Category Archives: History

It was all in our stars

It was all in our stars

Today, because of the vulgarisation of astrology, people tend to think that it is not a science and that the planets are so far away that they cannot have a definite influence on human life. But it is not so, contends Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Bangalore-based Art of Living, an International Foundation which cuts across all barriers of nationality and religion and brings enlightenment to millions of people all over the world.

He points out, for instance, the strong influence which the moon has on the huge oceans, whose tides rise and fall according to the lunar cycles. “In the same way,” he continues, “the moon has a sway on the human body, which is made-up of 60 per cent of fluids.” The moon has also a power on the mind: This is why on full moon days, mental hospitals receive the maximum number of patients. People, in the past, knew this but it has been dismissedtoday as just another superstition.

What about the sun? It definitely also has an impact on people’s minds. Lookat those who live in the Arctic Circle, where in winter the sun is so scarce that people tend to get depressed. The maximum number of suicides, in this region, takes place during the months of February and March.

The theory of relativity has proved that everything affects everything: A small atom exploding somewhere, has an impact for thousands of miles around — and the effects of radiation continue for years. So the smaller the particle, the more powerful the effect. “In the same manner,” interjects the seer from Bangalore, “planetary positions affect us very closely, because of the cosmic rays coming out of certain planets and the particular position of the earth at a given moment, just as a small dose of a homeoepathic drug can have a repercussion on a body weighting 80 kg, or a drop of poison kill a huge animal.”

Jupiter, for instance, affects the intellect, Saturn the heart, and so on. Each part of the human anatomy is connected to the cosmos: the nose is linked to Jupiter, eyes to Saturn, Mars to the lower body…This science, known as Samudrika Shastra, is almost lost today.

“The ancient sages,” declares Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “knew these facts. This is why they devised the mala (necklace) with 108 beads, which stand for the 12 constellations and the nine planets and the 108 different permutations which affect one’s life.” Everything is interconnected in this universe, like a radio transistor, which can catch certain stations or relay messages, or a computer chip, which is the pathway for the movement of electrical and magnetic energy. And it is the same electric and magnetic energy which is linked to different planetary positions.

But how can the malefic influence that the planets sometimes have on us, be countered? Replies Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “If the mind-body complex is affected by the planets, the Self, or êiAtmanêr, remains untouched. And if you practice meditation, by going to the core of your existence, you can escape the damaging influence of planets.” He continues, “When you are on a spiritual path, all the good luck that you gather through yogic practices will counterbalance your bad karma.”

What is the difference between Chinese/Western astrology and Indian astrology? According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, “Indian astrology is more moon-oriented, because in a tropical country the impact of the sun doesn’t vary greatly throughout the year. However, in the West and China, the role of the sun is much more important.”

This is why, he says, a horoscope devised in India becomes invalid once you cross an ocean. Indian astrology stresses that for every effect there is a cause and that blaming the cause can trigger more stress and bring in negative emotions like anger and greed. He believes that one way to make them disappear, is to realise that these negative emotions may arise because of certain planetary positions. And, as you cannot get angry with lanets, you stop blaming the person or situation.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar explains that Hindu astrology has a very ancient lineage. Ten thousand years ago the Rig Veda saw the earth as round. Untilrecently, the West had believed that all the planets gravitate around the earth but the ancient rishis, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reminds us, knew that the sun was at the centre and that all the planets revolved around it.

The West is thus committing an injustice by not giving Indian astronomy and astrology due credit. “Indian astronomers had calculated that life started 1 billion, 955 million, 818 thousand and 501 years ago and that 28 cycles of yugas have already happened,” smiles Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The present `kaliyug’, which is said to have begun the day Krishna left his body, has a length of 25,000 years and we are in the 5101st year. Hence we need to consider the science which gave the concept of zero to the world and which, without telescopes, had calculated long before Copernicus, the occurrence of solar eclipses and the number of moons around Jupiter — facts that were discovered only 256 years ago in the West! 

When war becomes dharma

When war becomes dharma

In the Bhagvad Gita, Arjuna once throws down his bow and tells Krishna, “I will not fight.” Many scholars consider this an exhortation to an inner war instead of a physical one, against one’s own ego and weaknesses. While the Gita is essentially a divine message of yoga — of transforming one’s own nature while reaching for the absolute — it reconciles war with the notion of duty and dharma. Since the beginning of times, war has been an integral part of man’s quest.

Yet, war is the most misunderstood factor of human history. Sri Aurobindo in his remarkable Essays on the Gita writes: “Man’s natural tendency is to worship nature as love and life and beauty and good and to turn away from her grim mask of death.” War has always repelled man: Ashoka turned Buddhist after the battle of Kalinga, American youngsters refused to participate in the Vietnam war, and we are witnessing today massive protests against the atom bomb.

Yet, the Gita says that while protecting one’s borders, wives, children and culture, and when all other means have failed, war can become dharma. War is a universal principle of our life as Sri Aurobindo argues: “it is evident that the actual life of man can take no real step forward without a struggle between what exists and what seeks to exist”. And that humanity periodically experience time in which great forces clash together, resulting in destruction and reconstruction, intellectual, social, moral, religious, andpolitical.

According to the Gita, there exists a struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, between the self affirming law of good and the forces that oppose its progression. Its message is, therefore, addressed to people whose duty in life is to protect those who are at the mercy of the strong and the violent. “It is only a few religions,” writes Sri Aurobindo, “which have had the courage, like the Indian, to lift up the image of the force that acts in the world in the figure not only of the beneficent Durga, but also of the terrible Kali in her blood-stained dance of destruction.”

Has India understood this great nationalist message of the Gita? Yes and no. On the one hand, you have had a Shivaji, a Rani of Jhansi, and a Sri Aurobindo, who, let us remember, gave a call as early as 1906 for the eviction of the British — by force if need be — at a time when the Congress was not even considering independence. On the other hand, the Indian masses seem never to have resisted invasions for centuries. Wave after wave of Muslims intruders were able to loot, rape, kill, raze temples and govern India, because Hindu chieftains kept betraying each other and nonational uprising occurred against them; the British got India for a song, bled it dry (20 millions Indians died of famine during British rule), because except for the Great (misguided) Mutiny, there was no wave ofnationalism opposed to them until very late.

We witnessed how in 1962 the Indian army was routed because Nehru had refused to heed the warnings posed by the Chinese. Just a year ago, we also witnessed how India reacted during the hijack of the IC flight from Kathmandu: instead of storming the plane when it was in Amritsar, India’s leaders got cowed down by the prospect of human casualties from their own side and surrendered to terrorism. But in the process India’s image and self-esteem suffered a lot and the liberated separatists are now spitting even more venom and terror.

Why is this nationalistic message of the Gita forgotten? There are two main reasons: Buddhism and Mahatma Gandhi. Buddhism made of non-violence an uncompromising, inflexible dogma. Thus it was literally wiped-off the face of India within a few centuries. Buddhism indirectly influenced Hinduism and Mahatma Gandhi, whose sincere but rigid adherence to non-violence may have indirectly precipitated the 1947 Partition.

Today, well-meaning “secular” Indians intellectuals still borrow from th Buddhist and Gandhian creed of non-violence to demonstrate why India should not have the bomb and get wiped-out by Pakistan or China, countries which have no such qualms.

There is, however, a lining in the sky: the Kargil war has shown that Hindu, Muslim and Christian soldiers can put their country above their religion and fight alongside each other. Today, we see a new wave of nationalism, both in India, as well as amongst its influential expatriate. 

The wonder that was India

Author: Francois Gautier

Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 19, 2000

Is it not time for India to adapt another Constitution to break away from the colonial legacy left by the British and evolve its own system based on its particular genius?

Indians have always had to confront the stigma that the country was always politically disunited, except under Ashoka and some of the Mughal emperors. That their rulers were just a bunch of barbarians, constantly fighting among themselves and that it was thanks to the Mughals and the British that India was finally politically united. This is doing grave injustice to India. The Vedic sages had devised a monarchical system, whereby the king was at the top, but could be constitutionally challenged.

In fact, it even allowed for the general human inclination to war, but made sure that it never went beyond a certain stage. In ancient India there were never the great fratricidal wars, like those between the British and the French. Moreover, the system allowed for a great federalism the real power lay in the village panchayats. Sri Aurobindo refutes the charge levelled by most western historians that India has always shown an incompetence for any free and sound political organisation.

There always was a strong democratic element in pre-Muslim India, which showed a certain similarity with Western parliamentary forms, but these institutions were Indian. The earliest systems was that of the clan, or tribal system, fou-nded upon the equality of all members within it. In the sa-me way, the village community had its own assembly, the visah, with only the king above this democratic body. The priests, who acted as the sacrifice makers and were poets, occultists and yogis, had no other occupation in life and their positions were thus not hereditary but depended on their inner abilities. It was the same with warriors, merchants, or lower class people.

As Sri Aurobindo observes, from the king down to the Shudra, the predominance, say of the Brahmins, did not result in a theocracy, because the Brahmins in spite of their ever-increasing and finally predominant authority, did not and could not usurp political power.

Later, a republican form of government manifested itself over many parts of India. In some cases these “republics” appear to have been governed by a democratic assembly and some came out of a revolution; in other cases, they seem to have had an oligarchic senate. But they enjoyed thr-oughout India a reputation for the excellence of their civil administration and the redo-ubtable efficiency of their armies. It is to be noted that these Indian republics existed lo-ng before the Gr-eek ones, although the world credits the Greeks with having created de-mocracy. But here, as usual, history is recorded through the prism of the Western world and is very selective indeed.

One should also note that none of these Indian republics developed an aggressive colonising spirit and that they were content to defend themselves and forge alliances amongst themselves. But after the invasion of Alexander’s armies, India felt, for the first time, the need to unify its forces leading to the rise of monarchies yet again. But there was no despotism here as happened in Europe until the French revolution. The Indian king did enjoy supreme power, but he was first the representative and guardian of dharma, the sacred law. Furthermore, although the king was a Hindu, Hinduism was never the state religion and each cult enjoyed its liberties. Which religion in the world can boast of such tolerance ?

In truth, Indians always regarded life as a manifestation of Self. The master idea that governed life, culture and social ideals has been the seeking of man for his inner self. Thus, Indian politics, although very complex, always allowed a communal freedom for self-determination. In the last stages of the pre-Muslim period, the summit of the political structure was occupied by three governing bodies: the king in his Ministerial Council, the Metropolitan Assembly and the General Assembly of the kingdom. The members of the Ministerial Council were drawn from all castes. Indeed the whole Indian system was founded upon a close participation of all the classes. Thus the Council had a fixed number of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra representatives, with the Vaishya having a greater preponderance. And, in turn, each town, each village, had its own Metropolitan Civic Assembly allowing a great deal of autonomy. Even the great Ashoka was defeated in his power tussle with his Council and had to practicallyabdicate.

It is this system which allowed India to flower in an unprecedented way, to excel perhaps as no other nation had done before her in all fields. Has not the time come for a political renaissance of that Indian spirit?

Negationism and the Muslim Conquests

The following is based on one of the chapters in the book Rewriting Indian History (Vikas). In this first part, the author argues that History books should be rewritten.

It is important to stop a moment and have a look at what the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst, has called “negationism in India”. In his foreword to the book of the same title, Koenraad explains that negationism, which means in this context “the denial of historical crimes against humanity”, is not a new phenomenon. In modern history, the massacre by the Turks of 1,5 millions Armenians, or that of the 6 million Jews by the Nazis, the several millions of Russians by Stalin, or again the 1 million Tibetans by the Chinese communists, are historical facts which have all been denied by their perpetrators… But deny is not the exact word. They have been NEGATED in a thousand ways: gross, clever, outrageous, subtle, so that in the end, the minds of people are so confused and muddled, that nobody knows anymore where the truth is.

Sometimes, it is the numbers that are negated or passed under silence: the Spanish conquest of South America has been one of the bloodiest and most ruthless episodes in history. Elst estimates that out of the population of native Continental South America of 1492, which stood at 90 million, only 32 million survived; terrible figures indeed but who talks about them today?

“But what of the conquest of India by Muslims”, asks Elst?

In other parts of Asia and Europe, the conquered nations quickly opted for conversion to Islam rather than death. But in India, because of the staunch resistance of the 4000 year old Hindu faith, the Muslim conquests were for the Hindus a pure struggle between life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and their populations massacred. Each successive campaign brought hundreds of thousands of victims and similar numbers were deported as slaves. Every new invader made often literally his hill of Hindu skulls. Thus the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000, was followed by the annihilation of the entire Hindu population there; indeed, the region is still called Hindu Kush, ‘Hindu slaughter’. The Bahmani sultans in central India, made it a rule to kill 100.000 Hindus a year. In 1399, Teimur killed 100.000 Hindus IN A SINGLE DAY, and many more on other occasions. Koenraad Elst quotes Professor K.S. Lal’s “Growth of Muslim population in India”, who writes that according to his calculations, the Hindu population decreased by 😯 MILLION between the year 1000 and 1525. INDEED PROBABLY THE BIGGEST HOLOCAUST IN THE WHOLE WORLD HISTORY. (Negat.34)

But the “pagans” were far too numerous to kill them all; and Hinduism too well entrenched in her people’s soul, never really gave up, but quietly retreated in the hearts of the pious and was preserved by the Brahmins’ amazing oral powers. Thus, realising that they would never be able to annihilate the entire Indian population and that they could not convert all the people, the Muslims rulers, particularly under the Hanifite law, allowed the pagans to become “zimmis” (protected ones) under 20 humiliating conditions, with the heavy “jizya”, the toleration tax, collected from them.

“It is because of Hanifite law, writes Mr Elst, that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide of Hindus”. The last “jihad” against the Hindus was waged by the much glorified Tipu Sultan, at the end of the 18th century. Thereafter, particularly following the crushing of the 1857 rebellion by the British, Indian Muslims fell into a state of depression and increasing backwardness, due to their mollah’s refusal of British education (whereas the elite Hindus gradually went for it) and their nostalgia for the “glorious past”‘. It is only much later, when the British started drawing them into the political mainstream, so as to divide India, that they started regaining some predominance.

Negationism means that this whole aspect of Indian history has been totally erased, not only from history books, but also from the memory, from the consciousness of Indian people. Whereas the Jews have constantly tried, since the Nazi genocide, to keep alive the remembrance of their six million martyrs, the Indian leadership, political and intellectual, has made a wilful and conscious attempt to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Muslims. No one is crying for vengeance. Do the Jews of today want to retaliate upon contemporary Germany? NO. It is only a matter of making sure that history does not repeat its mistakes, as alas it is able to do today: witness the persecution of Hindus in Kashmir, whose 250.000 Pandits have fled their 5000 year old homeland; or the 50.000 Hindus chased from Afghanistan; or the oppression of Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan. And most of all, to remember, is to BE ABLE TO LOOK AT TODAY WITH THE WISDOM OF YESTERDAY. No collective memory should be erased for appeasing a particular community.

Yet, what has happened in India, at the hand of Hindus themselves, is a constant denial and even a perversion of the genocide committed by Muslims in India. Hasn’t the “radical humanist” M.N. Roy, written “that Islam has fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination in India, and that for this, Islam has been welcomed in India by the lower castes”. “If AT ALL any violence occurred, he goes on to say, it was a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning the feudal Hindu upper classes..”

Want to listen to another such quote? This one deals with Mahmud Ghaznavi, the destroyer of thousands of Hindu temples, who according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the Mathura temple complex, sacred above all to all Hindus… and promptly proceeded to raze it to the ground: “Building interested Mahmud and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura, where there are today a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful. Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mahomedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier and a brilliant soldier”… Amazing eulogy indeed of the man who was proud of desecrating hundreds of temples and made it a duty to terrorise and humiliate pagans. And guess from whom is that quote? From Jawaharlal Nehru himself, the first Prime Minister of India and one of the architects of independence!

M.N. Roy, and Nehru in a lesser degree, represent the foremost current of negationism in India, which is Marxist inspired. For strangely, it was the Russian communists who decided to cultivate the Arabs after the First World War, in the hope that they constituted a fertile ground for future indoctrination. One should also never forget that Communism has affected whole generations of ardent youth, who saw in Marxism a new ideology in a world corrupted by capitalism and class exploitation. Nothing wrong in that; but as far as indoctrination goes, the youth of the West, particularly of the early sixties and seventies, were all groomed in sympathising with the good Arabs and the bad Jews. And similarly in India, two or three young generations since the early twenties, were tutored on negating Muslim genocide on the Hindus. In “Communalism and the writing of Indian history”, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at the JNU in New Delhi, the Mecca of secularism and negationism in India, denied the Muslim genocide by replacing it instead with a conflict of classes. The redoubtable Romila Thapar in her “Penguin History of India”, co-authored with Percival Spear, writes: “Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance, is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares”. How can one be so dishonest, or so blind? But it shows how negationism is perpetuated in India.

What are the facts? Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered ALL temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism and had mosques built on a number of cleared temples sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujurat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. (Neg 60). The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not 5 figures; according to his own official court chronicles: “Aurangzeb ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all pagan teachings and practices”. The chronicle sums up the destructions like this: “Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed.

.. His majesty went to Chittor and 63 temples were destroyed..Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground”.. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped-out; even his own brother, Dara Shikoh, was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions. As we can see Romila Thapar and Percival Spear’s statement of a benevolent Aurangzeb is a flagrant attempt at negationism. Even the respectable Encyclopedia Brittannica in its entry on India, does not mention in its chapter on the Sultanate period any persecutions of Hindus by Muslims, except “that Firuz Shah Tughlaq made largely unsuccessful attempts at converting his Hindu subjects and sometime persecuted them”. The British, for their own selfish purpose, were of course greatly responsible for whitewashing the Muslims, whom they needed to counterbalance the influence of the Hindus and the Congress. It is sad that Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress perpetuated that brand of negationism. But that is another story.

The happiest in this matter must be the Muslims themselves. What fools these Hindus are, they must be telling themselves: We killed them by the millions, we wrested a whole nation out of them, we engineer riots against them, and they still defend us!… But don’t the Hindus know that many orthodox Indian Muslims still cling to the Deoband school, which says that India was once “Dar-ul-Islam”, the house of Islam, and should return to that status. Maulana Abul Kala Azad, several times Congress President, and Education Minister in free India, was a spokesman for this school. The Aligarh school on the contrary, led by Mohammed Iqbal, propounded the creation of Pakistan. What particularly interests us in the Aligarh school is the attempt by Muslim historians, such as Mohamed Habiib, to rewrite the Chapter of Muslim invasions in India. In 1920, Habib started writing his magnum opus, which he based on four theories: 1) that the records (written by the Muslims themselves) of slaughters of Hindus, the enslaving of their women and children and razing of temples were “mere exaggerations by court poets and zealous chroniclers to please their rulers”. 2) That they were indeed atrocities, but mainly committed by Turks, the savage riders from the Steppe. 3) That the destruction of the temples took place because Hindus stored their gold and jewels inside them and therefore Muslim armies plundered these. 4) That the conversion of millions of Hindus to Islam was not forced, “but what happened was there was a shift of opinion in the population, who on its own free will chose the Shariat against the Hindu law (smriti), as they were all oppressed by the bad Brahmins”…!!! (Negationism p.42)

Unfortunately for Habib and his school, the Muslims invaders did record with glee their genocide on Hindus, because they felt all along that they were doing their duty; that killing, plundering, enslaving and razing temples was the work of God, Mohammed. Indeed, whether it was Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030), who was no barbarian, although a Turk, and patronised art and literature, would recite a verse of the Koran every night after having razed temples and killed his quota of unbelievers; or Firuz Shah Tughlak (1351-1388) who personally confirms that the destruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety and writes: “on the day of a Hindu festival, I went there myself, ordered the executions of all the leaders AND PRACTITIONERS of his abomination; I destroyed their idols temples and built mosques in their places”. Finally, as Elst points out, “Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. It is not the Muslims who are guilty but Islam”. (Negationism in India, p. 44)

But ultimately, it is a miracle that Hinduism survived the onslaught of Muslim savagery; it shows how deep was her faith, how profound her karma, how deeply ingrained her soul in the hearts of her faithfuls. We do not want to point a finger at Muslim atrocities, yet they should not be denied and their mistakes should not be repeated today. But the real question is: Can Islam ever accept Hinduism? We shall turn towards the Sage, the yogi, who fought for India’s independence, accepting the Gita’s message of karma of violence when necessary, yet had a broad vision that softened his words: “You can live with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you? How are you going to have unity with these people?…The Hindu is ready to tolerate; he is open to new ideas and his culture and has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided India’s central truth is recognised.. (Sri Aurobindo India’s Rebirth 161,173) Or behold this, written on September 1909: “Every action for instance which may be objectionable to a number of Mahomedans, is now liable to be forbidden because it is likely to lead to a breach of peace. And one is dimly beginning to wonder whether worship in Hindu temples may be forbidden on that valid ground (India’s Rebirth p. 55). How prophetic! Sri Aurobindo could not have foreseen that so many Muslim countries would ban Rushdie’s book and that Hindu processions would often be forbidden in cities, for fear of offending the Muslims. Sri Aurobindo felt that sooner or later Hindus would have to assert again the greatness of Hinduism.

And here we must say a word about monotheism, for it is the key to the understanding of Islam. Christians and Muslims have always harped on the fact that their religions sprang-up as a reaction against the pagan polytheist creeds, which adored many Gods. ” There is only one real God they said (ours), all the rest are just worthless idols “. This ” monotheism versus polytheism business ” has fuelled since then the deep, fanatic, violent and murderous zeal of Islam against polytheist religions, particularly against Hinduism, which is the most comprehensive, most widely practiced of all them. It even cemented an alliance of sorts between the two great monotheist religions of the world, Christianity and Islam, witness the Britishers’ attitude in India, who favoured Indian Muslims and Sikhs against the Hindus; or the King of Morocco who, even though he is one of the most moderate Muslim leaders in the world, recently said in an interview: ” we have no fight with Christianity, our battle is against the Infidel who adores many gods “.

But the truth is that Hinduism is without any doubt the most monotheist religion in the World, for it recognises divine unity in multiplicity. It does not say: ” there is only one God, which is Mohammed. If you do not believe in Him I will kill you “. It says instead: ” Yes Mohammed is a manifestation of God, but so is Christ, or Buddha, or Krishna, or Confucius “. This philosophy, this way of seeing, which the Christians and Muslims call ” impious “, is actually the foundation for a true monotheist understanding of the world. It is because of this ” If you do not recognize Allah (or Christ), I will kill you “, that tens of millions of Hindus were slaughtered by Arabs and other millions of South Americans annihilated by the Christians. And ultimately the question is: Are the Muslims of today ready to accept Hinduism ? Unfortunately no. For Muslims all over the world, Hinduism is still the Infidel religion ” par excellence “. This what their religion tell them, at every moment, at every verse, at the beginning of each prayer : ” Only Allah is great “. And their mollahs still enjoin them to go on fight ” jihad ” to deliver the world of the infidels. And if the armies of Babar are not there any longer; and if it is not done any more to kill a 100.000 Hindus in a day, there is still the possibility of planting a few bombs in Bombay, of fuelling separatisms in the hated land and eventually to drop a nuclear device, which will settle the problem once and for all. As to the Indian Muslim, he might relate to his Hindu brother, for whatever he says, he remains an Indian, nay a Indu; but his religion will make sure that he does not forget that his duty is to hate the Infidel. This is the crux of the problem today and the riddle if Islam has to solved, if it wants to survive in the long run.

We will never be able to assess the immense physical harm done to India by the Muslim invasions. Even more difficult is to estimate the moral and the spiritual damage done to Hindu India. But once again, the question is not of vengeance, or of reawakening old ghosts, but of not repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, the harm done by the Muslims conquest is not over. The seeds planted by the Moghols, by Babar, Mahmud, or Aurangzeb, have matured: the 125 million Indian Muslims of today have forgotten that they were once peaceful, loving Hindus, forcibly converted to a religion they hated. And they sometimes take-up as theirs a cry of fanaticism which is totally alien to their culture. Indeed, as Sri Aurobindo once said: “More than 90% of the Indian Muslims are descendants of converted Hindus and belong as much to the Indian nation as the Hindu themselves”…(Rebirth of India, p.237) The embryo of secession planted by the Mahomedans, has also matured into a poisonous tree which has been called Pakistan and comes back to haunt India through three wars and the shadow of a nuclear conflict embracing South Asia. And in India, Kashmir and Ayodhya are reminders that the Moghol cry for the house of Islam in India is not yet over, as Kargil has just shown.

Servitude or freedom?

Servitude or freedom?
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: June 25, 2003
There is a growing need to rewrite Indian history according to the latest linguistic and archaeological discoveries if Indian children are to understand who they are and where they come from. We now know that not only the foundations of Indian history were written by European colonisers with an intention to downsize, downgrade and postdate Indian civilisation, but that, unfortunately, generations of Marxist Indian historians, for their own selfish purpose, endorsed and perpetuated these wrong theories. Among these are the Aryan invasion theory which divided India pitting the South against North, Aryan against Dravidian, and “Untouchables” against Brahmins.

Not only that. These British and Marxist historians – eager to give prominence to the Congress, which was a British institution in the first place – robbed of their true place in India’s history, giants such as Sri Aurobindo, who – apart from being the avatar of the supramental age – was the early prophet of Indian Independence when all that the Indian National Congress wanted was a few crumbs from the British. As a result, very few Indian children know about Sri Aurobindo today. But now comes Professor Kittu Reddy and his book History of India: A New Approach (Standard Publisher, New Delhi), which was released in February 2003. It addresses a grave lacuna in Indian historiography, and compels us to take a second look at Indian history. It opens our eyes to incidents we had totally ignored. These new facts are peppered with wonderful quotations from Sri Aurobindo, which give an altogether new dimension to the book.

Professor Kittu Reddy was best equipped for this task. He was born in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in 1936. His father, C Narayana Reddy, was one of the first MLCs when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1924 as a member of the Swarajya party. Professor Reddy is the nephew of Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the former President of India. At the young age of five, he was taken to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, by his parents. Brought up in the spiritual ambience of the Ashram, he has lived there ever since. He had all his education at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from where he graduated in 1957. In 1958, he started teaching at the same Centre, first at the school level and later from 1971 at the college level. His subjects today are The Foundations of Indian Culture, Political Science, Social Science, and History. It must be mentioned that all these subjects are taught in the light and vision of Sri Aurobindo.

In 1987, Professor Reddy came in contact with the Indian Army and has since been giving talks to the Indian Army on subjects like Indian culture, the Mission of India and Motivation and Leadership. In 1994, at the request of General BC Joshi, who was then Chief of Army Staff, Professor Reddy shifted to Delhi for two years to help him in his work. He was appointed Adviser to the Army Welfare Education Society. After the passing away of General Joshi, he worked closely with General Shankar Roy Chowdury when he was the Chief of Army Staff. Since then, he has been in close touch with the Armed forces and has conducted workshops for the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. These workshops deal with Motivation, Leadership, and the Indian nation. They have been held both in Pondicherry at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and at training centres of the Armed forces elsewhere.

Professor Reddy has also written a book for the Indian Army, Bravest of the Brave, and a monograph Kargil: The Manifestation of a Deeper Problem. Professor Reddy’s brief is that History, as it has generally been conceived and written in modern times, has limited itself to the outer narration and interpretation of events and has ignored the psychological forces and factors that affect human life. This predominance of external events has been so great that most modern historians and political thinkers have concluded that objective necessities are bylaws. Nature, Professor Kittu Reddy implies, is the only really determining force; all else is a result of superficial accidents of these forces.

Scientific history has been conceived as if it must be a record and appreciation of the environmental motives of political action, of the play of economic forces and developments and the course of institutional evolution. But man is essentially mental and spiritual being, and to ignore these psychological factors would be to miss out the very essence of human growth and evolution. Indian history in particular loses all its true significance when looked from this purely external viewpoint. For the Indian mind and temperament is naturally inward looking.

And, indeed, this book is an attempt to look at Indian history from the psychological and inner angle. It is an attempt to place in proper perspective the deeper psychological and spiritual elements even in the outer life of the Indian nation. As Sri Aurobindo wrote: “All great awakenings in India, all her periods of mightiest and most varied vigour, have drawn their vitality from the fountainheads of some deep religious awakening. Wherever religious awakening has been complete and grand, the national energy it has created has been gigantic and puissant.”

Professor Reddy’s book, History of India: A New Approach, begins with the pulsating spiritual happenings in the Vedic and Upanishadic times, and traces the evolution of India to the building of empires. It is followed by a description of the invasions, both Muslim and English, and the psychological impact that these had on the people of India. Next, there is a detailed description of the freedom movement with special emphasis on the psychological forces that were in play till the attainment of Independence in 1947. Finally, it concludes with a vision for the future of India.

It is to be hoped that History of India will give a greater insight and lead to a truer understanding of Indian culture and civilisation. This book is particularly aimed at the young – not only to those who are young in body but also in the heart. Because, as Sri Aurobindo prophesied: “It is not till the Motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great Divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart, that these petty fears and hopes vanish in the all-absorbing passion for the Mother and her service, and the patriotism that works miracles and saves a doomed nation, is born…

“Once that vision has come to the people, there can be no rest, no peace, no further slumber till the temple has been made ready, the image installed and the sacrifice offered. A great nation, which has had that vision, can never again bend its neck in subjection to the yoke of a conqueror.”

The truth about Aurangzeb: Francois Gautier

The truth about Aurangzeb: Francois Gautier

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February 17, 2007

FACT, the Trust which I head, is holding an exhibition on ‘Aurangzeb as he was according to Mughal documents’, from February 16 to 20 at New Delhi’s Habitat Center, the Palm Court Gallery, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Why an exhibition on Aurangzeb, some may ask. Firstly, I have been a close student of Indian history, and one of its most controversial figures has been Aurangzeb (1658-1707). It is true that under him the Mughal empire reached its zenith, but Aurangzeb was also a very cruel ruler � some might even say monstrous.

What are the facts? Aurangzeb did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple, he ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishwanath temple, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, and had mosques built on a number of cleared temple sites. Other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them. A few examples: Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura; the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujarat; the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares; and the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in four, if not five figures. Aurangzeb did not stop at destroying temples, their users were also wiped out; even his own brother Dara Shikoh was executed for taking an interest in Hindu religion; Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because he objected to Aurangzeb’s forced conversions.

Yet, Percival Spear, co-author with Romila Thapar of the prestigious A History of India (Penguin), writes: ‘Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares.’ L’histoire de l’Inde moderne (Fayard), the French equivalent of Percival Spear’s history of India, praises Aurangzeb and says, ‘He has been maligned by Hindu fundamentalists’. Even Indian politicians are ignorant of Aurangzeb’s evil deeds. Nehru might have known about them, but for his own reasons he chose to keep quiet and instructed his historians to downplay Aurangzeb’s destructive drive and instead praise him as a benefactor of arts.

Since then six generations of Marxist historians have done the same and betrayed their allegiance to truth. Very few people know for instance that Aurangzeb banned any kind of music and that painters had to flee his wrath and take refuge with some of Rajasthan’s friendly maharajahs.

Thus, we thought we should get at the root of the matter. History (like journalism) is about documentation and first-hand experience. We decided to show Aurangzeb according to his own documents. There are an incredible number of farhans, original edicts of Aurangzeb hand-written in Persian, in India’s museums, particularly in Rajasthan, such as the Bikaner archives. It was not always easy to scan them, we encountered resistance, sometimes downright hostility and we had to go once to the chief minister to get permission. Indeed, the director of Bikaner archives told us that in 50 years we were the first ones asking for the farhans dealing with Aurangzeb’s destructive deeds. Then we asked painters from Rajasthan to reproduce in the ancient Mughal style some of the edicts: the destruction of Somnath temple; the trampling of Hindus protesting jaziya tax by Aurangzeb’s elephants; or the order from Aurangzeb prohibiting Hindus to ride horses and palanquins; or the beheading of Teg Bahadur and Dara Shikoh.

People might say: ‘OK, this is all true, Aurangzeb was indeed a monster, but why rake up the past, when we have tensions between Muslims and Hindus today?’ There are two reasons for this exhibition. The first is that no nation can move forward unless its children are taught to look squarely at their own history, the good and the bad, the evil and the pure. The French, for instance, have many dark periods in their history, more recently some of the deeds they did during colonisation in North Africa or how they collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and handed over French Jews who died in concentration camps (the French are only now coming to terms with it).

The argument that looking at one’s history will pit a community against the other does not hold either: French Catholics and Protestants, who share a very similar religion, fought each other bitterly. Catholics brutally murdered thousands of Protestants in the 18th century; yet today they live peacefully next to each other. France fought three wars with Germany in the last 150 years, yet they are great friends today.

Let Hindus and Muslims then come to terms with what happened under Aurangzeb, because Muslims suffered as much as Hindus. It was not only Shah Jahan or Dara Shikoh who were murdered, but also the forefathers of today’s Indian Muslims who have been converted at 90 per cent. Aurangzeb was the Hitler, the asura of medieval India. No street is named after Hitler in the West, yet in New Delhi we have Aurangzeb Road, a constant reminder of the horrors Aurangzeb perpetrated against Indians, including his own people.

Finally, Aurangzeb is very relevant today because he thought that Sunni Islam was the purest form of his religion and he sought to impose it with ruthless efficiency — even against those of his own faith, such as his brother. Aurangzeb clamped down on the more syncretic, more tolerant Islam, of the Sufi kind, which then existed in India. But he did not fully succeed. Four centuries later, is he going to have the last word? I remember, when I started covering Kashmir in the late ’70s, that Islam had a much more open face. The Kashmir Muslim, who is also a descendant of converted Hindus, might have thought that Allah was the only true God, but he accepted his Kashmiri Pandit neighbour, went to his or her marriage, ate in his or her house and the Hindu in turn went to the mosque. Women used to walk with open faces, watch TV, films.

Then the shadow of Aurangzeb fell on Kashmir and the hardline Sunnis came from Pakistan and Afghanistan: cinemas were banned, the burqa imposed, 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits were chased out of Kashmir through violence and became refugees in their own land and the last Sufi shrine of Sharar-e-Sharif was burnt to the ground (I was there). Today the Shariat has been voted in Kashmir, a state of democratic, secular India, UP’s Muslims have applauded, and the entire Indian media which went up in flames when the government wanted Vande Mataram to be sung, kept quiet. The spirit of Aurangzeb seems to triumph.

But what we need today in India and indeed in the world is a Dara Shikoh, who reintroduces an Islam which, while believing in the supremacy of its Prophet, not only accepts other faiths, but is also able to see the good in each religion, study them, maybe create a synthesis. Islam needs to adapt its scriptures which were created nearly 15 centuries ago for the people and customs of these times, but which are not necessarily relevant in some of their injunctions today. Kabir, Dara Shikoh and some of the Sufi saints attempted this task, but failed. Aurangzeb knew what he was doing when he had his own brother beheaded. And we know what we are saying when we say that this exhibition is very relevant to today’s India.

May the Spirit of Dara Shikoh come back to India and bring back Islam to a more tolerant human face.

Francois Gautier

THE FERENGI’S COLUMN : THE HINDU ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY

Source: http://www.francoisgautier.com

The Pope is arriving in India on the 5th of November. Does he know that he may be stepping on a land from which Christianity originated ? Indeed, over the centuries, numerous historians and Sages have pointed out that not only Hinduism has had a predominant influence on Christianity, but that many of the Christian rites could be directly borrowed from Buddhist and Hindu India !

French historian Alain Danielou had noticed as early as 1950 “that a great number of events which surround the birth of Christ – as it is related in the Gospels – strangely remind us of buddhists and krishnaites legends”. Danielou quotes as examples the structure of the Christian Church, which resembles that of the buddhist Chaitya; the rigorous asceticism of certain early Christian sects, which reminds one of the asceticism of Jain and Buddhist saints; the veneration of relics, the usage of holy water, which is an Indian practice, or the word “Amen”, which comes from Hindu OM. Another historian, Belgium Konraad Elst, also remarks “that many early Christian saints, such as Hippolytus of Rome, possessed an intimate knowledge of Brahmanism”. Elst even quotes the famous Saint Augustin who wrote: ” that we never cease to look towards India, where many things are proposed to our admiration”. Unfortunately, remarks American Indianist David Frawley, “from the 2d century onwards, Christians leaders decided to break away from the Hindu influence and show that Christianity ONLY started with the birth of Christ”. Hence, many later saints began branding Brahmins as “heretics” and Saint Gregory set a future trend by publicly destroying the “pagan” idols of the Hindus.

Great Indian Sages, such as Sri Aurobindo, or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living, which is practised in more than 80 countries, have often remarked that the stories recounting how Jesus came to India to be initiated, are probably true. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar notes, for instance, that Jesus sometimes wore an orange robe, the Hindu symbol of renunciation in the world, which was not a usual practice in Judaism. “In the same way, he continues, the worshipping of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism is probably borrowed from the Hindu cult of Devi”. Bells too, which cannot be found today in synagogues, the surviving form of Judaism, are used in Church – and we all know their importance in Buddhism and Hinduism for thousands of years. There are many other similarities between Hinduism and Christianity : incense, sacred bread (Prasadam), the different altars around churches (which recall the manifold deities in their niches inside Hindu temples); reciting the rosary (japamala), the Christian Trinity (the ancient Santana Dharma: Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), Christian processions, the sign of the cross (Anganyasa) etc…

In fact, Hinduism’s pervading influence seems to go much earlier than Christianity. American mathematician, A. Seindenberg, has for example shown that the Sulbasutras, the ancient Vedic science of mathematics, constitute the source of mathematics in the Antic world, from Babylon to Greece : ” the arithmetic equations of the Sulbasutras he writes, were used in the observation of the triangle by the Babylonians, as well as in the edification of Egyptian pyramids, in particular the funeral altar in form of pyramid known in the vedic world as smasana-cit (Seindenberg 1978: 329). In astronomy too, the “Indus” (from the valley of the Indus) have left a universal legacy, determining for instance the dates of solstices, as noted by 18th century French astronomer Jean-Sylvain Bailly : ” the movement of stars which was calculated by Hindus 4500 years ago, does not differ even by a minute from the tables which we are using today”. And he concludes: “the Hindu systems of astronomy are much more ancient than those of the Egyptians – even the Jews derived from the Hindus their knowledge “. There is also no doubt that the Greeks heavily borrowed from the “Indus”. Danielou notes that the Greek cult of Dionysos, which later became Bacchus with the Romans, is a branch of Shivaism : ” Greeks spoke of India as the sacred territory of Dionysos and even historians of Alexander the Great identified the Indian Shiva with Dionysos and mention the dates and legends of the Puranas “. French philosopher and Le Monde journalist Jean-Paul Droit, recently wrote in his book “The Forgetfulness of India” that ” the Greeks loved so much Indian philosophy, that Demetrios Galianos had even translated the Bhagavad Gita “.

Many western and Christian historians have tried to nullify this Indian influence on Christian and ancient Greece, by saying that it is the West, through the Aryan invasion, and later the onslaught of Alexander the Great on India, which influenced Indian astronomy, mathematics, architecture, philosophy – and not vice versa. But new archaeological and linguistic discoveries such as the mapping of the ancient Saraswati river by satellites, or the decipherment of the Indus script, have proved not only that there never was an Aryan invasion and that there is a continuity from ancient Vedic civilisation to the Saraswati culture, but also that Indian History has been considerably post-dated by British, or Birtish-related historians. The Vedas, for instance, which constitute the soul of present day Hinduism, have not been composed in 1500 BC, as dear Max Mueller arbitrarily decided, but may go back to 7000 years Before Christ… giving Hinduism plenty of time to influence Christianity and older civilisations which preceded it. Thus, instead of protesting the Pope’s visit, the VHP and other Hindu organisations should rather point out to him the close links which exist between Christianity and ancient India, which bind them into a secret brotherhood.

FRANCOIS GAUTIER

* This article gives the gist of a book, “The Indian Origin of Things”, by the same author.