On a still summer afternoon in Haridwar, under the platform that was the gaddi office of Gangaram, Dhagdu, from Bihar, who uses just one name, crouched with his family. They waited for their turn, the moment when they would be noticed and the record keeper would write their names into the book. “We want our descendants to know that someone in their family had been here to Haridwar and attended a Mahakumbh,” said Dhagdu, rasping through betel nut stained teeth.
Minutes later, Ravindra Bharadwaj, an important-looking man with a walrus moustache, who sat surrounded by bahis—scrolls that house records of visiting families— summoned them.
Without looking at the family, Bharadwaj shot off questions—“What village? What caste? Your father’s name? Grandfather’s name?”—that left Dhagdu confused. Hasty consultations commenced as Bharadwaj tapped an impatient pen on thick, handmade paper: he was not idle, he had things to do.
When the answers were found, Bharadwaj began writing in Devnagari, slowly and deliberately—“Dhagdu, son of Ghela, grandson of Chuniya, hailing from Banka district of Bihar, visited Haridwar in April 2010, with his wife and two sons—Rohit and Ram. He was here to attend the Mahakumbh.” Asked to sign, Dhagdu pressed an ink-stained thumb on the paper. (via Modernization plan runs into ancient biases – Economy and Politics – livemint.com).
Keeping such traditions and records alive – without State patronage or support, is without parallel in the world. Indian brahmans have a great history – as indeed India itself has!
Alexander – an ethnic ‘cleanser’?
Some 23 centuries ago, Alexander massacred 8,000-10,000 Brahmins – most probably, from the Takshashila University. It was this massacre that possibly started the decline of Takshashila - and not some silly fiction of a Huna invasion.
The ‘provocation’ for this massacre was the active role of the Takshashila Brahmans in organizing Indian rulers to jointly face the Greek invasion.
Violence against intellectuals, (Brahmans) is taboo in India. Killing intellectuals, came easily to Alexander.
Remember, the execution of Socrates!
Those who learn from history
Upper-caste ‘Brahmans’ became exploiters. Indian kings ruled like oriental despots. Indian baniya, thou art an unscrupulous and unethical cheat! As for the ‘dispossessed’ peasant, or worker, he was a born liar and lazy shirker! Dirty Indians, all of us! The British Raj, was of course, enlightened, progressive, egalitarian.
And full of liberty.
Greek lessons in India
To puncture Indian campaign for self-rule, independence, the British propaganda machinery shot multiple arrows.
Against Lal-Bal-Pal, the British pitted Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Phule, Agarkar, Gokhale. Subhash Chandra Bose’s foil was Gandhiji. And the ‘evil’ caste system as the excuse for Indian ‘backwardness’! To cover up the daridra (poverty), dushkal (famine) and dravyashosha (drain), the British offered India ‘education’, ‘social reform.’
Patterned on the lines of a superior culture like Britain.
British legacy in India
Wonder why the Great British culture is taking them nowhere!
After they lost their slaves (in 1830), after the end of piracy (1860) and the end of colonies (1960). Even with a hybrid, mongrel polity, India has emerged as a significant economic force within 60 years of British departure.
Wonder what India missed by a doing this hybrid shindig – instead of a full Indic.
The old culture managed to live through many a fierce storm and tempest, but though it kept its outer form, it lost its real content. Today it is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all-powerful opponent — the bania civilisation of the capitalist West. It will succumb to the newcomer, for the West brings science, and science brings food for the hungry millions. But the West also brings an antidote to the evils of this cut-throat civilisation — the principles of socialism, of cooperation, and service to the community for the common good. This is not so unlike the old Brahmin idea of service. (from Jawaharlal Nehru, an autobiography: with musings on recent events in India By Jawaharlal Nehru via Nehru: Man Among Men By Raja R. Mehrotra).
India and Nehru got off to wrong start at the very first instant. When he made his ‘famous’ tryst with destiny speech, who was Nehru talking to? To the less than 5% Indians who understood English? If Free India’s first Prime Minister did not see fit to talk to Indians intelligibly, how close or how much did he care for India?
Nehru’s ideas about Indian history are possibly his biggest failing. Nehru’s puerile ignorance about India’s scientific tradition does not deserve further examination. Look at his pseudo-romantic ideas of Indian Brahminism.
In Upanishadic times, there was the Nachiketa story, where his rich Brahman father, Uddalaka, /Vajasrava, was ‘giving’ away old, barren, unproductive cows – and keeping the best for himself. Obviously, Uddalaka, /Vajasrava did not become rich through ‘selfless’ service. Probably, Nehru was not Brahmin enough to know this lesson. Or we can blame his British school, Harrow. Why did they not teach him anything much about Upanishads?
Much after Uddalaka /Vajasrava, foreign students paid upto 1000 coins in advance to receive education at Takshashila – and there were thousands of such students. Students came from all over the world – and paid large sums of money to Indian teachers for education!
The Tibetan-Buddhist student, Marpa, the Translator (1012–1099), was warned by a co-traveller “If you go to India without lots of gold, searching for dharma will be like trying to drink water from an empty gourd.” Interestingly, Naropa, the Indian teacher forced Marpa to give up his entire stock of gold. Having extracted all of Marpa’s gold, Naropa threw all the gold dust, up in the air, exclaiming that the whole world was gold to him. Where was Nehru’s much-vaunted Brahmin idea of service then. Nehru’s ideas of Brahminical selfless service were alien to India – as were his ideas of rampant, extractive, profiteering banias.
Indian trade ethics
Indian banias were limited in their profit-taking by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh-labh’ ethics. It is शुभ लाभ shubh labh, that prevents traditional Indian merchant community, from dealing with slaves, drugs and alcohol. The ‘green’ agenda of शुभ लाभ shubl labh, also prevents traditional banias from dealing in meat products. Unlike Nehru’s British banias whose wealth was created from slave trade – apart from drugs and alcohol.
Historically, trade in India is governed by शुभ लाभ ‘shubh labh’ – and hence Indians have not been major players in drugs proliferation (unlike Japan, the West, which traded Opium in Korea and China) or in slave trade. In modern times, India is not a big player in spamming or in software virus – though a power in computing industry. In August 2008, a hoax story alleged that an Indian hacker, had broken into a credit card database, and sold it to the European underworld. Some ‘experts’ feared that this would spark of a crime wave across Europe.
On slavery, the very basis of Western dominance, in his autobiography of nearly 500 pages, Nehru mentions slavery less than 5 times. Which just goes onto to show how well the Indian colonial masters had ‘supressed’ their own real history and source of wealth.
Underneath the Western sky
Colonial India’s English push was understandable. But, Nehru’s imposition of English on India is beyond defence. What more, after 60 years of Independence, state patronage of English language is unwarranted by the Indian Republic – and illegitimate. Making sense of the newly formed Indian nation was herculean task – even for Nehru. After more than a century of propaganda, Western ‘education’, inversion of history, post-colonial Indian rulers struggled between the ‘glossy’ imported idioms and the familiar native dialogue.
Caught in this dilemma, the Nehruvian Indian State vacillates between a unique Indic inheritance and the detritus of dead-end colonialism.
Assault on Indian academia
Mohammed Bakhtiar Khilji destroyed the Universities and schools of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapura and Jagddala around 1200 AD. This marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. 600 years later, the British further damaged the Indic system of education, with State subsidies and patronage of Western education – the watershed being Bentinck’s proclamation in 1835.
Thus, the reduced (quality and quantity) output from the ‘Indian thought factory’ led to stasis and the decline that we see today – through the prism of last 800 years of violence and destruction of Indic thought. This problem gets further magnified with the existing and continued subsidy to English language /Western education by the Indian Government.
Many centuries ago, Indians (under Islamic rulers) thought that Persian was the most important language in the world. And then it became Urdu. Now there are hosannas to English. Persian and Urdu were languages that the ruling class foisted on the Indians.
As is English.