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True Hindu heroes & heroines: Shivaji Maharaj

Who is just, firm and stands for the weak ?

Who is an honest and able administrator ?

Who confronts the enemy and is not cowed into submission ? 

To whom did Mother India appear in a vision to fight for victory ?

Who has the statesmanship and the vision to build a Greater India?

Who is ruthless with his enemies, but spares women, children and his own people ?

Who respects all religions and pays homage to Muslim, Jain or Hindu saints ?

To which political party belongs this Hero for Modern India ?

Actually to none. But Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj does belong to India and to all Indians, whatever their religion or ethnic origin, for he is an eternal icon of courage, statesmanship, love for his country, able and honest administration. In fact, the qualities that he embodied, are those that a modern Indian politician should possess, but unfortunately, seldom has. Shivaji was a man for all India: he travelled, thought about, and warred in all parts of India, from Agra, then capital of the Mughal empire to Gingee, all the way down in the South. He was the first one who understood that India needed a navy if it wanted to control its waters – and he did build a formidable one.

Yet, try to look for a biography of Shivaji in any bookshop in India : it is practically impossible to find one, as many have gone out of print. Most of these biographies, except, the one from James Lane, which has all the hostile flaws of western, date back to twenty to thirty years. Now, in my country, France, we have such a hero in Napoleon. All children are schooled into Napoleon’s great deeds right from kinder garden. Like Shivaji, Napoleon was not only a great warrior, but also a statesman of exceptional vision: some of the laws and codes he devised, are still in practice today. Thus, most French people are proud of Napoleon – and rightly so – because he was, like Shivaji, great warrior, a visionary and an exceptional statesman. Therefore, every year, at least four to five new books are written, directly or indirectly, about Napoleon, his life or his deeds.

Compare this with India, where not only it is difficult to find a book about Shivaji, but where last year, the Kerala Government put a ban on school notebooks which carried pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj…. This is wrong. No nation can move forward unless it has heroes. No country can progress unless it is proud of itself and can make its children relate to heroes seeped in one’s culture. But it is not so in India. This is not jingoism, but nationalism. Yet every time you open an Indian newspaper or switch on a TV channel, the impression you get is that everything is rotten in India, nothing works and that Indians are the most corrupt and inefficient people in the world.

Why is that so? Maybe because of  three hundred years of British colonization, many of India’s politicians, bureaucrats and journalists are often copying whatever the West does, or are eternally worrying about what the West thinks of them. They rarely think Indian, know all about Shakespeare, but very little of Kalidasa, one of the greatest poets ever on this Planet; have read about Abraham Lincoln, but know nothing of Sri Aurobindo, philosopher, poet, revolutionary, immense yogi. Many of India’s intelligentsia have thus no idea about India’s great culture, philosophy and spirituality. Very few have read the Bhagavad Gita, or understood that it encourages yoga in action and that sometimes it is important to defend one’s country, culture and borders, by force if necessary, as Shivaji Maharaj practiced it.

There is also the wrong notion that Shivaji was anti-Muslim because he fought Aurangzeb. But the truth should be known : Shivaji allowed his subjects freedom of religion and opposed forced conversion. The first thing Shivaji did after a conquest was to promulgate protection of mosques and Muslim tombs. One-third of his army was Muslim, as were many of his commanders: his most trusted general in all his campaigns was Haider Ali Kohari; Darya Sarang was chief of armoury; Ibrahim Khan and Daulat Khan were prominent in the navy; and Siddi Ibrahim was chief of artillery.

Aurangzeb was a cruel man, even to his own family: he killed his two brothers, threw his son in jail and had his father Shah Jahan imprisoned and later poisoned. Shivaji was the only one who stood up against him, at a time when Hindus were experiencing great oppression and humiliation: their temples were being broken, and they were being discriminated against in various forms, such as in the matter of charging custom duties, restrictions on their fairs and festivals, their dismissal from government posts, large-scale conversions as a part of openly declared policy of the Mughal State, imposition of the religious tax Jiziya for being a Hindu, and these discriminatory acts were going almost unchallenged though the Hindus formed more than bout 80 per cent of the population of the country.

Yet, Shivaji had respect for the Sufi tradition of Islam and used to pray at the mausoleum of the great Sufi Muslim saint Baba Sharifuddin. He also visited the abode of another great Sufi saint, Shaikh Yacub of the Konkan, to seek his blessings. He called Hazrat Baba of Ratnagiri bahut thorwale bhau, meaning “great elder brother”. Shivaji’s feelings are reflected in a letter he wrote to Aurangzeb:: “Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of him. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for him alone”. Shivaji also applied a humane and liberal policy to the women of his state, irrespective of their religion, nationality, or creed.

What to do then to remind all Hindus of the great champion they had in Shivaji? I for one, am proud to say that our History Museum in Pune has TWO permanent exhibitions on Shivaji Maharaj, a champion of true Hindu Power. This is a small contribution of a foreigner, who loves India and think it is a wonderful country with great Hindu heroes & heroins.

Wake-up of my Hindu brothers and sisters. You are a great nation, you have great heroes and Shivaji, certainly, is one of the most endearing ones : a Vibhuti, a direct incarnation of God, who walked upon this sacred soil of India, fearless and yet humane; a Giant of a Man, who could be reached by all. He was truly A Hindu Hero for Modern India.

 

ISLAMOPHOBIA & HINDUPHOBIA

We hear more and more in the world today that there is increased Islamphobia. The American media particularly CNN or the New York Times, have been going all guns blazing out against Islamophobia. & generally, ethnic intolerance.

But the question arises: is there really Islamophobia? It is a cliché, because it has been repeated so many times, yet from a statistical point of view, it is an undeniable fact: 90% of terrorist acts in the world have been performed by Muslim from the seventies onwards. It is also a fact that the silent Muslim majority of the world, on the one hand never protests collectively the horrifying murders that have done in the name of the Koran; and on the other, secretly justifies in their minds these terrorist acts in the name of Palestine, Chechnya or Kashmir. It could also be said that according to Buddhist philosophy as the Dalai lama today expresses it, that there is also a collective karma for nations : Tibetans, he says, are paying today, a black karma they incurred by their clinging to a feudal system for centuries. Thus, in the Buddhist perspective, Muslims may be reborn Muslims from life to life; for the untold atrocities committed in the name of Islam unto nations they conquered in the Middle Ages particularly against Hindus . Hence from this angle, every Muslim in the world should feel responsible for what is done in the name of Islam.

Quite a few Muslims have already said it: the Koran was written for the people of the Middle Ages and was alright for these times, but now that we are in the 21st century,, needs to be reformed, as some of these passages which deal with infidels, with physical jihad, with women, which conversion to Islam, that once where all right, are used to the letter by Islamic terrorism to kill innocent people. Western Christianity (not the one practiced in India), has shown the path: in the 21st-century Christians acknowledged the facts that there are other religions and that it is necessary for a peaceful world to accept them. A Christian today is able to come to India and enter a Hindu temple without feeling that he or she is committing a sin. However we can safely say that at the moment’s no Muslim authority is ready to change the Koran. Thus the on going war between Islam and the Western world along with India – and eventually with China, as it is facing also a problem with its own Muslim minority – will last quite some time.

This will trigger a phenomenon that we can witness already, though still in a small trickle: Muslims quietly leaving Islam, as they find it difficult to hire a flat, find schools for their children, apply for a job or simply because of facing discrimination in their lives. Other Muslims will cry of Islamophobia – but they should look within themselves and understand that collectively each Muslim is accountable for the crimes committed in the name of the Koran. Intellectuals and much of the media as CNN in the United States, The Guardian in UK, or Le Monde in Paris, who will continue to defend Muslims, should realize that it would be much more helpful if they would report the truth as it is: that Islam cannot win a war against the entire civilised world and that it would be better if the Koran is adapted to modern times so that Muslims can continue to have a peaceful life.

In India we have witnessed something called Hinduphobia. It is there in the Media, its there amongst intellectuals. While there is in the media strong defence of Muslims human rights – and easily understandable – the life of a Hindu does not seem to count for much. I personally witnessed this in Kashmir specially in the 90s, when the entire foreign media was there, including famous journalists, such as Mark Tully. They all reported human rights abuses by the Army against Kashmiri Muslims, but when Hindu leaders started being murdered by what was then the KLF, and 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus later fled their ancestral land and houses without firing a shot in self-defence, becoming refugees in their own country, none of them gave a damn – and that is still true today. Hinduphobia resides also in the facts that when a Christian is killed, for instance quite a few years ago the horrible murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was burnt alive along his two young sons, or the killing of the innocent Muslim, suspected of having killed a cow in Dadri, more recently, you will notice an immediate uproar in the media. Whereas the killing of Hindu, especially if he is of the RSS of the BJP, as it happens frequently nowadays in Kerala, hardly finds any mention in newspapers and televisions. And this triggers an important question – is the life of a Muslim or a Christian infinitely more important to the media than that of a Hindu?

Another form of Hinduphobia is the intense dislike that the media as for Hindu political leaders and Hindu political or social parties. This is particularly true of the RSS, an organisation that has been demonised first by the British and then today by the media and the politicians. When I started working as a journalist in India I had heard about the ‘evil’ RSS, and thus I was quite surprised when I went to interview their chief in their Delhi quarters, to find that they all looked like old fuddy-duddies in their oversize brown shorts. It was never really proved that Nathuram Ghose killed the Mahatma Gandhi on the orders of the RSS, yet this accusation is still being used on and on again, specially by the Congress party to paint them evil and even ban them. Nearer to us, we witness how Narendra Modi was also demonised by the leftist Indian intellectuals as well as the media. Yet, it is not Mr Modi who went down in the streets and massacred Muslims, but thousands of Gujaratis, from every caste and social strata. In the same way, we see today that CNN goes after Donald Trump but does not dare criticise the millions of Americans who voted for him. The Hinduphobia against Narendra Modi went to such an extent that Sonia Gandhi would not have minded him killed, when bombs were planted at one of the electoral rallies in Patna, Bihar.

In conclusion, if there is some justification to Islamphobia, there is none to Hinduphobia. Let us repeat it again: Hindus have been the most tolerant people in the world, accepting the fact that the Divine manifests Himself or Herself at different times of the history of humanity using different names and different scriptures. This is why Hindus have welcomed in their midst all the persecuted religious minorities of the world – from the Syrian Christians, the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were never persecuted), from the Parsis to the Tibetans today. Yet this has been a one-way traffic: Hindus have been the most persecuted people in the words, they have been invaded and colonised by many nations, from Alexander the Great to the Moghols and every European nation took its pound of gold and flesh. It has been calculated that 100 million Hindus died at the hands of Muslim invaders, from the Hindu Kush to Mumbai 2011, without doubt the greatest holocaust of humanity.

The sad thing is that today Western and Indian intellectuals, as well as Western and Indian media still stand up for Islam, however many crimes are committed in its name – and invariably go after Hindus, though Hinduism is the only religion in the words that never tried to impose its faith to others, whether by peaceful missionary conversions, as Buddhism did – or by violent coercion, as Islam and Christianity strove, particularly from the seventh century 19th century.

François Gautier

The Myth of the Aryan Invasion (Part II)

A second genetic study focused on the genetic inheritance of the early Indians through examination of the Y-M17 chromosome haplogroup, which was also considered to be the genetic mark of the Aryans. Kivisilid discovered these chromosomes among two tribes of South India, one of which the Chenchus, was genetically close to several high castes. “There is no striking genetic disparity between Indian castes and tribes,” the researchers concluded. In 2010, geneticist Underhill led a study on the relations between the Y chromosomes of South Asian populations, within the same RLA haplogroup, also supposed to be specific to Indo-Europeans. These studies came to the same conclusion as the previous ones…

It is important to insert a word here about those tribes called in India the Adivasis (the first residents), which many historians claim to be the original inhabitants of India. Anthropologists have often speculated that today’s tribes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. This concept, which originated in nineteenth-century anthropology, shaped Indian thought as well as social, political and economic relations. There is still a latent conflict between the North and the South, between Sanskrit and Tamil, the Brahmans and the Untouchables, and an obsession with white skin which makes millions of Indian women buy cheap creams, thinking that it will help them attain lighter skin. However, all the great ancient texts of India (such as the Mahabharata, an epic poem comparable to the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer), which gives us a glimpse of the customs of ancient India, do not differentiate between the tribes of the time and the populations of other castes. Contemporary anthropologist Michel Boivin notes that “firstly, many of these ancient tribes climbed the social ladder of castes and became, for example, Kshatriyas”.

Other genetic studies, on the Adivasis (Untouchable and Indian aboriginals), show that they too possess Y chromosomes, similar to those of other Indian castes and that for example, high castes of the North and South are not particularly genetically related, whereas the southern castes and the southern tribes are very similar in Y chromosome terms. This, once again, challenges the theory that Adivasis and low castes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. Moreover, an even more recent study by M. Reddy (2014) shows “that there is no significant difference in terms of DNA between Indian castes and tribal populations”.

One of the pillars of the theory of the Aryan invasion is that the people speaking the Dravidian languages today (Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu) would be the descendants of the indigenous Indians who fled the North and settled in the South following the Indo-Aryan invasion, which is to say that the Harappans spoke a Dravidian language. Unfortunately, quite a few genetic studies have refuted this theory, as noted by geneticist Noah A. Rosenberg, who compared several groups speaking Indo-European languages with those using Dravidian languages. Another geneticist, Sanghamitra Sengupta, on the basis of studies of thirty-six Indian castes and groups, claimed that the genetic landscape of the Indian subcontinent was formed long before the period of the so-called Aryan invasion.

A team of genome experts and archaeologists further broke in the myth of the Aryan invasion. The team was comprised of scientists from Harvard Medical School, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology under the CSIR (Hyderabad), Max Planck Institute, Leipzig, Germany and University of California,USA & Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune.

The research which focussed on DNA samples collected from a the skeleton of a 4,500-year-old female genome collected from a Harappan site in Rakhigarhi, Haryana, showed that there is no trace of any foreign genetic presence in them « which proves that people belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization had distinct genetic lineage,” stated Prof Thangaraj of CCMB, Hyderabad.

Prof Vasant Shinde, director, Deccan College further says: « we discovered that there was no detectable ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or from Anatolian and Iranian farmers, suggesting farming in South Asia arose from local foragers rather than from large-scale migration from the West ».

The Aryans going west?

In the ancient Indian tradition, the word ‘Aryan’ does not denote a skin colour, but a state of mind. The Vedic era is also the Aryan era, governed by a code of life that ranged from the highest spirituality to rituals, cooking manuals, or codified sexuality. Could it be the Aryans, the original inhabitants of India, who would have gone West? Several studies, including those of Sengupta in 2006 and Underhill in 2010, have concluded a radical reversal of migration theories.

In France, we view India as a distant, mysterious country, very different from ours. Yet, many Frenchmen have an irresistible attraction for India, as if some secret kinship invited them to make a “pilgrimage to the source” in India. “They are not entirely wrong,” wrote the Indianist Guy Deleury, in The Indian Model: “Part of the ancestors of today’s Hindus came down from the Iranian plateau, and they were brothers or cousins of our own ancestors. There was a time and a place, which we cannot yet determine with precision, where they lived together and shared the same religious traditions, according to a model of society that we begin to discern better and whose traces we find in Greece and in Rome, certainly, but even more clearly, at the two extremes of this astonishing diaspora: in Celtie in the West and in Iran in the East”. And to add: “If our Druid ancestors resembled those Aryan Brahmans who composed the hymns of the Rig-Veda, we would have descended from great poets!” The similarities are striking. Take for example the war chariot, which plays an extremely important role among the Aryans, because it is not only a martial instrument, but also an occult symbol that represents spiritual progress, as sung by a poem of the Atharva Veda:

The four directions are the horses of the gods’ chariot

Heaven and earth both his flanks;

The seasons, the reins; the intermediate space, the harnesses,

The year is the chariot; the cycle its frame.

Indra is the warrior, the moon the charioteer.

“But this poem might give us,” writes Guy Deleury, “the interpretation of many Gallic currencies, especially those of the Redon people. For where prudent historians will see only a horse, a rider, a wheel, it had for the Redons, the Namnetes, the Carnutes or the Parisians a deeper symbolism, because one does not mint its money lightly.” Indeed, the war chariot is the year rolling from season to season, the cycle of years and the revolution of planets; he goes through the four directions of the universe and the three dimensions of space: it is the cosmic order and the vital breath that animates it as well as all that maintains the movement, as taught by the Indian sacred texts:

Like the spokes of the chariot’s wheel,

Everything is planted in the Breath;

Hymns, melodies, rituals,

The power of the priest and the strength of the warrior.

According to many historians, the Celts arrived in Gaul on the same chariot as the Aryans, when they emigrated from India to the West. “Can we doubt,” supposes Guy Deleury, “that they carried the same culture in their luggage and the same gods in their skies?” In Sanskrit the war chariot is called ratha; fortunately, we know the Gallic name used: Reda. Obviously, it’s the same term. And Guy Deleury concludes: “We can go further with Guyonvarc’h who writes that Reda, name of a kind of war chariot, is found in the name of the Redon people, bestowing the name Rennes to the French city. In Welsh rhed, Breton red; it is also the radical of a horse’s name: paraveredus; French palefroi, German Pferd. It is still present in the surname Eporedorix, ‘king of the chariot race’, name of a famous Gaulish leader of the Eduens who allied with Caesar, then fought him.”

Diodorus also evokes certain hymns that the Gallic warriors sang on the evening of a victory and which were composed by their bards and druids; how then not to think that they might have been similar to the hymns inspired by the Brahmans as exploits of the Kshatriyas, their own warriors? “All the history textbooks of France,” says Deleury, “should, therefore, in the chapters on our ancestors the Gauls, quote some of those Vedic songs of which we know several thousands, and which are of an admirable poetry.”

We have lost everything the Druids composed, except for a few fragments of old Irish, such as The Ballad of the Four Sons, which are laudatory poems composed to be recited during the enthronement of the king, as was done in India in Vedic times. The linguist Calvert Watkins has tried to prove that the ancient Irish heroic versification has the same origin as the Vedic metric and that it constitutes an Indo-European legacy. Guy Deleury concludes: “If, then, the metric itself reveals that the Celtic poets shared with the Hindu poets the same versification techniques, if they fulfilled the same functions in the same rituals (for example that of the enthronement of kings), everything suggests that the original Hindu type of society should not be so far removed from the Celtic type. Unfortunately, the documents on the first abound, while those concerning the second are rare and discontinuous.” Finally, remember that ‘Ann’ is one of the old names of Shiva and that, according to the French historian Alain Daniélou, the cult and legends of Saint Ann in Brittany would have derived from the Shaivite legends.

The Horse Controversy

It was also argued that the Aryans were superior because of their mastery of the horse, whereas the Harappans did not have horses. However, bones and horse teeth have been unearthed during the last twenty years in many sites in the Indian subcontinent: Surkotada, in Gujarat, for example, which led the Hungarian paleo-     zoologist Sándor Bökönyi to say that “the horse had been domesticated in India during the third millennium BC”. It must be understood that in Indian mythology the horse is not an important figure. Unlike the cow, a sign of wisdom, the bull, which symbolizes strength, the elephant, for its peaceful mass… In fact, until the Mauryan age in the 4th century BC, the horse does not fulfil a major military function in India, unlike the elephant.

The presence or absence of the horse in the Indus-Saraswati civilization has divided scholars and historians, especially when it comes to the theory of the Aryan invasion. In the Rig-Veda the word ashva (horse) is mentioned two hundred times, implying that the Vedic society had many horses. Therefore, the Harappan civilization, which gave little place to this noble conquest of man, would be thus proven pre-Vedic and non-Aryan. The horse, some historians conclude, must have been imported to India around 1,500 BC by the “Aryan invaders”, who put horses to good use to subjugate the indigenous populations who, with their ox carts and their elephants, would have been outweighed by the “Aryan” horsemen.

However, on closer inspection, there are several flaws in this theory: the first is that, contrary to the claims of the pro-Aryans, archaeologists have found numerous remains of horses on Indian prehistoric sites. For example, A. Ghosh, author of the very serious Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, states that “in India remains of horses have been dug up in Neolithic sites in Kodaikanal, Hallur, Mohenjo Daro, Ropar, Harappa, Lothal and many others. Recently, moreover, bones of Equus caballus have been found in the Proto-Harappan site of Malwan, Gujarat. Mortimer Wheeler, one of the first advocates of the “Aryan invasion,” had himself admitted that “it is very likely that the horse, the camel, and the donkey were familiar to the people of the Indus.” B. B. Lal in 1998, reports in his book, New Light on the Indus Civilization, that a significant number of bones and horse teeth had been found in Ropar and Lothal. Paleo-zoologist Sándor Bökönyi, recognized as an authority in his field, has confirmed that remains of horses, and even domesticated horses, have been found on Harappan sites. The Indian archaeologist Dhavalikar states that in layers of rocks dated about 2450 BC, small statues of terracotta mares were discovered.

Pottery has recently been excavated, with representations of horses and of a saddle, among other animals. Horse representations are often featured in cave art, for example in Bhimbetka or Morahana Pahar in the Narmada Valley – but unfortunately these caves have not been dated yet. All these discoveries show that the horse already existed in the Harappan era, well before the arrival of the supposed Aryans. While it is true that the horse does not appear on the Harappan seals, many experts have argued that the unicorn is often depicted on seals with a horse’s head.

It is important to note again that for a very long time, Indians did not consider the horse as a mount of war: even in the 10th century, when the Mughal invader Ghori confronted King Prithviraj Chauhan, the latter was still fighting with elephants. Ghori’s cavalry was quick to encircle Chauhan and defeat him.

 

François Gautier

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howdy Modi : Was the wily Trump played by the inscrutable Modi ?

If you want to get a feel about an Indian event, or major news happening India – read the foreign press, not the Indian one, which tends to follow the dots.

Most of the US Media, which paid only attention to the event because Trump was present, implied that Trump was side-lined and was only a pawn in Modi’s triumph. That is good, as Trump is basically a shrewd businessman, always on the lookout for a quick buck and there, Mr Modi showed he was a superior strategist. Even an hostile BBC had to admit that in the rally, Modi was the superstar, not Trump! True, Trump courted the votes of the Indian Americans for 2020, but to my knowledge the majority of NRI’s remain faithful to the democrats – only maybe 20% will vote for Trump.

No doubt, Howdy Modi was a huge success in terms of attendance, enthusiasm and hype. Unfortunately, American Media, like the New York Times still harped on Kashmir and the abrogation of Article 370 – an irony by the most targeted country by Islamic fundamentalism and still reeling from the horrors of the 9/11 attacks. Of course, AL Jazeera, a TV funded by Qatar, a strong proponent of Sunni radicalism and which has hired with million of petro dollars, some of the famous (and leftists) western newscasters from BBC or CNN, also spoke about Kashmir and mentioned that there were thousands protesting outside the stadium, although they cant have been more than a few hundred.

Four remarks : however successful the Howdy Modi show was and in spite of the huge cheering crowd, the Indian community in the United States, which is reportedly at least 4 million strong, is incredibly divided, not only between religions – Muslims, Christians and Hindus – but also there are hundreds of Hindu organizations each fighting each other. What is needed is that they regroup under a united umbrella so as to have in the United States the kind of political lobby the Jewish have. This will help Modi better than a Howy Modi event that remains a temporary firework and nothing much left afterwards.

Secondly the greatest brain drain in the world, is that of the Hindus towards the United States, yesterday and today. Is it not time that the best brains stay in India and those who have gone to the US start coming back to invest their money and talent in their own country? I for one am not very impressed by these Indian NRI’ss who sound more Americans than the Americans and forget all about their Indian-ness and roots

Then, the fact that Trump is going to meet the Pakistani Prime Minister soon after, who that the US still follows the old British custom which put Pakistan and India on the same footing – whereas the former is a failed, bankrupt country at the mercy of the army and the second a vibrant strong pro-western democracy. The West has to make a choice between these two countries – and the US still believes in spite of so much terrorism coming from Pak still banks on this country.

Finally, Mr Modi is right, India needs American investment – and Trump is right too – the Indian Government must make it easier for foreigners and NRI’s to invest in India. There are still many hurdles, much bureaucracy and corruption that come in the way. India needs to look towards China and how they managed to cap so much western money.

FG

Ashoka the Great: The Legend and the Reality (270-232 BC)

Part I:

In 274 BC J.-C. King Bindusara fell seriously ill and died. His son and heir Sushima, who had gone to tame a rebellion on the North-West borders of India, rushed back to Pataliputra as soon as he heard the news. However, when he arrived, he discovered that his half-brother, Ashoka, had usurped the throne with the help of Greek mercenaries.

Prince Ashoka, Davanampriya Priyadarshi Samrat Ashoka, his full name, was born in the year 304 BC in Pataliputra. He was the son of King Bindusara and Maharani Dharma, one of the king’s many wives. From his youth he showed himself adept for combat and hunting; it is even said that he was able to kill a lion with a spear. Considered fearless – and cruel – he was sent by his father Bindusara, to teach a lesson to the rebels of the Avanti Provinces of the empire in Central India. He drowned the revolt in blood and, after his success, was named viceroy of this province in 286 BC. He was recalled by his father to help Sushima put down another revolt, that one in Taxila. Which he did – with incredible cruelty, report historians – then becoming Viceroy of Taxila. On the death of his father in 274 BC, he took control of Pataliputra, and according to Buddhist texts, killed ninety-nine of his half-brothers, including the heir Sushima, sparing only the life of his true brother, Tissa. Hundreds of officers loyal to Sushima were also executed. Ashoka eventually became emperor in 270 BC.

The beginning of Ashoka’s reign is known for having been brutal and unpopular, to the point that he was known as Chand Ashoka, “Ashoka the Cruel”. The beautiful story – and the source of his fame – reported by most contemporary chroniclers – is that Ashoka converted to Buddhism after the murderous wars of Kalinga, having seen the battlefield littered with thousands of bodies. But it seems that this version is false, because we know, thanks to some edicts found engraved in stone, that Ashoka had converted to Buddhism two years before the killings of Kalinga. Even great admirers of Ashoka, such as historian Charles Allen, acknowledge that he had been in contact with Buddhist scholars ten years prior to his famous conversion. Recent discoveries suggest that his conversion to Buddhism was due more to a dynastic politics, than his remorse at the horrors of war. The Maurya dynasty was Vedic, thus following Vedic rituals, both personally and publicly, and its priests were Brahmins. However, the Mauryan emperors, as early as Chandragupta, seemed to have wished to alleviate the Vedic yoke, which had become very constraining and had lost its original spontaneity and purity. Already, Chandragupta had forged ties with Jain monks, and in his later years, his son Bindusara became close to a parallel “heretical” sect called Ajivika, which lasted until the 14th century. It is likely that Ashoka, having usurped the throne, and despite the assassination of all possible heirs, faced the opposition of the surviving family members, many of whom had ties to the Jains and Ajivikas. At that time, Buddhists were the great rivals of Jain and Ajivikas, which would be the reason for Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism.

It is important to take a look at the kingdom of Kalinga (located in the modern state of Orissa, now Odisha), at that time a vassal empire, in the hands of the Nanda dynasty, until it was conquered by Chandragupta, Ashoka’s grandfather. Like many vassal kingdoms of Ashoka, it seems that Kalinga rebelled and allied with rivals of the emperor during the war of succession, and that it later declared independence. This seems to have drawn the wrath of Ashoka, who marched on Kalinga in 262 BC at the head of a powerful Mauryan army. The Kalingians never had a chance, and according to Ashoka’s own writings, 100,000 Kalingians died during the battle, 120,000 others perished from hunger or their wounds, and 150,000 were enslaved. As legend has it, horrified by the spectacle of this battlefield strewn with bodies, Ashoka became a Buddhist, a pacifist, for the rest of his life. This is unlikely, however, since he was used to violence, war and blood. Some historians take as evidence of his repentance the text of the decrees he had engraved on stone or pillars all over India. However, none of these inscriptions expresses neither remorse or regret. If Ashoka had felt guilty, he would have apologized to the people he had persecuted.

He does not even seem to have wanted to free the slaves of Kalinga, and in his edicts, it is noted that he threatened all ethnic groups of reprisals who may dare to revolt against his reign. In fact, it is likely that Ashoka used these inscriptions as a propaganda tool to mitigate his reputation for cruelty. In addition, a text in Pali (which succeeded Sanskrit), the Ashoka Bandara, narrated other acts of cruelty perpetrated by the emperor many years after he is supposed to have become a “pacifist”. These murderous acts were allegedly committed against Jain and Ajivika followers. The Ashoka Bandara even says that he put 18,000 Ajivikas of Bengal to death in one day – the first religious persecution in India.

This is not the only incident mentioned in this manuscript, which tells that when a Jain disciple was discovered in Pataliputra, painting the Buddha prostrating himself before a Jain monk, Ashoka ordered that he and his family be locked in their house and that be burned alive in it. He then declared that he would pay in gold for every decapitated head of a Jain. This carnage ended only when his only surviving brother, the Buddhist monk Vitashoka (also called Tissa), was mistakenly killed. Historians agree, however, that he avoided conflict with Hindu kingdoms and remained respectful of Brahmins.

(To be continued)

Saraswati or the Lost River

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, majestic rivers began to flow down from the Himalayas to the present states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan – making them the greenest and most fertile states of the Indian subcontinent – while today, some of these states such as Rajasthan, are mostly desert. All great civilizations flourished on the banks of major rivers, which tempered the climate, allowed navigation, irrigated the fields and provided drinking water for all. The ancient texts of India, including the four Vedas (Rig, Vayur, Sama, Atharva), the Puranas and the Mahabharata, mention many times the existence of a river of this type, called Saraswati.

Hindus have always venerated their rivers as female goddesses and Saraswati is the goddess of wholeness and perfection in work.

The Rig-Veda mentions Saraswati – with reverence – more than fifty times. She is described as “the best of mothers, the best of rivers, the best of goddesses”. The famous Rig-Veda hymn, the Nadi Stuti, “River Ode”, mentions a group of rivers that includes the Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati and Sutlej, and geographically places Saraswati between Yamuna and Sutlej. Its origin is indicated in the hymn which proclaims: “The purest of rivers, vibrant, the Saraswati, flows from the mountains to the ocean, lavishing its immense riches to the world…” Another hymn sings the strength of the Saraswati: “This river has shattered the mountain peaks with its large and powerful waves as easily as uprooting the lotus stems…”

It has long been thought that the Saraswati River was a myth… However, as early as 1872, C. F. Oldham and R. D. Oldham undertook a detailed study of the area where the Saraswati and its tributaries were thought to have flowed. They claimed to have located the course of Saraswati and concluded that the Saraswati had once been fed by two large rivers, the Sutlej and the Yamuna – before disappearing, following a westward movement of the first and an eastward movement of the second.

Later, in 1940, Aurel Stein explored part of the dry course of Saraswati, in the former state of Bahawalpur, where she is known as Hakra, and he identified up to ninety sites on the banks of the river. In 1969, Herbert Wilhelmy, a renowned German geologist, studied the relevant regions and also concluded that as a result of geological shifts, the Yamuna had had to change course and drain all the water out of the Saraswati.

Today, recent archaeological discoveries, as well as the new science of satellite imagery, have helped to reconstruct the birth and death of the Saraswati River. These discoveries showed that Saraswati was much wider and deeper than the Indus, which occupies the main place in our current history books. It originated in the Bandapunch Massif in the current Himalayan state of Gharwal, descended through Adibadri, Bhavanipur, Balchapurand, and flowed into the plains. There, it took a southern direction, crossing the current states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and finally threw itself into the old mouth of the Arabian Sea, the “Grand Rann of Kutch”. The decline of the Saraswati River appears to have begun about 5,000 BC as a consequence of tectonic plate movements in the Siwaliks foothills of the Himalayas.

Indeed, all of the Siwalik Mountains, stretching from Potwar, Pakistan, to the state of Assam in India, began to move in the Pleistocene era, that is to say, thereabout 1.7 Ma. It is probably one of those movements that cut the Saraswati from the glaciers that fed it. Thus, the Saraswati, depending only on monsoons, would have gradually dried up until disappearing completely around 2,000 BC. Today, satellite images show that the course of the Ghaggar River roughly represents the old bed of Saraswati. Studies with carbon and isotopic oxygen on sand particles of this river have all indicated that it was during the “Middle Ages” of the Pleistocene that this region enjoyed a temperate climate, a great abundance of water and even frequent floods.

Saraswati and Indus would thus have constituted the two great rivers during the Vedic period, but their tributaries, some of which still exist today, even though they have deviated from their course, have also played an important role: the Yamuna, Jhelum, Chenab, and Sutlej rivers.

Recent explorations, both in India and Pakistan, in the Indus and Saraswati basins have led to the identification of more than 2,000 Harappan sites. The number of sites identified in the Saraswati Basin is about seven times higher than the sites surveyed in the Indus Basin, suggesting that the Saraswati Basin has contributed to a larger share of the formation of this civilization. The total area covered was about 2.5 million km2 and stretched roughly to Ropar in the North, Dainabad on the Godavari River in the South, Alamgirpur on the Hindon near Delhi. to the East, and Sutkagendor and Mirikalat, on the Arabian Sea, to the West.

Various scientific researches (by remote sensing or isotopic geology), as well as excavations, have been able to establish even more precisely the history of Saraswati. Indian IRS-1C satellite photos, combined with radar imagery from the European Remote Sensing Satellite, have identified underground portions of the Saraswati that still exist today in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.

Another satellite study showed that there was a natural channel between the Indus and Saraswati rivers, confirming that these two rivers were interdependent. Geological studies conducted to find drinking water in today’s dry areas of Bikaner, Ganganagar and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan have finally revealed several areas of underground rivers unrelated to the melting glaciers of the Himalayas and which would therefore be remnants of the Saraswati. A team of three scientists from the Central Arid Zone Research Institute in Jodhpur, conducted an extensive study of the area using Landsat satellite imagery. In this report, the team concludes: “We believe that the Saraswati has contributed to the alluvial deposits of the westernmost part of the desert, and that the groundwater of this part comes mainly from what was the Saraswati River, as well as precipitation that had been infiltrated into the ground over the centuries.” To prove this, the Central Ground Water Commission dug a number of wells on and along the dry bed: out of twenty-four holes, twenty-three produced drinking water.

After the Pokharan nuclear explosions of May 11, 1998, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre conducted a series of tests to estimate their impact on water quality in the surrounding area. These tests revealed that the water in the area was drinkable and that it was about 8,000 to 14,000 BC old. It would have come from the Himalayan glaciers and would have slowly been recharged by the aquifers from the North, in spite of scant rains. These revelations reinforced the theory of what is now called the “Lost Saraswati”.

François Gautier

(extract from his forthcoming book: “AN ENTIRELY NEW HISTORY OF INDIA”

 

The Myth of Aryan Invasion

The Alleged Aryan Invasion

During the 18th and 19th centuries linguists began to notice many striking similarities between Sanskrit and most European languages. They came to the conclusion that these similarities were due to their belonging to the same family: the Indo-European languages, as they were called. Mentalities in the 19th century, when England dominated the industrial world were colonialist, and these linguists then imagined an “Aryan” invasion of India coming from the West, that would have occurred around 1500 BC. Much has been written about these mythical “Aryan invaders” who subjugated the indigenous peoples of India, imposed Sanskrit, replaced local traditions with a Proto-Vedic culture and a system of iniquitous caste, which gradually spread from Northern India to the plains of the Ganges. The theme of the Aryan invasion justified (in the eyes of some British) the colonization of India. According to the Sanskritist H.H. Wilson in 1958, “was to a certain extent the reunion of the great Aryan family, with the aim of civilizing and Christianizing India”. However everyone did not agree: the famous British biologist Julian Huxley rejected this linguistic association as well as the alleged Aryan family. The philologist Isaac Taylor meanwhile felt that the theory of the Aryan invasion was based on very dubious grounds. Some great figures of Indian independence, such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, and Ambedkar (father of the Indian constitution) proclaimed that this famous theory did not appear in any ancient text of India, and further, that the European Sanskritists distorted the translations of ancient Indian texts in order to support their theory.

The discovery of the Indus-Saraswati civilization by John Marshall, director of the Indian archaeological service, in 1856 had cast a first shadow on this theory: “It was previously thought that the pre-Aryan peoples were of an underdeveloped level, but it turns out that 4,000 years BC the men and women who lived in the cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa had a civilization well in advance of ours”[1]. In other words, this reversal revealed that the natives were the civilized peoples whereas the Aryan invaders were shown to be semi-primitive nomads. Despite this, the theory of the Aryan invasion continued to form the basis of all the history books of India.

In 1934, the archaeologist V. Gordon Childe remarked: “There is no trace of weapons in either Mohenjo Daro or Harappa, contrary to what was found after the brutal end of ancient Egypt or of Babylon, and none of the pottery depicts scenes of war.”[2]

The defenders of the Aryan invasion continued to argue that the fortifications of Mohenjo Daro were extremely thick, “which would denote the fear of invasion.” However, the American archaeologist Kennoyer retorted, “we have never found evidence of breaches produced by battles on these fortifications.” Another thesis of the fanatics of the theory of an Aryan invasion: skeletons found in Mohenjo Daro, on which were found traces of injuries, and who “would have been killed or wounded during the Aryan invasion”. But recent carbon-14 tests have shown that these skeletons belonged to different stages of the Indus-Saraswati civilization and that the wounds had healed before they died[3]

In fact, the American archaeologist, Kennoyer’s mentor, George F. Dales, had written: “There was no destruction during the last period of Mohenjo Daro, nor even traces of fire; no skeleton of a soldier dressed in armor and surrounded by weapons of war has ever been found, despite extensive excavations. So there is not the slightest proof of armed conquest or even destruction by an alleged Aryan invasion.”

Today, defenders of the Aryan invasion are beginning to step back. Instead of “invasion”, they use the word “migration”, that of peaceful nomadic tribes who introduced Indo-European languages in India. But again, no archaeological evidence of any “peaceful” Aryan invasion has been found either on the banks of Saraswati or on the banks of the Indus. As pointed out by the French archaeologist Jean-Marie Casal who directed excavations in Mundikak, another Harappan site: “there is no ‘Aryan’ archaeological definition, because no objects or weapons have been found which differ from those of the Harappan civilization[4].

Nor is there, contrary to what the defenders of the Aryan invasion have long claimed, a spiritual and cultural break between the Harappan and post-Harappan civilizations. In the one and the other we also note the same veneration of Mother Saraswati, of Shiva’s lingam, or of yoni (the sacred sex of women). This is why the archaeologist Marshall, who was one of the great specialists of Mohenjo Daro, found the Harappan culture “so typically Indian that it would be difficult to distinguish it from Hinduism as it still lives at present.” This was said in 1931 – yet it is still true today.

The latest research that also questions the Aryan invasion comes form the fields of anthropology and genetic science. Indeed, for a long time it was admitted as a fact that the Aryans had a lighter skin than the Dravidians in the South, who are black-skinned. Thus, this theory of the Aryan invasion has divided India between white-skinned, Brahman and Kshatriyas (warrior-caste of which the Maharajas are a part), and those with darker skin, Untouchables and the lower castes. Politically, even today, this myth of the Aryan invasion is exploited for electoral reasons: politicians in Tamil Nadu, for example, complain about the imposition of the Hindi language, which they regard as derived from Sanskrit and therefore of “Aryan” origin. There were even riots in Tamil Nadu in the 1980’s to protest the imposition of Hindi. Even today, the Anglican missionaries (mainly from Australia and the United States) convert the Untouchables, the lower castes and the tribals to Christianity by telling them: “You are the true inhabitants of India, you were there before the Aryans, you have nothing to do with the Hindu religion – convert!” This missionaries’ aplomb comes from the fact that for decades British or even Indian anthropologists, such as Dr. D. N. Jha, wrote: “The first Aryans were generally light in color, while the native people were of a much darker complexion. The color of their skin must have been an important sign of their identity”. Unfortunately for Professor Jha and his ilk, a lot of recent genetic research led by anthropologists such as the famous SR Walimbe who studied the skeletons of Mohenjo Daro in comparison with skeletons from other periods, taken at random, have come to the conclusion that there is “a genetic continuity between the Harappans and the Indians who inhabit this region today”.

From the 1990’s, the genetic study of populations, which had already been tested in the West, was applied to South Asian populations in general and the hypothesis of the Aryan invasion in particular. Geneticists have been able to isolate Y-chromosome mutations passed down from father to son on Harappan skeletons and compared them to contemporary Indians living in formerly Harappan regions and in various parts of India. Their conclusions are convincing: the geneticist Partha Majumder postulates that “we find an obvious unity of the Y-chromosome Harappan in all regions of India, despite a linguistic and cultural diversity extremely important.” Another geneticist, Toomas Kivisild conducted from 1999 a series of research on all populations of South Asia, from Burma to Afghanistan. He came to this conclusion: “The alleged Aryan invasion of India, if it ever existed, had no major impact on the Indian gene pool. The Caucasian traits of Indians can be considered pre-Caucasian, that is to say, part of the genetic reservoir of North Africa and North-East.”

In the year 2000, the anthropologist Susanta Roychoudhury and his colleagues performed genetic tests on ten different Indian ethnic groups and noticed “a fundamental unity of the genetic links of all these groups”. These researchers also observed that the haplogroup U, common to Northern Indians and of the Caucasian type, that is to say a group of humans having the same common ancestor in patri-lineal or matri-lineal lineage, is also present among tribes of East India, such as the Lodha and the Santal. Their analysis of the dominant presence of haplogroup M, frequently used by early supporters of the Aryan invasion theory, demonstrates that “the haplogroup M is found on 60% of the Indian population, including tribes and low castes, whatever their geographical location”. This conclusion thus completely dismantles the simplistic theory of an Aryan invasion, which would have created a very marked genetic distinction between the upper and lower castes. Indeed, Kivisild and his colleagues also discovered that “even high castes share more than 80% of genetic links with lower castes and tribes”.

A second study focused on the genetic inheritance of the early Indians through examination of the Y-M17 chromosome haplogroup, which was also considered to be the genetic mark of the Aryans. Kivisilid discovered these chromosomes among two tribes of South India, one of which the Chenchus, was genetically close to several high castes. “There is no striking genetic disparity between Indian castes and tribes,” the researchers concluded. In 2010, the geneticist Underhill led a study on the relations between the Y chromosomes of South Asian populations within the same RLA haplogroup, also supposed to be specific to Indo-Europeans. These studies came to the same conclusion as the previous ones …

It is important to insert a word here about those tribes called in India the Adivasis (the first residents), which many historians claim to be the original inhabitants of India. Anthropologists have often speculated that today’s tribes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. This concept, which originated in nineteenth-century anthropology, shaped Indian thought as well as social, political and economic relations. There is still a latent conflict between the North and the South, between Sanskrit and Tamil, the Brahmans and the Untouchables, and an obsession with white skin which makes millions of Indian women buy cheap creams, thinking that it will help them attain lighter skin. However, all the great ancient texts of India (such as the Mahabharata, an epic poem comparable to the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer), which gives us a glimpse of the customs of ancient India, do not differentiate the tribes of the time and the populations of other castes. The contemporary anthropologist Michel Boivin notes that “firstly, many of these ancient tribes climbed the social ladder of castes and became, for example, Kshatriyas”.

Other genetic studies, on the Adivasis (Untouchable and Indian aboriginals), show that they too possess Y chromosomes similar to those of other Indian castes and that for example, high castes of the North and South are not particularly genetically related, whereas the southern castes and the southern tribes are very similar in Y chromosome terms. This, once again, challenges the theory that Adivasis and low castes are descendants of the original inhabitants of India. Moreover, an even more recent study by M. Reddy (2014) shows “that there is no significant difference in terms of DNA between Indian castes and tribal populations”.

One of the pillars of the theory of the Aryan invasion is that the people speaking the Dravidian languages today (Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu) would be the descendants of the indigenous Indians who fled the North and settled in the South following the Indo-Aryan invasion, which is to say that the Harappans spoke a Dravidian language. Unfortunately, few genetic studies have endorsed this theory, as noted by the geneticist Noah A. Rosenberg, who compared several groups speaking Indo-European languages with those using Dravidian languages. On the basis of studies of thirty-six Indian castes and groups, the geneticist Sanghamitra Sengupta claimed that the genetic landscape of the Indian subcontinent was formed long before the period of the so-called Aryan invasion.

 

A team of genome experts and archaeologists further broke in the myth of the Aryan invasion. The team was comprised of scientists from Harvard Medical School, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Birbal Sahni Institute of  Palaeosciences, Lucknow, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology under the CSIR (Hyderabad), Max Planck Institute ,Leipzig, Germany and University of California,USA & Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune.

The research which focussed on DNA samples collected from a the skeleton of a 4,500-year-old female genome collected from a Harappan site in Rakhigarhi, Haryana, showed that there is no trace of any foreign genetic presence in them « which proves that people belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization had distinct genetic lineage,” stated Prof  Thangaraj of CCMB, Hyderabad.

Prof Vasant Shinde, director, Deccan College further says: « we discovered that there was no detectable ancestry from Steppe pastoralists or from Anatolian and Iranian farmers, suggesting farming in South Asia arose from local foragers rather than from large-scale migration from the West ».

 

[1] John Marshall, Mohenjo Daro and the Indus Civilization, Vol-i (1931).

[2] Gordon Childe, The Aryans: A Study of Indo-European Origins, Kegan Paul (London), 1926.

[3] Ibid

[4] Jean-Marie: Mundigak excavations. (Mémoires de la Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan, Tom. XVII.) Librairie C. Klincksieck, Paris 1961.