Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
Now that we understand the landscape and the forces at work, how do we deal with this situation?
Below I propose a 7-point agenda based on opinions of experts and scholars like Rajiv Malhotra, Sanjeev Sanyal, Chamu Shastri, Roddam Narasimha and others.
History curriculum in schools and colleges must be thoroughly decolonized and fact-based research must be encouraged. Currently Indian history is studied essentially from an invader’s perspective explained through a Marxist Historiographic framework, and facts are conveniently added and/or deleted to fit some pre-conceived narrative, as illustrated below.
— Indian history is a long litany of battles lost. We are hardly told about the many battles that we have won. For example, Maratha General Baji Rao’s son ruled over an area that was greater than Akbar’s domain (Sanyal, 2016). Vijaynagara Empire in south India ruled longer than the Mughals and a far great area, yet they have simply disappeared from our History books!
— Hinduism is bad because of “gender discrimination”, hence researchers survey the literature for all instances of “gender discrimination” and struggles, and discard evidence which don’t fit the narrative.
— Sanskrit is assumed to be a political language and not as a sacred language. Hence find all instances where Sanskrit was used as a political tool and suppress all other instances.
To avoid this sort of distortion and to negate the impact of deep colonialism, academic institutions must encourage fact-based history and multiple view-points.
Indians must accept their Hindu roots and be proud of it. Just as America is a land built upon “Liberal Christian Values”, we should proudly call ourselves as those who share a “common Hindu heritage of spirituality, reason and freedom.[i]” It must be emphasized that the word Hindu here does not refer to any particular religion, but to a vast umbrella of Dharmic spiritual-cultural traditions that have for thousands of years shaped the collective temperament and way of life of people living in this land called India. We may call it as a national temperament rooted in Indic or dharmic traditions.
We must also recognise the three important ways in which Indic or dharmic religions or traditions are vastly different from Abrahamic religions:
— Emphasis on looking within: Spirituality is in the DNA of all Indians whether they like it or not, and looking inwards is an integral part of our culture[ii].
— All our faiths are built on reasoning and logic, as opposed to the word of any Prophet. If a Prophet or Guru makes any sensational claim of being messenger of God or Son of God, a true Hindu has every right to challenge and verify the claim of so-called Prophets, before accepting their words.
— Hindus have the freedom to be an atheist (nastika), monist, monotheist, polytheist, idol-worshipper, nature-worshipper, yogi or a disbeliever or anything in between, in the Hindu scheme of things. He will not be stoned to death, as in some other religions.
An Indic or dharmic traditions inspired national identity and national temperament built upon this collective identity can yield many positive results:
— Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs are automatically a part of this framework built on Indic traditions.
— Indian Christians and Muslims (almost all of whom are descendants of Hindus who at some point converted to Christianity or Islam, for various reasons) will be encouraged to heartily accept the cultural and spiritual traditions of their ancestors, while continuing to practice their present faith. There need not be any conflict between the two, if religion is properly understood as a means to help the individual connect with the divine. For example, Muslim dominant countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have high regard for their Hindu ancestry and are proud of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
— Outsiders wishing to become Indians will respect the uniqueness of this Indic identity, this national temperament, and begin their own processes of assimilation to make a place for themselves in this larger collective identity. Parsis are the best example of assimilating into the larger Indian narrative, while at the same time preserving and continuing with their cultural and religious uniqueness. India has always been open and welcoming to such diversity, which adds valuable richness to the wealth of knowledge as well as material and spiritual progress of the Indian civilisation. On the other hand, certain ideologies and belief-systems that have either no rootedness in the spirit of India such as dialectical materialism as professed by Marxists and Communists, or are completely against the pluralistic and widely embracing dharmic spiritual traditions such as aggressive conversions and evangelism promoted by Missionary organisations must be strongly resisted.
India is perhaps one of the few countries which does not have an indigenous meta-narrative, and as explained above this leads to not only an identity crisis but also breeds deep ignorance about how to effectively address the various social problems we face. While “demographic dividend” means that India will have the largest young-adult population for the next few decades, lack of a grand-narrative also means that India will be the home to the most confused bunch of young adults with low self-esteem and self-confidence, who neither know who they are or what they represent. In short, India will be home to the largest population of “rootless wonders” or RNI’s (resident non-Indians).
Therefore, as Rajiv Malhotra and other scholars insist, a Grand Narrative is an essential requirement. The narrative also has to embrace Pakistan and Bangladesh, at least till the time of partition (Fatah, 2015). The narrative has to cover history, culture, spiritual, scientific and technological achievements of:
— Indus-Sarasvati civilization (7000 BCE to 1200 BCE) from Mehargarh to later layers in India
— Vedic history (3000 BCE to 1500 BCE)
— Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishadic and Mahajanapada Periods (1500 BCE to 500 BCE)
— Chandragupta Maurya up to Gupta Period (500 BCE to 400 CE)
— North and South Indian Kingdoms up to 1300 CE (Palas, Senas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta etc)
— Vijaynagar Empire, Mughals, British Raj up to 1947 CE
— Post-partition India up to present day
Today unfortunately history of Mughals, British and Indian freedom movement alone account for 80% of history taught to young children, and there is not a good word about any of the Hindu kingdoms who are referred to as “medieval kingdoms” or myths. This imbalance must change, if we want to produce leaders with “Global Mindset, Indian Roots”.
“A nation tends to throw out its most vivid types in that line of action which is most congenial to its temperament and expressive of its leading idea, and it is the great saints and religious personalities that stand at the head in India and present the most striking and continuous roll-call of greatness, just as Rome lived most in her warriors and statesmen and rulers.
“The Rishi in ancient India was the outstanding figure with the hero just behind, while in later times the most striking feature is the long uninterrupted chain from Buddha and Mahavira to Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Nanak, Ramdas and Tukaram and beyond them to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and Dayananda. But there have been also the remarkable achievements of statesmen and rulers, from the first dawn of ascertainable history which comes in with the striking figures of Chandragupta, Chanakya, Asoka, the Gupta emperors and goes down through the multitude of famous Hindu and Mahomedan figures of the middle age to quite modern times.
“In ancient India there was the life of republics, oligarchies, democracies, small kingdoms of which no detail of history now survives, afterwards the long effort at empire building, the colonisation of Ceylon and the Archipelago, the vivid struggles that attended the rise and decline of the Pathan and Mogul dynasties, the Hindu struggle for survival in the south, the wonderful record of Rajput heroism and the great upheaval of national life in Maharashtra penetrating to the lowest strata of society, the remarkable episode of the Sikh Khalsa.
“An adequate picture of that outward life still remains to be given; once given it would be the end of many fictions. All this mass of action was not accomplished by men without mind and will and vital force, by pale shadows of humanity in whom the vigorous manhood had been crushed out under the burden of a gloomy and all-effacing asceticism, nor does it look like the sign of a metaphysically minded people of dreamers averse to life and action.
“It was not men of straw or lifeless and will-less dummies or thin-blooded dreamers who thus acted, planned, conquered, built great systems of administration, founded kingdoms and empires, figured as great patrons of poetry and art and architecture or, later, resisted heroically imperial power and fought for the freedom of clan or people. Nor was it a nation devoid of life which maintained its existence and culture and still lived on and broke out constantly into new revivals under the ever increasing stress of continuously adverse circumstances.
“The modern Indian revival, religious, cultural, political, called now sometimes a renaissance, which so troubles and grieves the minds of her critics, is only a repetition under altered circumstances, in an adapted form, in a greater though as yet less vivid mass of movement, of a phenomenon which has constantly repeated itself throughout a millennium of Indian history.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 246-247)
[i] “…the struggle between Church and State is absent from the political history of India.” (CWSA 20, p. 421)
[ii] “Spirituality is indeed the master-key of the Indian mind; the sense of the infinite is native to it.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 6)