It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu: Francois Gautier

_Gauiteweb_912441932NEW YORK: Noted French journalist and writer Francois Gautier who has made India his home and propagation of Hinduism his cause and mission for over three decades, is currently traveling across the US to raise funds through his foundation, FACT – India, for the setting up of an Indian history museum in Pune, India.

Gautier, perhaps one of the very few Westerners to have unconditionally adopted a Hindu way of life, feels the widely prevalent distorted image of Indian history as propagated by the British, Christian missionaries, communists and the western world in general for over two centuries, has necessitated the museum to portray Hindu civilization in the right light.

In an interview with India Post during his visit to New York last week, Gautier spoke about his ambitious museum project, the many threats to Hinduism in today’s world and how Hindus can gain the respect of the world.

IP: Can you tell us about the Museum of Indian History?

Gautier: I have been donated some land in Pune by a private trust where I want to build the museum to be called the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History.

I see in India there are no museums of Indian history worth the name. So the idea is to start from the Vedas, go on to talk about the greatness of the whole of India and the entire drama of the invasions through history, the Hindu holocaust, and then portray India of today and tomorrow.

IP: What kind of funds do you need and how long will it take to complete the museum?

Gautier: It’s a huge project but definitely it will happen. It’s about $40m dollars, and I don’t know how long it will take — perhaps 10-20 years, because I don’t have the money right away. But I am ready to start, once I start, the donations will come and people will understand the importance of this museum.

IP: Why is it important to have such a museum?

Gautier: As a journalist and writer, when I started documenting for my book, I realized that most history books on India are based upon very old theories considered defunct or debatable such as the Aryan invasion theory, which evidence shows has never taken place.

Both British historians and later Nehruvian historians have toned down the considerable impact on Indian culture of the invasions starting from Alexander the Great to the Arabs, the Muslim invaders and the British — that entire part of the history has been swept under the carpet. And even later, the history of India’s Independence is very unfairly portrayed.

The need of the museum is very important so we can look at India’s history in a very scientific manner, which is what my organization FACT India is doing.

IP: Will the museum focus only on the Hindu history of India?

Gautier: The museum will also broach upon many of India’s dark periods in its history like the inquisition in Goa by the Portuguese, the Sufi persecution, the Ahmedi Muslim persecution in Bangladesh, how the Buddhist history was wiped out and how some of the early Syrian Christians of Kerala were persecuted. And of course the Hindu holocaust right from Hindu Kush (massacre of Hindus) to the current terrorist activities against them.

I want school children to come to the museum and learn of their own culture and be proud. Kids in Indian schools are learning about Shakespeare and Milton, not about their Hindu or Indian culture. In my country we are taught about great French people like our poets, social reformers, artists etc… so I grew up proud of my culture, but Indian kids do not grow up learning about or feeling proud of their culture.

IP: Do you see any kind of opposition to your project from either the government or any section of the Indian society?

Gautier: Of course there’s bound to be some opposition, you can’t make everybody happy. But one has to go by the truth. Whatever one’s limitations, if backed by truth, even if it is opposed, there will be some kind of direction and protection.

In fact, there are three reasons for setting up the museum in Pune: One– of course the land donated is in Pune; second– since I work in Pune, I found that people of Pune, irrespective of their political affiliations, are quite nationalistic in nature. I feel my museum will be more protected in Pune than anywhere else in India; thirdly– Pune is Shivaji’s birth place. There is no museum of Shivaji anywhere in Maharashtra though he is a true hero. So naming it after Shivaji will be a protection for this museum.

IP: Over the many years of your career, how successful have you been in changing western perceptions of Hinduism?

Gautier: It’s a very difficult task, because unfortunately the image of Hinduism is not that good. But, there is more ignorance than hostility. Westerners do not know that it is a monotheistic religion. Secondly, Hindus, especially Brahmins have been at the receiving end of many like the British, the missionaries, the Islamic invaders all of who created a very negative image of Hinduism — particularly the missionaries emphasized only the negative sides of Hinduism and amplified them a thousand times. Today we still find that even after 200 years, these negative images have survived even in the minds of Hindus in India.

Unfortunately it is a great handicap for journalists like me who like Hinduism and want to defend it. I can’t say I have been very successful, but at least now westerners are open to going to India and understanding Hindus.

There are so many good things to be said for Hinduism, but unfortunately there is no will among Hindus to try to explain to westerners. Hindus are just content to come to the West and melt into local cultures or at best keep their spirituality and religion to themselves.

IP: What do you think of the role of the Indian intellectual elite and media in projecting the image of Hindus?

Gautier: The British have left such a mark on the minds of much of Indian intelligentsia and elite, right from the erstwhile Maharajas who have copied the British way of life that it has left a deep impression on generations after that. Today Indians think that everything that comes from the West is good. It’s very stupid, because many things in the West have failed like family values etc.

This generation of Indian intelligentsia is aping Marxism so brilliantly, which is dead even in Russia, and is probably only left in Cuba, but I don’t see why Indians should copy Cuba (laughs).

Look at the Chinese, they are so proud of their culture; nobody dares to fiddle with them, even America will not dare to interfere with their affairs.

IP: Many Hindus fear the very survival of Hinduism in the face of Islamic fundamentalism. How real are their fears?

Gautier: The fear is very real. I see there are five or six enemies that may be covertly or overtly attacking Hinduism. In the past there was any one threat at a time like the Greek, British or Muslim invasions. But today, there are the threats of Muslim fundamentalism, Christian conversions, Marxist onslaught, Westernization and so on which are eroding the Indian culture all at the same time. However, there are many great gurus today like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and others who are repackaging the Hindu tenets like spirituality. pranayama, yoga, ayurveda etc for everyone’s easy consumption while not associating them with Hinduism. Though I do not agree with that, it’s an important movement today and helping to preserve that culture.

It’s true that Hinduism is under attack and it looks frightening at times. That’s why the museum is so important.

IP: Have you ever felt conflicted about the culture you were born into and the one you adopted?

Gautier: Personally I have never felt conflicted, but people of my country often do not understand why I defend the Hindus– that has been a bit of a problem. Though my country is sympathetic to India, when you touch the intellectual layer – people who are fed on the Nehruvian history and the downgrading of Hindu culture, I have come into conflict sometimes with these people. But for me living in India is a protection; people often appreciate the work I do. Some of my friends do not understand why I poke the dangerous Islamic fundamentalism by defending Hindus. I started speaking about it (Islamic fundamentalism) 20-25 years ago when it was not at all politically correct to speak about it. Even those friends who like me sometimes do not really understand me. I have faced a lot of hostility also.

IP: What can Hindus living in America do to preserve their culture?

Gautier: For Hindus living in the US, whether fist or second generation, it is important that they carry their Hinduness. It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu, because you inherit the knowledge which is very ancient and very practical. Also the many Hindu groups which are scattered should unite to become a lobby like the Jews. They should teach their children to be proud of being Hindu while being faithful to their Americanness. They should create a lobby in the US to be able to influence South Asia policy at the administration level and see that it does not cap India’s nuclear policy.

IP: Is there something that really frustrates you?

Gautier: Hindus don’t think big. Most Hindu movements in the US have mostly people without a vision, they don’t unite; it’s very frustrating. When I last visited the US in 2002, the Hindu community was more vibrant, today I find many of the Hindu leaders of that time burnt out or taken a back seat or gone back into mainstream life; that is saddening. If only Hindus knew their own power — there are one billion in the world — Islam is conscious of its might and its numbers; Christianity though on the decline, is conscious of its greatness in terms of technology and power. Hindus, who are not all that small in number, have to use more muscle. Meekness and submissiveness will not take them far, they have to show muscle power. That’s the way to get respect in the world.

By SRIREKHA  N. CHAKRAVARTY, India Post News Service


27 responses to “It is a special privilege to be born a Hindu: Francois Gautier

  1. Awesome. You have my gull support.

  2. his closing comments show he does not understand India & Hinduism at all.

  3. @harshad…
    You seem to confirm what Francois says in the last paragraph…that Hindus dont want to see the train of destruction coming at them…and are comfortable playing ostrich. He is speaking the facts..yes they are bitter..but they are facts. Denying them wont do anything

  4. @harshad…
    You seem to confirm what Francois says in the last paragraph…that Hindus dont want to see the train of destruction coming at them…and are comfortable playing ostrich. He is speaking the facts..yes they are bitter..but they are facts. Denying them wont do anything; @harshad…
    You seem to confirm what Francois says in the last paragraph…that Hindus dont want to see the train of destruction coming at them…and are comfortable playing ostrich. He is speaking the facts..yes they are bitter..but they are facts. Denying them wont do anything;;

  5. Gautier,

    What is happening in the UN is of importance: “It is individuals who have human rights, not religions”

    “… People of faith will inevitably be offended when cherished beliefs and practices are criticised or satirised, and some will clamour for the law to protect them.

    That is the tack taken by the Arab-African majority on the United Nations Human Rights Council, which in March carried a resolution aimed at giving legal protection to Muslim sensitivities.

    Quite reasonably, the resolution calls for tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs.

    But it goes on to urge countries to legislate against defamation of religion, and especially of Islam. That goes too far….”

    The resolution is not about religious tolerance, but silencing the world over anything that Muslims feel is an insult to Islam.

    This must be defeated.

  6. Very good idea. Truth has to be known. Mr. Gautier, You shall have full support for your task.

  7. pa vijayakumar

    Mr. Gautier, thanks for the consideration. And yes, muscle power is needed to wade through the monstorous relegious fundamentalists who seek sympathy for their beliefs(religion) but threaten other beliefs. you are very correct. Something has to start somewahere, sometimes and that, i feel, is now.
    thanks and regards – vijay.

  8. Mr Gautier,This refers to an article in Hinduism today. I am about to visit Pune very soon, I would appreciate if you can let me know the address of the venue of the proposed museum

  9. I am not a Hindu, merely a student of it.

    Mr. Gautier is doing great work, but do Indians still feel that they need validation by Westerners such as Mark Tulley and Mr. Gautier?

    On the other hand, it is alarming that the only Indians that media welcome are those who trash Hinduism and activist Hindus – Hindutvadis, if you wish. Arundhati Roy is the most egregious example.

  10. Few Good websites

    Its a long time Hindus have been silent and they have been cleansed silently. In pakistan approx 20 % were hindus in1947, now below 1 %. In bangladesh approx 37 % Hindus in 1947 now hardly 8 % , that too decreasing.
    Media is no doubt controlled by christians and they never portray a correct picture for hindus.
    Its painful to know when hindus are killed raped and maimed in thousands no media cry, but when a single christian or muslim get killed then the problem.
    The western world was silent and supporting the Islamic hatred and jihad against the peaceful hindus and when they did self defence used terms like ‘fanatic’, ‘fundamentalistic’ , ‘hindutva’ etc.
    Due to last 30 years immigration and fall in birth of natives in europe the same Islamic Jihad monster has taken birth in western land and 9-11 was an opener and now we hope a united front can be opened and western christian world also feel pain when hindus are getting killed due to this Jihad.

  11. “On the other hand, it is alarming that the only Indians that media welcome are those who trash Hinduism and activist Hindus – Hindutvadis, if you wish. Arundhati Roy is the most egregious example.”

    Yes you are correct, do you know why? Because most of the media is owned by the people or establishments who want to see the distraction of the culture of our bhArath, which you call India, which includes lot them like Arundhati Roy.

  12. Gautier,
    I wish you the best of luck in for the museum. There definitely is a lot of prejudice about Hinduism in the Western world and for these American kids a lot of misunderstanding about geography:

  13. He is our man…..Hindus do not stand up to their beliefs…..we need real men and women with spine and guts….I vote for G….

  14. Keep in sight the purpose of what you do – the articles you write and the museum you hope to build. Keep the focus on correcting the distortion of Indian history and misrepresentation of Hinduism in Media wherever they may arise.

    The risk is that it can go too far in one direction and lose focus. For instance there are plenty of sites on addressing jihadism, so no need to spend too much time on that. Don’t get side tracked. Don’t forget your true purpose and focus.

  15. Ramarao Paidisetty

    Indians (mainly Hindu) are just coming out of cacoon. Economic status of present India is boosing many standards now . It is a shame that many Indians have not read their great ancient literature.Reading books is the back bone to develope pride.
    Your idea of opening a museum is fantastic. Wish you all the best.

  16. I just finished reading one of your books. It is excellent. That is how I got to know of you and your ideas. I am for the first time visiting your website and came to know of your great ideas and projects.
    We do not require Mark Tully he is part of “Modern East India Company”, but yes we do require people like you.
    you have my full support for your endavours!

  17. Sirs
    I shall pray almighty that you are successful in your all endeavours
    For this great cause I wish many people join you
    Best of Luck
    Alok Mohan

  18. Good to have you with us Francois!

  19. Somebody here said:

    >> Its painful to know when hindus are killed raped and maimed in thousands no media cry, but when a single christian or muslim get killed then the problem.

    Actually when Christians are killed, raped or expelled in the Middle East, nobody cares. Guess why? Because the muslims shout much louder.

    How come the Palestinians get the widest media coverage and the largest UN donations in the whole world? Not because somebody wants them to be happier, but because they are used as a showcase group to the world to tell how badly muslims are treated. But the millions killed by muslims don’t get a fraction of the attention.

  20. Dear FG,
    while I greatly respect your sense and your sensibilities, I wish you would invest some time in investigating how Hindus (Dharmic religions rather) rely more on the time factor to find validation for beliefs instead of brute behaviour.

    My name is a conjunction of two names Ravi (Sun) a diety still worshiped today and of Indra, a diety not actively worshiped at the level Sun god is but nonetheless still acknowledged today. You know the history associated with these dieties better then me.

    Dharmic Indians are not blind nor are they dumb. Its just that action takes priority over both rajsic and tamasic. A great many Indians came and a great many Indians are yet to come, all will of course also go, what is important at present is to save the quientessence Indianness that we are endowed with by allowing it to function in our collective daily lives, something that is a work in progress (with concomitent process losses).
    Pls note that I am detaching Indians from Indianness. This may sound dangerous, but this is what allows us to take heavy losses without ending up like……..This incidently also allows us to find new Indians at unlikely places……France!

    Whatever happened was karm, whatever will happen will also be karm. Better to focus on our karm then to allow ourselves to get carried away by the strong currents of history.

  21. This is a great interview. Just a small correction to this statement, for Mr Gautier’s reference: “Westerners do not know that it is a monotheistic religion”. This is likely because, IMO, hinduism is not monotheistic, but that is really nothing to be apologetic about or convince westerners that it isn’t so. I’m a lifelong hindu and proud to be a polytheist idol-worshipper. There is a greater unity to the Hindu perception of the god(s) which surpasses these surface divisions of mono-vs-polytheistic. I worship many gods yet I know remotely that they may all be united somewhere, but it just doesn’t matter, I like having many many gods.

  22. Mr Gautier, please don’t misconstrue my earlier comment. I apologize if it was rude or forthright. I fully support and admire your noble efforts and the pains you take to say these things. I completely agree with you on most points, but this “monotheism” thing stuck out like a sore thumb and I may have reacted viscerally.

  23. Sapthagireesan

    Dear Mr Gautier,
    May God shower His Blessings on you for this bold step and for early and successful completion of this great task by mustering spontaneous support from all whom so ever you meet.

  24. Dear Mr Gautier, U r a Holy man!! Great mission

  25. Shree Sengupta

    Can I contribute in my limited way to your fund for the True Indian Museum? How to contribute to Francois?

  26. Shree Sengupta

    How true you are Sir. After I started reading about our spiritual histories , life of our Sadhakas and our ancient literatures, I realised that being born as a HINDU literally means I am already uplifted spiritually. So if I waste this life, I’m the greatest looser.

  27. Shree Sengupta

    I want to contribute as per my capacity to your fund for developing our True history museum. How do I proceed? Please guide.

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