation, the ashraf-ul-makhlûqãt.

But it is an unpardonable folly and a cardinal sin for man to fancy that he shares even an iota of God’s divinity. The only privilege which man enjoys as God’s best creation is to lord it over the lower creation which God has made for man’s use and benefit. Man can exploit the material resources of the earth in whatever way he pleases. Man can eat every bird and fish and animal for God has created them specifically for man’s consumption. And man can marry and divorce and keep as his concubines any number of women, at any stage of his three score and ten years. (The monogamy we find in Christianity is not prescribed by the Christian scripture. It was an institution which it borrowed from the pagan Romans.)

As man is likely to be carried away by the freedom of will which has been bestowed on him, and forget his creator, God has been sending prophets from time to time to restrain him from worship of false gods and philosophical speculation, and to turn his thoughts towards a higher purpose—obedience to God’s will as revealed through the prophets. The complete code of such do’s and don’ts has been conveyed by God in his final revelation—the New Testament according to Christianity and the Quran according to Islam—through his only son who is Jesus for Christianity or the last prophet who is Muhammad for Islam.

The supreme purpose of man’s life is to worship this extra-cosmic God with whom man cannot communicate directly, lead a life of piety according to rules laid down in the final revelation which man cannot question, and seek the intercession of the only son or the last prophet whose claims man cannot scrutinize in terms of his natural reason or normal moral sense. If man can thus bid good-bye to his critical faculty and conscience, “the seats of the Satan”, he can hope for an eternal heaven at the end of the only life God has granted to him. But if man wavers, or questions, or criticizes, or tries to understand, or judge these mysteries by using his own mind or moral sense, he becomes bound for an eternal hell from which there is no escape, and where the torment turns worse and worse with the ticking of every moment.

Whether all this applies to woman as well has been a point of dispute among Christian and Muslim theologians. Nevertheless, this much is clear that Islam at least assigns the same role to woman in heaven as she is expected to play on this earth—to serve man in servile obedience and to provide sexual pleasure to her male master. The only concession extended to woman after she enters heaven is to be spared the pains of maternity and old age. She becomes a houri endowed with eternal youth and unfading beauty. In Christianity, woman is essentially a temptress who leads man to hell. Her role in the hereafter has not been clearly defined.

An added duty of all true believers is to band together in a Church or an Ummah for propagating the only true religion, and to prop up the only son or the last prophet by all means including force and fraud. The fraternity thus formed is expected to invite all unbelievers to get converted to the only true creed, and to declare a crusade or jihãd against all those who refuse to be persuaded peacefully for saving themselves from eternal perdition and for securing an eternal heaven. The Church is expected to secure the aid of its secular arm, and the Ummah is expected to convert itself into a theocratic state in order to carry forward the struggle.

There is no limit to what these holy wars can legitimately do to the unbelievers except the limit imposed by power equations at any time. The least that the wars should do at the first available opportunity is to destroy the false Gods of the unbelievers, and the unholy temples where those Gods are worshipped. The holy warriors are under no obligation at all to prove that they are better human beings as compared to those they are expected to convert, or kill, or enslave, or subjugate. Their only qualification is that they believe in the only son or the last prophet, and follow the only true religion.

Monotheism is disguised materialism

One may spend a lifetime searching this theology of Monotheism for a factual or rational proof of what it proclaims so pompously. But the search will be in vain. For, all the time it assumes what it wants to prove, and proves what it has already assumed. At its best, it is a syllogism of which the major as well as the minor premise are arbitrary assertions.

Is there a proof that a being called Almighty God exists, and controls the cosmos? The answer is that the only son or the last prophet has said so. Who has sent this son or appointed this prophet to tell us about God and his doings? The answer is that it is God who has proclaimed the son or the prophet. What is the proof that what the son or the prophet pronounces as a divine revelation comes from God? The answer is that the revelation says so. And so on, it is an endless exercise in casuistry with no reference to human experience or human reason at any point.

In the last analysis, God is really a superfluity in this system of thought. A time comes when God imparts his final revelation to the only son or the last prophet, and retires to a well-deserved rest after entrusting the fate of his world as well as of his creatures to the keeping of the son or the prophet. In due course, the son or the prophet also is dead and gone after bequeathing his monopoly over truth and virtue to the Church or the Ummah. The Church or the Ummah, in turn, is dominated by a single man or a clique that can control and use a mighty military machine which has been built in the meanwhile. In the final round, it all ends up as imperialist aggression against other people in which a veneer of religious verbiage is retained in order to sustain the self-righteousness of the aggressor. The idols of the conquered people are destroyed and their temples pillaged, not because their Gods have been found to be false but because an imperialist always aims at destroying the self-respect of a people upon whom he wants to secure a stranglehold. It is in the nature of imperialism to indulge in cultural genocide on the slightest pretext, or at the first favourable opportunity.

The plight of the Allah of Islam is portrayed by Shykh Muhammad Iqbal when he puts the following question to Allah in his Shikwã: “Tujhko ma’lûm hai letã thã kuî nãm tirã / Quwwat-i-bãzû-i-muslim nê kiyã kãm tirã (Do you know of anyone who bothered about you before we came forward? It was the muscle-power of the Muslim which came to your rescue).” The God of the Bible is in no better position. He has been held aloft all along by Christian bayonets or Christian bags of money.

History is witness that Christianity as well as Islam have always expanded by the power of the sword, and seldom by power of any truth contained in their scriptures. In the words of Iqbal again, “Par tire nãm pê talwãr uThãî kisnê? Kãt kar rakh diyê kuffãr kê lashkar kisnê (But who did draw their swords in defence of your name and fame? Who was it that slaughtered the armies of the infidels for your sake?).” It is obvious that the Allah of Islam had to be thrust down people’s throats at the point of the sword. Otherwise poor Allah was a non-existent entity which no one was prepared to affirm. The same can be said of the Jehovah of Christianity, though no Christian poet has had the honesty of Iqbal to come out with the naked truth in a frank and forthright manner.

It is small wonder, therefore, that this politics of power masquerading as religion, cannot understand the language of spirituality which speaks in terms of a Divinity secret in everything, everywhere, and which enables human beings to dwell constantly in the company of Gods and Goddesses. This politics is too busy amassing wealth and power and pleasures of a material world to care for things which belong to the realm of Spirit.

Pained by the poverty of Muslims and the decay of the power of Islam, Iqbal has lamented: “Qahar tõ yêh hai ke kãfir ko milê hûr-o-qusûr / Aur bechãrê musalmãñ kõ faqat wa’da-i hûr (The terrible tragedy is that the infidels live in palaces and make love to houris in this life, while the poor Muslim has to remain content only with the promise of houris hereafter).” This is the highest aspiration to which this venerable Allamah of Islam could ever attain. It speaks volumes about Islam as a religion. Christianity too aspires towards no goal higher than this. Only its spokesmen are not so crude (or honest) in putting forward its case.

Hindu society has not only to recover the source of its own psyche which speaks in the language of Gods and Goddesses, it has also to realize that the psyche of Christianity and Islam hides vulgar materialism and imperialist ambition under a welter of high-sounding verbiage. – Excerpted from Defence of Hindu Society, New Delhi, 19??

Monotheism : No second opinion!

Porus’ defeat of Alexander at the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum) – N.S. Rajaram

Alexander taming Bucephalus by F. Schommer (late 19th century)

Navaratna S. RajaramIndian history has been distorted to meet the ideological needs of the ruling powers, a situation that continues to the present day. The pattern though is startling: just as the myth of the Aryan invasion was created to make Vedas and Sanskrit foreign imports, the myth of Greek superiority beginning with Alexander’s victory in India was concocted to make Greek learning superior to Indian. It was a claim the Greeks themselves never made. It was not for nothing that Napoleon called history “a fable agreed upon”. – Dr N. S. Rajaram

According to colonial British historians and their Indian followers, Alexander’s campaign in India (actually West Punjab now in Pakistan) was one of the most important episodes in Indian history. The reasons given are two. First it allowed scholars to establish a chronological marker for Indian history by identifying Sandracottos of Greek records with Chandragupta the founder of the Maurya Empire. This made him a contemporary of Alexander whose dates are known from other sources. This equation, known  the “Greek Synchronism“, is hailed as the sheet anchor of Indian history and chronology. All other dates are derived assuming it to be correct.

No less importantly, Alexander’s ‘victory’ has been used as evidence of European superiority over Indians even in ancient times. This soon led to the claim that all Indian achievements from astronomy and mathematics to Sanskrit drama and epic poetry must have been borrowed from the Greeks. (like: Ramayana was a copy of the Iliad!) It is commonplace among Western Indologists to claim that all Indian science and mathematics were borrowed from the Greeks after Alexander. (If so why didn’t the Greeks have the decimal place value system for another thousand years, which they got from India?) Some even claim that Indian writing was borrowed from the Greeks. Anyone who questions this is immediately denounced as a chauvinist incapable of logic.

The idea is fantastic. Alexander entered India in the winter of 327—326 BC and left when a mutiny of his soldiers forced him to retreat with heavy losses. As we shall see later his stay was brief and troubled. Philip, the satrap he left in charge of the garrisons was murdered by the locals and his garrisons swiftly overrun. Seleucus who tried to recover them was defeated and driven out. But to go by the accounts of colonial scholars, Alexander must have brought an army not of soldiers but scholars and scientists who taught Indians everything from writing to astronomy—all in a matter of months!

Contrast this with the British experience. Their rule lasted two centuries, and at its height included all of India. And yet India retained its identity and knowledge, learning from the British of course but adapting them to Indian conditions. The Greeks were in control, if at all of a remote corner of India for a few months. How could they achieve so great a transformation in so short a time that the British couldn’t in centuries? But such questions are dismissed as chauvinistic and unworthy of debate. So it is best to leave these claims alone and look at what the records have to say.

Greek and Indian records

Before we examine these claims, especially Alexander’s supposed military success against the Indians a few facts should be kept in mind. No Greek records from the period survive; we know about them only from later, much later accounts that refer to them. This includes the Indica of Megasthenes which is only known from references in later works by writers like Strabo, Diodorus, Plutarch and a few others. And none of them mention the word Maurya. Several scholars have suggested that Sandrocottos of the Greek records could have been Samudragupta of the later Gupta dynasty. This would topple the Greek synchronism and place the Maurya dynasty including Chandragupta and Ashoka several centuries before Alexander.

The point to note here is that the whole of Indian chronology rests on the correctness of this linguistic similarity between Sandrakottos and Chandragupta (Maurya). There is no technical or inscriptional evidence to support it. Ashoka’s inscriptions don’t mention Alexander even though other kings are mentioned by name. Nonetheless historians for the most part have taken it as proven although a few dissident scholars are questioning it citing some recent archaeological finds. It is important to note that Ashoka’s date, as well as the dates of his inscriptions are deduced from this Greek Synchronism and not based on any scientific grounds like radiocarbon tests. (Recent archaeological data relating to stratification seem to cast doubt on it, but this line is not pursued here.)

In all this there is an implicit assumption that Western sources are always reliable and objective and should be accepted without question. But the trustworthiness of Greek accounts on which much of this version of history is based, including those of Megasthenes and his successor Deimachus, has been questioned from the earliest time. The late R. C. Majumdar pointed out that we must give up any notion that they were somehow more reliable than others—a view propagated by colonial historians. Even the ancient Strabo (c. 65 BC—c. 24 AD) wrote: “Generally speaking, the men who hitherto have written on the affairs of India were a set of liars. Deimachus holds the first place in the list, Megasthenes comes next…. Of this we became the more convinced whilst writing the history of Alexander. No faith whatever can be placed in Deimachus and Megasthenes.”

In contrast to the paucity of Greek records, we have ample records from Indian sources—Hindu, Buddhist and Jain—from the periods before and after Alexander. The most famous of these is the Arthashastra of Kautilya who was a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya and hence of Alexander if his identification with Sandrakottos is correct. While they know nothing of Alexander, they do note invasions by others like the Scythians (Shaka), Huns (Huna), Persians (Parasika), Parthians (Prithu-Parthava) and others. The word “Yavana” (Yona in Prakrit) is fairly common in the late ancient age, but does not always mean the Greeks (or Ionians) much less Macedonians.

The first identifiable reference to Alexander in an Indian work is found in Banabhatta’s Harshacarita written almost a thousand years after Alexander’s invasion. In this Bana refers to an Alikasundara and his campaign against a country ruled by women (stree-rajya) or “Amazons“. They are probably the same as the Massagetae whose warrior queen Tomyris defeated and killed the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great around 535 BC. Their country corresponds to modern Kazakhstan, so Alexander would have encountered them on his march towards Afghanistan (or Bactria).

This suggests that the impact of Alexander’s march on India has been exaggerated out of all proportion to reality by historians of the colonial era. In order to get a truer picture it is necessary to have some idea of the historical and political background to Alexander’s campaign which was part of Macedonia’s expansionist policy and not just a bolt from the blue. Alexander was the son of King Philip II of Macedonia and Olympias, the fourth of Philip’s seven (or eight) wives. As Macedonians, they were looked down upon by the Greeks as half-barbarians. Probably to counter this, Philip engaged Aristotle to tutor Alexander in Greek learning.

It was Philip who initiated an expansionist policy by invading and occupying Athens and other parts of Greece proper. To this end Philip introduced a military innovation known as the “phalanx“—a compact and disciplined infantry formation that could fight as a unit. This proved successful against the tribes of Asia Minor and Central Asia, as well as the once mighty but now disintegrating Persian Empire. These were pitched battles in which Alexander’s disciplined phalanxes proved superior. They proved less effective in India where he needed to move against large formations over vast areas.

Philip was assassinated in 336 BC, plotted by Alexander’s mother Olympias according to some historians. Alexander III (to give his official name) inherited his father’s kingdom as well as the powerful army that he had created. He continued Philip’s policy of subduing the Greek states, which they intensely disliked, and expanded east and south until his forces were in Asia Minor (East Turkey). Egypt, which was chafing under Persian rule threw off its yoke and greeted Alexander as liberator. In 334 BC, he turned his attention to the wealthy but decaying Persian Empire.

Alexander’s campaign against the Persian Empire consisted of a series of raids in which he plundered wealthy cities like Issus, Susa and Persepolis, the last of which he reduced to ashes. They were not unlike Mahmud of Ghazni’s raids into India 1300 years later. Darius III, the unworthy bearer of a great name, proved both incompetent and unpopular. He was captured and killed by one of his own subordinate rulers, Bessus of Bactria. In his Persian campaigns Alexander was greatly helped by his general Parmenion (c. 400—330 BC) who had loyally served his father also. Alexander repaid his loyalty by having the seventy year-old general executed on false charges of disloyalty. (This shows that Alexander was not the kind of man to reward a defeated adversary like Porus.)

By 330 BC, Alexander found himself in Central Asia and Bactria (Afghanistan), trying to consolidate his hold over what were once parts of the Persian Empire. He was now near the border of India. He, like his contemporaries had heard a great deal about the country and its legendary wealth. Whether it was his love of plunder or imperial ambition that attracted him, he descended into the plains of Punjab in the winter of 327 BC.

This shows that Alexander was not the first foreigner to take an interest in India. There were others—traders, mercenary soldiers and adventurers before and after Alexander. Some even set up kingdoms, or tried to until uprooted or assimilated into in the region of the northwest. They are referred to as the Indo-Greeks. They should be seen as part and parcel of long-standing encounters between India and the people to the west though most of them were not military in nature. We need to have some idea of this to get a truer picture of Alexander’s campaign and its impact.

“History—a fable agreed upon”

Links between India and the West, including the Mediterranean world of Greece, Ionia, Egypt and Rome is of untold antiquity. It is important to recognize that the ancient Greeks did not see themselves as Europeans, but as one with other people of the Mediterranean region that included Egypt, Babylonia and Persia. To them Europe and its people were barbarian. As previously observed, Alexander and his fellow Macedonians were seen by the Greek elite as barely a step removed from being barbarians.

Other than a few questionable references in the Old Testament, the earliest Western work to mention India appears to be the Histories of Herodotus (c. 484—425 BC). His writings indicate that there were others before him who had visited India including possibly Pythagoras (c. 570—495 BC). It is not known if Herodotus himself was ever in India. His writings (or those ascribed to him) do not suggest any great familiarity with India of the time. But they do show that India and its people were already familiar to the Greeks centuries before Alexander.

Until the campaigns of Alexander, there was no large-scale Greek presence in India though a few Greek colonies did exist in the northwestern regions of the subcontinent. Following his failure to gain a position in India and the defeat of his successor Seleucus Nikator, relationships between the Indians and the Greeks and the Romans later, was mainly through trade and diplomacy. Also the Greeks and other ancient peoples did not see themselves as in any way superior, only different. Herodotus in fact is full of admiration for Egyptians, Persians and the Ethiopians (Africans). The notion of Greeks as superior to Indians and other non-Europeans was a conceit introduced by Europeans of the colonial period.

To preserve this conceit of “European” superiority, colonial officials made the Greeks all but the bringers of knowledge to India—a claim the Greeks themselves never made. As a first step, these “scholars” turned what was Alexander’s disastrous defeat into a victory that somehow resulted in his “defeated” opponent ending up with more territory! Alexander also had to face a mutiny by his supposedly “victorious” army and forced to beat a hasty retreat that resulted in the near destruction of his army and his own premature death. Further, his position became so weak that Alexander dared not return by the northern route by which he had come but took the forbiddingly inhospitable southern desert route where water is very scarce. (This is reflected in the legend of how Alexander on his deathbed gave the last cup of water he was about to drink to a thirsty soldier.)

This historically realistic picture was first brought to light—to Indians at least—by the famous Russian general and military thinker Marshal Georgy Zhukov. In his convocation address delivered at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun, Zhukov stated that Alexander’s conduct in the aftermath of his battle with Porus showed that he had suffered a catastrophic defeat. According to Zhukov, Alexander in his Indian campaign had fared far worse than Napoleon in Russia. A careful examination of Greek and Roman sources like Plutarch reinforces Zhukov’s analysis who was undoubtedly familiar with them. In particular it shows that his supposed victory over Porus was a later fabrication.

Here is how Plutarch described Alexander’s “victory”: “This last combat with Porus took off the edge of the Macedonians’ courage and stayed their further progress in India…. Alexander not only offered to Porus to govern his own kingdom as satrap under himself but gave him also the additional territory of various independent tribes whom he had subdued.” So Porus emerged from his war with his territory doubled and his gold stock augmented. This can only mean that Alexander had to buy peace with Porus to ensure a safe passage for himself and his troops. How this constitutes victory is known only to colonial historians and their gullible Indian followers.

Worse fate awaited Alexander and his army on their way south. As he was trying to withdraw, Alexander nearly lost his life in a battle near Mulasthana (the modern Multan), and managed to escape thanks to the bravery of his friend Peucestas who sacrificed his life to save Alexander. Alexander and what was left of his army beat a hasty retreat towards Babylon through Sind only to be decimated. The “world conqueror” died in Babylon—a shadow of his arrogant self. All this is recorded by Plutarch who goes on to add, “Alexander left deceptive monuments to exaggerate the scale of his successes in India.”

This should give an idea of how seriously Indian history has been distorted to meet the ideological needs of the ruling powers, a situation that continues to the present day. The pattern though is startling: just as the myth of the Aryan invasion was created to make Vedas and Sanskrit foreign imports, the myth of Greek superiority beginning with Alexander’s victory in India was concocted to make Greek learning superior to Indian. It was a claim the Greeks themselves never made. It was not for nothing that Napoleon called history a “fable agreed upon.”

(To balance this it should be added that the 1941 movie Sikander with Sohrab Modi as the brave but defeated Porus and Prithviraj Kapoor as the victorious Alexander chivalrously restoring the defeated Porus to his kingdom did as much to seal the myth of Alexander and his nobility as any colonial era history book. It was released at the height of World War II when the nationalist sentiment was running high. It captured the mood of the people.)

In conclusion we may say that while ancient records may not give us a full picture of the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum River) between Alexander and Porus, they certainly tell us it was far from being a victory. Of one thing we can be sure: like Napoleon’s march on Moscow, it was the beginning of the end of Alexander’s career as world conqueror. After a disastrous retreat through Sindh and Makran, Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, broken in health and spirit. – Folks Magazine, 2 March 2012

» Dr. Navaratna Srinivasa Rajaram is a mathematician and historian who publishes with Voice of India.

See also

A Feast of St Thomas – Ishwar Sharan

St Thomas by Georges de La Tour ca. 1632

IS-SDSThe Roman Catholic Church in India owes Hindus an abject apology for the blood libel she has perpetuated for centuries, falsely charging Hindus with the murder of Thomas even as she falsely charges Jews with the murder of Jesus. – IS

Fr Francis Gonsalves, SJThe Deccan Chronicle in Chennai carried on 2 July 2012 a “mystic mantra” column called “Feast of Thomas” (article now deleted) by Fr Francis Gonsalves, the former president of the Jesuit-run Vidyajyoti Theological College in New Delhi. The feast for St Thomas is celebrated on July 3rd every year in India. Fr Francis knows better than this writer that the story of St Thomas in India is untrue. He also knows that prestigious Jesuit schools in Europe would never refer to the Thomas in India story without first qualifying it as an unverified Gnostic moral fable. But Fr Francis whose ancestors were Christian converts in Goa—by force or fraud we do not know—is an Indian Jesuit under a communal compulsion to deceive his congregation and support their fanciful apostolic aspirations for India.  And there is also the politics of which his religious order is more than famous—or should we say infamous. Fr Francis had a candidate for the Indian presidency in the person of a deracinated tribal convert called Purno Sangma. Therefore Fr Francis must continue to perpetrate the St Thomas in India lie as he believes that Thomas has already claimed India for Christ and that claim could have been actualized in the person of Purno Sangma. So Fr Francis wrote:

I’m often asked by the people here in India and abroad, “When did Christianity come to India?” “Indian Christianity is about 2,000 years old,” I reply, adding, “Ever since St Thomas, one of Jesus’ beloved disciples, came to India.” [1] Thus, we have the so-called “St Thomas Christians” [2]—mainly from Kerala—whose ancestors received Jesus’ “Gospel” soon after his resurrection. On July 3, Christians will celebrate the feast of Saint Thomas.

The Gospel of John records three utterances of St Thomas that give glimpses of his character. First, when Jesus desires to go to Bethany, bordering Jerusalem, the disciples try to prevent him from going since he was almost stoned there for claiming kinship with God. Thomas, however, sticks by Jesus, and says, “Let’s also go that we may die with him” (John 11:16). This shows Thomas’ courage and his commitment to Jesus.

Second, when Jesus announces his imminent death and assures his disciples that he’ll prepare a place for them, he adds, “You know the way to the place where I’m going.” Thomas answers candidly, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5). This prompts Jesus to reply, “I am the way.”

Thomas’ third utterance gives not only him, but also gifts us the appellation “doubting Thomas”. Being no pushover, Thomas asks for “proof” before he believes the unprecedented news of Jesus rising from the dead. But, on meeting the Risen Christ, he exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). These words are etched in gold over the tomb of St Thomas at the San Thome Cathedral, Chennai: a magnificent 16th-century Gothic church visited by innumerable pilgrims.

Having lived in Chennai, I cherish unforgettable moments at monuments built in memory of Apostle Thomas. I remember that morning of Sunday, December 26, 2004, when I was presiding over morning worship at San Thome Cathedral and the mighty ocean came crashing down upon Marina beach, leaving us distraught at the destruction wrought by the tsunami.

Two other churches in Chennai commemorate the Apostle: one built in 1523 atop “Saint Thomas Mount” near the airport, and, another big, circular one constructed in 1972 on “Little Mount”. The former contains the “Bleeding Cross”, believed to have been sculpted on stone by St Thomas, while the latter rests beside the cave where the Apostle prayed.

Saints are not the exclusive property of one religion. St Thomas teaches us all three things: (a) to be courageous and committed to a cause; (b) to be candid and to clarify things when in doubt; and (c) to be critical of things outside human experience; yet, also to believe in God who forever remains “The Beyond” while inspiring us to exclaim, “My Lord, my God!” in the everyday ordinariness of life.Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, 2 June 2012

There is no historical evidence to support the legend that St Thomas, called Judas Thomas in the Acts of Thomas, ever came to India. And when we say there is no historical evidence in Western literature, we say emphatically that there is no evidence for St Thomas or Indian Christianity in ancient Tamil literature either. Even up to the tenth century and Raja Raja Chola’s time, Tamil literature has no record of Christians or Christianity being present in the land.

The story of Thomas’s Indian sojourn exists only in the Acts of Thomas. This long religious romance was probably  written by the Syrian Gnostic poet Bardesanes about 210 CE at Edessa, Syria. Bardesanes was familiar with India and had met and discussed Indian philosophy with Buddhist monks travelling west to Alexandria. It was therefore quite natural for him to place his moral fable in India, a land from which all kinds of religious ideas emanated. [3]

Bardesanes story is centred on the moral imperative that all Christians must lead a chaste and celibate life. In the story he has Judas Thomas, who is presented as a look-alike twin brother of Jesus, persuade a newly married royal couple not to consummate their marriage. This angers the Parthian king of the desert land where Thomas is present and he has to flee for his life to another part of the country. Here he comes into contact with another Parthian king called Gundaphorus—possibly a first century king of  Gandhara i.e. North-West Pakistan—and promises to build him a palace. Thomas cheats the king of his money but succeeds in converting him to Christianity. He then leaves Gundaphorus and concerns himself with a talking donkey and a dragon who claims to be Satan. Thomas slays the dragon, but because of his interest in converting the women and girls of the area to Christianity and alienating them from family life, is called before a third Parthian king called Mazdai—Mazdai being a Zoroastrian name after the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda—and ordered to leave the country. When Thomas ignores the king’s warning and converts the queen and her son, the king in exasperation at the apostle’s evil deeds orders him executed. He is then speared to death by soldiers on a royal acropolis and the body shortly afterward taken away to Edessa.

In all records Thomas is executed on the Parthian royal acropolis and soon after buried at Edessa where a cult grows up around his tomb—until Marco Polo in his famous travel book puts his tomb on the seashore in an unnamed little town in South India. Marco, who never came to India, was repeating the stories told to him by Muslim and Syrian Christian merchants he met in Constantinople.

This is how St Thomas got to South India. The Portuguese who knew Marco’s popular book Il Milione decided quite arbitrarily that Mylapore was the unnamed little town Marco was referring to [4]—and Mylapore also had a good harbour and a great heathen temple that could be turned into a Christian apostle’s tomb. As they say, the rest is history—and a falsified history at that!

Though Bardesanes represents Judas Thomas as a second Christ, he does not represent him as a good man. What we gather from the story in the Acts, and what Fr Francis and his Church neglect to tell the faithful, is that

  • Jesus was a slave trader who sold Thomas to Abbanes for thirty pieces of silver;
  • Thomas was an antisocial character who lied to his royal employer and stole money from him;
  • Thomas ill-treated women and enslaved them;
  • Thomas practised black magic and was executed for disobeying the king’s order to stop and leave the country;
  • Thomas was Jesus’s twin brother, implying that the four canonical Gospels are unreliable sources which have concealed a crucial fact, viz. that Jesus was not God’s Only Begotten Son. In fact, Jesus and Thomas were God’s twin-born sons. In other words, accepting the Thomas legend as history is equivalent to exploding the doctrinal foundation of Christianity.

Enough said about Judas Didymus Thomas.

About San Thome Cathedral which houses his fake tomb—the real tomb for St. Thomas is at Ortona, Italy—it has been established by reputed Jesuit and Indian archaeologists that the church stands on the ruins of the original Kapaleeswara Shiva Temple destroyed by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. So do the churches at Little Mount and Big Mount stand on ruined Murugan and Shiva temples respectively. The “Bleeding Cross” Fr Francis refers to and which is kept in the Portuguese church on Big Mount, has these words carved around the edge of it in Pahlavi script: “My lord Christ, have mercy upon Afras, son of Chaharbukht the Syrian, who cut this.” The cross is dated by experts to the eighth or ninth century.

Apostle Thomas was a Jew and the Roman cross would have been a most abhorrent symbol to him. Certainly he did not bring a cross—or a Bible for that matter; there was no Bible in the first century—to India. Christians did not use the Roman cross as a religious symbol until the third century or later. They used a fish sign with the Greek word ΙΧΘΥC (ikhthus meaning “fish”)—an acronym for JESUS—inscribed in its body to identify themselves and their cult. Curiously Indian Christianity has never referenced or employed a fish symbol in its religious culture. This is because there were no Christians in India before the fourth century. The cross and Bible were brought later by Syrian Christian refugees after the fourth century.

We wish to assure Fr Francis and the Christian congregations that he has deceived, that Hindus are not going to demand the return of temple property the Church has forcefully taken from them over the centuries. But we do feel an apology for past crimes is in order and that some restraint is observed when perpetuating the communally-charged St Thomas tale among the faithful—especially as Thomas’s persecution and death are falsely attributed to a Hindu king and his Brahmin priests. Arun Shourie has stated that the apology should include the following items:

  • an honest accounting of the calumnies which the Church has heaped on India and Hinduism; informing Indian Christians and non-Christians about the findings of Bible scholarship [including the St Thomas legend];
  • informing them about the impact of scientific progress on Church doctrine;
  • acceptance that reality is multi-layered and that there are many ways of perceiving it;
  • bringing the zeal for conversion in line with the recent declarations that salvation is possible through other religions as well.

Besides this apology, we feel the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore may donate a piece of the vast estate Bishop’s House stands on for a memorial to the courageous Hindus who resisted the Portuguese when they with the help of Franciscan, Dominican and Jesuit priests were destroying the Kapaleeswara Shiva Temple by the sea.

The Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, who may be an honest man unlike his predecessors, also must stop perpetuating the claim that Tiruvalluvar was a disciple of Thomas and a Christian convert. Tiruvalluvar lived a hundred years before Christ and anybody who has read the Tirukurral can see that this claim is a malicious falsehood.

The St Thomas legend is now part of Indian history and Indian history must be told according to the known facts, not according to the fabricated anti-national theories of Indian Jesuits and Marxist historians. Even Pope Benedict has denied that St. Thomas came to South India—never mind that his editors changed his statement the next day to include South India because Kerala’s bishops had threatened secession or worse if the Church did not support their dearly held tale of origins.

Dr Koenraad Elst, educated in Europe’s most prestigious Catholic university in Leuven, Belgium, writes in his foreword to The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple: “It is clear enough that many Christians including the Pope have long given up the belief in Thomas’s Indian exploits, or—like the Church Fathers—never believed in them in the first place. In contrast with European Christians today, Indian Christians live in a 17th century bubble, as if they are too puerile to stand in the daylight of solid historical fact. They remain in a twilight of legend and lies, at the command of ambitious “medieval” bishops who mislead them with the St. Thomas in India fable for purely selfish reasons.”

What a sad observation on Indian Christians who have access to the best education and health care in the country. And what a shrewd observation on Indian bishops who are probably the most wealthy, corrupt, and politically astute caste living in India today.

» Francis Gonsalves teaches systematic theology  at Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune.

» Ishwar Sharan is the author of The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, Voice of India, New Delhi.


1. India’s political leaders are fond of telling their constituents and the nation that Christianity arrived in India before it arrived in Europe. This historical conceit is not true. Apostle Paul says in Romans 15:24 & 15:28 that he plans to visit Spain (which already had a Christian community). In Acts 19:21 he travels from Ephesus to Greece—Macedonia and Achaia—en route to Jerusalem, and then on to Rome. This took place in the 40s CE—some historians say he was writing after 44 CE. So even if it was true that Apostle Thomas landed in Kerala in 52 CE—the spurious date is of 19th century origin—Christianity would still have arrived in Europe a decade earlier.

2. Thomas of Cana, also known as Knai Thoma, led the first group of 72 Syrian Christian families to India in 345 CE. There is no record of Christian communities in India prior to this date. Thomas of Cana and his companion Bishop Joseph of Edessa also brought with them the tradition of St Thomas the Apostle of the East. Later, Christian communities in Kerala would identify Knai Thoma with Mar Thoma—Thomas of Cana with Thomas the Apostle—and claim St Thomas had arrived in Kerala in AD 52 and established the first Christian church at Musiris—the ancient port near present day Kodungallur—the main trading center of the day.

The Rev Dr G. Milne Rae of the Madras Christian College, in The Syrian Church in India, did not allow that St Thomas came further east than Afghanistan (Gandhara). He told the Syrian Christians that they reasoned fallaciously about their identity and wove a fictitious story of their origin. Their claim that they were called “St Thomas” Christians from the 1st century was also false.

Syrian Christians were called Nasranis (from Nazarean) or Nestorians (by Europeans) up to the 14th century. Bishop Giovanni dei Marignolli the Franciscan papal legate in Quilon invented the appellation “St Thomas Christians” in 1348 to distinguish his Syrian Christian converts from the low-caste Hindu converts in his congregation.

3. The oriental ubiquity of St Thomas’s apostolate is explained by the fact that the geographical term “India” included, apart from the subcontinent of this name, the lands washed by the Indian Ocean as far as the China Sea in the east and the Arabian peninsula, Ethiopia, and the African coast in the west.

Ancient writers used the designation “India” for all countries south and east of the Roman Empire’s frontiers. India included Ethiopia, Arabia Felix, Edessa in Syria (in the Latin version of the Syriac Diatessaron), Arachosia and Gandhara (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and many countries up to the China Sea.

In the Acts of Thomas, the original key text to identify St Thomas with India (which all other India references follow), historians agree that the term India refers to Parthia (Persia) and Gandhara (Pakistan). The city of Andrapolis named in the Acts, where Judas Thomas and Abbanes landed in India, has been identified as Sandaruck (one of the ancient Alexandrias) in Balochistan.

4. Marco Polo had written,  “It is in this province, which is styled the Greater India, at the gulf between Ceylon and the mainland, that the body of Messer St. Thomas lies, at a certain town having no great population.”

So Marco’s reference is to a town on the Gulf of Mannar and not Mylapore at all!

Tableau of St Thomas and his Hindu assassin in San Thome Cathedral, Chennai, India

Tomb of St Thomas in San Tommaso Basilica, Ortona, Italy, which has had in its possession the complete skeleton of Thomas since the 13th century.

St Thomas Tomb Mylapore

› See more photos here

The Bharatas of Bharatavarsha – Sandhya Jain

Bharat Mata

Sandhya JainThe three Bharatas seamlessly united … the land itself in political and cultural unity. – Sandhya Jain

Bharatavarsha is encompassed from north to south by Sagarmatha, forehead of the ocean, a beautiful epithet for the tallest Himalayan peak, and Hind Mahasagar, the Indian Ocean. Famed as a divine creation, it is the bhumi of the Bharatas, hallowed by its sacred geography and the great souls who have guided her spiritual ascent and steered her civilizational  destiny. Bharatavarsha literally means the continent (varsha) that is dedicated (rata) to light, wisdom (bha). Our Vedic Rishis devoted themselves to the quest for the eternal truth and ultimate reality, kevala jnana, satchidananda.

The Bharatas were a venerable and ancient tribe mentioned in the Rig Veda, particularly in Mandala 3 of Bharata Rishi Vishwamitra.  Mandala 7 says the Bharatas were on the victorious side in the Battle of the Ten Kings.

There were three personifications of “Bharata” in Hindu tradition, one each in the first three yugas, or time cycles. Together they are regarded as the epitome of the civilisational values of the Sanatana Dharma.

Bharata of the Satyuga

The first Bharata was born in the Satyuga as the son of Rshabdeva, first among recognized ancient sages. The Jaina community traces its spiritual lineage from Rshabhdeva, designated as the first Tirthankara; he is also known as Adinath, and synonymous with Siva, the foremost yogi of the Hindu tradition.

Jinasena’s Adipurana says three great events occurred simultaneously in Jaina history: Rsabhdeva attained enlightenment and became the first Jina; the cakra (wheel) appeared in the armoury of his son Bharata and proclaimed him a cakravartin (emperor); and a son was born to Bharata, ensuring continuation of the Iksvaku dynasty founded by Rsabhdeva.

Elaborating the multiple rebirths of father and son in the bhogabhumi (world of enjoyment) where salvation is not possible, the Adipurana explains their evolution to karmabhumi (world of karma) where the law of retribution operates and men follow different occupations (karman). Rsabhdeva created the Ksatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra castes; Bharata later created Brahmanas and appointed kings.

The duty of the cakravartin is total conquest of all the directions (digvijaya) by means of superior moral and political powers, to unite the country under a single moral kingdom and prevent anarchy. Readers will note that the cakravartin is not merely an ideal ruler, but a powerful ancient political concept, inspired by a vision of the Hindu bhumi as a unity which was not belied by the presence of multiple centres of political power. That is why civilisational values permeated the whole land and gave the tradition its abiding continuity.

As first cakravartin, Bharata, fasted, meditated, performed puja and followed the cakra symbolizing his kingship as it moved of its own accord to various parts of the country. He paused to perform pradaksina in Saurastra, where the Jina Aristanemi (cousin of Sri Krishna) would be born, all the while circling Ayodhya, centre of Aryavarta (land of the Arya, noble ones).

Bharata thus subjugated rival kings and punished those who taxed their subjects excessively. His digvijaya was accomplished without violence, through innate capability, on account of punya (merit) acquired in previous lives through practice of Jaina precepts. He exemplified the virtues of compassion (daya), divine wisdom (Brahma-jñana) and penance (tapas).

Bharata of the Tretayuga

The second Bharata was born in the Tretayuga as the son of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya, and younger brother of Sri Rama. He embodied the virtues of love (prema), devotion (bhakti), and brotherhood (bandhutva).

The story of the Ramayana is well-known, but briefly, Keikeyi, the second wife of King Dasaratha, schemes to have the heir apparent, Sri Rama, sent into exile for fourteen years, and her own son, Bharata, appointed crown prince in his place. Rama, accompanied by his brother Lakshman, and wife Sita, departs immediately and the grief-stricken Dasaratha passes away soon afterwards.

Bharata, then on a visit to his maternal grandfather’s kingdom in Gandhara, returns only to learn of his father’s tragic demise and brother’s unfair exile. Tortured further by the thought that he could be considered complicit in this palace conspiracy, he decides—unswervingly—not to accept the throne. He then leads the people to the forest to persuade Rama to return. This political renunciation of a kingdom won illegitimately is a unique Hindu ethic.

Bharata is regarded as the symbol of dharma and idealism, second only to Sri Rama. To this day, he is revered for his adherence to family values, truth, righteousness, filial love and duty.

When Sri Rama refused to return to Ayodhya as rightful king, Bharata, at the intervention of Sita’s father, King Janaka, accepted the onerous duty of facilitating Rama to live righteously, i.e., in exile for fourteen years. He vowed to immolate himself if Rama did not return immediately at the end of the exile period and ascend his throne. Agreeing to govern Ayodhya only as regent, he placed Sri Rama’s sandals at the foot of the royal throne as the symbol of His kingship.

Bharata of the Dwaparyuga

The third Bharata was born in the Dwaparyuga as the son of Shakuntala and King Dushyant. Their story is part of the Mahabharata narrative, but it was Kalidasa who immortalized their love in Abhigyan Shakuntalam.

Shakuntala was the daughter of Rishi Vishvamitra and the apsara Menaka, who was sent by Indra to distract the sage. Menaka returned to heaven, and her daughter was raised in the hermitage of Rishi Kanva.

King Dushyant was the youngest son of King Puru, who had sacrificed his youth for his father, King Yayati. He founded the Paurava dynasty. Dushyant was hunting in the forest when, following a wounded deer into the hermitage of Rishi Kanva, he found Shakuntala nursing the animal. He fell in love and they married secretly in the Gandharva style, being their own witnesses.

The king gave her a ring as token of his love and to establish her identity as his wife. Sadly, Shakuntala lost the ring and the king refused to accept her; she retired to the forest and gave birth to Bharata, who grew up so bold and fearless that he played with lions. Some years later, the ring was found and Dushyant brought Shakuntala and Bharat to Pratishthan, where Bharata later became king.

Bharata is regarded as the greatest king of India, who lent his name to the country. He had nine sons, but deemed none of them fit to succeed him, and hence adopted a capable child as future ruler. Bharata personified the values of service (seva), valour (shaurya), and charity (dana).

Eternal values, eternal tradition

Thus the three Bharatas (two kings, one prince) seamlessly united the Satayuga, Tretayuga and Dwaparayuga and the land itself in political and cultural unity. They exemplified three ideals each that permeated Hindu civilisation and form its core values to this day. Rsabhdeva’s son Bharata gave us daya, Brahma-jñana and tapas; Dasaratha’s son Bharata gave us prema, bhakti, and bandhutva; and Dushyanta-Shakuntala’s son Bharata gave us seva, shaurya and dana.

Their sterling qualities raised a landmass to divine bhumi—Bharat Mata, mother of the Bharata people. This explains the Hindu anguish and anger over M. F. Husain’s exceedingly vulgar imagery of the Eternal Mother.

Hindus impart these nine values to every generation. The jeneu ceremony marking the transition from childhood to youth revolves around this value system. The youth bestowed the sacred thread takes nine vows; each vow is represented as a knot that binds the three separate strands of the jeneu.

The jeneu was therefore a great privilege, bestowed upon conscious Hindus. Today Hindu gurus are extending its reach to all sections of society, shattering mindsets and barriers, and raising the whole population to higher awareness about the responsibilities of religion and culture.

Useful idiots

All this should nail the lie—peddled incessantly by Western Abrahamic so-called scholars and a modern “caste” designated by some as Useful Indian Idiots—that India was not a nation until the British made it so; that Hindu dharma is not a religion but an assorted collection of “cults” (whatever that means) and beliefs of folk origin (whatever that means too—who’s going to ask, anyway?).

We have only to look at ourselves as our Vedic Rishis and Gurus did—as children of the Himalayas, the Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Krishna, Godavari, down to Kanyakumari. According to the distinguished scholar, Prof. Lokesh Chandra, the eternal significance of Adi Sankara is that in establishing mathams in the four corners of India, he also established the sacred geography of the four directions and united the country in common pilgrimage and cohesive culture at a time of grave danger.

As we look back, some things startle the mind. The ancient seers travelled extraordinary distances, covering every nook and corner of the country and every community howsoever remote, and uniting them in a complex religious and cultural matrix that endures to this day.

But more extraordinary is the fact that the ancient world seems to have had singular communicative skills. In the absence of what is called a common language (read English), a villager from Kerala could traverse the land and dominate the civilisation for over a thousand years, Marathi poets from the Deccan could settle in Punjab, a Guru from Punjab could reach Karnataka and Patna, one born in Gujarat could dominate north India. No one felt alien, or homeless, or misunderstood.

This is surely one of the most enduring mysteries of the Sanatana Dharma.

» Sandhya Jain is a writer of political and contemporary affairs and writes a fortnightly column for The Pioneer, New Delhi. She edits an opinions forum at Vijayvaani

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Hindutva or Hindu Nationalism – Shrikant G. Talageri

Shrikant G. Talageri

Hindu Nationalist ideology is generally referred to as Hindutva—a word coined by Veer Savarkar, and later taken up by the Hindu Mahasabha (of which Savarkar himself was twice President) and the RSS. In the last two decades, the word has become a common word in Indian politics, bandied about by the likes of the BJP and the Shiv Sena and by their political opponents. Anybody and everybody interprets the word to his own convenience, but there can be no doubt about its basic meaning: it means an ideology for the defence of Hindu society, culture and civilisation.

The following is an attempt to elaborate on the ideology of Hindutva as a complete nationalist ideology from the point of view of three aspects:

1. Conventional Hindutva
2. Cultural Nationalism
3. Socio-Economic Nationalism

1. Conventional Hindutva

Conventional Hindutva is what is generally understood by the term Hindutva: an ideology for the defence of Hindu society and civilisation. As the word defence indicates, the first premise is that Hindu society and civilisation are under attack.

Societies and civilisations have been under attack from other societies and civilisations since the beginnings of time. It is a natural corollary of the baser side of human nature, and the vicissitudes of Time and Nature have seen the demise of many a society and civilisation.

But the Old Testament of the Bible for the first time introduced a new element: the destruction of societies and civilisations as a matter of religious ideology. The birth of Christianity, 2000 years ago, gave a final revolutionary touch by converting this local ideology (restricted only to Palestine, the land “promised” by Jehovah to the Jews) into an international imperialist ideology. A few centuries later, Islam followed suit. The two, between them, laid waste most of the earlier societies and civilisations of Europe, Western and Central Asia, and North Africa.

In the mediaeval period, Christian Imperialism took on a new form as European Imperialism, and destroyed the societies and civilisations of North and South America, and Australia, and did much damage (particularly political and psychological) in the rest of Africa and Asia. It was only when a similar ideology (Nazism) arose in a part of Europe itself, which sought to do to the rest of Europe what some parts of Europe had done to most of the rest of the world, that European Imperialism lost its steam. The centre of Christian Imperialism shifted to America. Today American Imperialism dominates the world with (apart from its military and economic clout) its three powerful ideological weapons: Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism. In the process, Christian Imperialism also laid low another rival imperialism, which had raised its head for one century, Marxist Imperialism; and it is now in the process of trying to do the same to its more long-standing rival, Islamic Imperialism.

Hindu civilisation is the one civilisation whose inner greatness and resilience enabled it to withstand centuries of Christian and Islamic imperialist attack. It is in fact the last major bastion of the pre-Christian civilisations of the world.

For that very reason, Hindu society is today the single major target of all these Imperialisms, which are backed by powerful international forces. As Sita Ram Goel puts it at the very beginning of his Hindu Society Under Siege: “the death of Hindu society is no longer an eventuality which cannot be envisaged. This great society is now besieged by the same dark and deadly forces which have overwhelmed and obliterated many earlier societies. Suffering from a loss of élan, it has become a house divided within itself. And its beneficiaries no more seem to be interested in its survival because they have fallen victims to hostile propaganda. They have developed towards it an attitude of utter indifference, if not downright contempt. Let no Hindu worth his salt remain complacent. Hindu society is in mortal danger as never before.” (p.2)

This fact is clear to anyone who looks around with open eyes at what is going on all around, and who is clear-sighted and level headed enough to see, and honest enough to admit, the situation.

To illustrate this, let me quote from an article in the Indian Express (Sunday 13/6/2004) by Tavleen Singh, a journalist who cannot by any means be called a Hindu communalist (she points out, in the article, that she is “not a Hindu”), and who was always considered by Sita Ram Goel to be a typical secularist scribe, entitled “This Inner Voice Too Needs Hearing”: “… the word Hindutva is being used as a term of abuse … it is used mostly in pejorative terms … the debate appears no longer confined to the cloistered world of priests, or even the self-serving one of politics, it has expanded into a challenge to Hindu civilisation … the wider attack on Indian civilisation that this pejorative use of the word Hindu represents. It bothers me that I went to school and college in this country without any idea of the enormous contribution of Hindu civilisation to the history of the world. It bothers me that even today our children, whether they go to state schools or expensive private ones, come out without any knowledge of their own culture or civilisation…. You cannot be proud of a heritage you know nothing about, and in the name of secularism, we have spent 50 years in total denial of the Hindu roots of this civilisation. We have done nothing to change a colonial system of mass education founded on the principle that Indian civilisation had nothing to offer … our contempt for our culture and civilisation … evidence of a country that continues to be colonised to the core? Our contempt for who we are gets picked up these days by the Western press … racism [is] equated with Hindu Nationalism. For countries that gave us slavery and apartheid that really is rich, but who can blame them when we think so badly of ourselves. As for me I would like to state clearly that I believe that the Indic religions have made much less trouble for the world than the Semitic ones and that Hindu civilisation is something I am very proud of. If that is evidence of my being ‘communal’, then, so my inner voice tells me, so be it.”

If Hindu society and civilisation are to be saved from annihilation, there is only one solution: Hindu consciousness must be aroused, a Hindu perspective and world-view must be cultivated, and Hindus must be educated, on the one hand, about Hindu civilisation and its rich heritage and its major contributions to the world in every field, and about the great sages, seers, saints, scholars, scientists, soldiers, artistes and statesmen, the individuals in every field who represent our past glory and heritage; and, on the other, about the forces out to destroy this civilisation, about the textual sources, ideologies, histories, strategies and present activities of these forces, and about the Hindu struggles against these forces and the Hindu heroes involved in these struggles.

It is also necessary to alert Hindus to the inner weaknesses which make Hindu society susceptible to these forces, the dangers of Secularism, the self-alienation among the Hindu elites and ruling classes and their indifference to, and contempt for, their own culture and civilisation, the breakdown of the defence mechanism of Hindu society, the perversion of certain Hindu values like tolerance, universalism and humanism, and the abandonment of certain other Hindu values like self-respect, rationalism and capacity for objective analysis.

Voice of India books have sought to do just this. Before Voice of India came on the scene, Hindutva discussion hovered around topics and issues which could be broadly subsumed under the headings “appeasement of minorities” and “discrimination against Hindus and Hinduism” in the Hindu polity. The discussions were concerned only with the symptoms of the disease rather than with the root causes and the cure. Voice of India changed everything: it identified both the external forces as well as the internal weaknesses, and it offered the only cure: Knowledge of the Truth.

The only solution, according to Sita Ram Goel, was for Hindus to know the truth about the forces out to destroy Hindu society. Once Hindus knew the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, these forces would lose their self-righteousness, their self-assurance, and their vigour and potential for damage. Hindu society, on the other hand, would recognise its own potential and would regain the self-confidence to rise up again to take its rightful place among the comity of nations.

The only solution is, therefore, to propagate Sita Ram Goel’s writings and Voice of India publications, and the message and facts contained in these writings and publications, on a war-footing. An awakened Hindu society will do the rest.

2. Cultural Nationalism

Sita Ram Goel, at the very outset of his Hindu Society Under Siege, tells us: “there are many Hindus who are legitimately proud of Hindu art, architecture, sculpture, music, painting, dance, drama, literature, linguistics, lexicography and so on. But they seldom take into account the fact that this great wealth of artistic, literary and scientific heritage will die if Hindu society which created it is no more there to preserve, protect and perpetuate it” (pp.1-2).

In my 1993 book The Aryan Invasion Theory And Indian Nationalism, I have pointed out in detail how conversion to Islam and Christianity creates a process of cultural de-Indianisation. De-Hinduisation of Indian society, therefore, will inevitably lead to the demise of Indian culture: Hindu society must survive if Indian culture is to survive.

But the reverse is also true: Indian culture must survive if Hindu society is to survive. Hindu society would no more be Hindu society if it lost all vestiges of Indian culture or if it allowed Indian culture to die out. And Hindutva without Indian culture as its very basis is a meaningless exercise.

Before going further, let me clarify what exactly the words “culture” and “Indian culture” mean in our discussion in this section on Cultural Nationalism:

Culture does not refer only to “values”, “ethos” and “way of life”, which are really vague words, which can be made to mean anything. It refers to actual concrete culture. As I put it in the 1997 VOI volume, Time for Stock Taking, it refers to “every single aspect of India’s matchlessly priceless heritage: climate and topography; flora and fauna; races and languages; music, dance and drama; arts and handicrafts; culinary arts; games and physical systems; architecture; costumes and apparels; literature and sciences….” (p.227).

And Indian culture refers not just to the “cultural practices springing from Vedic or Sanskritic sources, but from all other Indian sources independently of these: the practices of the Andaman islanders and the (pre-Christian) Nagas are as Hindu in the territorial sense, and Sanatana in the spiritual sense, as classical Sanskritic Hinduism” (ibid).

Indian culture is the greatest and richest in the world. India (ie. the Indian subcontinent) is the only place in the world which is rich in all the fields of culture: natural (topography, climate, flora and fauna), ethnic (races and languages), and civilisational (music, dance and drama; lore and literature; art, sculpture and handicrafts; architecture; costumes, ornaments and beauty culture; cuisine; games and physical systems; religion; philosophy; social and material sciences, etc.). Its greatness lies in both factors: the richness of its range and variety, as well as its contributions to the world, in every single field of culture.

To give just a glimpse: in climate, we have the hottest place in the world, Jacobabad (in present-day Pakistan), but also, as per the Encyclopaedia Britannica, we have, outside the Polar regions, “the largest area under permanent ice and snow”. We have dry arid regions in the west, which receive no rainfall at all, and at the same time, the area, around Cherapunji in the east, with the highest rainfall in the world. And we have, in different parts of the land, a wide range of shades of climatic conditions between these extremes. The topography of India, from the most intriguing and diverse mountain system in the world, the Himalayas, in the north, through the plains, plateaus, mountains and valleys of the peninsula down to the Andaman-Nicobar and Lakshadweep island clusters in the south, also seems to leave no topographical feature unrepresented.

India’s forests and vegetation also cover every range and variety from the coniferous and deciduous types to the monsoon and tropical types to the desert and scrubland types. And India has been one of the primary contributors to the world in every kind of plant and forest products; to name only some of the most prominent ones: rice, a variety of beans, a wide range of vegetables including eggplants and a number of different types of gourds, fruits like bananas, mangoes and a range of citrus fruits, oil seeds like sesame, important woods including teak, ebony and sandalwood, spices like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric, dyes like madder and indigo, important materials like cotton, jute, shellac and India rubber, a wide range of medicinal herbs, etc., etc. Moreover, being strategically situated between, and sharing in, three different ecological areas, India shares countless other important plants and products with northern and western Asia on the one hand and Southeast Asia on the other. And, as a detailed study will show, it has indigenous equivalents, or potential equivalents, for a wide range of other non-Indian plants and products.

India’s fauna is the richest in the world: Robert Wolff, in the introduction to his book, Animals of Asia, tells us that “India has more animal species than any other region of equal area in the world.” But the richness is not only in comparison with regions of equal area. For example, India is the only area in the world which has all seven families of carnivora native to it, while the whole of Africa has five (no bears or procyonids), the whole of North and South America together have five (no hyenas or viverrids), the whole of Europe has five (no hyenas or procyonids), and, in Asia, the areas to the east and north have six (no hyenas) and the areas to the west have six (no procyonids). Within the carnivora family of cats, India is the only area to have all six genera, while the whole of Africa has four (no uncia or neofelis), North and South America together, and Europe, have three (no acinonyx, uncia or neofelis), and, in Asia, the areas to the east and north have five (no acinonyx) and the areas to the west have four (no uncia or neofelis). In respect of snakes, India is the only area in the world to have all twelve of the recognised families, while the whole of Africa has eight, and both North and South America together have nine, and what is significant is that one of the twelve families (Uropeltidae or shield-tailed snakes) is found only in South India and Sri Lanka, so that India alone has twelve families, while the whole rest of the world put together has eleven. Of the three families of crocodilians, two (crocodiles and gavials) are found in India, one of them (gavials) exclusively in India. India is the richest area in the world in the variety of bovine species, second only to Africa in variety of antelope species, and second only to China in variety of deer species. The list is a long one. And India is not only a primary wildlife destination, it is also one of the important centres of domestication of animals, the most important of these being the domestic buffalo, the domesticated elephant, one of the two races of domestic cattle and the commercially most important bird in the world, the domestic fowl. The most ornamental bird in the world, the peacock, is also Indian.

There are three recognised races in the world (Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid), and India is the only area in the world which has all three native to it: the Andaman islanders are the only true Negroids outside Africa. Sometimes, a fourth race, Australoid, is postulated (otherwise included among Caucasoids), and we have it among the Veddas of Sri Lanka. Language wise, six of the nineteen families of languages in the world are found in India, three of them (Dravidian, Andamanese and Burushaski) only in India. And the numerically and politically most important family of languages in the world, Indo-European, originated (as I have shown in my books) in India.

As a civilisation, Indian civilisation is the oldest continuous civilisation still in existence. As A. L. Basham puts it, in his The Wonder That Was India: “The ancient civilisation of India differs from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece, in that its traditions have been preserved without a break down to the present day. Until the advent of the archaeologist, the peasant of Egypt or Iraq had no knowledge of the culture of his forefathers, and it is doubtful whether his Greek counterpart had any but the vaguest ideas about the glory of Periclean Athens. In each case there had been an almost complete break with the past. On the other hand … to this day legends known to the humblest Indian recall the names of shadowy chieftains who lived nearly a thousand years before Christ, and the orthodox Brahmin in his daily worship repeats hymns composed even earlier. India and China have, in fact, the oldest continuous cultural traditions in the world.”

India has been one of the most important centres of civilisation in the world in practically every age. We need not refer here to Indian traditions of fabled kingdoms going back into the extremely remote past. Even in the perception of the world in general, and scholarly perception at present, India was always a fabled wonderland: in (at least) the third and second millenniums B.C., the Indus-Sarasvati sites represented a relatively egalitarian and peaceful, highly organised, standardised and developed civilisation, with many features unparalleled elsewhere, and covered a far larger area and remained constant and relatively unchanging for a far longer period (nearly a millennium) than any other civilisation. In the first millennium B.C., the Arthashastra depicts an extremely organised civilisation which appears almost modern in many respects, and India was idealised and mythicised by writers from China to Greece. In the first millennium A.D., we had the golden period of Indian civilisation during the reign of the Guptas, at which point of time, according to A. L. Basham, “India was perhaps the happiest and most civilised region of the world”. And in the second millennium A.D., India was the desired land of dreams, in the quest for which half the world had the misfortune to be “discovered” by Europe.

And this civilisation has made primary contributions to the world in every single field of civilisational culture. To begin with, religion: India is one of the two centres of origin of the major world religions (the other being West Asia): Buddhism was at one time the dominant religion not only in East and Southeast Asia, but also in Central Asia and parts of West Asia, and it is increasingly being accepted as having been one of the major influencing factors in the initial formative stages of Christianity. Hinduism was the source of many religious trends (asceticism, monasticism, etc., etc.) in the past, and, even today, Hindu-Buddhist philosophies are acquiring an ever increasing following among thinkers and intellectuals all over the world, and Hindu religio-philosophical concepts and terms (guru, nirvana, karma, etc., etc.) are basic components in the international spiritual lexicon.

Science and scientific temperament are one of the defining points of a civilised society, and India’s contributions to the development of science in the world have been more fundamental than that of any other civilisation then or since. India, to begin with, invented the zero-based decimal system, without which no significant scientific development and advancement beyond certain rudimentary levels would ever have been possible in human society. This contribution is so very important, and so well illustrates the level of scientific thought-processes in India, that it needs to be elaborated in some detail here: to begin with, the first logical stage in the development of a numeral system in any primitive society would be the very concept of numbers (one, two, three, etc.). The second logical stage would be the representation of these numbers in pictorial form, eg. three pictures or symbolic figures of cows and two of sheep would represent three cows and two sheep. The third logical stage would be the shifting of the concept of numbers from concrete objects to abstract ideas: eg. the use of a simple symbol, usually a vertical line, to represent the number one. Seven vertical lines followed by the picture or symbol of a cow would represent seven cows. As the need for using bigger and bigger numbers arose, attempts would be made to create groups, as in the common method of keeping the score by drawing upto four vertical lines to represent numbers upto four, and then a fifth line vertically across the four to represent a full hand. The fourth logical stage would be the development of a base number; usually ten, on the basis of the number of fingers on the two hands used for counting. Egyptian civilisation was at this stage of development in its numeral system, which invented specific symbols for one, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, etc. So, instead of representing the number 542 with 542 vertical lines, the Egyptians represented it with five repetitions of the symbol for hundred, four of the symbol for ten, and two of the symbol for one. (Incidentally, this still had the drawback of requiring symbols to be repeated as many as nine times; and the Greeks, who borrowed the Egyptian system, went off at a tangent, off the logical track, in their attempt to remedy this. They invented halfway symbols: additional symbols for five, fifty, five hundred, etc. The Romans, who borrowed the Greek system, went even further off the logical track: they tried to avoid even four repetitions by employing a minus principle. Thus, four, nine, forty and ninety were not IIII, VIIII, XXXX and LXXXX, but IV, IX, XL and XC. Going off at another tangent, the Ionian Greeks, the Arabs, the Hebrews, and others, assigned numerical values to the letters of their alphabet, the numbers one to nine represented by the first nine alphabets, the numbers ten to ninety represented by the next nine, and so on, creating a more concise but extremely illogical numeral system of limited utility.)

The fifth logical stage would be the avoidance of repetition of the base symbols by means of specific symbols to represent each number of repetitions. Chinese civilisation was at this stage of development in its numeral system, which had base symbols for one, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, etc., as well as symbols for the numbers from two to nine. Thus, the Chinese represented 542 with the symbols for five, hundred, four, ten and two, in that order. The sixth and last logical stage would be a numeral system with a rigid place system and a symbol for zero. Indian civilisation was at this last, and highest, logical stage in its numeral system, with symbols for the numbers from one to nine and a symbol for zero, and a rigid place system, which made it possible to represent any and every number with only ten symbols. (Incidentally, the Mesopotamians and the Mayas of Central America had also hit upon their own versions of zero. But, as they had gone off the logical track in the earlier stages, their systems remained grossly unwieldy and illogical: the Mesopotamian system had an unwieldy base of sixty, but symbols only for one, ten and zero; and even a symbol to incorporate a minus principle, as in the Roman system. And the Maya system had a base of twenty, but symbols only for one, five and zero; and, to accommodate the calendar, the second base was 360 instead of 400).

India’s contribution of the zero-based decimal system (and, incidentally, also of most of the basic principles in the different branches of Mathematics) represents a fundamental revolutionary landmark in the history of world science on par with the invention of fire, or the invention of the wheel. But this invention was no accident. The scientific temperament in India was so developed that it was inevitable that such a fundamental development should have taken place only in India. As Alain Danielou puts it (in his Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales), “The Hindu theory is not like other systems, limited to experimental data: it does not consider arbitrarily as natural certain modes or certain chords, but it takes as its starting point the general laws common to all the aspects of the world’s creation….” (p.99). Curt Sachs, on the same subject (in his monumental The Rise of Music in the Ancient World—East and West), refers to the “naive belief of historically untrained minds that patterns usual in the person’s own time and country are ‘natural’…”, and contrasts it with classification in India which “starts from actual facts, but is thorough in its accomplishment regardless of practice” (p.171).

It was this scientific temperament which led the ancient Indians to go deep into the study of any and every subject, and to produce detailed texts on everything, whether on religious laws, rituals and customs (the vast Vedic literature: Samhitas, Brahmanas, Kalpasutras, Dharmasutras, etc.), philosophy (the Upanishads, and the sutras, commentaries, and other texts of the six Darshanas and the Buddhist, Jain and heterodox philosophies, etc.), linguistics (Panini, Yaska, and numerous Vedic and post-Vedic texts on Grammar, Phonetics, Etymology, etc.), medicine (the Samhitas of Charaka, Sushruta, Vagbhata, etc.), administration and statecraft (Kautilya’s Arthashastra, etc.), the performing arts (Bharata’s Natyashastra, etc.), and every other possible art, craft, technology and science, right down to the art of making love (Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra). No subject was beyond the detailed investigations of the ancient Indians. And basic texts, on any subject, themselves the culminations of long and rich traditions, were followed by detailed commentaries, and by commentaries on the commentaries. And there were well-established and regulated systems and forums all over the country for objective debates on controversial points or subjects. With all this, it is not surprising that Indian civilisation should have been the source of origin of so many things.

As an illustration of India’s role on the world stage, take the performing arts (music, dance and drama). A. C. Scott (in his The Theatre in Asia, p.1), writes: “It will be seen that stage practice in Asia owes a great deal to India as an ancestral source. Indian influence on dance and theatre which are one and the same in Asia was like some great subterranean river following a spreading course and forming new streams on the way”. Curt Sachs (in his magnum opus The Rise of Music in the Ancient World—East and West), tells us that Indian music “had a decisive part in forming the musical style of the East, of China, Korea and Japan, and … what today is called Indochina and the Malay Archipelago. There was a westward exportation, too … Indian influence on Islamic music … the system of melodic and rhythmic patterns, characteristic of the Persian, Turkish, and Arabian world, had existed in India as the ragas and talas more than a thousand years before it appeared in the sources of the Mohammedan Orient.”(p.192). Elsewhere, he goes into more specific details about this fundamental Indian influence on the music and dance of China and Japan (pp.139, 145), Bali (p.139), Siam (p.152), Burma (p.153), and Indonesia (pp.130-132). Alain Danielou (in his Introduction to the Study of Musical Scales), tells us that the Indian “theory of musical modes … seems to have been the source from which all systems of modal music originated” (p.99), and goes so far as to suggest that “Greek music, like Egyptian music, most probably had its roots in Hindu music” (pp.159-160). India was the land of origin of a wide range of musical concepts and musical instruments, not only in respect of the musical systems of Asia, but even beyond: as per the Guinness Book of Facts and Feats, bagpipes (so characteristic of Scottish music), and hourglass drums (the talking drums or message drums of Africa), originated in India. India first recognised the division of the octave into seven notes, twelve semi-tones, and twenty-two micro-tones (the world has still to progress towards, and Indian music as it is practiced today has even regressed from, the micro-tones). The present classification of musical instruments into four classes (idiophonic, membranophonic, aerophonic and chordophonic) originated in India.

It was not only in respect of music, or of religion and sciences, that Indian influence on Asia, and thereby on the rest of the world, was “like some great subterranean river following a spreading course and forming new streams on the way”. This was the case in practically every field of culture. Indian sculpture and architecture spread eastwards and influenced the development of classical sculpture and architecture in the East and Southeast: the biggest temple complex in the world, the Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is the most eloquent example. Indian lore and literature spread eastwards and westwards, leading to the development of new genres of literature: the traditional lore and literature of Southeast Asia are suffused with the spirit, themes and vocabulary of Sanskrit epic literature, while (apart from the scientific and technical literature on every subject),  Indian literary techniques and themes, like animal fables and the tale-within-a-tale technique, among others, spread out westwards, and inspired the writing of classics like the Arabian Nights and the Greek Aesop’s Fables. Indian board games, like chess and ludo (pachisi), among others, likewise, spread out east and west, the former becoming the national game of Asia (with local varieties, all of them with local names derived from the Sanskrit chaturang, in every country from Arabia to Korea and Vietnam), before acquiring its present international status. Physical culture of every kind, from systems of physical exercises and martial arts, to comprehensive systems of health like Ayurveda (including, apart from its varieties of oral medicines, also the panchakarma techniques, theories of dietetics, etc.), and Hatha yoga (including, besides asanas, a range of breathing techniques, concentration and meditation techniques, a wide range of internal and external cleansing techniques, etc.), also spread east and west, giving rise to similar techniques elsewhere: Greek medicine is acknowledged by many scholars to owe much to Indian medicine, and the renowned martial arts of the East acknowledge their Indian origin. Indian cuisine is generally acknowledged to be one of the great cuisines of the world, and the greatest when it comes to vegetarian cuisine, and is gaining popularity worldwide, but what is significant is that food culture all over the world would have been poor indeed without India’s material contributions to the four tastes: sweet (sugar), sour (lemons, tamarinds, kokam and amchur), pungent (black pepper and ginger), and bitter (bitter gourds), as well as a wide variety of other spices and flavourings. In respect of clothes and ornaments, again, India’s contributions are of primary importance: cotton, the most important fabric in the world, originated in India, along with numerous important techniques, of weaving, dyeing and printing, basic to the textile industry. The use of diamonds originated in India: till the eighteenth century, India was the only source of diamonds, and the ornament and jewellery industry in India was a world pioneer in many ways. Beauty culture, the art of shringara, as described in great detail in the ancient texts, had developed very highly in ancient India, and India was the source of a great many kinds of clothing, ornaments, herbal cosmetics and applications, aromatic oils and beauty techniques.

But it is not only on the basis of past glories (although, as a civilisation with the only continuous tradition, the past is not a dead past but is an intrinsic part of our present identity), or contributions to the world (considerable, and even unmatchable, as they are), that Indian culture can be considered the greatest and richest culture in the world. Indian culture is the greatest and richest culture in the world on the strength of its glorious present as well: India is a complete cultural world in itself, both in respect of the fact that it represents every stage of development in culture (from the most sophisticated, right from ancient times, to the most primitive, even in modern times or as late as the twentieth century), as well as in respect of the fact that the richness and variety of its cultural wealth, in every respect, is so great that it need never look beyond its own cultural frontiers for  inspiration, innovation and development in any field of culture.

To illustrate the first point: in mathematical science, ancient India conceived and analysed the mathematical concepts of zero and infinity, achieved a fundamental revolution by devising a numeral system which can represent any and every conceivable number with only ten symbols, and coined names for numbers of incredibly high denominations (a Buddhist work, Lalitavistara, gives the names for base-numbers up to 10 raised to 421, ie., one followed by 421 zeroes). And, at the same time, we have the Andamanese languages, which have not developed the concept of numbers beyond two: they have names only for “one” and “two”, which is in effect “one” and “more than one”, which is no numeral system at all, and represents the absolutely most primitive stage in any language in the world. Likewise, in music, our Indian classical music has, since thousands of years, developed a detailed theory of music, and used the richest range of notes (twenty-two microtones as compared to the twelve notes of western classical music), scales (every possible combination of the basic notes), modes  and rhythms  (the most unimaginably wide range of melodies and rhythms, from the simplest to the most complicated and intricate, with, for example, rhythms having even 11, 13, 17, 19, etc. beats per cycle, unimaginable outside India), and musical instruments (with the most intricate playing techniques in the world). And, at the same time, the absolutely most primitive form of music in the world is found among the Veddas of Sri Lanka: they possess the most primitive form of singing in the world, and, along with certain remote Patagonian tribes, are the only people in the world who “not only do not possess any musical instrument, but do not even clap their hands or stamp the ground”(Curt Sachs, The History of Musical Instruments, p.26). This is the case in almost every field of culture: on the one hand, India has the richest traditional cuisine in the world, one of the most highly developed traditions of architecture in all its aspects, and an incredibly wide range of costumes and ornaments, all of hoary antiquity, and, on the other hand, we have tribes who are hunter-gatherers and subsist only on wild berries, who live in caves, or who live almost in the nude.

And a glance at two representative fields of civilisational culture, religion and music, will suffice to make the second point clear:

The range of Indian religion, both in respect of philosophy and doctrines, as well as customs and rituals, is quite a complete one: every shade of thought and idea (theistic, atheistic and agnostic), from the most materialistic to the most spiritual, from the most rationalistic to the most irrational, from the most humane to the most barbaric, and from the most puritanical or orthodox to the most profane or heterodox, has been explored by the different schools of philosophy, different sects and different individual writers; and every kind and level of ritual and custom from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, from the simplest to the most elaborate, and from the most humane to the most ruthless, is found in one or the other part of India. The only common thread is the complete absence of intolerant imperialistic tendencies: if such ever arose in the history of Hinduism, they died out just as quickly. Therefore, also, Hindu India, before the rise of modern liberalism in the west, was the only safe haven in the civilised world for the followers of religions and sects persecuted elsewhere: Jews, Zoroastrians, Syrian Christians … in modern times, Bahais and Ahmadiyas. (That this proved costly in the long run, because of the failure to distinguish between religions and imperialist ideologies, is a different matter).

Curt Sachs (The Rise Of Music in the Ancient World—East and West, p.157) writes: “The roots of music are more exposed in India than anywhere else. The Vedda in Ceylon possess the earliest stage of singing that we know, and the subsequent strata of primitive music are represented by the numberless tribes that in valleys and jungles took shelter from the raids of northern invaders. So far as this primitive music is concerned, the records are complete or at least could easily be completed if special attention were paid to the music of the ‘tribes’… hundreds of tribal styles….”

Then there is the folk music, the range and variety of which is mind-boggling: every single part of India is rich in its own individual range of styles of folk music, and the folk music of even any one state of India (say Maharashtra, Rajasthan or Karnataka, for example, or even Sind, Baluchistan, Sri Lanka or Bhutan for that matter) would merit a lifetime of study.

And, right on top, we have the great tradition of Indian classical music, which we have already referred to. Although the oldest living form of classical music in the world, and although it has evolved and developed over the centuries, losing and gaining in the process, Curt Sachs points out that “there is no reason to believe that India’s ancient music differed essentially from her modern music” (p.157 above). Many western musicologists (Alain Danielou, M. E. Cousins, Donald Lentz, etc.) have spoken about the superiority of Indian classical music over western classical music, but it is at least certain that Indian classical music is one of the two most classical forms in the world.

Apart from the classical music, we have the other great tradition, of Vedic chanting and singing in its many varieties, best preserved in South India, and different varieties of Sanskrit songs, preserved in temples and maths all over India.

And in all the varieties of music (classical, folk, popular and tribal), we have the most unparalleled range of musical instruments in the world, unique in their range from the most primitive and simple to the most sophisticated and complicated in respect of techniques of making, artistic appearance, techniques of playing, and qualities of sound, in every type: idiophonic, membranophonic, aerophonic and chordophonic; monophonic, pressurephonic, polyphonic and multiphonic.

All this music and all these musical instruments were preserved down the ages by temple traditions, courts, courtesans, great masters and professional castes, musical institutions, and tribal, caste and community traditions. The twentieth century saw a consolidation of all this rich musical wealth due, on the one hand, to the invention of recording devices, and, on the other, to the enthusiasm natural in a modern India in the atmosphere of an independence movement. New generations of musicians and scholars, and government bodies like Films Division, Akashwani and Doordarshan, did a herculean job in studying, recording and popularising all forms of Indian music. New trends in classical music (eg. the gharana system, new semi-classical forms, including Marathi natya sangeet, etc.), new innovations (eg. the “Vadya Vrinda” orchestration of Indian melodic music, etc.), and new genres of popular music (eg. new forms of devotional music, of popular music like the bhavgeet genre in Marathi music, and film music) added to India’s incomparable musical wealth.

This was about music. The same is the case in respect of India’s cultural wealth in every other field. The same sources: ancient texts, temple traditions, courts, courtesans, great masters and professional castes, institutions, and tribal, caste and community traditions, have combined to preserve lore and literature, dance forms, arts and crafts, architectural forms, cuisine, games and physical systems, etc. etc., and a detailed study will show that Indian culture is among the greatest and richest in the world in any and every individual field of culture, and the greatest and richest in the world in the sum total of culture.

But today, this greatest and richest culture in the world, which survived all kinds of challenges in the past, is being slowly and systematically wiped out or turned into a caricature of itself. And, if systematic steps are not taken soon on a war footing, it will soon be a faint and fading memory of the past. And not only will that be the end of Hindu society as we know it, but it will be a great tragedy for world culture as well.

It is necessary first to identify the forces and factors responsible for this. Tavleen Singh, for example, in her article already referred to, writes: “when I go to the Vishwanath Mandir in Benares and listen to the most powerful, magical aarti I hear from the priests that the knowledge of it will probably die because the temple is now controlled by secular bureaucrats”. To begin with, secularism is clearly one of the factors responsible for the gross indifference within Hindu society towards its cultural heritage.

But secularism, in this context, can be of three kinds: one, the goody-goody secularism of Mahatma Gandhi, which was based on an extreme and distorted understanding of certain intrinsic values in Hinduism, and which, although it succeeded in blinding Hindu society to the true nature of its enemies by whitewashing them liberally, and thereby weakened Hindu resistance, was nevertheless based on a deep pride in, and respect for, Hinduism and its culture. Two, the arrogant secularism of Jawaharlal Nehru, based on his westernised upbringing and perspectives, which combined the colonial white man’s contempt for Hindus and Hinduism with the colonial white man’s grudging admiration for some aspects of Indian culture. And, three, the secularism of leftist intellectuals, based on a rabid and pathological hatred for Hinduism and Hindu civilisation. This third kind of secularism has gradually come to acquire a monopoly over the term, and today it dictates the definitions and the contours of what is, and what is not, secular. Many writers, myself included, therefore, generally club extremist secularists of this kind as leftists, whether or not the term would be applicable to them in respect of economic beliefs. It is this secularism which froths at the mouth at the very idea that the Aryans could be natives of India, or that Indian civilisation is basically Hindu civilisation and that this civilisation contributed greatly to world civilisation, or that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are national epics which should be made familiar to all Indians (ie. to the younger generations), or that the Gupta period was a golden period in Indian history, or that Vande Mataram is a patriotic song, or that Savarkar was a great freedom fighter who deserves due respect, etc., etc.; and which is intrinsically committed to defend and support any, simply any, ideas derogatory to, or ideologies or forces inimical to, Hinduism or Hindu civilisation. It is this secularism which has acquired such a deadly stranglehold over the education system and the media that it has already produced several generations of a Hindu society which is largely ignorant of, indifferent to, and lacking in a sense of pride in, and attachment to, the Hindu roots of its culture and civilisation and the greatness of Indian culture—a society which is, therefore, very susceptible to forces out to destroy this culture.

The very lethal role played by this peculiarly Indian brand of secularism in the Indian body politic, very like the role played by viruses in the human body or by computer viruses in computers, has to be recognised as a fundamental factor in rendering Hindu society, civilisation and culture weak and defenceless against its enemies. But, at the same time, while this secularism is undoubtedly inimical to Hindu society and civilisation, it will be misleading to conclude that secularism is also inimical to Indian culture as defined in this section, and to rest satisfied with this conclusion:

Secular governments, from day one, have done a great deal for Indian culture by establishing institutions and awards, and organising periodic festivals and other activities, to promote different aspects of Indian culture.

A survey of eminent people active in different fields of culture – whether actual participants like dancers, musicians, etc.; or scholars engaged in studying, recording and filming different aspects of culture; or activists fighting to preserve our environment, wildlife, forests, cuisine, dances, musical styles and musical instruments, art forms, handicrafts, architectural styles and monuments, old manuscripts, etc.; or even lay people who appreciate or support all such activities—will show a very fair representation, perhaps even a preponderance, of secularist people. It is, perhaps, just such people that Sita Ram Goel, quoted at the very beginning of this section, has in mind when he talks about Hindus who are legitimately proud of different aspects of Indian culture, but who fail to realise that all this culture “will die if Hindu society which created it is no more there to preserve, protect and perpetuate it”.

In some fields, indeed, it is not just vaguely secularist people, but even outright leftists, who are active in the task of preserving aspects of Indian culture, particularly when it comes to aspects of tribal, folk or regional culture. This may be simply because much of their support base comes from the more marginalised, or less westernised, strata of society, or it may be because they see it as an ideological strategy to promote the “Lesser Traditions” of Indian culture, perceived to be in opposition, or at least intended to be propped up as such, to the “Greater Tradition” of Vedic or Classical Hindu civilisation, which is perceived to be promoted by the elite classes, or upper castes, or by Hindutva organisations. Similarly, we find outright leftists engaged in fighting issues of environment, wildlife conservation and deforestation. This, again, may be merely because of the issues of socio-economic ideology involved. But, whatever the reasons, the fact is that they are doing their bit for Indian culture.

We find leftists even in the fields of classical music and dance, and in the arts. That the leftist version of secularism is bitter, rabid and vicious in its hatred of Hinduism and everything connected with it is undeniable, but even, for example, in the notorious TV serial Tamas, which exemplifies these traits so well (I wrote an unpublished article detailing the many ways in which every scene in the serial exudes ugly anti-Hinduism and false leftist propaganda), we find soul-stirring music and songs steeped in authentic traditions of Indian music—to be contrasted, for example, with the pedestrian, pop varieties of Indian music we find in serials like Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana, so dear to the hearts of Hindutva organisations.

Of course, let us not get carried away by the above facts: rabid hatred for Hinduism and Hindu civilisation is certainly not a factor likely to foster a love for Indian culture or a desire to preserve, protect and perpetuate it. And, there is no dearth of doyens of secularist practice who throw secular tantrums over even such perfectly innocuous Indian cultural acts such as lighting a lamp, or waving an aarti, to inaugurate a function. Moreover, the leftist concern for tribal or folk cultures, referred to above, does not, for example, prevent most of them from giving their unstinting support to the activities of the greatest enemies of these cultures, the Christian missionaries. Indian leftist secularism is an extremely sick and perverted ideology, which ever takes on newer and more sick and perverted forms, and the rule is that the sickest and most perverted form sets the standard. As rabid, and unreasonable, hatred knows no limits, it would be premature to presume limits to the depths to which secularism could sink, or to give any certificates to it.

Nevertheless, all said and done, if the greatest and richest culture in the world is in real and active danger of being set on the downward path towards extinction, it would be futile to be satisfied with merely laying the blame at the doors of secularism. In the particular case quoted by Tavleen Singh, for example, if the powerful aarti at the Vishwanath temple is in danger of dying out, it is not so much because the temple is controlled by “secular bureaucrats”—just “corrupt bureaucrats”, “indifferent bureaucrats”, or even simply “bureaucrats” would suffice.

In fact, with due respect to Tavleen Singh (whose thought-provoking articles have often inspired me with respect, even when I have sharply differed with many of them, since it is obvious that Tavleen Singh is at least genuine and true to herself in whatever she writes), it is not secularism (though secularism very definitely prepares the ground for it) which is responsible for the aarti at the Vishwanath temple, and literally millions of other cultural treasures, dying out. The true culprits are the very forces which Tavleen Singh  supports in her articles (the article quoted by us profusely here is part of a series of articles in defence of the BJP government and its economic policies): the forces of American “globalisation”.

Ancient India classified all worldly priorities or activities into three categories: Dharma, Artha and Kama (a fourth category, Moksha, referred to an other-worldly priority). Kama, enjoyment of pleasures of all kinds (physical, mental, physiological, psychological and social) was the first priority of mankind; Artha, production and acquisition of wealth and possessions of all kinds, was a second priority necessary for the fulfillment of the first; and Dharma, Duty (towards any and every conceivable entity) or Righteousness (not in the sense of a holier-than-thou attitude, as the word is generally used, but in the original sense of doing what is right), was the guiding principle above both, regulating the production and acquisition of wealth and the enjoyment of pleasures, besides setting the standards for all other actions.

American Imperialism, or “globalisation”, has its three arms, corresponding to the three priorities (rather like the situation in many mythologies where there is an evil counterpart corresponding to every good entity), Proselytisation corresponding to Dharma, Capitalism corresponding to Artha, and Consumerism corresponding to Kama. It is these three arms of American Imperialism (backed by America’s economic and military clout) which are responsible for India’s cultural crisis.

Now Dharma, Duty or Righteousness, does not mean religion, which refers to a belief system. In that sense, Hinduism is not a religion, but a veritable Parliament of religions or belief systems. We have already described the range and variety of belief systems which are included in the Hindu ethos: there is simply no single belief, ritual or custom, which can be cited as constituting the common factor between all Hindu groups, the absence of which places any group outside the Hindu pale. (Some people try to postulate caste as such a common factor, also because this serves to divide some particular offshoots of Hinduism from the rest; but this fails to explain many things; for example, whether large sections of Christians in the South, who still function, after decades or even centuries of conversion, as brahmin Christians, dalit Christians etc., are to be treated as Hindus who have never converted to Christianity, or as Christians.) This raises two questions: how, in the absence of a common factor, do we decide that some particular religion is outside the Hindu pale? And what, in the context of our discussion here, do religious conversions have to do with dharma?

Actually there is a common factor in that all Hindu groups follow belief systems originating in India. The Indian constitution, also, recognises this as the distinguishing point when it puts only those Indians outside the definition of Hindu, who follow religions which originated outside India. (There is a further distinction among the Indians who follow religions originating outside India, not mentioned in the constitution: these Indians include both non-Hindus (eg. Jews and Zoroastrians, who were never Hindus; whose ancestors were non-Indians who sought refuge in, or migrated to, India in the past) and ex-Hindus (eg. Muslims and Christians, who were originally Hindus; whose ancestors were converted to Islam and Christianity in the past)). And religious conversions have everything to do with Dharma: whatever the meaning of the word in other contexts, it means religion when used in phrases like Hindu dharma (“Hindu religion”) and dharma parivartan (“religious conversion”). Moreover, even in the regular sense of Duty or Righteousness, a conversion from any Indian religion to Islam or Christianity represents a change in Dharma, since in every case it represents a change to the world-view of an intolerant, imperialist religion, and amounts to abandonment of basic concepts of Duty (towards ancestral traditions, religion and culture, etc.).

Conversion to Islam or Christianity inevitably leads to a process of total cultural de-Indianisation, which I have described in detail in my book The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (p.29-31), and I will only repeat the conclusion here: this cultural de-Indianisation “is not only in respect of names, languages and scripts, music, dance, and architectural styles, but even in respect of aesthetic and philosophical concepts, and social manners and styles (from styles of greeting to styles of eating). It must be remembered that ultimately every religion is rooted in the cultural and environmental ethos of its land of origin. If Hinduism uses rice, coconuts, bananas and plantain leaves, arecanuts, tulsi leaves, turmeric, etc. as the materials for its religious rituals, these are all Indian materials…. This same rule applies to the entire range of customs and rituals….”

Muslim Proselytisation on any significant scale is a thing of the past (despite some much publicised incidents like Meenakshipuram, since Arab money alone, in the absence of other necessary factors, cannot bring about mass conversions; and conversions, if any, of stray individuals to Islam are, like the conversion of any stray individual to any belief system, a matter of personal conviction, not to be confused with organised Proselytisation), but Christian Proselytisation, backed by unlimited media power and finances from America, is going on at a more furious pace than ever: large scale conversions are going on all over the country, not only in new tribal areas like Arunachal Pradesh (till now the only non-Christian tribal bastion in the North-East, Christians have multiplied from less than 0.5% in 1961 to nearly 19% in 2001, not including crypto-Christians, and the figure is rising steadily), but in vulnerable rural and urban poor areas throughout the country, particularly in Orissa and in  the South, and even in Kashmir: the Indian Express, 6/4/2003, carries a detailed news report about the large-scale conversions of Muslim youths to Christianity by American evangelists in Kashmir. It is clear that Christian Proselytisation is not just as sinister a threat as ever, but a very much more sinister threat than it ever was before.

Now, most Muslim communities in India are communities which converted centuries ago. The same is the case with Christian communities in certain, particularly coastal, areas. Their culture (de-Indianised or otherwise) is, therefore, in many ways, an intrinsic part of our modern Indian ethos, and these communities are an intrinsic part of Indian society. But the same very definitely cannot be said about the neo-convert Christian communities, springing up all over the country, who deserve absolutely no quarter. Proselytisation in this day and age is totally unacceptable and unforgivable, and deserves to be fought with the same ruthlessness with which it functions: absolutely nothing is unfair in the war against Proselytisation. And it is for the traditional Muslim and Christian communities in India to decide whether they want to reciprocate the Hindu attitude of live and let live, or whether they want to identify themselves with, and support, the Imperialist forces of Proselytisation in their offensive against Hinduism.

In this context, the report in the Indian Express, referred to above, mentions certain significant facts worth noting: more than 12,000 Muslims have been converted to Christianity recently, and the report tells us: “Though conversions have not encountered any resistance from Muslim organisations, it has led to tensions between Kashmir’s native Christians—a miniscule community of 650—and the enthusiastic evangelists. The native Christians are increasingly getting vocal against the outsiders. ‘This type of conversions aren’t good for local Christians who have shared a cordial relationship with Muslims here for centuries,…’ says Pastor Leslie Richards, a native Protestant living in Braen, Srinagar….” This raises certain questions: first, when Kashmir is supposed to be in the throes of Islamic terrorist activities, and yet there is no reaction, from either Muslim organisations or the Islamic terrorists, to the large-scale conversion of Muslims to Christianity, what does it say about the Islamic nature of the terrorists, their real target, and the identity of the real bosses who control, and finance, both the missionaries and the terrorists? Second, when will Christian communities and organisations in the rest of the country learn to emulate the reactions and attitude of the native Kashmiri Christians? And, third, when will Hindus learn, from the above situation, to appreciate the sinister threat posed by Proselytisation in this country, and the need for Hindus to cultivate an image of themselves which will motivate these communities and organisations to do so?

Conversion is one of the main destroyers of native culture: it automatically cuts off sections of Indians from their cultural roots, and, in the case of Christianity (and Islam), there are specific ideological doctrines which demonise the cultural ethos of the converts’ former state, and require that they be systematically abandoned or drastically modified. But all this applies only to the converts, not to Indian society in general. The other two ideological arms of American Imperialism, however, strike at the whole of Indian society.

Ancient India recognised Artha (pursuit of wealth) and Kama (pursuit of pleasures) as two of the three priorities in life, but only when regulated by the third priority: Dharma. The American ideologies of Capitalism and Consumerism, however, represent the unbridled pursuit of wealth and pleasure respectively. Dharma, by any definition is passé: neither morals, principles or ethics, nor sentiment, respect for ancestral traditions, consideration for contemporary mankind in general, or concern for the heritage of the future, has any value whatsoever: all are “outdated” concepts which cannot be allowed to stand as obstacles in the path of the acquisition of wealth or the enjoyment of pleasures.

Capitalism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of wealth, is destroying culture on an unbridled scale, on three fronts: at the level of cultural activity, at the level of actual commercial activity, and at the level of Authority.

At the level of cultural activity, to begin with, countless cultural activities, seen to be non-lucrative or less lucrative, are being abandoned all over the country. Others are being severely compromised in order to keep, or make, them lucrative: compromise in materials or techniques used, shoddiness in workmanship or performance, short-cut methods, etc., which are resulting in loss of natural spontaneity, cultural authenticity, technological expertise and performance satisfaction, which, in turn, gradually leads to the degeneration and further abandonment of cultural activities. All this is affecting various fields of culture: musical forms and styles, musical instruments, dance forms, architectural styles, art forms, handicrafts, traditional crops, culinary items, etc.

At the level of actual commercial activity—businessmen, industrialists, traders, etc. at all scales and levels—the destruction of culture for profit is more to be expected: large-scale exploitation and destruction of forests; large-scale driving of India’s faunal species to extinction by the destruction of their natural habitats as well as by poaching and killing for commercial gain; pollution of rivers, environment, etc.; destruction of beaches for sand quarrying and mountain systems for stone quarrying; destruction of architecturally important heritage structures, sites and areas for commercial construction, etc.

But it is at the level of Authority (ie. the elected representatives of the people from local to national level, the bureaucrats from top to bottom, the police, the judiciary, etc.), where major decisions, and action, can be taken both for the preservation and development of culture as well as for the prevention of its destruction, that the evils of capitalism—or Money as God—have taken on the most destructive forms. Today, if big business, industrialists and traders, can lay the country to waste for profit, it is because those in authority, at every single level, have become completely purchasable. For the appropriate price, not only are blatantly destructive illegal activities winked at, but laws are even changed to accommodate these activities: reserved forest areas are dereserved, restrictions on construction activities in specific areas (coastal areas, wooded areas, ecologically sensitive areas, urban areas reserved for cultural activities, urban heritage areas, etc.) are officially withdrawn, and so on. In fact, governments also function as big business, in the name of Development, or in the name of increasing `government revenues, by way of big hydro-electric or other projects (like the Tehri and Narmada projects at the moment, or the much publicised, and fortunately aborted, Silent Valley project in Kerala in the past) or outright commercial activities (like Mayavati’s aborted Taj Corridor project, or the Mufti government’s amusement park project in Pahalgam), and India’s flora, fauna, ecological and environmental ethos, and architectural heritage, continue to be wiped out with (as the Times of India report, 10/10/2003, on the amusement park in Pahalgam, puts it) “Terminator-like efficiency”.

Moreover, those in authority have always been responsible for the protection and preservation of culture: this was the role played by kings and rulers in ancient India, who patronised and encouraged cultural activities of all kinds. Even after the advent of Islam, and all that it entailed in matters of the ruthless destruction of infidel cultures, many Muslim rulers, including most of the Mughals, did a great deal in preserving and perpetuating many aspects of Indian culture, for which they often received the flak of Islamic theologians. In many cases, in fact, they developed such a deep respect and attachment for some aspects, that they even tried to appropriate credit for them: in respect of Indian music, for example, Alain Danielou (The Ragas of North Indian Music, p.5) points out that “Amir Khusrau (AD 1253-1319) … wrote that Indian music was so difficult and so refined that no foreigner could totally master it even after twenty years of practice”; and the Muslim attachment to Indian music grew to such an extent that it led to the invention of stories about “how the various styles of Northern Indian music were developed by musicians of the Mohammedan period…. Under Moslem rule, age-old stories were retold as if they had happened at the court of Akbar…. Such transfer of legends is frequent everywhere. We … find ancient musical forms and musical instruments being given Persian-sounding names and starting a new career as the innovations of the Moghul court”. The sum of it is that many Muslim rulers also contributed in the preservation and perpetuation, and even the enriching, of many aspects of Indian culture.

The British rule in India, which did introduce many negative factors (such as a system of education, which, in the words of A. C. Scott in The Theatre in Asia, p.51, led to “the rise of a class of young prigs for whom it became the done thing to denigrate everything Indian in an attempt at blind imitation of the customs and attitudes of western people”, whose effects on Indian society have only deepened and multiplied with the passage of time), also consciously did a great deal in preserving arts and crafts, monuments, old manuscripts, etc., and encouraging scholars engaged in the detailed study and meticulous recording of different aspects of Indian culture. Official British records, and the works of western scholars from the colonial period, are even today an incredible source of information in diverse fields.

The dawning of independence from British rule in 1947, and the accession to power of “secular” rulers eager to demonstrate their distance from anything “communal” (ie. Hindu) did not change the picture very greatly, since many of these rulers did have some pride in Indian culture, or at least those aspects of Indian culture which were perceived as not likely to attract the “communal” label, and consequently did quite a bit for those aspects of Indian culture, eg. they established institutions and academies for the study, recording, preservation and popularisation of those aspects, instituted awards to honour eminent people and scholars in different fields, organised festivals, etc., to encourage and popularise those aspects, etc. That many of these facilities became the preserve of leftists, and became hotbeds of politics rather than of cultural activity, is a different matter; but institutions such as Akashwani, Doordarshan and Films Division did a truly wonderful, Herculean job in recording and popularising India’s immeasurable wealth of music, dance, etc.

However, the concept of Money as God has now changed all this: for perhaps the first time in India’s long history, there is now no real official support for Indian culture. In the last decade or so, perhaps coinciding with the advocacy and adoption of new policies of economic “reforms”, it is now passé for governments to do anything concrete to protect, preserve, record or perpetuate India’s traditional culture, or even to aid and encourage individuals or organisations doing so. Institutions established in the post-Independence era are being literally starved for funds, or funds are being used for any purpose but to achieve the original aims and objectives, or, simply, the very aims and objectives of these institutions are being changed; in any case no new activities, except occasional pedestrian “cultural” projects of a political nature, are being undertaken: the institutions are being slowly transformed from cultural to commercial institutions, in line with the “changing times”. What is infinitely worse is what is happening to the detailed records of the research, documentation and collection undertaken by these institutions, in the not so distant past, to preserve, popularise and perpetuate different aspects of Indian culture: these archival records—print, tape, or film; or actual physical objects—are suddenly becoming an eyesore or an embarrassment, or simply a financial burden, to a cash-conscious leadership with a “reformist” eye on the “globe”. A standard sequence now is as follows: state-funded museums, libraries and archives—or at least the records in them—slowly become rare or inaccessible, in different ways, to the (lay or scholarly) public eye; often “constraints of space” force the authorities to remove these records from their protected environments and dump them in ill-maintained godowns, to rot and decay, unseen and forgotten; and, occasionally, mysterious fires break out in the places which house these archives, destroying invaluable and irreplaceable records (including those pertaining to the golden age of Indian movies), then to be forgotten forever—all these events, incidentally, make available valuable land and funds for more lucrative commercial purposes. The persons in authority are too busy saving, or making, money—for themselves, or, if they are to be believed, for the public coffers —to care.

Capitalism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of wealth, would be only half as effective in destroying Indian culture down to its roots, without its sister ideology, Consumerism, or the ideology of the unbridled pursuit of pleasure:

Consumerism is, in a sense, an anti-ideological ideology. The very essence of this ideology is that ideologies, principles, morals, ethics, sentiments, etc. don’t matter: pleasure is the only thing that matters. But pleasure can mean many things. The Bhagawad Gita classifies most things into three basic categories: satvik, rajasik and tamasik. Satvik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing good things which give pleasure to, or relieve the pain of, other people, or which are for the general betterment of the world. Rajasik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing things, good or bad, which give him pleasure or relieve his pain, without reference to its effect on other people or on the world in general. And tamasik pleasure is the pleasure a person gets by doing bad things which give pain to, or destroy the pleasure of, other people, or which are to the general detriment of the world.

Here, at the moment, we are concerned with the effects of the pursuit of pleasure on culture. There appears to be no particular way in which the pursuit of satvik pleasure can pose a threat to Indian culture. The pursuit of tamasik pleasure can pose a threat to anything and everything: in respect of culture, it takes the form of vandalism, of any kind or description, of monuments, heritage sites, the environment, manuscripts or other records, etc., or deliberate sabotage of cultural activities, or of attempts to protect those cultural activities, purely for the perverted pleasure it gives. This is clearly perverted or criminal activity, and has little to do directly with the ideology of Consumerism.

Consumerism is the unbridled pursuit of rajasic pleasure. The ideology closest to it, in the annals of Indian history, is the philosophy or ideology of Charvaka, the ancient Indian sage, whose philosophy can be summed up in his principle rinam kritva ghritam pibeta, “borrow money and drink ghee” (somewhat similar in sense to the English saying, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die”), and who believed that the main purpose in life should be to maximise pleasure and minimise pain (a view shared by the mainstream philosophies, as well, which considered Kama to be one of the main priorities in life),  without the constraints of Dharma (which were required by the other philosophies). He rejected the idea of any afterlife, heaven and hell, or rebirth, and held that existence began and ended with this one single life on earth. (Of course, it is possible to reject the idea of any kind of afterlife, and yet to believe in the need for some kind of constraints, if for no other reason than for the smooth working of the material world).

Consumerism is even more of an opium of the people than religion. And it is much more powerful than Charvaka’s philosophy could ever have been, since it is being propagated by media, more immensely powerful than anyone could ever possibly have imagined in the past, which can enter right into the homes of people in the most remote corner of the world (shades of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), and dazzle them with visions of pleasures to be enjoyed in the form of sensual entertainment and material possessions of every possible kind. The brainwashing potential of this psychological bombardment is total: today, increasing numbers of Indians, in their millions, are becoming so increasingly obsessed with the pursuit of—and addicted to the unceasing enjoyment of—forms of sensual entertainment and material possessions which (their minds have been conditioned to believe) provide pleasure, that they are as likely to have the time, energy and inclination to bother about what is going on all around them, as a drug-addict would. Consumerism, in the first instance, is therefore a powerful tool of Capitalism in the destruction of culture: while money can only buy outward allegiance, psychological brainwashing can sap resistance and demotivate opposition more fundamentally and effectively.

But, Consumerism is not merely a neutraliser of resistance and opposition to the Capitalist destruction of culture. As an arm of American Imperialism, Consumerism in its own right is as powerful as, or perhaps even more powerful than, Capitalism, as a destroyer of culture: the forms of entertainment to which Indians, from the most tender and impressionable age, are becoming addicted, and the material possessions which are becoming objects of obsession, are not just characterised by their sensual and material nature or their ability to obsess, they are characterised by the fact that they represent American culture and ideas of culture.

Today, American music and dance; American clothes, styles and fashions; American food and food culture; American lifestyles and work-culture; American ideas of art, humour, morals, etiquette and entertainment; and all things American (or Indian clones of all these aspects of American culture, or Americanised caricatures of aspects of Indian culture), are being marketed, or brainwashed into the brains of Indians, all over India—and not just among elite sections of urban society, as in the past, but among all classes of people in every remote corner of India, due to the ever-increasing reach of the all-pervasive media. (American culture here means western in general, but American in particular; and includes anything and everything, whatever its origin, which is accepted as an approved part of American culture, or becomes the fashion there: whether African musical instruments and styles; Chinese, Mexican or Lebanese cuisine; or Spanish pop songs. Even Indian personalities, ideas or things become respectable when they acquire the stamp of approval of America: as Tavleen Singh puts it in her oft-quoted article, “Young Indians have taken to yoga because it has come back to us from the West and because Madonna swears by it.”)

The lethal effects of this brain-washing are evident everywhere. To take the popular and influential field of Indian film music: films in Hindi, as well as in regional languages, at least till the late sixties (though very rarely after that), produced great and immortal music directors, singers, and poets, who did great work in tapping all kinds of musical sources to produce a beautiful and vibrant new genre of Indian music. However, there has literally been a Dr-Jekyll-to-Mr-Hyde transformation in this field. Now, not only are poetry and melody a thing of the past, and vulgarity, hype and noise the order of the day, but there is a determined trend of westernisation in every respect: western tunes are lifted or copied almost note for note; western, and electronic, musical instruments have almost edged out the Indian instruments from the race; western forms and styles of music, and methods of voice production, dominate the landscape; and natural voices (and even the falsettos which had become the bane of Indian film, and light, music in earlier decades) are being replaced by voices with artificially cultivated, blatantly western accents. And even classic songs from the Golden Age of Indian Film Music are not spared: “remix albums” present versions of old hits, so grossly westernised and vulgarised as to be blasphemous.

And it is not just film music (or similar modern genres of popular music like the bhavgeet genre in Marathi music): today, the westernising trend is evident everywhere. The literally thousands of varieties of traditional ensembles of musical instruments, all over India, used for accompanying processions and to grace festive occasions, are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, replaced by western or electronic bands. The traditional dandiya-ras programs, with which the whole of Gujarat, and Gujarati-present areas all over India, reverberated during the Navratri festival, are being replaced everywhere by “disco-dandiya” programs; and the Bhangra of the Punjab is giving way to “Bhangra-rap”. Vande Mataram is known, not in the solemn Akashwani version, or the stirring version in the old Hindi film Anand Math, but in the ghastly, westernised version composed by A. R. Rahman; and we find similar ghastly westernised versions of many other national or regional patriotic songs, and even of bhajans and devotional songs (especially among elitist classes, and among the followers of the many young, westernised, modern swamis and babas mushrooming everywhere). The list is a long one.

Today, an ever-increasing number of Indian children are becoming more familiar with the latest western, or Indian “remix”, hit or “album”, than with their own traditional music and dance: a glance into any house, almost anywhere in the country, will very likely show the smallest child avidly watching, and imitating, the gyrations, gestures and expressions of the performers in some “remix number” or the other. The effect is depressing: to narrate a personal experience, my sister is a teacher in an English medium school in South Mumbai managed by a Gujarati trust, and with a predominance of Gujarati students. When she joined the school around eleven years ago, she was fascinated by the way in which even the smallest Gujarati children were capable of performing the most complicated and intricate group dandiya-ras performances, almost like professionals, as a matter of course and at the shortest notice. Rejoining the school again after a gap of a few years recently, she finds a sea change in the present stock of Gujarati students, who seem as unfamiliar with the art as any normal group of non-Gujarati students anywhere else.

And it is not just music and dance: an ever-increasing number of children and youth, all over the country, are becoming more familiar with the different aspects of American, or western, culture, than with those of the traditional culture of India, or even of their own particular communities: pizzas, Chinese food, tacos and McDonald’s burgers; the latest American slang, the latest western mannerisms and expressions, styles of eating and greeting, and of expressing emotions and sentiments (“yessss” with clenched fist upraised, special “days” of the year for different categories of loved ones, bouquets and cards for every occasion, etc.); the latest western clothing, fashions and styles; the latest Barbie-dolls and western toys; the latest western trends in cars, films, TV serials, cartoons, partying, sports, hobbies, destinations, and anything else; and the latest, or even the traditional, heroes and icons of the western worlds of music, sports, films, fashion, business, history, politics, etc. If some of these aspects are current only among elite classes, they have produced Indian clones which cater to the other classes.

All this progressive westernisation (or Americanisation) and de-Indianisation of greater and greater numbers of Indians, and particularly of the younger generations, is slowly leading to the demise of more and more aspects of India’s culture. Several people, including western scholars, have repeatedly expressed their acute distress at the fatal neglect of their rich culture by Indians. For example, Dr. James O’Barnhill, retired Professor of Theatre Arts, Brown University, USA, in an interview to the Organiser (5/3/1989), lamented: “I am sad to note that Indians know very little about their folk arts or the artistes … using this medium (TV) to destroy one’s own originality and to spread foreign culture is dangerous … the intellectuals … should recognise the fact that their own culture is dissolving like delta in the sea”. (This, it may be noted, was in the days of Doordarshan, when private and foreign TV channels had not yet arrived on the scene.) When he had visited Gujarat some years earlier, he had met a Bhavai folk drama artiste who knew 200 plays. But, this time, the oldest Bhavai artiste knew only 65 plays: “Between two generations, 135 Bhavais were lost! Nobody bothered to record them. They were lost forever”. This was in 1989. What must be the fate of the traditional Bhavais today, in 2004? And what will be their fate in, say, 2014? And it is not just a question of one particular form of traditional folk theatre, it is a question of literally millions of aspects of Indian culture which are being allowed to die out, or being systematically decimated, at a break-neck pace.

The question may be asked: does all this really matter? After all, change is in the nature of things, so why bother about what may be part of a natural process of change? And there are many more important things to achieve, and problems to solve, in this world; so why interfere with what may be part of the process of progress and development?

Well, the facts of the case have been set out, in short but (I hope) comprehensively, in the above pages. To sum up, we have two basic facts: one, Indian culture is the greatest and richest culture in the world, and also the culture which represents the oldest continuous civilisation; and, two, this culture is being systematically decimated, or callously allowed to die out. So, the answer to the first question is: yes, it matters. It matters very much, and it matters almost more than anything else in the world. On a personal level, of course, it is natural, and perfectly right, for every individual to be more concerned with problems that beset him personally. But, on a larger level, this matters more than anything else.

As to the second point, it is true that change is a part of nature, and this applies to culture as well. No one lives his life, in every way, exactly in the same manner that his grandfather lived before him—and, nor must his grandfather have done so before him. But such natural cultural changes (apart from purely technological changes) take place in the culture of a society over the course of time, during which (apart from desirable changes wrought by internal processes of evolution and refinement) the natural influences of other cultures are assimilated into the native ethos. Culture everywhere has been, and should be, a process of give and take; and even as Indian culture has contributed more to the world than any other culture, it has received a great deal from the world as well: to take just a single example, consider the extremely important position of potatoes and chillies, natives of the American continent, in Indian cuisine. (But even in these natural circumstances, a conscious and self-respecting society, with a rich culture of its own, should see to it that this leads to the enrichment, and not to the replacement, abandonment or pollution, of any aspect of its culture. And where, for some reason or the other, some aspect of culture dies out, it should be recorded in detail for future reference and use. The tragedy of Indian culture is that, in spite of the fact that the aspects of its culture, which are being callously allowed to die out, are so rich and beautiful, no efforts are made to record them for posterity.)

But, what we are seeing here is not a natural process of change as described above. We are seeing the most powerful forces of Imperialism that the world has ever seen, the forces of American Imperialism, out to transform the world in its own image, and in the process destroying all other cultures with the help of its powerful ideological weapons (Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism), and the world is too overwhelmed, by the psychological force of these weapons, to resist, or even to care. There is nothing “natural” about it.

As to the final point, there are many very important (as distinct from more important) things to be achieved, and problems to be solved, in this world; but surely it cannot be anyone’s contention that they will be achieved, or solved, by destroying rich cultural traditions, or allowing them to be destroyed? And why should the destruction, of rich, and beautiful, cultural traditions, be, in any possible way, a part of the process of progress and development? Or, again, why should cultural westernisation, or Americanisation, be equated with the process of progress and development?

In the past, much evil, injustice and damage has been done in the name of religion; but even more evil, injustice and damage has been done, and is being done even now on an ever-increasing scale, in the name of progress and development. As a result of many of the half-baked, ill-thought of, or plainly mercenary, things which take place in the name of progress and development, the world not only becomes vastly poorer of large parts of its rich heritage, which is lost forever, but it often has to pay a heavy price for it (the lethal effects of deforestation, industrial pollution, and mega-urbanisation, for example, are already apparent; and will become so clear in the days to come, that even the most determined opponent of social and environmental concerns will be compelled to note them; by when, of course, it will be too late, since some things become irreversible after a point of time), and the results, even otherwise, are often pathetic, tragic and depressing:

An article by Soutik Biswas, “Modern Cultural Clashes” (Asiaweek, 5/3/1999), details the results of a decade of efforts, by governmental agencies, at “improving the lot” of the Andamanese tribals, by way of social and welfare policies and programs. The government, in the initial days, had followed a more or less “hands-off” policy: regular contacts with the, till then practically isolated, tribes began in 1974, but they were sporadic and primary. After 1990, the contact expeditions became a regular affair: “In one case, Indian politician B. P. Singhal led a parliamentary committee to the tribal heartland, met some people wandering on the trunk road, offered them toffees, suggested giving them raincoats, and asked them to pose for photographs”. In 1997, “officials brought a young tribe member to the capital of Port Blair for medical treatment. He spent three months convalescing in the hospital, where he was put up in a separate cabin outfitted with a TV. Doctors and authorities lavished him with attention and gifts, they took him on drives, gave him special food.” This boy “carried back the tales of the good life in the city to other tribe members”. The article describes the results: within one year, from October 1997, more than 2000 tribals had migrated out from their habitats, lured by the fairy tales; and a sordid sequence of events, described in the article, took place over the next one-and-a-half years, as the tribals stepped out from backwardness into the modern age. The article, published in March 1999 (already more than five years ago), concludes: “Now it may be too late to ensure the tribe members live in a protected environment. Recently, those who landed in Shantanu village were wearing dirty donated clothes, eating fried snacks and rice, and singing popular Hindi ditties they had learned from watching television. On the trunk road that cuts through their heartland, others were stopping vehicles to ask for food. ‘At this rate’, says Acharya [head of the Port Blair-based Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology], ‘they will turn up as beggars and servants and prostitutes.’ That would surely be a sorry epitaph for one of the world’s proudest hunter-gatherer tribes.”

The tragedy, described above is so great that no words can even begin to describe it. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the day on which the last of the Andamanese tribals breathes his last breath will be one of the blackest days in our modern human history, in more ways than one. Indian culture will be very much the poorer, by one of its three native races and by one of its six native language families, apart from the different other aspects, most of them probably unrecorded, of Andamanese culture (although I recall seeing a Films Division documentary, Man in Search of Man, long ago on Doordarshan, which provided some glimpses of Andamanese culture, including some strains of their music). But, apart from that, it will show how “progress and development” can be as ruthless as “religion”: if the natives of Tasmania were ruthlessly wiped out from the face of this earth, in mediaeval times, in the fanatical name of religion, the natives of the Andaman islands will have been ruthlessly wiped out from the face of this earth, in modern times, in the mindless name of progress and development. Moreover, it will also show how far the world has progressed since those mediaeval times: the world, today, is just as blissfully ignorant of, or (even if it were to be brought to their notice) callously indifferent to, the fate of the Andamanese, as it was, then, to the fate of the Tasmanians.

The tragedy in the Andaman islands is a pointer to what is happening to India’s tribal and folk cultures, and even to the tributaries of the mainstream classical cultures of India. Even if the analogy may not be an exact one for many reasons, the sight of millions of Indians abandoning their glorious culture, and striving to become pathetic clones of the west, is not very different, in principle and substance, from the pathetic sight of the Andamanese tribals “wearing dirty donated clothes, eating fried snacks and rice, and singing popular Hindi ditties they had learned from watching television”.

If Indian culture faces the same fate as the culture of the Andamanese tribes, it will be a historical tragedy of indescribable proportions. The only thing which can avert this tragedy is Indian society in general waking up to a consciousness of its roots, and deciding that the survival of Indian culture, in all its richness, really matters more than anything else. Even the survival of Indian society as Hindu society, in my opinion, is incidental to the survival of Indian culture in all its richness: if Hindu society is willing to let it die out, or be polluted or decimated, and prefers to itself survive, howsoever richly and prosperously, as a cultural clone, even a “proudly Hindu” one (whatever that may mean under those circumstances), of whichever society (currently it is western society in general, and American in particular) is dominating the world at the moment, then Hindu society itself deserves to perish “unwept, unhonoured and unsung”.

What India requires is a Nationalist ideology in which the need to protect, preserve and perpetuate Indian culture, in all its richness, is a central point of faith and action. As pointed out in the very beginning of this section, Hindutva without Indian culture as its very basis is a meaningless exercise. As I pointed out even earlier, in the Voice of India volume, Time for Stock Taking (1997, pp.227-8), a true Hindutvavadi should feel deep pain and impelled to take strong action, not only when he hears of issues of conventional Hindutva discourse, but also “when he hears that the Andamanese races and languages are becoming extinct; that vast tracts of forests, millions of years old, are being wiped out forever; that ancient and mediaeval Hindu architectural monuments are being vandalised, looted or fatally neglected; that priceless ancient documents are being destroyed or left to rot and decay; that innumerable forms of arts and handicrafts, architectural styles, plant and animal species, musical forms and musical instruments, etc. are becoming extinct; that our sacred rivers and environment are being irreversibly polluted and destroyed….” (Incidentally, even as I was typing this out, I noticed a truly, and incredibly, macabre coincidence: the above volume was published in October 1997; the introduction is dated 16 October 1997. The Asiaweek article (dt. March 5, 1999) quoted earlier, relates that the very first incident in which the Andamanese tribals started migrating out of their isolated habitats, to their eternal doom, took place on 21 October 1997.)

Hindutva is not a narrow ideology. As I clarified in an interview to the Free Press Journal, 5/5/2002: “Indian culture being the greatest and richest is not a narrow or chauvinistic idea; it is a demonstrable fact. It would be chauvinistic if it acquired an imperialist tinge: that other cultures are inferior and Indian culture must dominate over or replace them. In fact, I am opposed to even internal cultural imperialism. The idea that Vedic or Sanskrit culture represents Indian culture and that other cultures within India are its subcultures and must be incorporated into it, is wrong … all other cultures native to this land: the culture of the Andaman islanders, the Nagas, the Mundas, the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, etc. are all Indian in their own right. They don’t have to be—and should not be—Sanskritised to make them Indian”. Vedic and Classical Sanskrit culture, is, of course, the pan-Indian representative face of India’s ancient civilisation, and that fact is not negated by the equally valid fact that all other native Indian cultures must be given their due. (I will go further here. In my 1993 book, The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (p.33), I have, rightly in that context, criticised the secularist media for the “calculated glorification of Urdu, of Lucknowi tehzib, of the Mughals, of gazals and qawwalis, etc.”. But the truth is that all this is also a part, and a rich part, of our modern Indian ethos. In fact, it is old classics, which depict this culture, that I most look forward to when old Hindi film classics are shown on TV channels!)

And it is not only in the negative sense—of not being cultural imperialist—that Hindutva stands out against cultural imperialism. In the above volume (Time for Stock Taking, p.227), I put it as follows: “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide Sanatanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of Hindutva should therefore be a Universal ideology: … [it] should spearhead a worldwide revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of spiritualism, and of all the religions and cultures which existed all over the world before the advent of imperialist ideologies….” Perhaps a rather ambitious idea, when the going is increasingly getting tougher, by the day, in India itself—but, nevertheless, that must be the ultimate dream of Hindutva.

Finally, Hindutva is not opposed to any other particular culture as such: it is opposed to cultural imperialism which leads to the imposition of one culture to the detriment of others; it is opposed to the destruction and extinction of rich, diverse and beautiful aspects of the rich cultural heritage of mankind. Western, or even American, culture, are not, in themselves, enemies of Hindutva: they have assumed that position today because (religious and cultural) Proselytisation, Capitalism and Consumerism are, today, the weapons of American Imperialism; and the havoc and the destruction they are causing, to the cultural heritage of India and the rest of the world, is lethal and irreversible.

The true cultural spirit of Hinduism is encapsulated in the following words of Mahatma Gandhi: “I don’t want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”. The tragedy today is that the culture of only one land is being allowed to blow about; and it is not a wind, but a whirlwind; and it is being allowed to blow everyone off their feet, never to stand up again. The aim of Hindutva should, therefore, be to see to it that India remains firmly and proudly rooted in its own richly diverse culture, even as the cultures of all lands (including America as much as every other) blow freely about in the true Hindu spirit:

Hindu individuals, thinkers and activists, should: (1) take up the task of identifying the different fields of culture, and (2) set up well-funded and systematically organised apex institutions, one in every single field (eg. music, dance, cuisine, architecture, wildlife, environment, games, etc.), (3) which will draw up detailed action-plans to gather, classify, record, and document in detail everything concerning that particular field of culture, from every part of India and every possible period, (4) take measures, and conduct campaigns to arouse the conscience, and culture-consciousness, of Indians everywhere, (5) and take steps to see to it that every single aspect of the culture of every single part of India is protected, preserved, popularised and perpetuated as part of a living heritage (and where that is not possible, at least documented and recorded in detail, and kept alive in the national memory), and that, in every field of culture, ample scope is made available for inspiration and further development from within India’s diverse sources.

But, while the inspiration and ideology behind the above exercise should be Hindutva, the apex institutions should function not on the basis of vote-bank politics or pedestrian jingoism, but on the basis of a purely objective and academic outlook. For example, in all the activities connected with the field of music, politicians and political considerations of any kind, should be severely kept at arms length, and only musicians, musicologists, passionate music lovers, and considerations of Music as an end in itself, should have the first as well as the final say in every matter.

As pointed out earlier, there are countless committed activists in the fields of ecology and environment, wildlife preservation, folk or tribal culture, music and dance, handicrafts, etc. who may be ideologically indifferent, or even hostile, to Hindutva. There are also numerous scholars, Indian and foreign, who do serious academic research, or film-makers who make documentary films, on different aspects of Indian culture (in their personal capacity, or for different organisations, or for Films Division, or even for foreign TV channels like Discovery or National Geographic). There are many people, in their individual capacity, doing wonderful work in diverse fields: eg. Sunderlal Bahuguna, who initiated the Chipko movement, Avinash Patwardhan, who has invented a flute which plays the 22 shrutis of ancient Indian music (Indian Express, 16/5/1999), Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, who has taken up the mammoth project of preparing a complete Encyclopaedia of Indian Classical Music (The Times of India, 18/12/1990), Dr. Jayant Narlikar, the well-known scientist, who has taken initiatives in encouraging scientific studies on the engineering marvels incorporated in Indian architecture, etc.

Any person, who, in effect, does anything to genuinely protect, preserve or perpetuate any aspect of Indian culture, deserves respect and gratitude for it (at least to the extent called for by the extent of his contribution); and, at least to that extent, that person must be regarded as a benefactor of Hinduism and Indian culture, and therefore also of Hindutva—regardless of his ideological leanings, or his attitude towards aspects of culture other than the one he is interested in, or his attitude towards Hinduism or the Indian ethos as a whole; and even if he is a bitter opponent of Hindutva—more than any avowed supporter of Hindutva whose ideas of Hindutva are restricted to the world of vote-bank politics.

But it is time for genuine Indians, who are proud to call themselves Indian, to take up the task. And it is even more imperative for genuine Hindus, who are proud to call themselves Hindus, to take up the task on a war-footing.

3. Socio-Economic Nationalism

It is absolutely necessary that Hindutva must have a socio-economic ideological agenda for the nation. Apart from the obvious point that Hindutva would be only half a nationalist ideology if it has nothing to say on national socio-economic issues, there are three compelling reasons why it is imperative to have a clear-cut Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology:

One: today, after the demise of the Soviet Union, the USA is the sole super-power in a “uni-polar” world. We have already, in the previous section, referred to American Imperialism, with its three ideological weapons (Proselytisation, Capitalism, and Consumerism) backed by the military and economic clout of the USA, and the destruction being wrought by it all over the world. The destruction described was in the fields of the cultural heritage of India, as of the rest of the world. But, it must be realised that the motive behind this destruction is not cultural vandalism: the destruction is merely an incidental, if inevitable, result of the spread of the ideologies of Christian fundamentalism, Capitalism And Consumerism. And if the USA is propagating these ideologies all over the world, it is not because the thinkers and philosophers in America sat together and concluded that this was the ideal way to spread peace and happiness all over the world, but because the over-all effect of the spread of these ideologies is the tightening of the political and economic stranglehold of the USA over the rest of the world. In short, the ultimate motive is Profit: all imperialisms ultimately boil down to Economic Imperialism. In these circumstances, a Nationalist socio-economic ideology is necessary to safeguard India’s economic interests from economic imperialism from any quarters, and to realise the dream of a rich, prosperous, peaceful and happy India. And to protect Indian culture, as well.

Two: in the present world, which is getting more and more ruthless and cynical, idealism of any kind is becoming a rare commodity. People usually become concerned with the larger issues that affect the greater good, or future, of humanity (or the nation), or which pertain to matters of high ethics or ideals, in only any one of two circumstances: either when they are personally affected, and stand to gain or lose personally from them (even perhaps have a personal axe to grind in the matter), or when they are genuinely motivated by noble intentions, compelling ideals or passionate dreams, or consumed (to whatever degree) by a passion for Truth and Justice. But, even in the latter case, physical, mental, emotional, financial or social tensions or injustice are factors which can seriously affect the enthusiasm, commitment and outlook of even the most enthusiastic idealist. The erstwhile idealist can become an anarchist; or he can lose all his enthusiasm and idealism and become a cynical “realist”, either losing all interest in his former ideals and “outgrowing” idealism as such, or learning to use his erstwhile ideological platform for personal gain. For the sake of idealism – any idealism, not just Hindu nationalist idealism – an equitable and just socio-economic order is imperative. Every Indian must feel free to dream of a better world, and to strive hard for it, with his mind free of oppressive tensions, and his head held high.

Three: the ultimate basis of any ideology must be Truth, and the ultimate aim Justice. And, all issues of Justice can be broadly classified under two heads: Cultural Justice and Socio-Economic Justice. But, the fact is that vested interests, throughout history, have always conspired to place these two categories in mutually antagonistic slots: to put it in simple (even simplistic) terms, the advocates of cultural injustice have always positioned themselves as champions of socio-economic justice, and the advocates of socio-economic injustice have always positioned themselves as champions of cultural justice. The conflict, which should have been between Wrong and Right, has been converted into one between Left and Right: forces supposedly fighting for the oppressed are motivated more by a pathological and rabid hatred for Hinduism, and forces supposedly fighting for Hindutva are motivated more by deeply entrenched vested interests and rabid antagonism to ideas of socio-economic egalitarianism. There is always an unspoken agreement between the two sides to maintain this state of affairs; and genuine thinkers, idealists and activists have to ultimately fall in line, on this side or that. It is time for Hindutva to break out of this vicious circle, and to start representing Right against Wrong, rather than Right against Left.

In short, it is time to evolve a Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology which will try to be a model and inspiration to the rest of the world, and to future generations of the human race; and which will take mankind as a whole further on the path “from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality” and from animalism to divinity. True evolution is to be measured, not in terms of technological and material progress and development, which are taking place at a breakneck, and continually accelerating, pace, but are only converting humans into a more and more organised, powerful, sophisticated, technologically advanced and materially evolved species of ruthless, selfish, self-centred, cold-blooded and mechanical animal, but in terms of spiritual progress which will make humans more and more humane, considerate, thoughtful and compassionate  divine beings. (To put it in a different way: tomorrow, if a race of aliens, infinitely superior in comparison to the most advanced section of earthlings of that time—as proportionately superior, in the sense of technologically advanced, materially rich and militarily powerful, as, say, the present-day Americans are in comparison to the present-day Andamanese people—were to arrive on earth (admittedly an extremely hypothetical situation), how would we expect to be treated by them? Would we respect them, as genuinely superior and advanced beings, only on the strength of their technology, material wealth and power, if it were accompanied by their treatment of us with the same ruthlessness with which man treats other animals, conquering humans treat conquered peoples, masters treat slaves, the pigs on Orwell’s Animal Farm treated the other animals, Big Brother’s System treated the citizens in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or, indeed, Jehovah of the Old Testament treated mankind in general or the Jews in particular? Or would we respect them if they also proved to be spiritually advanced: infinitely more humane, considerate, thoughtful and compassionate than human beings?)

It is not my claim here that I am any authority on Economics or Sociology, or am in any other way qualified to try to provide a blueprint for a Hindu Nationalist Socio-Economic Ideology. In spite of that I am going to express my strong views on the subject.

To begin with, what should be the model for such an ideology? To be truly Hindu, it may appear axiomatic that it should be in some way derived from some Hindu model. But, the central aim should be to formulate objective norms of Socio-Economic Justice, and not to dig out precedents in Hindu texts or Hindu history. Such precedents, if any, would obviously be most welcome, but they would not be a prerequisite.

In any case, while countless useful points can be picked up from our ancient texts—when even a text like the Bible can provide some gems, the number of useful quotations and hints that could be culled from our Sanskrit treasure-house of texts is beyond count—what do we have by way of general models that could be held up as ideal? There are firstly the models presented by the various Dharma Shastras (the most well known of which is, of course, the Manu Smriti), further illustrated in the myths and legends in the Puranas and the Mahabharata; there is the model visualised in the phrase “Ram Rajya”; and, finally, there is the model described in the Artha Shastra. But how valid are these models? An examination of these models in detail shows that all of them without fail give importance to the supremacy of Laws rather than the supremacy of Objective Justice. And, there is very little egalitarian or justice, either in the laws themselves (many of which have obviously been established by deeply entrenched vested interests), or in the principle of the absolute supremacy of Law which lies behind them.

But, at the same time, in spite of all the in-egalitarianism and injustice which permeates the laws and the stories which illustrate the application of these laws, there is a thread of basic humanitarianism which runs through the gamut of Indian civilisation, which makes India appropriately qualified to show the path to the rest of the world at this crucial juncture in human history—not on the basis of Hindu precedents, but on the basis of this basic humanitarianism developed to its full potential. (A. L. Basham, incidentally, has the following to say about the Indian ethos: “At most periods of her history India, though a cultural unit, has been torn by internecine war. In statecraft, her rulers were cunning and unscrupulous. Famine, flood and plague visited her from time to time, and killed millions of her people. Inequality of birth was given religious sanction, and the lot of the humble was generally hard. Yet our overall impression is that in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilisation were slaves so few in number, and in no other ancient law-book are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants…. There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but, in comparison with conditions in other early cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilisation is its humanity.” (pp.8-9)].

The basic foundation of this Hindu Nationalist Socio-Economic Ideology must be based on the philosophy and principles of Mahatma Gandhi, which best represent this basic humanitarianism developed to its full potential. (Incidentally, a phrase “Gandhian Socialism” was cooked up by the erstwhile Jana Sangh, when it broke away, in 1980, from the Janata Party formed in 1977, and formed the Bharatiya Janata Party. It evoked plenty of derision even among its supporters, and rightly so: the BJP is, was, and will always be, bitterly antagonistic to any and every form of socialism, and its intrinsic incompatibility with Mahatma Gandhi is an open secret; and there is no doubt whatsoever that whatever things the BJP would have done, in the name of Gandhian Socialism, would have been neither Gandhian, nor socialist, in any sense of the terms. The phrase was clearly just one more cynical vote-catching gimmick, and was abandoned with alacrity when it failed to deliver the goods in 1984. I myself, at the time, was biased against Gandhi, and, consequently, was ill-disposed to examine his philosophy with an open mind. But, a rational and objective approach shows the perennial relevance of Gandhian principles, at least in the formulation of a just and equitable socio-economic system.)

The basic principles of this Gandhian socio-economic ideology may be summarised as follows:

1) Primacy to the spirit of (humanitarian) Justice over, or even in opposition to, the letter of the (religious/social/traditional/statutory) Law.

2)   Swadeshi, or economic nationalism.

3) An administrative system which governs the least, and with the least interference; and which provides public utilities at the least cost to one and all; and which provides full protection, security and aid to every citizen—regardless of race, religion, caste, sex, profession, or any other mark of identity—from fear, terror, injustice, insecurity, crime and oppression, from hunger and want, and from diseases and natural disasters.

4)  Simple Living: a) Simple lifestyle; b) Curbs on wastage, extravagance and ostentation in public and personal life; c) Principle of small is beautiful; d) Proximity to nature, and conservation. High Thinking: a) Idealism; b) Open, free and honest society; c) Emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness, and civic-mindedness; d) Sense of Duty; e) Dignity of labour; f) Compassion towards, and love for, all living beings.

5) Primacy to the interests of the poorer and more oppressed persons in society, and to the benefit of the greatest number.

Today, every single one of the basic principles, mentioned above, is rejected outright by the intellectual and political powers that be; or else these principles are followed only in the breach as hypocritical leaders and intellectuals continue to speak in terms of all-round progress and development, and socio-economic justice, even as they advocate and follow socio-economic principles, philosophies and policies which blatantly violate those concepts.

Let us examine, as briefly as possible, the relevance of the above basic principles, or the different ways in which the present set-up and trends are moving in the direction opposite to these basic principles:

1) The first basic principle, enumerated above, is the primacy of the spirit of Justice over the letter of the Law. This is important because Law has not always been synonymous with Justice in this world. A blind belief in the sanctity of the Law, and in the power of Authority to enforce the Law, has always been fostered by different entities (eg. by different kings, governments, civilisations, religions, priesthoods, etc.) to establish, and maintain, their stranglehold over their followers or subjects. Every Authority, the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan as much as the democratic government in the USA, believes, or claims, that its system of Law is the best in the world. But the truth is that most laws are formulated, established and enforced by vested interests, and, throughout history, laws have, more often than not, been used more to perpetrate injustice and exploitation than to establish Truth and Justice. Even the seemingly most impartial and objective laws are susceptible to willful technical misinterpretations. The western or “modern” system of Justice, as much as any other, is notorious for its great capacity for manipulation and injustice. (There is an American serial on the Star World channel, The Practice, which depicts the gross injustices that take place in the American system, where heinous crimes—murder, serial killings, rape, cannibalism, to name a few—go unpunished because the judges, lawyers and juries conclude that even open-and-shut cases do not merit convictions if there are technical—sometimes incredibly, trivially technical—grounds for acquittal; while even openly innocent people are convicted on equally technical grounds. The serial, incidentally, defends and justifies such a system.) Similarly, in India, rules and laws (and, especially in modern contexts, “discipline”) have always been, at the very least, instruments for the victimisation of sincere people, for the benefit of vested interests, and for the legitimisation of unjust or wasteful systems and activities.

There is no doubt that a lawless society cannot be an ideal: laws are absolutely necessary for the smooth running of society; but only when they are formulated, and administered, on the principles of Truth and Justice, and guided by logic, common sense, and principles of common humanitarianism. There should be no place for blind and unthinking dogmatism. Gandhi always believed in following the inner voice of conscience over the letter of the law. He led agitations against unjust laws (the salt satyagraha is a case in point) and unjust legal systems, and, in spite of his known conservatism, strongly rejected accepting even the authority of scripture “if it is in conflict with sober reason or the dictates of the heart … when it supplants reason sanctified by the still, small voice within”, if it is “opposed to the fundamental maxims of morality … [or] opposed to trained reason”: according to him, “in Hinduism, we have got an admirable foot-rule to measure every Shastra and every rule of conduct, and that is Truth” (quoted by Arun Shourie in Hinduism—Essence and Consequences, (ch.11)).

The most, if not only, objective way of judging, from the point of view of the inner voice, whether a law is just or unjust, or, on any point of conflict of interests, which side is in the right, is by placing oneself in the place of the affected person, or of both the conflicting sides in turn (even when one of the two sides is one’s own self), and applying the principle (often attributed to the Bible, but found in many other places, among them in the sayings of Confucius and in the Mahabharata): “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Of course, this principle must be applied honestly and objectively, and it must be clarified with the addition “if you were in their place”, else it is perfectly possible for people to justify unjust acts while claiming that they are applying this principle. This can be illustrated by the well-known fable about the fox and the stork: the fox calls the stork for supper, and serves the food (porridge or soup) in a flat dish, and the fox merrily laps up his food while the stork stays hungry. To pay him back, the stork then calls the fox for supper, and serves the food in a thin, long-necked pitcher, and this time it is the fox who starves while the stork enjoys his meal. In this story, however, the fox could always claim that he was following the above principle: he would have liked to be served in a flat dish, and so he also served the stork in a flat dish, and therefore he did unto the stork as he would have had the stork do unto him! This is, obviously dishonest logic: the fox, if he had placed himself in the place of the stork as a stork rather than as a fox, would have realised that the stork would want his food in a thin, long-necked pitcher. The same kind of dishonest logic is demonstrated by missionaries when they strive to convert Hindus, for example, to Christianity: if asked whether they would like to see Christians being converted to Hinduism, they would naturally reply in the negative; but if asked whether they would have liked to see Hindus being converted to Christianity if they themselves had been Hindus, they would reply in the affirmative on the ground that Christianity is the only true religion, and conversion to Christianity is salvation from hell-fire!

It is inevitable that, human nature being what it is, there will always be dishonesty in the application of principles. The point here is that the spirit of impartial and objective Justice and Truth are more important than the letter of blind Law. And this should be the most fundamental principle of any Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology.

2) Swadeshi should naturally be the cornerstone of any national socio-economic policy, leftist or rightist. But, today, this basic mantra of our pre-Independence era has been thrown to the dogs. An article by Jay Dubashi, entitled “Into Foreign Hands” (The Times of India, 17/1/2002), puts it in a nutshell: “For India, independence meant transfer of power from an alien to the local political class…. But things are different now. The state is in retreat everywhere, and power is being transferred from the political class to the business class … first to the Indian business class and through it, to foreign business led by multinationals. The transfer of power to the foreign business class has been going on for the last ten years. I call this reverse transfer of power. Power, which was wrested from foreigners 50-odd years ago, is passing back into the hands of foreigners once again, with the active collaboration of our new political class…. Ten years from now, maybe five, almost everything that is currently in the name of the Indian state will pass into the clutches of the international business class, through their intermediaries in India…. Everything that is Indian will cease to be Indian. Indians will serve their new foreign masters as diligently as their fathers and grandfathers served the British before…. The real story is that India and Indians are being betrayed by this new class just as they were betrayed by another new class fathered by Thomas Babington Macaulay two centuries ago. This time the new class is being fathered by multinationals and their agents, the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the new tribal leaders of Globalisation. India is being colonised once again with the help of our new political class and history is repeating itself with a reverse transfer of power, first as national betrayal, and then as a colossal national tragedy in the making”. Dubashi names banks, insurance, steel, power, petroleum, airports, ports and harbours, railways, highways, “and finally defence industries”, as some of the major areas which will pass into the hands of foreigners. But the virus has spread even further: the media and education system, retail trade, the fishing industry … foreigners and foreign firms are even sought to be appointed on the Planning Commission, and (as per reports in the Times of India, 28/9/2004) islands in Lakshadweep and the Andamans are to be leased to “private and international operators”. The country and its people are being sold into economic slavery with a thoroughness and a completeness which would have shamed the proverbial Jaichand, Mir Jafar or Quisling.

The other aspect of this anti-swadeshi trend is that import duties and restrictions are being increasingly reduced or eliminated, and foreign goods are flooding the market. The general effect of this trend is that Indian industries are having to face a situation not unlike the one they faced during the days of British colonial rule, when goods from the British manufacturers were allowed to flood the markets while the ruling (then British, now “Indian”) administration did its best to maim and cripple the local industries to eliminate competition for the imported goods. Indian industries are slowly but surely being wiped out. As Dubashi points out in another article, the common people, and particularly the middle classes, dazzled by the vistas of imported goods flooding the market, and consumed by the consumerist frenzy, see no reason to oppose this new colonisation: it is only when the effects of this flood start taking a toll on their own particular jobs and means of livelihood, and render them unable to enjoy the consumerist goodies, that they wake up, at least to their own plight if not to the larger issues involved; but by then it is obviously too late.

The increasing foreign invasion, in the name of “liberalisation” and “reforms”, is also taking a toll on public utilities and services that are enjoyed by the common man. To take an example, the nationalisation of banks in India was an important step in opening up the services of banking to the poorer and common public. Savings were encouraged, and banking came within the reach of the common man. By allowing foreign and private banks full entry into the market, and allowing them to pull off the cream of the deposits and business, fully free of any social obligations, the task of public sector banks has been made doubly unenviable: today the totally unencumbered foreign and private banks are cornering all the profitable and elite business, making it indispensable for public sector banks to shed their social obligations and become elitist in their own turn, in every way, if they want to stay alive without conking out, even while they continue to be handicapped by crippling political chains which they are never likely to be allowed to shed (political interference, caste-based reservations, etc.). The results: firstly, banking is becoming an increasingly complicated and elitist activity. Even opening a bank account (earlier, all that was required was an introducer and the minimum amount) is becoming more and more complicated and expensive, and the number of charges and costs, and red-tape and rules, that a bank is, increasingly, having to impose on account-holders, is making the holding of a bank account increasingly difficult for the common man. Secondly, banks have long since ceased to be a source of employment. And thirdly, poorer and lower middle class customers are increasingly being driven into the arms of co-operative banks, and the security of their bank deposits is no more a matter of certainty. This is the case not only with banks, but with all public activities, where the entry of foreign, and elitist private, entities is taking many services out of reach of the common man, closing down employment avenues, and generally making life more and more complicated and insecure for him.

Dubashi, in the above article, writes: “Surprisingly, very few Indians are aware that a transfer of power on this scale is taking place. They think that the economy is only being liberalised, without realising that it is being globalised too, for the two go together….” However, Dubashi is wrong here: actually, the economy is only being globalised on a war footing, it is not being liberalised; and the two, liberalisation and globalisation, do not necessarily go together. It is time, first of all, to stop the blatant misuse of certain words: just as everything cultural originating in, or accepted by, America is treated as representative of “the times” (and automatically makes other things “outdated”), so also everything economic dictated by America through its puppet world bodies is treated as representative of “liberalisation”, and every kowtowing to these dictates is treated as representative of economic “reform”. But “liberal” means “free”, and “reform” means “make better”. Is it axiomatic that the things that are happening today, in the name of liberalisation and reform, are making society, or the people who constitute that society, economically freer or better off?

What is happening, as already pointed out, is that the economy is being made liberal in India only for foreigners: foreign business interests, backed by massive resources, unencumbered by political chains and crippling bureaucratic procedures, and with the active collaboration of the political classes, are eating up their local “competition”, killing or taking over local industries, and creating more and more unemployment. This is certainly not making Indians economically freer or better off. Incidentally, apologists of the system in the media, and there is no dearth of them, often provide examples, such as the recent hue and cry in the USA, and the west in general, over the issue of out-sourcing of IT jobs to India, to show how this globalisation can be made to turn to our advantage if pursued in the right manner. But this, in fact, illustrates the point being made here. The industrialists and big businesses in the west, which are outsourcing jobs to India, are not doing it out of love for India or Indians—they are doing it to improve profits. The losers are the common people among the western population, and the gainers are the more elitist and “upwardly mobile” sections among the Indian population. In essence, it is simply an illustration of the capitalist maxim, “elites of the world, unite! You have everything to gain”. The common people among the western populations, moreover, have less to lose, when the law of the jungle is made universally applicable, than the common people among the Indian population.

Indians fail to realise the dangers of what is taking place, because they are hypnotised by the American economic model. But the American economic model is based on the principle of the law of the jungle (as depicted in phrases like “the survival of the fittest”, “might is right”, “the winner takes all”, “history is written by the victor”, “fish eats fish”, “it’s a rat-race”, “someone has to sacrifice”, etc). It represents an economic lifestyle which is possible only in a grossly unequal and inequitable world, where the overwhelmingly major proportion of the limited wealth and resources of the world is necessarily enjoyed by a small minority of people, and which, therefore, actually rationalises, ideologises and glorifies gross inequality and inequity. The vast majority of the population is kept drugged and brain-washed with the opiums of religion, politics, entertainment, and traditional vices; or kept in check by the power of establishmentarian intimidation, by “the rule of Law”, or by plain selfish greed: the ultimate dream of any individual in this controlled, and thought-controlling, world, becomes, not to work for a just and equitable world, but to work to be on “the right side” of the dividing lines of an unjust society and world – to join, gate-crash into, or be co-opted into, the ranks of the privileged few. The “upwardly mobile” sections among the middle classes have few objections to the developing scenarios within India, since, apart from sharing in the general capitalist dream of themselves being part of the privileged few in an unjust and unequal world, “the ultimate aim of this greedy new class [as Dubashi puts it] is a job in New York or London”.

A swadeshi ideology which places the economic interests of India and the common Indian at the top of its agenda has to be the basic cornerstone of any Hindu Nationalist economic agenda.

3) The issue of what is truly “liberal” goes deeper: to be truly liberal or free, the state should allow every citizen to live his life as he wants; and all economic activity (within the country) to take place freely, and wealth to be created without hindrance or bureaucratic controls, red tape and interference, subject to only the following conditions: that nothing criminal takes place, that there is no injustice done to anyone (ie. that everyone’s rights are protected, and no-one’s rights are violated, whether of the individual or of the society or nation in general) in the process, and, of course, that the state gets its reasonable share in the wealth that is created, in the form of increased revenues. At the same time, the state should concentrate on providing efficient public utilities and facilities to one and all at the least cost, and to make life as free, smooth, easy and simple as possible.

On the contrary, the modern economically “reformist” state is actually becoming more and more illiberal and totalitarian, more and more like the Big Brother state in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, where every single citizen is identified, numbered and classified, and a sharp watch and surveillance, and control, is kept on every action and activity. No individual can start out on any economic activity, even the most simple activity for the basic purpose of earning his livelihood, without the express permission of the state in the form of licences, registrations and permits; and this is followed by a permanent process of meaningless, endless and mandatory paperwork, red tape and procedures, with all the attendant bureaucratic hassles, harassment and corruption, even as the state tightens its vice-like grip over every aspect of his life. At the same time, the state increasingly shrugs off its responsibilities in respect of providing public utilities and facilities to the common citizen, on the ground that “it is not the business of the government to do business”.

As already pointed out, one way for totalitarian forces to keep the general populace in a state of submission is to keep them drugged and brain-washed with the opiums of religion, politics, entertainment, and traditional vices. But that is one half of the strategy: the other half is to keep them in a permanent state of harassment, which will leave them too tired to care about anything except getting back to their opiums. Hence, for example, the emphasis is not on increasing tax collections, but on creating newer and newer taxes (the latest is service tax, an earlier one was TDS, and the next one in line is MODVAT)—with more and more complicated rules, formalities, forms and procedures; complicated calculations to be made; official red tape to be gone through; books, records and files to be maintained; official deadlines to be met, professionals to be paid and officials to be appeased, etc.—and on bringing more and more people into the “tax net”: hence also the emphasis on having everyone acquire a PAN (a permanent Income Tax account number) and file returns, even if they are salary earners whose tax gets deducted at source, or if they are people whose income is so far below the taxable limit as to be negligible.

Apart from the Big Brother angle, the other motive behind making procedures more and more complicated, and the reach of the state more and more intrusive and all-pervading, is to increase the scope for unlimited corruption. Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, but India is among the nations where blatant corruption has become an accepted part of life. Any position in any government office is a passport to wealth: not just in revenue departments (income tax, sales tax, customs, octroi, excise, land revenue, etc. etc.), but in any office connected with any central or state government, or local municipal or village level, administrative activity. In any of these offices, there is a long line of people to be paid before the smallest and most trivial job can be done. And the whole thing is so open as to practically be the official procedure. Positions, postings and transfers in the more lucrative departments and areas are, therefore, purchased and sold for prices which can, in many cases, go as high as crores of rupees.

Needless to say, no criminal activity, however heinous, is out of bounds in a society where corruption is so blatant, and governmental agencies are so all-powerful and purchasable. Far from providing freedom, security and aid to one and all, the administration is itself the biggest source of fear and terror to the common man: a common piece of wisdom is that it is better to climb the steps of a funeral pyre than to climb the steps of a police station, a court or a government office. Nothing strikes terror in the common or middle class man so much as the sight of a policeman or other law-enforcing official approaching him, or the receipt of an official letter or notice from any government agency: these are recognised as greater extortionists and terrorists than the actual criminal classes who go by those names. (The rare incorruptible or honest person has to either change himself, or learn to keep his eyes and mouth shut; or else be victimised or hounded out.) Apart from that, they are instruments of terror in the hands of equally corrupt and all-powerful politicians, to be used not so much against their political opponents as against the common man, or against anyone else, who rebels against or exposes the system.

Even otherwise, the common man who crosses a railway track, or who transgresses some minor rule, is more likely to be caught and looted or punished by the guardians of the law, than the gangster or mafia don, the trafficker in drugs or women, the adulterator of food, medicines or other materials, or any other genuine criminal, who, more often than not, would enjoy their protection. In such an atmosphere, in a society where administrative corruption is accepted, by one and all, as “natural” and inevitable, any kind of crime is not only possible but natural and inevitable. And, today, crime of any and every kind flourishes in every part of the country.

This is hardly surprising when we consider that the rot starts from the very top: when some top leaders in the last BJP-led government were caught on camera accepting bribes, the entire force of the law-enforcing agencies was unleashed on the Tehelka news agency which carried out the exposure; and in the [last] Congress-led government, out-and-out criminals occupy ministerial posts. The commonest politician is, at the least, a “karodpati”, and more often than not, he is not even a tax payer. And the more criminal the leaders and rulers, the more draconian and illiberal the powers they give themselves, and their government agencies, to victimise, loot and terrorise the common man. Writing on one such new finance ministry circular which authorises income tax officials to confiscate property of anyone suspected of evading taxes, Tavleen Singh (“His Right to Attach Property”, The Sunday Express, 10/10/2004), makes some sharp observations:

“What the finance minister has done is give petty, and usually corrupt, officials the right to march into your home or mine and take it over if according to his assessment, we haven’t paid enough taxes…. We never before had a Finance Minister who believes he has the fundamental right to trample upon our rights in the name of tax collection. The most they did in the past was ‘raid’ those they suspected of evading taxes. A barbaric enough practice in a country that fancies itself as civilised, but baby stuff compared to what Chidambaram now orders his goons to do…. The Finance Minister has also decided that tax inspectors will be held responsible if they fail to ‘attach’ in advance the property of a possible defaulter. Draconian is too mild a word for what the Finance Minister is up to, but we must remember that this is the man who once gave us TADA and the Defamation Bill.  There are other reasons to fight for our right to property, and they concern the poorest of the poor. Because Indians do not have the right to own property, policemen and municipal officials routinely confiscate and destroy property belonging to pavement hawkers, rickshawallahs and street children. These are people who constitute what our politicians like to call the ‘weakest sections’ of the society, so let us have no qualms in acknowledging that the Prime Minister’s move to introduce reservations for ‘weaker sections’ in private companies is for political and not compassionate reasons. Had any Prime Minister one ounce of compassion for the ‘weaker sections’, he would have arrested officials and policemen who steal from pavement hawkers and rickshawallahs…. Meanwhile, I have a proposition for P. Chidambaram. If he insists on going ahead with the mad idea, then let us begin in Parliament. Let every Member of Parliament’s declaration of assets be scrutinised not just by the Finance Ministry’s unreliable policemen but us. Let us find out how men who began their career in politics with a few hundred rupees to their name became owners of lakhs and crores worth of assets. I am willing to bet that men who have declared themselves worth only a couple of lakhs will be wearing watches that cost more than that.  Let us set up a citizen’s tribunal before which the MPs can appear and have their assets publicly scrutinised. Let us ask them the sort of questions tax inspectors ask when they barge into people’s homes: How much is that shawl, that pair of shoes, that bangle for? Who paid for these things? Where are the bills? Can you prove they were heirlooms? If not, we hereby attach your property. If our elected representatives are prepared to go through with this kind of exercise and if our ministers and wives also come forward to explain how they acquired their crores worth of assets, then it would be fair for the Finance Minister to go ahead with the draconian new measures. Otherwise, it is time he woke up to the reality that India is no longer an economic dictatorship, and can never be. All he will achieve through his madcap schemes is to widen the roads of corruption. The only people who must be thrilled by his new measures are the tax inspectors. Does P Chidambaram not understand this?” (An article in The Sunday Times, 17/10/2004, “Is the raid-raj back to hound the taxpayers? The FM has provided corrupt IT officials a opportunity to unleash terror”, lists four other new measures by the Finance Minister—an amended section 285BA to the Income Tax act, changes in the TDS reporting techniques, a new section 277A, and changes relating to the Gift Tax, and corollaries – which can promote a reign of terror and corruption.)

It is very clear, Tavleen Singh’s expressions of hope or wishful thinking (“India is no longer an economic dictatorship, and can never be.”) notwithstanding, that P. Chidambaram understands very well what he is doing and what it will entail: in the name of “liberalisation” and “reforms”, India is steadily marching towards Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and while the ones who will suffer the most are definitely the “poorest of the poor” and the “weaker sections of society”, every other citizen who desires to work, earn and live in peace will become a victim of perpetual state-sponsored terrorism, especially the independent-minded citizen who has a conscience.

Can a state which promotes perpetual terrorism against its citizens protect those citizens from other terrorists? Not from the “Islamic” or “Pak-sponsored” terrorists, so dear to the discourse of our politicians, but from the terrorists who more directly affect the common man and make his life perpetually miserable: lower caste people in remote villages from the dominant castes in their areas (read, for example, Nalini Singh’s Aankhon Dekhi—Booth-capturing viewed from a BSP field office in The Times of India, 18/4/2004); any linguistic, religious, caste, or other minority in any area from the majority in that area; women from predator men; children from predator adults; aged people from ruthless youth; physically or mentally handicapped people from other, “normal”, people; inmates of prisons, orphanages, old age homes, mental asylums and boarding schools, workers in factories and offices, or even residents of ordinary homes, localities or villages, from their various tormentors; and the common man from injustice and insecurity, crime and oppression, hunger and want, diseases and natural disasters, ignorance and illiteracy, superstitions and oppressive traditions?

Providing protection, security and aid, to one and all, from all these things, is not a part of any “liberalisation” or “reform” agenda or program. But, it should be a very important and basic part of any Hindu Nationalist socio-economic agenda.

4) Simple living and high thinking is the key to the successful management of any economy, domestic or national. But, in the consumerist and capitalist atmosphere prevailing in India today, what we actually find is a prevalence of extravagant living and low thinking: the emphasis is on mega-economics, on wastage, extravagance and ostentation in public and personal spending, and on a self-centred way of life in which morals, ethics, and civic sense have no place whatsoever.

The ideal way of life, as propagated through the media—and brainwashed into the receptive minds even of mature adults and old people, not to speak of the impressionable children and youth primarily targeted—is the consumerist way of life, characterised by an insatiable greed for material possessions and a “neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride” philosophy. The enjoyment of pleasures, even the occasional splurge or extravagance, is an absolutely essential part of life—after all, Kama is one of the three priorities in life—but, apart from the fact that, beyond a point, the law of diminishing returns applies even to the enjoyment of pleasures, the fact today is that the very definition of “pleasures”, and the things which are supposed to provide those pleasures, is dictated by the media and the capitalist forces controlling the media. The use-and-throw culture of western consumerism, with all the accompanying wholesale depletion of natural resources, wastage and extravagance, and pollution of every aspect of the environment, is becoming prevalent everywhere. Life, for the average Indian, has become a feverish, competitive, acquisitive, exhibitionistic and expensive activity, and Indian society is beginning to feel all the lethal ill-effects—social, economic and psychological—of consumerist life, too many and too complicated to be detailed here.

So far as the national economy is concerned, India today combines the worst features of the erstwhile socialist economy with the worst features of the present capitalist-consumerist economy. The central characteristic is financial inefficiency, mismanagement, wastage and corruption on a massive and gigantic scale. To begin with, the very structure of the administration, at every level, central, state, district and local, is unwieldy and uneconomical: a very large proportion of the revenues received by the administration from every source goes in paying the salaries, perks and other expenses of the elected representatives of the people, the bureaucrats, and the employees. Periodic wage revisions—at the central and state government levels, the periodic Pay Commission reports; at the level of local bodies and public sector undertakings, periodic bipartite agreements between the bodies or managements and trade unions; and at the level of the elected representatives, periodic legislations and bills passed by themselves—add to the spiraling costs.

Secondly, inefficient and senseless procedures, and endless red tape, cause incredibly massive wastage of funds. There is the endless paperwork, which seems to serve no purpose except to cause wastage of time, energy, money and space (Orwell, in Animal Farm, parodies this very well: “There was, as Squealer was never tired of explaining, endless work in the supervision and organisation of the farm. Much of this work was of a kind that the other animals were too ignorant to understand. For example, Squealer told them that the pigs had to expend enormous labours every day upon mysterious things called ‘files’, ‘reports’, ‘minutes’, and ‘memoranda’. These were large sheets of paper which had to be closely covered with writing, and as soon as they were so covered, they were burnt in the furnace. This was of the highest importance for the welfare of the farm, Squealer said”.) An entire book could be written only on the subject of bureaucratic paperwork. The endless costs—in salaries for the paper-workers; costs of endless files, paper and printing; expenses of maintaining premises and godowns for the endless papers; postal costs in sending endless correspondence back and forth; etc., etc.—are incalculable. Then there are the expenses incurred in the continuous transfers of staff from one department to another, and one place to another—the costs of travel, the disruptions in smooth working, the costs in transfer of records, etc.—usually on the basis of the whims, vested interests or political agendas of the authorities, or on the basis of trade union rivalries or dictates. Then there are countless committees and commissions, appointed to study or inquire into various issues, which only end up draining public funds. And there are the endless red tape activities, which result in massive expenses and losses, for which there can be no logical explanation: to give just one example, anyone familiar with the taxation scene in India will be aware of statutory compulsions which result in people having to pay taxes of nominal sums like one rupee—in the last few months, literally lakhs of tax-payers have either received communications from the Income tax department, asking them to pay tax differences of one rupee, or else have received tax refund orders of one rupee: the costs and expenses (printing, paper, procedural, postal) incurred in each of these one rupee transactions must be at least between fifty to a hundred rupees!

Thirdly, the political games played by politicians, to create or consolidate their vote-banks, cause massive wastages, losses or expenditure of public funds. This includes the expenditures on wasteful public functions, including stone-laying and ribbon-cutting functions, road renaming ceremonies, “symposiums” and “conferences” (usually just extravagant jamborees), etc.; the endless public expenditures involved in complicated political games involving caste-based reservations and facilities; and the massive losses incurred by government bodies in the cause of political gimmicks of various kinds, as for example the loan melas organised in the aftermath of the nationalisation of banks, the continuous formation of new districts (or renaming of old districts) or administrative offices, the declaration of free power and water for “farmers” in various states, and so on.

Finally, there is the single biggest factor: corruption in public life. Corruption has become practically a religion in India. The amount of corruption that goes on in India, at every level of the elected representatives of the people, and at every level of bureaucrats and government servants, is mind-boggling. The avenues for corruption are endless. The elected representatives of the people, and bureaucrats, make full use of public funds in their official capacities, to enjoy (along with their families and friends) every possible perquisite, luxury and enjoyment in keeping with their exalted positions. In addition, they govern the inflow and outflow of public funds in many ways: thousands of crores of rupees are awarded for contracts with the appropriate kickbacks; thousands of crores of rupees are spent every year on public amenities and projects which exist only on paper; thousands of crores of rupees, are allowed to be drained off from the public funds by criminals (the fake stamps case which rocked Maharashtra in the recent past is one prominent example), or are excused, adjusted or written off (eg. taxes, bank loans, pending power bills, etc.), for the appropriate considerations; etc., etc. Big projects are taken up, and laws, systems, and procedures, are devised, solely to facilitate all these activities. Everything is more or less clear and open and “natural”.

This all-round corruption, which has percolated to every level of society, and the stoic acceptance of it, by one and all, as “natural” and inevitable (anyone who fails to conform to the pattern is considered somewhat abnormal), has another fall-out: it makes the common man more and more cynical, self-centred, selfish, and indifferent to, or wary of, anything and everything going on around him which does not directly benefit or affect him. There is total civic apathy, particularly, but not exclusively, in urban areas. As a piece by Jug Suraiya (not one of my favourite journalists) puts it (Times of India, 3/10/2004): “Our mofussil towns are open cess pits. Despite their glitzy malls and five star hotels, our metros look like a bombed-out no man’s land. Rubble, garbage, scavenging dogs and cows, humans spitting, defecating and peeing everywhere—people reduced to biological functions, primal anatomy. Buildings, even new buildings, are in a state of pro-active decrepitude, in terminal decay before they are complete. Roads and pavements forever dug up, like a perpetual grave the city digs for itself. Nothing works—traffic lights, bijli, water, transport, public toilets. There is an air of irremediable squalor, an entrenched inertia, as unremovable as the ‘paan thook’ that stains every conceivable surface like self-generative stigmata”.

Suraiya continues: “We add to this ugliness in our normal responses to each other. When was the last time you smiled at a stranger you passed in the street, or he at you? … What’s to smile about, anyway? Or say ‘Thank you’, or ‘Please’. Only sissies and sycophants do that…. We are even more beastly to animals than we are to each other. Visit any zoo and try to figure out who should be behind bars—the animals or the crowds who cruelly torment them? … We push and shove and dhak and queue jump…. Our ugliness has nothing to do with real or imagined poverty. It has to do with a deep-rooted insensitivity to our surroundings, which includes other people.” The deafening noise pollution in urban areas, especially during festival seasons, when it goes on into the early hours of the morning, is another feature of this civic apathy.

There is a general atmosphere of cynicism, hypocrisy, corruption, civic apathy, selfishness, ruthlessness, and disdain for any kind of idealism, morals, ethics, decency and sensitivity. The primary task of any genuine Hindu Nationalist ideology should be to change this picture, and to make Simple Living and High Thinking, in every sense of the terms, the guiding principles of public as well as personal life in India.

5) Finally, as emphasised earlier, the primary aim of Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology should be to represent Right against Wrong, and not to represent Right against Left: in opposition to Capitalist ideology, and in keeping with Gandhian philosophy, the aim should be to give primacy to the interests of the poorer and more oppressed sections of society, and to the benefit of the greatest number.

In the last few years, in the name of globalisation, liberalisation, and economic “reforms”, the economic policies followed in India have moved in the opposite direction: primacy is given, in every respect, to the interests of the richer sections of society, and to the benefit of the privileged few. Under the “reform” regimes, whether of the BJP or the Congress, or even of the erstwhile “third front” which occupied the centre-stage for a period, the rich are becoming richer and richer, and the poor are becoming poorer and poorer, in leaps and bounds; and the economic chasm between the rich and the poor is widening by the day.

The point is not that people should not have the right to earn money and become rich. In fact, any society or nation can truly progress and prosper only when every person has full freedom and incentive to earn as much as he can, without interference or hindrance from the state, so long as he does not indulge in criminal acts, or destructive or anti-national activities, and does not infringe on the legitimate rights of any other person. But, even when all these conditions are fulfilled—ie. even when we are talking about legitimate earnings, and not about the illegitimate earnings of gangsters, scamsters, corrupt politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, and criminals of every possible kind—there is something ugly, indecent, and unethical about the kind of  disparity in earnings that we see around us today: on the one hand, we see high profile personalities like an Amitabh Bachchan or a Sachin Tendulkar earning in crores for an advertising assignment, or an M. F. Hussain earning crores of rupees for a painting. Passing through different levels of earnings—those earning crores of rupees per month, those earning lakhs of rupees per month, those earning ten thousands of rupees per month, and those earning thousands of rupees per month—we come right down to the millions of workers who work themselves down to the bone, many for as long as ten to twelve hours per day, or more, and earn only enough to keep their body and soul together. There are people, even small children, working in such conditions in factories and manufacturing units of all kinds, in fields, or as domestics in houses, all over the country, for as little as a few hundred rupees per month, or less!

While the above situation is undoubtedly unfair, it is not being suggested here that there should be a French, or Bolshevik, kind of Revolution in India where the rich are caught and slaughtered in the streets, or hung from every tree; or at least divested of their personal properties and everyone brought down to one and the same level. But it is at least legitimate to expect that government policies, or policies of the state, should not be formulated for their special benefit, but for the benefit of the poorer sections of society—the poorer the section, the more slanted in their favour, and the richer the section, the less slanted in their favour.

But, in the name of liberalisation and “reforms”, the policies of the government are only becoming more and more pro-rich and anti-poor by the day. Now, every budget sees duties and taxes being reduced sharply on elitist goods and activities: luxury cars, air conditioners, foreign liquor, luxury consumer goods (posh fridges, TVs, etc.), laptops, high tech goods, foreign trips and foreign education, air travel, etc., even as items of daily necessity for the poor and the genuine middle classes become costlier by the day, and the common people are told by each successive finance minister that they must be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the nation and the national economy. (One example of the trend is the continuous fall in the rates of international and long distance phone calls in the last few years, even as local calls become costlier all the time. Arguing in defence of the liberalisation and “reform” policies, and in giving an illustration of how things are becoming cheaper, the editor of a business journal, in a discussion on the NDTV news channel in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, pointed out that, if he wanted to speak to his cousin in London, a call which would earlier have cost him eighty rupees, would now cost him only eight rupees. But what he failed to point out was that just five years ago, a local phone call from a public call box, operable with a one-rupee coin, lasted for five minutes. Today, it lasts only for ninety seconds. So, for anyone wanting to speak to his cousin, staying in another part of the same city, for around five minutes, earlier it would have cost him one rupee, and now it would cost him four rupees. And there have been further reductions in the rates of international phone calls since the above discussion. In such matters, it cannot even be claimed that an American model is being followed: in most parts of the USA, local calls are free! This example was about phone calls, but it is illustrative of the “liberalised” official policy today, a la Marie Antoinette: make elitist goods and services easier and cheaper, and the common man’s goods and services more difficult and expensive; and as for the common man, “if he cannot get water, let him drink coke”.)

Likewise, financial policies are formulated solely with elitist industries in mind—namely, the entertainment (films, “music”, fashion, cosmetics, cricket, elite journalism and media, etc.) and info-tech industries, as opposed to basic manufacturing and farming industries. These industries, which, even otherwise, are the centre of attraction, for entrepreneurs and for the elitist and “upwardly mobile” youth, for their glamour value and easy earning potential, are given special tax rebates and concessions, and umpteen other facilities (all originally intended for priority sectors, ie. for industries or areas in which investment and activity was necessary for the progress of the nation, but in which industrialists or entrepreneurs would not otherwise have been very interested in investing or working). And the politicians in power are always ready to demonstrate their sensitivity to the monetary concerns of the elites in these industries: eg. the various special tax and duty exemptions given by the finance ministers of the late BJP government to various karodpati test cricketers, the special official concerns against video piracy, etc.

The step motherly treatment to basic manufacturing industries (which, incidentally, is going to prove very costly for the national economy in the long run), and the foreign economic invasion, already referred to earlier, are leading to the closing down of mills and factories all over the country. In combination with wholesale privatisation of more and more public sector activities and institutions, wholesale computerisation, and more and more anti-worker laws and policies (contract labour, hire-and-fire, VRS and CRS schemes, etc.), there is massive loss of job security and jobs for the poor and middle classes. If all this had been accompanied by genuine freedom to work, earn and live according to their talents and capacities, that would have been somecompensation, at least to the more enterprising sections among them; but as pointed out earlier, there is genuine freedom only for foreigners, and for the elite sections of society: for the rest, the official step-motherly treatment of street hawkers (perhaps the oldest and most traditional examples of self-employed people in India) and cottage industries (in urban slum areas and in villages all over the country) today illustrates how “liberal” the Indian economy is becoming for the common people.

All “developmental” activities are concerned only with the rich sections of society in mind. In Mumbai, for example, the extensive mill lands are being sold, and these erstwhile centres of hectic industrial activity are being converted into posh malls and elitist clubs, hotels, departmental stores and posh residential complexes. In other parts of the city, as well, middle and lower class residents, in their traditional areas, are being squeezed out by the powerful builders-lobby (a mafia in itself, apart from its links with actual underground gangs and with politicians). Massive public funds are spent on building flyovers and constructing parking facilities for car owners, even as public roads become increasingly car-friendly as well as hawker- and pedestrian-unfriendly. In rural areas, massive projects are undertaken, in which poor people are displaced from their traditional homes with little or no compensation.

Is it any wonder that we find, on the one hand, poor workers in urban areas committing suicide after being thrown out of long-held jobs because the big industrial houses employing them find it uneconomical to retain their services (the case of Anant Dalvi and Akhtar Khan, ex-employees of Tata Power Company, in Mumbai in October 2003, for example), and poor farmers in rural areas committing suicide after years of drought and inability to repay their debts; and on the other hand, big industrial houses and the rich and the powerful borrowing crores and crores of rupees from public sector banks, failing to pay them back, declaring their units which borrowed the money as bankrupt or otherwise getting their debts “restructured” or written off, and continuing to enjoy multi-crore rupee lifestyles as if nothing has happened: the Indian Express, 1/12/2002, in a detailed investigation, reveals that such bad debts, owed by practically all the big industrial houses, total Rs.11,00,00,00,00,000/- , which could “pay for all our defence bills for two years, an expressway in every state, a school in every village”.

The primary concern of Hindu Nationalist socio-economic ideology should be to evolve an ideal model of economic development: one which benefits all sections of society, but which gives particular importance to the concerns and interests of the poorer, weaker and more vulnerable sections; and which does everything to encourage initiative and activity among all sections, but does not give unfair leeway to the rich and the powerful to loot the public, or to loot public funds.

To sum up: we must evolve a nationalist socio-economic ideology which will try to (1) make India a rich, prosperous, peaceful and happy nation; and (2) see that, basically, for every Indian, regardless of race, religion, caste, sex, profession, or any other mark of identity, India truly becomes a land “where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high”, in every sense of the term. The primary guiding principle should be sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayah, sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kashchid duhkha bhag bhavet: “may all be contented and happy, may all be free of pain and disease, may all ever see auspicious times, may no-one be unhappy”.

In this respect also, as in the case of Indian culture, it is time for genuine Indians, who are proud to call themselves Indian, to take up the task on a war-footing. – Shrikant Talageri Blog, 9 May 2016

» Shrikant G. Talageri lives and works in Mumbai. He is a meticulous researcher of the Vedas and has authored four books to date: Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism, Aryan Invasion Theory: A Reappraisal, Rigveda: A Historical Analysis and Rigveda and Avesta the Final Evidence.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

About the ungodlike Abrahamic god – Michel Danino

Prof Michel Danino

I find it highly symbolic that Judaism should have been born in blood and fear, not out of love for its founding deity. It was a radical, unprecedented departure from the ancient world cultures. Naturally, it did not stop there and went on to find more fertile soils in Christianity and Islam. – Prof Michel Danino

Our first task … is to examine the Abrahamic concept of God at the root of the three monotheistic religions: Yahweh (later Jehovah) or Allah. I do not refer here to more ancient Greek, Norse or Celtic gods since, as we know, they lost the war against God with a capital “G”. (Some of them are now striving to revive, but even if they partly succeed, they will be little more than pale replicas of their original selves.)

The first thing that strikes the discerning Indian reader of the Old Testament, especially the Exodus, in which Jehovah first introduces himself to Moses under that name, is his ungodlike character. Jehovah is admittedly jealous: the second of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall have no other gods before me,” while the third explicitly forbids the making and worship of any idols, “for I am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers”. Jehovah does speak as often of punishment as he does of sin, and periodically goes into a state of “fierce anger”, promising the most complete devastation of the Hebrews who reject him. Not content with cursing his reluctant followers, he also curses nation after nation, and finally the earth itself, which, as I pointed out earlier, he holds responsible for man’s sins: “The day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it”. (Isaiah, 13:9). In fact, he is so obsessed with sin that one looks in vain in his oppressive berating and legislating for any hint of a higher spirituality, such as we find in the Upanishads or the Gita. Contrast his jealousy with Krishna’s insistence on spiritual freedom: “Whatever form of me any devotee with faith desires to worship, I make that faith of his firm and undeviating’ (Gita, 7.21), or again: “Others … worship me in my oneness and in every separate being and in all my million universal faces” (9:15). But the god of the Bible and the Koran will have none of this catholicity.

If Jehovah had stopped there we might have found him to be simply a foul-tempered and libidinous god; after all, some Puranic gods too have such defects, although they usually retain a sense of their limits and compassion of which Jehovah is spotlessly guiltless. But he has a plan, he means business and knows that coercion alone can establish his rule: when the Hebrews over whom he is so keen to hold sway go back to their former worship of a “golden calf”, he orders through Moses that each of the faithful should “kill his brother and friend and neighbor” (Exodus 32:37). Instructions which were promptly complied with, for we are informed that 3,000 were killed on that fateful day; to crown his punishment, Jehovah “struck the people with a plague.”

Sri AurobindoI find it highly symbolic that Judaism should have been born in blood and fear, not out of love for its founding deity. As Sri Aurobindo put it, “The Jew invented the God-fearing man; India the God-knower and God-lover.” It probably took centuries for the old cults to disappear altogether, and a stream of prophets who sought to strike terror into the hearts of the Israelites. It was a radical, unprecedented departure from the ancient world cultures. Naturally, it did not stop there and went on to find more fertile soils in Christianity and Islam: earlier, Jehovah was content with being the god of the Hebrews alone; now, reborn in the new creeds, his ambition extended to the whole earth.

Increasingly aware of this cruel, irritable, egocentric and exclusivist character of Jehovah, many Western thinkers, specially from the eighteenth century onwards, rejected his claim to be the supreme and only god. Voltaire, one of the first to expose the countless inconsistencies in the Bible, could hardly disguise how it filled him with “horror and indignation at every page”. In particular, he found the plethora of laws dictated by Jehovah “barbaric and ridiculous”. The U.S. revolutionary leader and thinker Thomas Paine wrote of the Old Testament in his Age of Reason:

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served  to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.

Because a few intellectuals had the courage to state the obvious, the power of Christianity was greatly reduced in the West. Yet I have always marveled that Indians should learn about Christianity neither from those bold Western thinkers nor from their own inquiry, but from bigots who continue to pretend that the Age of Enlightenment never happened. With the growth of materialistic science, in particular Darwinian evolution, such views which were revolutionary at the time of Voltaire, became widespread. Bernard Shaw, for example, described the Bible god as “a thundering, earth quaking, famine striking, pestilence launching, blinding, deafening, killing, destructively omnipotent Bogey Man.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the courageous U.S. pioneer of woman rights movement, wrote in 1898, “Surely the writers [of the Old Testament] had a very low idea of the nature of their God. They make Him not only anthropomorphic, but of the very lowest type, jealous and revengeful, loving violence rather than mercy. I know of no other books which so fully teach the subjection and degradation of woman.”  Mark Twain put it in his own way: “Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness. The portrait is substantially that of a man—if one can imagine a man charged and overcharged with evil impulses far beyond the human limit…. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast.”  On another occasion he added, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Freud, seeing in Jehovah an all too human creation, subjected him to psychoanalysis—a dream of a subject for a psychoanalyst. Aldous Huxley called the Old Testament “a treasure trove of barbarous stupidity [full of] justifications for every crime and folly.” In fact,  Huxley traced the “wholesale massacres” perpetrated by Christianity to Jehovah’s “wrathful, jealous, vindictive character, just as he attributed “the wholesale slaughter” of Buddhists and Hindus by invading Muslims to their devotion for a “despotic person”. Albert Einstein said, “I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty.”

But is that all there is to the Abrahamic god? Are we simply faced with a man-made demon or the product of some fevered brain?  If you look at Jehovah in the light of Indian experience, it is striking that he has all the characteristic of an asura. Recall for a moment a being such as Hiranyakashipu: did he not, too, forbid all other cults? Did he not order that he alone should be worshiped as the supreme god? Did he not use fear and violence to try and coerce Prahlada? That he was stopped by a Divine manifestation, like many other asuras eager to possess this world, is another story; the point is that we find here the same seed of pride and cruelty as in Jehovah.

Now, to pinpoint Jehovah’s identity we must remember that he himself explains how “Yahweh” is a new name to the Hebrews: “By that name I did not make myself known to them” (Exodus 3:14 – 15, 6:3). But in the Old Testament Jehovah does not reveal his earlier name; it is only the early Christian Gnostic tradition, which was brutally suppressed by the growing orthodox school, that provides us with an answer—or rather two. In the Gnostic Gospels which survived centuries of persecution Jehovah is named either Samael, which means (appropriately) “the god of the blind”, or Ialdabaoth, “the son of chaos”. Thus one of the texts contain this revealing passage:

Ialdabaoth became arrogant in spirit, boasted himself over all those who were below him, and explained, “I am father, and God, and above me there is no one.”  His mother, hearing him speak thus, cried out against him, “Do not lie, Ialdabaoth; for the father of all, the primal Anthropos, is above you.

So not only was Jehovah not the Supreme God, but he also had a mother! For the Gnostics, like the Indians, refused to portray God as male only; God has to be equally female—and ultimately everything.

Another text , in the Secret Book of John, asks pertinently:

By announcing [that he is a jealous God] he indicated that another God does exist; for if there were no other one, of whom he be jealous?

In fact Jehovah is viewed in the Gnostic Gospels as no more than a demiurge or a subordinate deity—exactly as asuras are in Indian tradition. The French novelist Anatole France made use of apocryphal Gospels (rather the new fragments known in his time, for he wrote a few decades before the Nag Hammadi finds). In his perceptive novel The Revolt of the Angels, one of the rebellious angels depicts Jehovah thus:

I no longer think he is the one and only God; for a long time he himself did not believe so: he was a polytheist at first. Later on; his pride and flattery of his followers turned him into a monotheist…. And in fact, rather than a god he is a vain and ignorant demiurge. Those who, like me, know his true nature, call him “Ialdabaoth”…. Having seized a miniscule fragment of the universe, he has sown it with pain and death.

Now contrast this notion of God as tyrannical ruler wholly separate from his creation with the Indian notion of an all-encompassing, all-pervasive, all-loving Divine essence. In the language of the Upanishads:

He is the secret Self in all existence…. Eternal, pervading in all things and impalpable, that which is Imperishable … the Truth of things…. All this is Brahman alone, all this magnificent Universe.

If Jehovah depicts a radical departure from the ancient worships, it is in that he is “wholly other”, as Huxley puts it. Because of the unbridgeable gulf between him and his creation, no Jew or Christian would dare to declare, “I am Jehovah”, no  Muslim would dream of saying, “I am Allah.” But to the Hindu, so’ham asmi, “He am I”, or tat twam asi, “You are That”, is the most natural thing in the world—it is, in truth, the very first fact of the world. Again, can Christian parents christen their son “Jehovah” or Muslim parents name theirs “Allah” in the way a Hindu child can be called “Maheshwari”, “Purushottama” or “Parameshwara”?

Clearly, thus, if we use a single word—“God”—for such widely dissimilar concepts, we will land ourselves in total confusion. “God is one”, is perhaps, in the Vedantic sense that all is ultimately one, because all is ultimately Divine, and yet Hindu inquiry always discerned a whole hierarchy of beings, not all equally true or luminous:  a rakshasa, for instance, cannot be equated with a Krishna. Some may object to calling the Biblical or Koranic god an asura, but I use the word in the original sense of a mighty god who comes to his fall owing to ambition or pride. Moreover, the Indian approach has always claimed absolute freedom to inquire into every aspect of Divinity, from the most personal to the most transcendental: if the Abrahamic god happens to have the attributes of an asura rather than those of a supreme Reality, why should be look away from that essential difference? — Excerpt from Michel Danino’s book Indian Culture and India’s Future, via IndiaFacts, 17 December 2015

» French-born Prof Michel Danino is a historian and the author of The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati and Indian Culture and India’s Future. He used to teach at IIT Gandhinagar and is a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Yahweh / Jehovah / Allah

How history was made up at Nalanda – Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie

Given what we have seen of Marxist historians even in this brief book, the brazen-faced distortions—to the point of falsehood—do not surprise me. – Arun Shourie

“The mine of learning, honoured Nalanda”—that is how the 16th-17th century Tibetan historian, Taranath, referred to the university at Nalanda. At the time I-Tsing was at the university, there were 3,700 monks. The total complex had around 10,000 residents. The structures housing the university were as splendid and as extensive as the learning they housed. When excavations began, the principal mound alone was about 1,400 feet by 400 feet. Hieun Tsang recounts at least seven monasteries and eight halls. The monasteries were of several storeys, and there was a library complex of three buildings, one of them nine storeys high.

As the Islamic invaders advanced through Afghanistan and north-western India, they exterminated Buddhist clergy, they pillaged and pulverised every Buddhist structure—the very word “but”, the idols they so feverishly destroyed, was derived from “Buddha”. Nalanda escaped their attention for a while—in part because it was not on the main routes. But soon enough, the marauders arrived, and struck the fatal blow. The ransacking is described in the contemporary Tabakat-i-Nasiri by Maulana Minhaj-ud-din.

Minhaj-ud-din rose and came to the notice of the rulers of the time—Qutb-ud-din Aibak and others—because of his raids and depredations, and because of the enormous booty he gathered, booty sufficient for him to set himself up as a plunderer in his own right. “His reputation reached Sultan (Malik) Qutb-ud-din, who dispatched a robe of distinction to him, and showed him honour,” the historian writes. With its high wall, its large buildings, Nalanda seemed like a well-endowed fortress to Ikhtiyar-ud-din and his force. He advanced upon it with two hundred horsemen “and suddenly attacked the place”. Minhaj-ud-din continues,

“The greater number of inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven, and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed. On being acquainted (with the contents of the books), it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindu tongue, they call a college, Bihar [vihara].”

“When that victory was effected,” Minhaj-ud-din reports, “Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar returned with great booty, and came to the presence of the beneficent sultan, Qutb-ud-din I-bak, and received great honour and distinction.…”—so much so that other nobles at the court became jealous. All this happened around the year 1197 AD.

And now the Marxist account of the destruction of this jewel of knowledge. In 2004, D. N. Jha was the president of the Indian History Congress. In the presidential address he delivered—one to which we shall turn as an example of Marxist “scholarship”—this is the account he gives of the destruction of Buddhist viharas, and of Nalanda in particular:

“A Tibetan tradition has it that the Kalacuri King Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha, and the Tibetan text  Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’”.

“Hindu fanatics”? The expression struck me as odd. A Tibetan text of the 18th century using so current an expression as “Hindu fanatics”? Especially so because, on Jha’s own reckoning, Hinduism is an invention of the British in the late 19th century? So, what is this “Tibetan text”? What does it say? Had Jha looked it up?

Pag Sam Jon Zang was written by Sumpa Khan-Po Yece Pal Jor. The author lived in 1704-88: that is, 500 years after the destruction of Nalanda.

That is the first thing that strikes one: our historian disregards the contemporaneous account, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, and opts for a text written 500 years after the event. But had he read the text at all? Could a self-respecting Marxist have at all believed what is written in it?

This is how Sarat Chandra Das, the translator and editor of Pag Sam Jon Zang, sets out the account of the destruction of Nalanda as given in this text:

“While a religious sermon was being delivered in the temple that he (Kakuta Sidha, a minister of a king of Magadha) had erected at Nalanda, a few young monks threw washing water at two Tirthika beggars. The beggars being angry, set fire on the three shrines of dharma ganja, the Buddhist university of Nalanda—that is, Ratna Sagara, Ratna Ranjaka including the nine-storey building called Ratnadadhi which contained the library of sacred books” (pg 92).

Two beggars could go from building to building of that huge campus and, with all the monks present, burn down the entire, huge, scattered complex?

And, the account of the relevant passage reproduced above is the one set out by Sarat Chandra Das in his Index. That is, it is just a summary of the actual passage—in an index, it scarcely could be more. What does the relevant section, and in particular the passage about the burning down of the library, say?

The author is giving an account of how Dharma has survived three rounds of destructive attempts. One round was occasioned by the fluctuating relations between Khunimamasta, a king of Taksig (Turkistan?), and Dharma Chandra, a king of Nyi-og in the east. The latter sends gifts. The former thinks these are part of black magic. He, therefore, swoops down from “dhurukha” and destroys “the three bases” of Magadha—monasteries, scriptures and stupas. Khunimamasta drives out and exiles the monks. Dharma Chandra’s uncle sends many scholars to China to spread the teaching. He receives gold as thanksgiving. He uses this and other gifts to appease rulers of smaller kingdoms to join the fight against the king of Taksig (Turkistan?). The uncle thereafter revives “the three bases”. Almost all the shrines are restored and 84 new ones are built. And so, the Dharma survives.

In the next round, “the teacher who taught Prajnaparamita for 20 years is assassinated by burglars from Dhurukha. His blood turned into milk and many flowers emerged from his body. (Thus) he flew into the sky.”

We now come to the crucial passage, the one that Jha has ostensibly invoked. I reproduce the translation of it by Geshe Dorji Damdul in full:

“Again at that time, there was a scholar by the name Mutita Bhadra, who was greatly involved in renovating and building stupas. Eventually he had a vision of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. He flew to Liyul by holding the garment (of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra) and there he made great contributions to the welfare of sentient beings and the Dharma. Reviving the Dharma that way, the Dharma flourished for 40 years in the Central Land (Magadha?). At that time, during the celebration over the construction of a shrine in Nalanda by Kakutasita, a minister of the king, some naughty novice monks splashed (dish) washing water on two non-Buddhist beggars and also pressed (the two) in-between the door and (the door frame.) Angry over these gestures, one (beggar) served as the attendant to the other who sat in a deep pit for 12 years to gain the siddhi of the sun. Having achieved the siddhi, they threw ashes of a fire puja (havan) they did, on 84 Buddhist shrines. They were all burned. Particularly, when the three dharma ganja of Nalanda—the shrines which sheltered the scriptures—as well got consumed in fire, streams of water ran down from the scriptures of Guhyasamaja and Prajnaparamita, which were housed in the ninth storey of the Ratnadhati shrine. This saved many scriptures. Later, fearing penalty from the king, the two (beggars) escaped to Hasama in the north. However, the two died due to immolation, which happened on its own.”

Surely, no self-respecting Marxist could have made his account rest on not just one miracle—acquiring siddhis and raining fire on to the structures—but two, for we also have the streams of water running down from the scriptures.

But we strain unnecessarily. There is a clue in Jha’s lecture itself. He doesn’t cite the Tibetan text, he does what Marxists do: he cites another Marxist citing the Tibetan text! To see what he does, you must read the lines carefully. This is what we saw Jha saying:

“A Tibetan tradition has it that the Kalacuri King Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha, and the Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’”.

As his authority, Jha cites a book by B. N. S. Yadava, Society and Culture in Northern India in the Twelfth Century. What did Yadava himself write? Here it is: “Further, the Tibetan tradition informs us that Kalacuri Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha.”

Jha has clearly lifted what Yadava wrote word for word—at least he has been faithful to his source. But in the very next sentence, Yadava had gone on to say: “It is very difficult to say anything as to how far this account may be correct.”

Words that Jha conveniently left out!

Yadava had continued, “However, we get some other references to persecution.”

He cited two inscriptions and a Puranic reference. And then came to the Tibetan text. Recall what Jha wrote about this text: “… and the Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’”.

And now turn to what Yadava wrote about this very text: “The Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang contains a [I am leaving out a word] tradition of the burning of the library of Nalanda by some Hindu fanatics.”

Close enough to pass for plagiarism? But wait, there is originality! Notice, first, that two Hindu beggars have become “Hindu fanatics”. Notice, next, that the words “Hindu fanatics” that Jha had put in quotation marks as if they were the words that the author of the Tibetan text had used to describe the arsonists, were actually the words of his fellow Marxist, Yadava. But the best clue is the word that I omitted from what Yadava had actually written. Yadava’s full sentence was as follows: “The Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang contains a doubtful tradition of the burning of the library of Nalanda by some Hindu fanatics.”

Just as he had left out the words, “It is very difficult to say anything as to how far this account may be correct,” Jha now leaves out the word “doubtful”. And all this in the presidential address to the Indian History Congress.

In a word, there is a Tibetan text written five hundred years after the destruction of Nalanda. Sarat Chandra Das annotates it, and includes in his Index a summary in English of a passage in the text—the summary naturally leaves out telling components of the original passage.

Yadava looks only at the summary in the Index—“non-Buddhist beggars” becomes “Hindu fanatics.”

Yadava notes that the account is based on a “doubtful tradition”.

Jha omits the word “doubtful”.

And we have a presidential address to the Indian History Congress!

Given what we have seen of Marxist historians even in this brief book, the brazen-faced distortions—to the point of falsehood—do not surprise me.

What does surprise me is that no one looked up either the source that Jha had cited or the text.

Indeed, in concluding his section, Yadava had stated:

“A great blow to Buddhism was, no doubt, rendered by the Turkish invasions, leading to the destruction and desertion of the celebrated Buddhist monasteries of Magadha and Bengal. Many Buddhist scholars fled to Tibet and Nepal.” – Indian Express, 28 June 2014

» Arun Shourie is a former Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP and leading public intellectual. This article has been excerpted by the Indian Express from his book, Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud.

Eminent Historians by Arun Shourie

Religious law versus universal ethics – David Frawley

David Frawley

All religious leaders should sign a document of universal ethics rejecting any exceptions to it in the name of theology. No human being is condemned or damned, evil or wrong by belief alone. It is our thoughts and behavior that determines our nature and our karma regardless of the religion we may claim to follow. If our behavior is that of criminals, how can any religious law justify it? – Dr David Frawley

Do all religions share common ethical principles?

It has been argued that all the major religions of the world share a common sense of ethics. They all teach us not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, to treat others well, to help the poor, and various other virtues acceptable to any sensitive human being. Such rules of respectful behavior form universal ethical principles and are found in many secular law codes as well. Even atheist humanists will honor them.

However, monotheistic belief-based religions teach another set of laws and principles that are purely theological in nature and can override these humanistic ethical principles, at times justifying violence and oppression. Such “religious law” or what could also be called “theological morality” teaches that if you don’t accept our particular belief in God, God will punish you, and in God’s name we true believers have the right to convert, punish or harm you as well.

These biased religious codes tell their followers that they are religiously justified in violating the human rights of those who follow other beliefs; in fact, they will be honored by God for doing so. For the true believers, religious law abrogates all other laws and principles of acceptable behavior.

Not accepting religious beliefs made into unforgiveable crimes

The problem is that several prominent sects of Islam and Christianity have not questioned their theological beliefs even when these promote deception, conflict and violence. Islamic law or Sharia stands above all human law codes as something Divine. Christian missionaries similarly feel justified to deceive or intimidate others into conversion as part of spreading the Word of God.

According to many sects of Christianity, a murderer who repents on his deathbed will go to Heaven, while a saintly person who is not a Christian will go to hell in spite of his or her exemplary life. In other words, God will forgive you of heinous crimes if you believe in him, but will not forgive you of the ultimate sin of disbelief, whatever else good you may do. This means that not following certain Church dogmas is equated with great evils—as if violations of theology were worse than crimes against humanity.

In Islam, criticizing Mohammed or the Koran is a crime that can be punishable by death, as stated in anti-apostasy and anti-blasphemy laws. It has been said in Islam that the worst Muslim, be he/she a criminal, is better than the best non-Muslim, be he/she a saint. In other words, belief in Islam outweighs being a good person. Such unethical laws are part of the Sharia law code followed in Islamic states today.

For fundamentalists in Christianity or Islam, theological morality outweighs any universal ethics. It makes deception, theft and killing in the Name of God into virtuous acts, however much destruction and sorrow caused along the way. History is replete with examples of Crusades and Jihads, with genocide, witch-burning, and wanton destruction of entire countries and cultures.

Islamic State, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The Islamic State today is a good example of a religious group that follows a cruel theological morality that violates all universal ethics, extending to public beheadings of non-believers. Such true believers feel justified in promoting a wave of terror against all who do not accept their particular view of Islam, which may include those who follow other types of Islamic teachings like the Shias.

Yet Saudi based Wahhabi Islam follows the same law codes as the Islamic State, which it teaches in numerous madrasas throughout the world. As long as Saudi Arabia upholds these cruel religious laws, the rest of the Islamic world will likely continue to do the same, regardless of any covenants of human rights they may politically claim to endorse for the United Nations.

Pakistan is another prime Islamic State in which Islamic law is regularly invoked to justify brutality and to promote state support of terrorist Jihad, now threatening the entire world. Bharat has historically had the imposition of Islamic law that brought about a genocide of Hindus and massive destruction of Hindu temples during the long period of Islamic rule.

An end to religious law and theological morality

Though religions may appear to share certain universal ethics—it counts for little if they have overriding religious laws that consider it acceptable to harm non-believers. There can be no real interfaith dialogue until such dehumanizing religious laws and principles are totally rejected.

There can be no peace between religions until all theological morality is given up in favor of a universal ethics that does not depend upon any belief. It is wrong to kill, steal or deceive any human beings, not just believers. There is no exception for true believers that allows them to perform criminal acts as a form of religious virtue. That the other person is in your eyes a heathen, kafir or idolater is no excuse for their degradation.

Until such theological morality is rejected, and any religious law that promotes it, speaking of the unity or harmony of religions, and their promotion of love and human values, cannot be taken seriously. This extends to the Catholic Church, which while trying to bring an end to certain political conflicts in the world, continues to promote religious divisions and antagonisms as if it were the only true faith.

All religious leaders should sign a document of universal ethics rejecting any exceptions to it in the name of theology. No human being is condemned or damned, evil or wrong by belief alone. It is our thoughts and behavior that determines our nature and our karma regardless of the religion we may claim to follow. If our behavior is that of criminals, how can any religious law justify it?

If Islam is a religion of peace why does Islamic law promote and justify war, which may excuse terrorism? If Christianity is a religion of love, why does its God of love hatefully condemn the majority of humanity to eternal damnation? If a religion sanctions violating common courtesy and respect between people, how can it lead us to any higher truth or immortality? – Hindu Post, 28 July 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is a Vedacharya and includes in his wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient teachings of the oldest Rigveda. Tweet him at @davidfrawleyved.

David Frawley Quote