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Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

India, Indology and Deep Colonialism (by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay -Part 4)

CONTINUED FROM PART 3

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THE WAY FORWARD

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.

Decolonize our National History

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.

Establish a National Identity

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.

Develop a Meta-Narrative

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)

 

TO BE CONTINUED…GO TO CONCLUSION

Have you read PART 1, PART 2, PART 3?

 

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About Beloo Mehra

Beloo is the author of two books, one on Indian Education, titled "ABC’s of Indian National Education" and an ebook featuring a selection of her essays, titled "The Thinking Indian." She holds several degrees in Education and Economics, has extensive teaching experience at school and university level in India and the US, and has a keen interest in the educational, social and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo. She currently lives in Pondicherry, spends her time doing some reading, some writing, some teaching, some gardening and a whole lot of reflecting on life, living, society, politics, religion, art, literature, India, the World, and everything else under the Sun and the Moon.

13 comments on “India, Indology and Deep Colonialism (by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay -Part 4)

  1. nabanita
    March 2, 2016

    Will read the other parts and be bak to this…I remember reading only the first part so far and that really resonated with me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      March 3, 2016

      Thanks, Naba. Hope you find the other parts also thought-provoking. Look forward to hearing any thoughts you may have on some of the issues presented in this series. The final part will be out soon.

      Like

  2. Zephyr
    March 4, 2016

    Reading Sri Aurobindo’s words at the end gave me goosebumps, Beloo! Kudos to you for finding just the passage to elucidate the words of Subhodeep’s well researched post. It is true that vast portions of our history has been washed out or glossed over by the new textbook writers. In the open school curriculum textbook on Indian Culture and Heritage for standard 10, I remember mentions of how Hindus had voluntarily embraced Islam being fed up with their religion. Not a peep about how the Mughal rulers forcibly converted masses of people. I remember my husband and I reading it with indignation and disbelief. There of course must more such distortions, but asking for removing Mughal History from school books is as stupid, if not as diabolical as the colonisers’ removal of vast sections of Indian history.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      March 5, 2016

      I didn’t know that there was some group asking for removing Mughal history from school textbooks! That is beyond stupid, if you ask me 🙂
      I am glad you enjoyed the passages from Sri Aurobindo. It was a very satisfying work to search through his writings. I was a bit hesitant initially to include some of the longer passages but then realised that cutting them short would have taken away from the deeper analysis that we wanted the readers to be able to do through this series.

      Like

  3. Pingback: India, Indology and Deep Colonialism (by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay -Conclusion) | matriwords

  4. Dagny
    March 5, 2016

    The last three paras of Sri Aurobindo’s quote gave me goose-bumps too. It is amazing what a sad and lonely inner world most of us have lived in in the absence of such affirming thoughts of the greatness of our civilization. Of late I’ve been wondering why we sentenced ourselves to such loneliness… or rather, why did we buy into an idea that was imposed upon us.

    I must congratulate both Subhodeep and Matriwords for this series. To those who care, this series will surely be something to cherish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      March 5, 2016

      Thank you Dagny for such heartfelt words. The angst of an awakened mind and heart of an Indian soul lost in the maze of this pseudo-education we have been given about ourselves is so poignantly described in your words. As to the question, why we sentenced ourselves to such loneliness….I guess one way to explain that would be that the darkness also serves its purpose in the larger scheme of things. We had to be asleep for so long otherwise we wouldn’t be able to experience the joy of dawn. Or maybe sleep is the time we use to recover some of our spent energies. And god knows, against all that massive onslaught of all the dark forces it must have taken all the energies India could muster, simply to survive. But now that we have woken up, we shouldn’t fall back to the tamasic slumber so easily!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: India, Indology and Deep Colonialism (by Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay -Part 3) | matriwords

  6. Love, Life and Whatever
    March 31, 2016

    An indepth series which enlightens as well as intrigues. I look forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sri Aurobindo’s words really give goosebumps! I wonder how deeply you’ve gone through his works and, each time you quote words that are in perfect alignment with the topic. I read the first part but missed the parts in between. Will read them as soon as I can… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      April 1, 2016

      Thank you Maniparna for your kind words. I have only scratched the surface, and that too of only a few of his voluminous works (37, not counting several volumes of his talks recorded by some of his early disciples). But I keep re-reading the same passages and works because they keep revealing new insights every time I read through them. As my teachers keep reminding, the point is not to merely read them, but to live by them because they are indeed living truths! That’s the real sadhana of engaging with the words of a true master, a rishi.

      Hope you will enjoy rest of the parts of the series. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

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