“Danger Ahead: India may become a Hindu nation”, Cries Global Media


By: Maria Wirth

I sometimes wonder who influences whom: the Indian mainstream journalists the foreign correspondents or the other way round, as they always hold the same view. Or is there even a directive from the top of the media houses about who must be protected and who can be abused?

Obviously, Hindus can be abused. I was shocked when I recently checked articles in major newspapers like the New York Times on the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh. Like in the run-up to the general elections in 2014, when a Modi victory loomed large, the media went berserk. The gist was: By appointing Yogi Adityanath, Prime Minister Modi has finally shown his true face of a Hindu fundamentalist who wants to make India a ‘Hindu nation’ where minorities have no place. The articles peddled untruths and drew unacceptable conclusions. The Swiss NZZ for example wrote that it is hardly possible for Prime Minister Modi’s government to call itself the representative of all Indians after appointing a figure like Yogi Adityanath.

A Hindu nation is projected as the worst possible scenario by the wrongly called ‘liberal’ media. Yet, the same media don’t react when America or most other western countries are referred to as Christian nations. Nor do they get agitated about the numerous Muslim nations; not even about those which still have harsh blasphemy laws. Why are these ok, and a Hindu nation is not ok? They don’t explain; they just insinuate that minorities (read Muslims and Christians) will suffer in a Hindu nation.

Maybe they came to this conclusion because minorities like Jews or Hindus suffer in certain Christian or Muslim nations though the media hardly pulls those countries up for it. However, even otherwise, this conclusion is wrong, as Hindus have a different mind-set. They are open towards other views, unlike ‘good’ Christians and Muslims who feel obligated to make everyone believe what they believe, if necessary by deceit or force.

Hindus cannot be put into one single box. There are too many different ways to reach the goal of life. As it were, there are many minorities within Hinduism. But they all are based on the Vedic insight that everything, including our persons, is permeated by the same divine essence which is called by many names but is ultimately ONE. Our human consciousness (Atman) is one with the cosmic consciousness (Brahman) and to realize this, is the goal and fulfillment of life. “Satyam vada, Dharmam chara” the Veda exhorts – speak the truth and do what is right under the given circumstances. And find out who you really are: you are not a separate entity but in the depths of your being one with all.

From this follows that ‘good’ Hindus are those rare human beings whose dharma makes them regard all others as brothers and sisters. Their dharma makes them further respect nature and not harm unnecessarily any living being.

Hindus do not, unlike Christians and Muslims, divide humanity into those who are chosen by God and those who are eternally damned. Hindu children are not taught to look down on those who are not Hindus, unlike children of the dogmatic religions who are taught that their God does not love those others unless they join their ‘true’ religions.

Hindus are also comparatively kinder to animals. The great bulk of vegetarians worldwide are Hindus.

Hindus never fought crusades or jihads to establish their dharma in foreign lands. In fact, they didn’t need to, because they convinced most of Asia merely by solid arguments.  Yet, for the past thousand years Hindus were at the receiving end of jihads and conversion campaigns and millions of Hindus were killed in cold blood because they were Hindus.

It has to be held in favour of Hindus that they held on to their tradition and did not succumb to the pressure and even violence brought on them to adopt blind belief that only one particular person has revealed the full truth. Instead, they continued trusting their sages who never asked for blind belief, but asked to verify their insights through experience.

So why do media worldwide get so worked up about ‘Hindu fundamentalists’ and a possible ‘Hindu nation’. What is wrong with the fundamentals? There is nothing wrong with the fundamentals. But there is one major difference: For Hindus, the Divinity is in all and all is in the Divinity, whereas for Christians and Muslims the Divinity is separate from his creation watching us from somewhere.

The concept of Divinity is also different. For Hindus the best description for the absolute truth is sat-chit-ananda (it is true, aware and blissful). The many personal gods help the devotee to realize the Absolute. Christians and Muslims perceive Divinity in its highest form as a personal, superhuman entity who is jealous of other gods. The first commandment in Christianity and a very important issue in Islam is the claim that nobody must worship other gods except the ‘one true god’, which both religions claim is only with them.

In all likelihood the Hindu view comes closer to truth. When the first translations of Vedic texts appeared in the west, the greatest minds in Europe were greatly impressed by Indian thought. It did spread among scientists, too, who used it to push the frontiers of science further. It is no coincidence that modern science discovered that all is one energy after Vedanta became known in the west. It is also no coincidence that the Church lost much of its power in Europe when some of India’s wisdom filtered down to the masses

Why then are the media worldwide so worried about a nation where the Hindu roots are fostered? Where Sanskrit is taught, which is the most perfect, dignified, powerful language on earth and which is useful even for NASA? Where yoga is practised in schools, which is an ideal means for all-round development and which, on a deeper level, helps to find fulfilment in live? Where Vedic philosophy is studied, which inspired the new scientific discoveries for example in nuclear physics? Where the amazing wisdom of Mahabharata and Ramayana becomes common knowledge, which is already taught in business seminars abroad? Where children chant “Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu” (let all be happy) instead of Humpey dumpey, which happens already in certain schools in the west?

Yet as soon as Hindus make suggestions for India to keep its Hindu character or rather, to gain back its Hindu character, as even after Independence, the youth was encouraged to abandon it, there is an outcry by the media that “Hindu fundamentalists” want to make India a Hindu nation and exclude religious minorities. Ironically, ‘Hindu’ is a geographical term, with the same root as Indian – people who lived beyond the Sindu or between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean.

So why would Indians who rather recently converted to Islam or Christianity not be proud of the achievements of their ancestors? India was the cradle of civilization, a knowledge hub and the richest country on earth. It was known for its wisdom. Greeks, including Pythagoras, are said to have come to India for knowledge and today everybody knows his name, but not the name of the Indian mathematician (Baudhayana) who originally discovered the Pythagoras theorem. Surely Christians and Muslims cannot have any objection that students are taught this fact or the fact that the Rishis of the Rig Veda (10.22.14) knew many thousand years before Copernicus that the earth goes around the sun. Surely they also cannot have any objection that students chant “May all be happy” in Sanskrit, the language of their forefathers. If someone calls such teaching communal it is malicious. If someone objects to this teaching, should not he be shouted at by the media instead of those who want to revive their ancient culture? Is not he the one who tries to divide society and not those who say “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (all is one family) due to their philosophical outlook?

Hindus are the exemplary role model for ‘how not to exclude others’? Where else have religious minorities flourished and grown like in India? Is not the relative harmony in this amazing diversity in India generally admired abroad? Media persons need only to look around in the world to realize this fact.

Why then are Hindus of all people accused of excluding others?

The reason may be this: neither the west nor Muslim countries want a strong India.  India was the cradle of civilisation and over most of the known history economically very powerful. They may fear that based on her ancient culture, India may rise again to the top. Is it the media’s job to put Hindus perpetually on the defensive by spreading this bogey of Hindu fundamentalism and prevent a better education policy which would give India an edge?

“Imagine, India would become a Hindu nation!” the media shout infuriated. The problem, however, is that they don’t imagine it and don’t ask basic questions. If they only imagined what a Hindu nation looks like, they might start propagating Hindu nations all over the globe for harmony and peace in the world.

One day, when people have become tired of blindly believing strange things, and when nobody is threatened any longer with dire consequences if he stops believing in those strange things, the world may be grateful to Bharat Mata that she has conceived and preserved over millennia those eternal, precious insights for the benefit of humanity.

India’s Destiny: Roles of Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar


By: Ashok Kumar Panda, Senior Advocate &

Aniruddha Purushotham, Advocate

Introduction

The object of this thesis is to decipher and analyse India’s destiny, in the context of the struggle for freedom, in the first half of the twentieth century. The roles and mission of Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar are central to our understanding of the developments, political and social, which culminated in India attaining political freedom in 1947. All these stalwarts have made their singular marks on the political map of India and our history during this period cannot be construed without a proper understanding of their role and their personal motivations. For these are the men who helped in shaping India’s destiny. Each one of them sublimated their personal suffering and humiliation in taking the country forward in its struggle against British Colonialism.

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi, who grew up as an admirer of British culture and education had his first brush with colonial power in South Africa, when he was thrown out the first-class coach because of the colour of his skin. That was the moment, when Gandhi’s soul was awakened and he made it his life’s mission to espouse the cause of emancipation and struggle against British tyranny. The life story of Mahatma Gandhi is that of gradual awakening of his self on various issues such as Indian independence, emancipation of castes, democracy at the grassroot level.

Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj was also marked by a process of evolution. Immediately coming back from South Africa, and travelling the country as a commoner, Gandhi developed ‘Hind Swaraj’, which he wrote in 1908. Gandhi’s ‘Hind Swaraj’ is the central doctrine of his political philosophy which is based on moral and ethical considerations. It can be called as ‘Gandhi’s Gita’. The ‘Hind Swaraj’ epitomized his political roadmap of India.

Gandhi throughout his political career stood by the basic concepts of Hind Swaraj, being liberation of the individual from State, Caste and Religion. He always emphasized on grassroot democracy, satyagraha and non-violence, absence of exploitation prevalent in Industrial economies. The focus of Hind Swaraj was liberation from the British colonialism, which was gradual in character. Initially he advocated home rule, a kind of autonomy for India within the British Dominion and gradually it developed into the concept of complete independence from British rule (purnaswaraj).

Gandhi authored this work in a span of ten days, on his voyage back to London from South Africa. His motive behind this piece is drawn from his interactions with nationalists who perpetuated the Indian Cause from England by promoting armed struggle to attain independence. Dismayed by their faltered philosophy, he felt duty bound to promulgate his philosophy, which he believed would yield the right results, without the need of a sacrificial lamb.

Gandhi’s ideas on Satyagraha and nonviolence developed in response to and in contradistinction from the concept of armed struggle being advocated by the Nationalists, including Sri Aurobindo, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Gandhi’s idea on the emancipation of the Dalits, known at that time as the Depressed Classes, also developed gradually and mainly in response to the demands of the Dalits, under the leadership of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar for proportional representation.

Gandhi himself has responded that ‘Hind Swaraj’ was written ‘in answer to the Indian School of Violence and its prototype in South Africa’.

Gandhi developed his argument of Swaraj by distinguishing how sections and classes of society have propagated a misconstrued and misaligned version of Swaraj. He demonstrated marks of admiration to his gurus, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Dadabhai Naoroji, who pioneered the movement, and laid the roots of Indian Nationalism. He felt duty bound to develop the concept of Swaraj based upon the foundations laid by them. Other contemporary leaders had confined the idea of Swaraj in a singular domain of autonomy and tax. In response, he observed that a mere racial change of leadership would not attain Swaraj. Simultaneously, he maintained his disdain for the Extremists’ beliefs and ideals.

It was at this juncture that Gandhi observed that this mode would result in a mere replacement of Englishstan, but not an establishment of Swaraj, in its true sense.

On the other, Gandhi was distressed by the self-serving agenda of the elite and intellectual class of Indian society who formed the support base of Indian National Congress. These personalities, eminent in their fields, could not connect with the Indian masses. The emerging middle class could not resonate with poorer sections of Indian society as common ground of communication like language, etc. was missing between them. The misery of the poorer sections, the peasants, the artisans, the workers, were not reflected in the programs of the Indian National Congress.

It was a mix of these undercurrents which signified conflicts and disunity among various sections and classes of Indian society, for which India could not tide over the British Rule. With fundamentally weak and precarious convictions prevailing in the Indian National Congress, Gandhi knew that he had to be that institution of change, aligning the misaligned, converting the conceited and gearing the people of India towards achieving India’s ordained destiny.

It was Gandhi, with his deeper understanding of the soul of India, that is the peasants in the villages, was able to chalk out programs of mass actions like the Champaran Satyagraha in Bihar and the Dandi March, or Salt Satyagraha. Gandhi by galvanizing the popular anger after the Jallianwala Massacre, was able to give a new direction to the struggle against British Colonial powers. He was able to instil a cause and sense of purpose in the hearts of the common man. He gave hope for hopeless and empowered the meek and the damned to boldly stand for their rights and face all consequences emanating from the wrath of the Colonial Powers.

His angst was best demonstrated by his comment, “The English have not taken India; we have given it to them. They are not in India because of their strength, but because we keep them”.

Gandhi understood and sympathised with the popular meaning of ‘Swaraj’, which meant self-government for the common man. However, he believed that his calling was to shape and take India beyond that. For him, the popular conception of Swaraj was just a small part of fulfilling his grand design of Swaraj.

It is at this stage, pertinent to understand Gandhi’s Swaraj, as he himself put it:

…if we become free, India is free. And in this thought you have a definition of Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves. It is, therefore the palm of our hands. Do not consider this Swaraj to be like a dream. Here there is no idea of sitting still. The Swaraj that I wish to picture before you and me is such that, after we have once realized it, we will endeavour to the end of our lifetime to persuade others to do likewise. But such Swaraj has to be experienced.”

Critical analysis of this definition reveals two distinct components in truly achieving self-rule. The first integral part is learning to rule the self. That is to say, learning to control the body and the mind. It is the active cognitive capability of ruling the self. To be the master of one’s own destiny. Once the individual attains this ability, he is said to be free, and to have attained Swaraj. Gandhi believed that the internal Swaraj would inevitably result in Native Rule as well. Thus, he did not distinguish between self-government and self-rule. For him, the former is a fallout of the latter.

Despite this dream-like, near illusionary concept of Swaraj, Gandhi remained a realist. He understood and voiced the difficulties of attaining this Swaraj. He became a moral compass for others to follow. He motivated his fellow-men to draw upon their internal strength and fight against the heaviest of odds.

He described India’s freedom as being directly proportional to an Indian’s inward freedom. Gandhi was one of the few who truly understood the value of the word ‘Swaraj’. He knew that it is sacred. Sadly, after his demise, this word has become corrupted by political propaganda, widely misquoted and misinterpreted. For Swaraj is not freedom from all restraint. Rather, Swaraj is for the individual to practice self-restraint. The true meaning of Swaraj, as conceptualized in the Vedas was not axiomatic to the popular belief of freedom at the time. However, it is axiomatic to the true meaning of independence, for which Gandhi devoted his life.

Gandhi did not elaborate on the mechanics of attaining true Swaraj in his works. However, he demonstrated it in his life. He was man whose thought directly correlated with his action. Perhaps it was deliberate, so that we, as a later generation, may understand his vision for what it was, than by inferring gestures and developing conjectures. Thus, it becomes easier to understand his vision for man by harmoniously analysing his work and his life.

Now we can dissect the plethora of ‘Swaraj’ into manageable components. At the first instance, Gandhi envisioned intellectual freedom. He believed himself to be a propagator of the cause, because at the root, Indian society needed to release itself from the chains on the mind. The impact of this revolutionary change is now embedded permanently in the Preamble as well as the fundamental rights guaranteed by The Constitution of India.

The next step on the ladder is the gate of restraint, change and adaption. The common Indian had been successfully adapting from one rule to the next, from the Mughal Empire to the British Command. Gandhi propagated that society was aligned predominantly to maladaptation. Self-knowledge actuates into situationally appropriate action. There is a clear nexus with the mind and the body. A man, having realized self-awareness, would naturally act in a manner to protect his cause and being. It was the failure of this coordination, that Gandhi knew the violent resistance to be a futile cause.

At the top of the three-tier pyramid of self-rule, stands the freedom to live alongside and along-with the community. For Gandhi, this reflected the traditional village life. His core ideology stood that this communal living is optimal at a small-scale. A smaller commune divides responsibility and self-governance in clear and equitable terms. As the community grows larger, the web grows intricate and the power concentrates, therein depriving the individual in following his self-rule. For the three-tier pyramid to function and attain ‘Swaraj’, the society must be small and close-knit. The individual must be able establish the strong bonds of trust and faith in others. He must believe that the next man is just as capable to control his own mind and body as he himself is. It is this belief, for which Gandhi advocated for Panchayat Raj.

The closest India came in achieving this ideal was during the lifetime of Gandhi himself. After his demise, society contracted towards institutional power and central control, as would be clear from the Constituent Assembly Debates, wherein there was no sympathy for the concept of decentralization of power. The experience of partition propelled the founding fathers to move towards centralization of power and negation of Gram Swaraj.

The weak and the disorganized once again became subject to exploitation. The rich and educated reinstituted their self-serving mission, in complete disregard to social values and development.

A David and Goliath analogy can be perhaps drawn to Swaraj. Swaraj, epitomized as David in the age-old tale, and the idea of domination and exploitation of man by man be characterized as Goliath. This highlights that Swaraj is an active process, and it faces a constant battle against base human tendencies laid in the seven cardinal sins.

That is why Gandhi knew that the struggle for Swaraj is not a sprint, but a marathon. The individual must carefully tread the path towards Swaraj. As one gets closer to it, the opposing scale of reward burdens down heavily. To placate this argument in more coherent terms; as the individual crosses the tiers of Swaraj, he develops his mind, body and soul. He gets farther ahead than others when measured by social indicators. At such stage, the opportunity and reward to change and deviate away from Swaraj is great. If he does, the individual may be socially and economically rewarded.

When a child is born, he has no awareness apart from minimal instinctive reflex. Without care and attention, the child will ultimately slip away from this realm. As he grows, his mind expands. He sees, he observes and he learns. He begins to develop an awareness to his surroundings. As he moves to adolescence, he begins to acquire the skills for basic productivity and societal contribution. This is where the average Indian stagnates. As the man becomes educated, he inches towards Swaraj. As he begins to develop the discipline, restraint and capability of self-governance, he transcends the limits of the average Indian man. His understanding of his self and surroundings allow him to become an asset to the society. But to reach the end of the path, he must remain true to the cause.

Without enlightenment and moral values, it is easy to give up this righteous cause and exploit his talent and development for personal gain. That is what vitiates the development of the man as a social being. The monumental leaders and visionaries who give up the cause half way, cause more damage and deter society as a whole from developing. This was Gandhi’s fear. This fear, may perhaps be a reality, considering the dark days of modern Indian history. The cult of blind hero-worship and dynastic politics running through political parties all across country are clear indicators of the threat to the concept of Swaraj.

On the road to Swaraj, Gandhi believed that Gramswaraj and Panchayati Raj were integral, only through which the final tier of the pyramid of Swaraj could be attained. It was part of his political roadmap for India, and he believed it necessary for the continued sustenance of Indian culture, heritage and freedom.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, was a man, who in his own right was one of the most powerful thinkers in shaping and moulding India’s struggle for ‘Swaraj’. The Swaraj that Gandhi envisioned did not find support with Dr. Ambedkar, since Dr. Ambedkar was first-hand cognizant of harsh realities in our deeply hierarchical Hindu society. The reality in village community life is marked by great disparities in terms of caste and status. The consequence of which was that the lower caste individual was permanently stunted in realizing his natural potentials. At the time when Gandhi was emphasizing on the political elements of Swaraj, Dr. Ambedkar with his experience drawn from his western education and the bitter experience as a lower caste individual, emerged as a strong protagonist for social justice and abolition of the caste system in the Hindu society. By emphasizing the prevalence of Hierarchical tyranny in our Hindu culture and society, Dr. Ambedkar sensitized the leaders of the freedom struggle to bring about the institutional changes.

In his crusade for social justice, Dr. Ambedkar was also greatly supported by the contemporary social movements in the western and southern parts of India, which challenged the upper caste hegemony. Dr. Ambedkar realized that caste was the sole factor in determining the status of any individual in Hindu society and no individual could outgrow the constraints dictated by the caste hierarchy. With all his laurels that he earned with his western education, Dr. Ambedkar found that even he could not outgrow the stigma of caste. Throughout his life, he strove for individual excellence and found that there was no salvation for him within the Hindu caste hierarchy.

At the fag-end of his life, he became convince and embraced Buddhism as the last bastion of hope. Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution for asserting the dignity of the Dalit community and finding an appropriate place for them in the Indian power structure is a testament to his legacy. Because of his consistent struggle in espousing the cause of social justice, the ruling elite in the Indian State also felt compelled to address the cause of social justice. The ground reality of electoral politics also compelled all political parties to give due weightage to the ideas behind social justice. Dr. Ambedkar was a voice for the muted.

At the same time, it would be a great folly to confine Dr. Ambedkar’s role only as a crusader for Dalit identity. His contribution in developing the political thoughts on freedom, democracy, rationality and scientific temper was second to none in his time. His contribution as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly and his subsequent role as the first Union Law Minister in independent India are significant marks made on the pages of Indian history.

Dr. Ambedkar was a principal enactor of the basic tenets of Gandhi’s philosophical Swaraj. He broke the chains on his mind, attained intellectual freedom, understood the plight of the Indian man, and worked towards the institutional change of society. He, like Gandhi, promulgated the non-violent movement. He substituted the mindless violent outbursts of the Indian man, with the concrete educational upliftment. He believed that if the common man stood as an intellectual equal to the British Ruler, then no Indian would remain under the thumb of the British Raj. He was also a propagator of Swaraj in its true Vedic sense, which was affirmed by his dedication to the Buddhist ideas of salvation.

These two men, both having attained Swaraj in their own right, became central forces of power and might. However, these two mighty men had philosophically opposite thought, especially and most pertinently, in the political arena.

The politico-philosophical thought of Gandhi is best characterized as rooted to ancient Indian civilization. He believed in returning to a traditional lifestyle, like that of a self-sustaining commune. He did not believe or have a desire for rapid economic development. He was a man who derived satisfaction from the simple things in life. Dr. Ambedkar, on the other hand, was a man of progressive thought, who believed in rationality and the development scientific temper. He was a strong advocate for economic progress and wanted to rival the British in their own game.

These distinctive personalities are not surprising, when one understands the background of the lives of these eminent luminaries. Gandhi was an upper caste man, who came from a well-educated and prosperous family. He followed in the footsteps of his father who was a Diwan in different Princely States in Gujarat. He acquired knowledge and was well on his way towards becoming another self-serving individual of the time. It is his experience in South Africa, that changed his attitude. The first-hand discrimination he faced, coupled with the experiences of discrimination and injustice South African Indians faced, propelled the Gandhi’s ideological change.

Dr. Ambedkar, on the other hand, was a man who came from the lowest strata in the Hindu Society. He lived a life of struggle, and had to fight every inch of the way to get where he stood at his prime. Issues such as discrimination, oppression and subjugation was part and parcel of his life. Hence, his philosophy was aligned towards growth, upliftment and progress. He believed that India had to keep moving ahead, change its attitude and modernize, otherwise, no matter who rules, the innate hate prevalent in the society would never abate.

Thus, Panchayat Raj became a key theme of ideological dispute between these two men. Dr. Ambedkar’s critical view towards Panchayat Raj was cemented with his first-hand experience. He believed that if society splinters into small groups of self-rule, the people will regress to traditional beliefs of caste hierarchy, and subjugate the lower castes into a menial life with no scope for educational, mental and economic progress.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose joined the Indian freedom struggle as a political apprentice of the Lion of Bengal, C.R. Das. With his firm determination to be a part of the struggle for Indian independence, he resigned from the coveted Indian Civil Services, causing great agony to his father, an advocate, who keenly looked forward to a successful career for his son. Netaji was born and spent his formative years in Cuttack. For his education, he moved to Calcutta where he jumped into the Students’ Movement, which were oriented against the policies of discrimination prevalent in the Universities. After returning from England, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose emerged as a fiery agitator and leader and was groomed by C.R. Das. He was later elected as the mayor of Calcutta and the led the Bengal Congress and subsequently was elected as president of the Indian National Congress twice.

In public memory, Netaji is known for his fierce struggle in attaining independence by putting his life on the line on countless occasions. Very few know about his commitment for economic ideas on socialism and planned economy. When Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad were leading the freedom movement by espousing armed struggle against the British Regime, Netaji together with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and other radicals came out in support of the struggles of these young fighters, both inside the jail and in the Courtrooms. The comrades of Shaheed Bhagat Singh resorted to repeated Hunger Strikes during their trial proceedings to protest the inhuman treatment of political prisoners. On one occasion, a veteran revolutionary, Jatindra Nath Das (not to be confused with Bagha Jatin, the legendary patriot) continued his hunger strike for 63 days and laid down his life for the cause. Netaji’s rallied public support for these great martyrs. Durgha Bhabi led the procession, bringing the deceased from Lahore to Calcutta by train. Large masses attended the funeral procession from Howrah Railway Station to the Cremation Ground. Netaji received the coffin and led the procession from Howrah Station onwards. Netaji’s public support of these young patriots, led to the radicalization of Indian National Congress in demanding complete Independence (Purnaswaraj). The trial and hanging of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades galvanized the young population in the country towards freedom.

Netaji violently disagreed from Mahatma Gandhi on the path to be followed in attaining Indian independence. Whereas, Mahatma Gandhi was firmly in support of non-violent struggle, Netaji did not believe that India could attain independence only by non-violent means. At the time when Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru were averse to the idea of embarrassing the British Empire in its fight during the second world war, Netaji advocated an all-out struggle against the British Empire, for which he escaped from house arrest at a great risk to his life. His escape to freedom from the British regime inspired the young Indians united them, irrespective caste, creed and religion. Netaji’s daring creation of the Indian National Army and his leadership for organizing an armed onslaught against the British Empire inspired and galvanized the entire nation to rise against the Colonial Rule.

It may perhaps be said that Netaji was the best implementer of Swaraj. He was truly a man of action, while at the same time, not necessarily fitting within Gandhi’s vision and scope of Swaraj.

However, his nature and character highlights that Swaraj is not necessarily within a strictly defined limit and boundary. The essence of Swaraj may be canvassed by a variety of actions and causes.

Non-violent resistance is one form and cause through which Swaraj flows. Netaji has exhibited another form, through pure willpower, dedication and unhinged fearlessness. It is only when the man achieves such confidence over himself; frees himself and his mind from the mortal and menial societal restraints, that he can carry out such great feats. His actions are truly remarkable.

While Gandhi was one man who society moved for, Netaji was one man who could move society itself. It is of metaphorical significance that the first piece of Indian soil that Netaji liberated from British rule, was a penal colony. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, were a largely overlooked part of the Indian map. For the British, it was nothing more than a penal colony, a prison stronghold of sorts. Challengers to the British Crown were sent to these islands to suffer the rest of their lives in iron destitute.

The Andaman prison was an allegory to Indians under British rule. Therefore, it is symbolic, that the man of iron will, led a detachment of an Indian National Army to clinch control over the islands. This victory, sent a shockwave of pride, self-belief and courage through the spines of every Indian man. It surged confidence in every man. It showed that the people of the nation are capable of achieving anything. The island of oppression stood to become the beacon of liberation.

As the tales of Netaji’s ventures and conquests spread throughout India, he came to be seen as a superhero of sorts. He was described as a force to be reckoned with.

Not only had Netaji liberated this island from British control, but he came about to release the political prisoners as well as expand his small but strong army. In the classical sense, Netaji can be associated as the harbinger of Swaraj. He acted as a guardian, as a shield to protect those who lacked the physical drive, determination and will to stand for themselves.

Connecting these dots to Gandhi’s Swaraj, Netaji was the man who protected and paved the way for Gandhi to spread his message.

For India to develop and gain Independence, she had to show a flair in all elements. If India was led only by Gandhi, a man promoting the non-violent cause and passive resistance, India as a nation could be labelled as weak. The ultimate result of independence would have taken much longer than it really did. Because, India, while being passively resistant, would not be considered a threat. The British would continue going on their way, mildly decreasing their exploitation of India.

India, to reach Swaraj, needed a catalyst. It needed an active participant in the cause who could markedly display and demonstrate results. It needed an image that the resistance is not merely philosophical and theoretical. It had to demonstrate that it could set targets, show bravery, and forcefully achieve their goals.

That was the role of Netaji. Without him, the passive resistance may have continued without concrete result, and gradually the fire of resistance would brim down and extinguish. It was the valour of Netaji that fanned the flame of the Indian spirit.

Concluding Remarks

These three unique individuals, all having attained Swaraj on a personal level, became a tri-tonal force that propelled India to her independence. Gandhi, with his revolutionary insight, philosophy and the passive resistant cause, drew in the support of the masses. Dr. Ambedkar, with his intellect, education and knowledge, uplifted the masses of the illiterate and stagnating Indian population to strive and seek education, so that they may contend as intellectual equals against the British. Finally, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose valiant acts of heroism inspired hope, demonstrated result and showcased India as an immense force.

Without these three great patriots, the shape of India, her independence and the development of society would have been significantly hindered. These men brought into the country the monumental change, not just at an individual level, but they changed the overall mindset of society and their expectations. They were truly the heroes of the modern world.

The difficult and dark phases of their lives became pivotal for them to evolve in thought. They were the men who were far ahead in terms of their era. They were all defiant to the British Colonial Regime, and most importantly, they never lost hope, despite the massive challenge they undertook, dedicated and sacrificed their lives for.

[Note: emails – Ashok Kumar Panda, Senior Advocate (sr_adv_akpanda@yahoo.co.in) Aniruddha Purushotham, Advocate (aniruddha.purushotham@gmail.com)]

Indian Civilization: In Historical Perspective – After Alexander’s Invasion (4)


When a great emperor decentralizes a vast kingdom, if he doesn’t use his absolute sovereignty to establish friendly relationships and maintain constant communication with all the regions, if he doesn’t keep his eyes and ears open all the time, his empire will collapse. We get examples for this in Ashoka’s time itself. Why, even in the case of the ambitious Alexander who set out to conquer the world and establish an enormous empire, his sovereignty had an untimely end.

At any rate, if Alexander’s invasion resulted in the defeat of some parts of India, the reason for it was the shortcoming of the system of republics and not the failure of the brilliance of kshaatra of the Vedic tradition.

In the Vedic tradition, there is the idea that however big a share the citizens have, the king is the supreme. Here too, we are reminded of the story of Vena, an evil king. At one point, his oppressed subjects were so furious that they removed him from the throne. But a kingdom cannot last without a king and without any alternatives, they reinstated him. After this, Vena became all the more overbearing and continued in his evil ways. Finally, unable to put up with his cruelty, all the rishis got together and destroyed him. They established his (Vena’s) son Prithu on the throne. Under Prithu, there was abundance and prosperity. The story goes that he milked the earth that had taken the form of a cow. [Here, ‘milked’ merely refers to the act and doesn’t have a negative connotation of exploitation.] The earth felt that people’s welfare will be affected during the reign of an evil king like Vena; she felt that she should not come under the sovereignty of an evil king and that she should not bring comfort to those who supported him; a great fear engulfed her and she swallowed all the seeds that were planted in the ground, lest she help this evil king. The earth became complete sterile and arid. It was Prithu who then made the land fertile and worthy of agriculture. He enlivened all the resources. Thus, whenever an establishment decays or crumbles, there should always be an alternative.

As much freedom as one needs, one also needs that much of restraint and constraint. Whoever it may be, only when one honors the constraints will one get the facilities. Absolute freedom, pure anarchy, and uninhibited lust are never useful in the long run. We learn this lesson upon observing Alexander’s attack on India. Paurava (‘Porus’ according to Greek accounts) lost to Alexander. It is said that Paurava too was the head of a republic but there is some uncertainty in this matter. There are stories that Alexander treated him like a friend. One is unsure as to how much one can believe the Greek accounts. In sum, we see that Alexander befriended Paurava and retained his honor. But he left back his army and his generals at Bactria (what we call as ‘Bahlika Desha’) and in some places (like modern-day Balochistan, Afghanistan, Kandahar, etc.), he nominated his successors. He died while on his conquest. We know that Ambhi of the Madra country was completely surrendered to Alexander. In this manner, by friendship, by politics and statecraft, and by sheer warfare, Alexander won over many. We now come to the end of his story.

(Note: This series of articles is written in Kannada by Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh and translated in English by Hari Ravikumar. The introduction of Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh reads thus: Dr. Ganesh is a ‘shatavadhani’ and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language. The series of these articles is originally published HERE. The fourth and the last in the series is given here)

Indian Civilization: In Historical Perspective – Invasion of Alexander (3)


By: Shatavardhani Dr. R. Ganesh

With this background, when we see the Magadhan kingdom, we find that the Shishunagas ruled there first. Then came the Nandas. The last king of the Nanda dynasty was Dhanananda. Starting from Mahapadmananda to Sunanda, everyone was gone. The stories that have been traditionally narrated indicate that the nine Nandas were contemporaries. We find that in some version of the story, it is Mahapadmananda and his eight children, while in other versions it is the nine sons of Mahapadmananda. Scholars don’t have a unanimous opinion in this matter. As of now, from historical accounts, we can say that Dhanananda was the last king of the Nanda dynasty. He was a great warrior. It was during his time that Alexander invaded India.

In this context, I have to mention an aside. Recent scholars including Sriram Sathe, Dr. N. S. Rajaram, and M. V. R. Sastry opine that the ‘Sandrokottos’ (Greek pronunciation for ‘Chandragupta’) mentioned by Pliny, Herodotus, and Megasthenes do not refer to Chandragupta of the Mauryan empire but to Chandragupta Vikramaditya of the Gupta empire. If we consider this view, then our history will be shifted by a good 700 years. I have not yet found solid evidence in order to be satisfied with this view. Thus, I will consider the well-known version of the Sandrokottos reference – what is taught in our schools and colleges – and resume. However, what is definitely known is that before Alexander’s invasion India had not been attacked by any foreign forces.

The Influence of Alexander

Heracles and Dionysus who appear in Greek history are not real people but characters from Greek mythology. Heracles was the character who symbolized all the Greek values and courageous adventure. He performed many miracles. In his twelve great adventures or feats [hoi Herakleous athloi] there is no mention of him visiting India. Having seen the original Greek texts, I can assuredly say that such views are baseless. Dionysus is the Greek deity of theater and religious ecstasy as well as wine and wine-making – in Roman mythology, he is called Bacchus and is regarded as a deity. He is a god associated with the Eastern countries. Scholars opine that the Greeks accepted him as their god and they explain history of his deification in Greek mythology. Thus it is also a philosophy, a method of worship. He too never attacked India.

It becomes rather clear that Alexander was the first among them to have attacked India. Though he invaded the geographical portion that was India, it was only the Western border; after crossing the river Sindhu (Indus), he is said to have reached the river Vitasta (Jhelum) after much labor. The Vitasta flows from Kashmir and ultimately joins the Sindhu. Whether or not he crossed the Vitasta has not been recorded in our history. Not a single word of praise has been given in our tradition describing Alexander’s [supposed] courage.

On the other hand, the Bhavishya Purana and many other works speak about the depravity of the invasions by Islam and Christianity. Their religious bigotry and thirst for money that drove them to terrorize our country has been referred to in the famous Vishnugunadarsha Champu of Venkatadhvari (c. 17th century CE). He says “हूणाः करुणाहीनाः” (Poem 262) while speaking about how they ruled in the Madras province. A work that preceded this by about three centuries, the Madhuravijayam of Gangadevi details the ghastly manner in which the Muslims wreaked havoc on South India. We see several such references in the writings of poets, scholars, and playwrights. But we don’t see any references to the attack of the Greeks (particularly Alexander) in our Puranas or literature.

One might bring up the Yugapurana section of the Garga Samhita, which speaks about an attack by the Greeks. That is not a reference to Alexander, and furthermore the authenticity of that text is in question. In works like Milinda Panha (which records the Buddhist bikkhu Nagasena’s teaching to the Greek king Menander I of Bactria) and Patanjali’s Mahabhasya (where there is supposedly a reference to a Demetrius), as well as from the words of Heliodorus (from an inscription in the Brahmi script in Vidisha) and Theodorus (from an inscription in the Kharoshti script related to Buddhism), we can see the connections between India and Greece; however, we should not forget that they all came under the purview of sanatana dharma.

Here and there we find references that Greek women were employed in India. In the Padataditaka-bhana, there is a mention of Greek merchants who lived in Kusumapura. In Kalidasa’s Malavikagnimitram, he says, “In the faraway shores of the Sindhu river, Vasumitra, the grandson of Pushyamitra Shunga, fought against the Greek army.” But none of these refer to the attack by Alexander. They were from Alexander’s family. This took place about 150-200 years after Alexander’s death. Alexander’s attack on India, which has been recorded as it happened, was never considered as a great invasion by our poets and playwrights. If they had considered it so, they would have alluded to it in their works. In several of the works that were composed during that period, our ancestors—who were such fine observers and meticulous archivists—have written about many events of that period in great detail; if they have not given  the same amount of detail or attention to Alexander, there must be some special reason. And perhaps that reason simply was that Alexander’s attack on India didn’t have a lasting impact or influence on our history.

There are many conjectures as to why Alexander lost the war. Perhaps due to revolts within his army, due to the exhaustion of his soldiers, or perhaps due to fear that arose from the stories that were heard about the immense magnitude of the Magadhan army, it is said that Alexander ran away from India before conquering it. The summary is simply this: although India was not united at that time under the leadership of a single emperor, due to the clear division of some portion of the landmass (into the sixteen great states), it was able to present limitless fortitude while facing a foreign enemy. In all the regions that were governed as ganas (republics), Alexander could prevail. It is said that he defeated the Madra-gana, the Yaudheya-gana, as well as the Malava-gana. In their mad love for their absolute freedom, the republics never maintained great relationships with their neighboring states.

As an aside I must mention here that some people bring up the baseless argument that the idea of a republic is alien to the Vedas and it is an earlier form of the now decadent Communism. However there is not a trace of doubt that the republics are very much Vedic. The ‘panchajana’ – clans mentioned in the Rigveda – are nothing but this. Several words and concepts such as gana [gang, tribe, group, battalion, herd, republic], ganapati [leader of a gana], sabha [society, assembly, court, council, conclave], samiti [assembly, committee, league, association], and sadas [assembly, dwelling, place of meeting, seat] are all Vedic in nature. The Yadavas, the Gandharas, and the Madras that we encounter in the Mahabharata were all republics. Since that establishment had decayed, Krishna helped establish a kingdom through the Pandavas. Chanakya too was inspired to create a kingdom and Chandragupta Maurya became an emperor as a result. Similarly, Patanjali guided Pushyamitra Shunga to establish a great kingdom. Later on, perhaps Kalidasa too realized that a great kingdom would be established by Samudragupta-Chandragupta and remained silent about the existence of republics in his period.

We see something similar in Greek history. At one stage, the Greek had the conception of city-states. It is more or less like our idea of a republic. Be it Sparta, Athens, Mycenae, or Argos – each city was a state by itself. They lived in such a manner that it was almost forbidden to maintain friendly and cordial relationships with the neighboring city-states. At that point of time when there arose a threat of attack from the mighty Persian army, all the elders and leaders of Athens came together and proposed, “Let us come together and as one nation, let us face our enemy!” The people of Sparta were extremely courageous and rash; they were matchless in war-craft. They said, “We will take care of our protection” and went forward first to bravely face the gigantic Persian army. However, due to the in-fights that followed, unable to stand strong, the Greek culture was dominated by the Persians. And over a period of time, Alexander grew up wanting to take revenge. Along with his father Philip, he created a kingdom, realizing that the idea of republics was ineffective. It was a result of blind love for absolute freedom and a complete lack of foresight.

(Note: This series of articles is written in Kannada by Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh and translated in English by Hari Ravikumar. The introduction of Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh reads thus: Dr. Ganesh is a ‘shatavadhani’ and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language. The series of these articles is originally published HERE. This article is third one in the series).

Indian Civilization: In Historical Perspective – Chandragupta Maurya (2)


(Note: This series of articles is written in Kannada by Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh and translated in English by Hari Ravikumar. The introduction of Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh reads thus: Dr. Ganesh is a ‘shatavadhani’ and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language. The series of these articles is originally published HERE. The second in this series is given here).

There was a certain amount of misrule and evil during the reign of the Nandas. A powerful force awoke that would destroy all that evil from the past. That was Chandragupta Maurya. What we know from our written history – and commonly agreed upon – is that Chandragupta was a great example for the brilliance of kshaatra.

There are many accounts of this in Jaina, Bauddha, and Hindu – Sanatana Dharmic – literature. According to some accounts, there was a king named Sarvarthasiddha, who had a son called Maurya, whose son was Chandragupta; there are even stories that Maurya had a hundred sons. But these are hard to believe. In this matter, some of the Buddhist accounts appear to be closer to the truth.

According to those, he belonged to the Mayuraka clan (‘Moria’ is the Prakrit version) and was a son of the king of Pippalavana. The word ‘maurya’ is just a Sanskritization of the Prakrit word. In its original form it is ‘Mayuraka.’ Every royal lineage had an animal or a bird as their symbol and the kingdom of Pippalavana had Mayura – the peacock – as their royal insignia.

An interesting point of observation here is the origin of the Sanskrit word ‘maurya.’ There are stories that King Sarvarthasiddha had two wives – the elder one was Sunanda, the mother of the nine Nandas and the younger one was Mura, the mother of Maurya. One of Maurya’s sons was Chandragupta. But Sanskrit grammar doesn’t allow for a derivation of Maurya from Mura. मुरायाः अपत्यं पुमान् मौरिः / मौरः / मौरेयः – Mauri, Maura, and Maureya are legitimate forms but not Maurya. So where did ‘maurya’ come from? In Sanskrit, the masculine gender form of ‘Mura’ can be Maura or Maurya but noun form conveying the meaning ‘the son of Mura’ will not be ‘Maurya.’ Therefore we must come to the conclusion that it comes from the Mayuraka people, who lived in deep forests. One doesn’t become a kshatriya merely by the accident of birth but by having the qualities associated with that varna – we see this time and again.

The leader of the Mayurakas had died. The queen had a young son. He was Chandragupta Maurya. It is his character that we see in further details.

When Chandragupta’s mother lost her husband, left helpless, she went to Kusumapura – Pataliputra of those days; modern-day Patna. It was there that Chanakya saw young Chandragupta at play and upon finding that the young boy had the qualities and character to become a king, took him to Takshashila and gave him a solid education. We learn this from Buddhist literature. Even as a child, he would play the king-game (‘राजकीळं कीळन्ति’ is what the Prakrit original says). He would play the game by sitting in the place of the king with his other friends playing the roles of the criminal, the minister, the general, etc.

This sort of fortitude and determination in attitude is essential. A few have it from birth. Just because of being born in a family of kshatriyas doesn’t ensure that one is endowed with such an attitude. Some people might observe and learn it while some others may be born with it.

Chandragupta was one who grew by his own merit and toil. People like him – irrespective of where they are or who they are with – reach a high level in society with the power to take crucial decisions and become the main cause for the development of people around them. Often, in many clans and lineages, many things are taken for granted. But one who is a svayambhu (self-existent, self-made) obtains these experiences on his own and therefore there is a huge possibility for greatness. Chandragupta Maurya was one such person.

This has been explained in colorful detail in works like the Mudrarakshasa of Vishakadatta and the Mudramanjusha of Kempunarayana. Historians don’t consider these works to be wholly accurate but one thing is for certain – Chanakya had a major role to play in mentoring Chandragupta. We must, at this point, recollect once again the words of the Shukla Yajur Veda – यत्र ब्राह्मं च क्षत्रं च संयञ्चौ चरतः सह – the harmony between braahma and kshaatra is essential; they both have to exist in society. The wise and the courageous [brain and brawn] have to work for the welfare of the people. Sanatana Dharma has said this like a repeating motif in a song, and it has also demonstrated this in practice over the years. An intelligent person has to be selfless to an extent and serve the people of his or her country. The same applies to a person of valor and strength. It is imperative for the welfare of the country that these two must co-exist, working in harmony and that selfless work by the wise and the strong must be seen as a responsibility.

With this background when we see our country today, we realize that the intelligentsia is not really concerned about the welfare of the nation and often doesn’t engage actively with nation-building. And if it happens, such instances are rare. There are certain places and positions reserved for the intelligent people – and these places have been filled with those who lack intelligence or have a deviant mind. Take for instance, education institutions, universities, cultural organizations, government-aided organizations, and others. In all these places, there seems to be a systemic attack on our traditions, culture, and heritage with a view to destroy them.

Some years back when M F Husain passed away, my friend Sandeep Balakrishna had written an article on these lines, which was translated into Kannada and was published under the heading of ‘Gahana Gamana’ in a leading newspaper. While publishing the article, the editors had left out some of the references and examples that were in the original. Of those that were left out, here is one that I found interesting. Nobody had really paid any attention to M F Husain’s early works. Sandeep has culled out those details in his piece.

Before Independence, in a bid to regain our lost identity and to reiterate our existence as a culture, there were several revolutionary movements in literature, art, philosophy, ayurveda, etc. In each of these fields, there was an attempt to identify and understand our roots, our origins. This also happened in the area of visual arts. In the Government Art School in Calcutta, while Percy Brown focused more on European Art, Ernest Havel encouraged the students to learn from Indian art and emphasized the need to study Indian art forms. Abanindranath Tagore, an important alumnus of the Art School (and later its Vice-President) was influenced by this and later inspired his students – like Nandalal Basu, Jamini Roy, and Asit Kumar Haldar – to tread this path. Bringing together the art forms of the Ajanta paintings, the Santhal art style, and various folk art styles from different regions of India, he created the ‘Bengal school of art.’ (Karnataka’s well-known painter K. Venkatappa also falls in this category).

There is a lot of commonality between this and early Japanese art, especially in the way they deal with painting water. The Japanese too used art as a means to reiterate their identity. Dr. S L Bhyrappa says in his autobiography Bhitti, “Every country has a language. If the language of China was ethics, the language of the US is technology; if the language of the UK is tradition and the language of Japan is art, the language of India is dharma.”

A person who was a great inspiration to such Indian art forms was Sister Nivedita. A European woman, Margaret Noble, who was inspired by the words of Swami Vivekananda, came to India in a quest of her roots. By that time, the art historian and scholar Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy of Ceylon had already written extensively about Indian art and presented his scholarly research on an international platform. By collecting stories and episodes from the Itihasa-Purana literature that aligned with the existing paintings, Sister Nivedita and Ananda Coomaraswamy brought out a book. And the illustrations for the book were done by the artists from the Bengal school. The reason for digressing into this sub-plot is to show that even before the 1940s there was an attempt to firmly establish our identity using art as a medium.

In later years, there was a group of artists whose raison d’être was the opposing of such nationalistic art. One of the members of this group was M F Husain. He came forward with the sole intention of opposing patriotism and national fervor. There was a clamor in recent years about M F Husain painting obscene pictures of Bharata Mata, Sarasvati, Sita, Durga, and other Hindu deities, often painting them in gory and barbaric forms. Most of these paintings were done almost three decades earlier by Husain.

And the seeds for this perversion were sown thirty years prior to that. It has been nearly sixty years since these pervert ideas have taken birth. The main purpose of the so-called modernists and progressive groups is to malign and destroy everything that the country reveres.

In general, we find that three groups lack the nationalist spirit – the Mahomedans, the Christians, and the communists. They are far too attached to their faith to be passionate about their country. For the communists, Karl Marx is their prophet; their blind opposition to religion is itself their dogma; barbarianism is their deity; Das Kapital is their scripture.

India as a Nation: In Historical Perspective – Age of Republics / Kingdoms (1)


(Note: This series of articles is written in Kannada by Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh and translated in English by Hari Ravikumar. The introduction of Shatavadhni Dr. R. Ganesh reads thus: Dr. Ganesh is a ‘shatavadhani’ and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language. The series of these articles is originally published HERE. The first in this series is given here).

Now from the Vedas, Itihasas, and Puranas, we come to the era of reality. As such, there is no separate demarcation that separates our ancient texts from history. All the details of the lineage of kings that we find in the Vedas are part of history.

For example, an ancient king who is mentioned in the Vedas is Divodasa. His son was Sudasa. The purohita of Sudasa was Vasishta. The Rigveda speaks about the Battle of Ten Kings (दाशराज्ञयुद्ध), in which ten kings combined forces under the guidance of Vishwamitra and attacked Sudasa. This is definitely a part of Indian history. Another great king hailed in the Vedas is Dushyanta and his son, Bharata (सर्वदमन) Chakravarti [emperor]. It is from the great emperor Bharata that our country got its name – Bhaarata. Works like the Aitareya Brahmana refer to Bharata. Bharata is said to have performed 130 Ashvamedha yajnas and 50 Rajasuya yajnas. Nowhere else do we find references to anyone who has performed more Ashvamedha or Rajasuya yajnas.

We observe from the frequent repetition of these yajnas how the brilliance of kshaatra was constantly renewed. Each of the kshatriya yajnas contributed to a certain kind of enthusiasm, valor, and preserving the welfare of the kingdom. The Ashvamedha yajna was performed for expanding the kingdom and establishing undisputed sovereignty over a large area of land. It indicates the ability of the king to develop his kingdom far and wide. The four kshatriya yajnas that were prevalent in the Hindu tradition are: सौत्रामणि, वाजपेय, राजासूय, and अश्वमेध. When emperor Bharata realized that his children were worthless, under the supervision of sage Bharadvaja, he handed the power to Bhumanyu – thus we read in the Puranas. It is noteworthy to observe here that when emperor Bharata realized that his own children were unworthy of ruling the kingdom, he had the sagacity to hand over the charge of the people’s welfare to the son of a rishi. In the great tradition of kshaatra, the emphasis was on selflessness, foresight, development of the kingdom – these were the very goals of the tradition. Without doubt, we can see this from the episode of Bharata’s succession.

Typically, modern historians say that the history of India begins with the Magadha kingdom. I don’t agree with that. Several other historians don’t agree with this.

The reason is simply this: the episodes from the Vedas, Puranas, and Arshakavyas are definitely a part of history. [While there are elements of imagination in these works, some modern historians tend to look at all of them as fiction, which is erroneous.] The historicity of Ramayana and Mahabharata are well-known. Be it Divodasa-Sudasa of the Vedas, or Dushyanta-Bharata, or the lineage of the Yadavas and Kauravas – all these are a part of our history.

In the extensive lineage of the Yaduvamsa, one branch is the Haihayakula. They ruled from Mahishmati (modern-day Maheshwar; it is in the Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh and on the banks of the Narmada river). In that region, there lived many members of the Bhargava clan. That lineage steadily developed from Haihaya, Krtavirya, his son Kartavirya, and others. The kings who were bound to universal welfare [by their kshatriya dharma] also happened to be extremely powerful and due to arrogance arising from knowledge, wealth, and position, some of them ended up oppressing their own people. We see such a class between king and his subjects in the great conflict between the Haihayas and the Bhargavas. This battle went on for generations and bearing testimony to this is the story of Aurva and Chyavana, all the way up to Parashurama. We see [in the Puranas and the Itihasas] that finally Parashurama’s anger is appeased and the entire Haihaya clan is destroyed.

All this is a part of history. Similarly, in the line of the Pandavas, Abhimanyu’s son Parikshita, his son Janamejaya, and born later in this lineage, Shatanika, his son Sahasranika, and his son Udayana Vatsaraja – thus the lineage grew. We know from Buddhists texts that Udayana Vatsaraja was a contemporary of the Buddha. During the time of the Buddha, there were several kshatriya clans in India. They were well-known republics. There were also a few kingdoms.  The Buddhist texts refer to them as the ‘षोडशमहाजनपद’ – the sixteen great states.

Republics and Kingdoms

Just as it is described in Buddhist texts, the three important kingdoms in Northern India were Magadha, Kosala, and Vatsa. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha, Shravasti for Kosala, and Kaushambi for Vatsa. Vidarbha lay to the South.

Making Ujjayini (Avanti) as the capital, the king Chandamahasena Pradyota ruled the kingdom. While Prasenjit ruled Kosala from Shravasti, Magadha had Bimbisara Shrenyaka and his son Ajatashatru. Ruling Vatsa from Kaushambi was the king Udayana Vatsaraja.

Kuru and Panchala were regions at the banks of the Ganga. Today’s Agra, which lies on the banks of the Yamuna, was called ‘Agrodaka.’ The region in its vicinity was the Shurasena kingdom. Its capital was Mathura.

Going further ahead from Vatsa, we reach the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna at Prayaga, which is close to the great city of Kashi (Varanasi). If we go further East, we get Mithila, which is close to today’s Darbhanga in the state of Bihar.

Moving further East to the point where the Ganga reaches the sea, we get the kingdom of Anga. In its vicinity lies Vanga, Pundra, Gauda, and further East, Kamarupa (modern-day Assam).

Today’s Odisha or the Kalinga of those days is a combination of Odhra and Utkala. Today’s Avadh and the states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh could be equated to the Northern and Southern Kosala of those days.

The South-West of Uttar Pradesh, Northern parts of Madhya Pradesh, and Southern Rajasthan were the kingdoms of Matya and Chedi. Today’s Gujarat was earlier Lat, Ghurjara, Saurashtra, and Karahat.

Today’s Rajasthan was earlier the kingdoms of Trigarta and Saubha [or Salwa]. Today’s Sindh was earlier Sindhu-Sauvira. The entire Western Karavali border was made up of Konkani, Shurparaka, and Chera kingdoms.

Maharashtra was called Maharatta. Including that region, a certain portion of the Kannada country was called Kuntala. The rest was Karnata. Further down was the Dravida region – a combination of Chera (Kerala), Pandya, and Chola kingdoms. Above this was Andhra, also called Trilinga or Trailinga region.

Today’s Khandahar was Kambhoja of the earlier days. Its neighbour, Balochistan was earlier the kingdoms of Ashmaka [according to Markandeya Purana and Brihatsamhita] and Gandhara.

The sixteen great states [or kingdoms] that existed during the time of the Buddha are as follows: Anga, Magadha, Kashi, Kosala, Vrijigana (Vajjigana – With its capital at Vaishali, it is a region in today’s Magadha), Mallagana (it was in Bihar; it was on the edges of the Himalayas), Chedi (The region on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, in the vicinity of Gwalior), Vatsa (Vaccha – this was just next to Chedi), Kuru, Panchala, Matysa (Maccha), Shurasena (in the region around Mathura), Ashmaka (region on the banks of the Godavari, at the Andhra-Maharashtra border) [according to Buddhist literature], Avanti (in the Vidarbha region), Gandhara, and Kambhoja.

Apart from this, there were a few republics like Malava, Madra, Yaudheya, Koliya, Malla, Shakya, and Vajji. The Jain texts have referred to them in many places.

At that time, Bharata was divided into small colonies – regions ruled by small-time dynastic or tribal rulers. However, the idea that ‘Bharata’ was one integral unit was always there.

Since many people are unaware of this, they hold on to the false notion that Indians attained the status of a nation only because of the British imperialist rule. In our tradition, right from the earliest days, starting from the Aitareya Brahmana of the Rigveda, we have had different divisions of the regions – साम्राज्य (kingdom), भोज्य (state, large kingdom), वैराज्य (extended sovereignty), पारमेष्ठिकराज्य (supreme empire), etc. In the various Puranas, starting from the Vishnupurana, we find several utterances that talk of Bharata as a united entity –

उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् |
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ||
(VP 2.3.1)

Further, while referring to undertaking pilgrimages to sacred places or to the victories of sages, kings, and scholars – we find unambiguous references to the traditional idea that they have to visit the various parts of the border of Bharata.

Not only in the Puranas and Itihasas but we see this even in historical and modern happenings. It becomes clear that even though the land was divided into smaller kingdoms ruled by several kings, there was always a feeling of oneness of Bharata and a need to have a great emperor of the land who was above everyone else.

Kashmir: Way Ahead


By: Prabhat Kumar Roy

With the violence-wrapped low poll in the Srinagar constituency in Jammu & Kashmir, prophets of doom are back to their wretched business. Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah called for the dismissal of the State Government and imposition of Governor’s rule. More surprising is the reaction of P Chidambaram, Home and Finance Minister by turn in the Congress-led UPA regime. In his column in a multi-edition English daily, he said that the game was almost over for the country in the State.

Short of asking the Centre to hand over J&K on a platter to the Pakistan-aided, financed and inspired Hurriyat clerics and Pakistan-trained militant separatists, the Congress leader has said everything else that should be music to Nawaz Sharif and his Army chief.

To begin with, low poll turnout, violence during poll, stone-throwing mobs etc, are not unusual for Kashmir. The Government in New Delhi has faced these repeatedly through the past decades. In November 1989, the turnout was five per cent in the elections held to the Baramulla and the Anantnag Lok Sabha seats. Mohammad Shafi Bhat, then of the National Conference, won Srinagar uncontested.In fact, the present mess in the valley can be traced way back to 1930s when a young Sheikh Abdullah appeared on the Kashmir public scene after having been baptized into communal politics during his stint at Aligarh Muslim University. His fight against the so-called feudal order was a euphemism for jihad against a ‘kafir’ Maharaja.

Today it’s against the ‘kafir’ regime of New Delhi.

The divisive Sheikh was in luck. His got support from both the British and one of the tallest men agitating against them, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The British had a bone to pick with the Maharaja since he had extended tacit support to Indian nationalists at the Round Table Conference in London. Nehru was carried away by the anti-feudal and ‘secular’ pretensions of the Sheikh and his personal dislike for the belligerent Maharaja.

In his autobiography, Flames of the Chinar, the Sheikh reluctantly admits, “The Maharaja had always appeared to be free from religious prejudices. He was close to his Muslim courtiers…” The Sheikh also recalls that after he had completed his FSc, his name was not in the list of the 22 candidates which was presented to the Maharaja who had recently ascended the throne. The Maharaja “refused to put his seal of approval on the list, because it did not include a single Muslim name”.

Pakistan attacked the valley in October 1947. Since the ‘Maharaja’ was ‘secular’, his Army included a large number of Muslim troops. In the words of the Sheikh, “The Maharaja’s 13,000 men were deployed at the border near Muzaffarabad. This was a mixed contingent of Hindu Dogra and Muslims from Poonch and Mirpur. The latter were agitated because they constantly received news of the atrocities committed in Muzaffarabad by the Dogra army. Therefore, they revolted and joined the tribal invaders.”The Sheikh mentions about “the atrocities” by Dogra troops to justify the betrayal by the Muslim soldiers.

It’s a matter of record that the Pakistan Army in mufti and the Muslim tribal had indulged in loot, rapes and mass murders of local Kashmiris (both Hindu and Muslim) while advancing to Srinagar, against the Maharaja. After a large chunk of his Army (mainly Muslim troops) had deserted the State, the beleaguered Maharaja signed the instrument of accession, merging J&K with India.

A vindictive Nehru used the occasion to settle his personal score with the Maharaja, banished him to Mumbai and handed over the State to Sheikh Abdullah. While Pakistan wanted the Muslim-majority valley of Islamic Pakistan, the Sheikh was nursing an ambition to turn Kashmir into an ‘Islamic Sheikhdom’, ruled by his dynasty.

It took Nehru nearly five years to realise his blunder. In a secret operation monitored from Delhi, the Sheikh was arrested and his Government dismissed in August 1953. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was installed as a Chief Minister.

Since then, the State has witnessed many ups and downs, including destruction of scores of temples during 1989-95 and forced exodus of Pundits in 1988-90.

Now fast forward, to the present times.

The stone-pelting brigade is from the young and restless.  One asks as to why even from prosperous Europe, young converts to Islam are moving into the Gulf Asian territory held by the Islamist jihadi forces and enter barbarism. The lure ofJannat (paradise), full of all luscious temptations promised in the scriptures, motivates them to kill the ‘kafirs’ and also get killed in the process.

J&K is the most pampered State in the country. It has received 10 per cent of all Central grant given to States over the 2000-2016 period, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population.

In contrast, Uttar Pradesh’s share in country’s population is 13 per cent and but received only 8.2 per cent of Central grant in the same period.

It means that J&K, with a population of 12.55 million (2011 Census) received Rs91,300 per person over the  last 16 years while Uttar Pradesh only got Rs4,300 per person over the same period.

The latent jihadi Islam got a further boost in 1989 in the valley after the former jihadisoldiers in the Afghan event of the anti-Russian movement were diverted to J&K by their Pakistani handlers. It was in that fatal year that Pakistan-sponsored anti-Indian forces in the State got a shot in the arm from this diversion and the entry of former Afghan jihadis into Kashmir.

Islamist jihad has emerged as a major factor across the Muslim-majority countries. Pakistan itself is governed by a constantly shifting three-party confrontation between civilian, military and cleric power systems.  The religion element is quite strong and it is used to infiltrate India — not just in J&K but pan-India.The hope is to gnaw into India’s political power structure through appeals to an Islam-dominated India in the making.

The stakes are high.

The capacity to draw in the youth to stone-pelting to achieve what direct armed confrontation cannot, is part of this greater plan.The security forces have stood firm to defeat such adventures. No short-cuts like Governor’s rule or changes in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act will win people’s minds. The firm demonstration of Indians to defeat jihadi ideology in Kashmir, as elsewhere in the country, alone will turn the tide back.

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