15th August ~ A day to bust some myths about India
The pedestrian view of real India is changing as we are coming to know more about Indian heritage. Thanks to some recent archaeological research, discoveries on linguistics, new satellite imagery and some objective historical research that the last two decades has seen the myths about Indian culture and heritage smashed. While India commemorates her Independence Day from colonial rule on 15th August, how about busting some myths about India. Could that be the firecrackers we need for the Independence Day celebration? Isn’t it better to have independence from myths about India’s heritage rather than having a misinformed perception?
In the US, an elementary school student asked her Indian teacher, “Do you used to ride an elephant to your school in India?” Obviously this was an innocent and naïve question by the American student. Brushing aside such juvenile stereotypes, India has seen some deep rooted colonial myths, which still play the mind of the masses. Fortunately the weight of evidence based on scientific research in the last two decades, is convincing enough to bust those myths.
The validation against the myths comes from the works of professors, eminent Indic scholars, researchers, historians, philosophers and Indologists. Some names worth mentioning are Prof B.B.Lal, R.C.Majumdar, David Frawley, George Feuerstein, Francois Gautier, Aurobindo Ghose, Swami Vivekananda, Stephen Knapp, Rajiv Malhotra, Dharampal, Koenraad Elst, Subhash Kak, N.Rajaram, Shrikant Thalageri, Sankrant Sanu, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, B.Ambedkar, Dadabhai Naoroji among others whose works are available on the web. They are not just for further reading but also for study. These eminent people have no agenda except presenting the facts and finally ‘truth’.
Here are five myths about India, among many, which did some cultural damage to the understanding about India, even among Indians. But these myths are now kaput, defunct and invalid as they were not only nonsense but debunked nonsense now.
Myth: Aryans invaded India and ruled over the indigenous Dravidians.
This theory was one of the notorious myths that did some serious damage to the Indian society, which was used for political and religious advantage by colonial historians. It was a theory with no credibility whatsoever and without any foundation. Dr.David Frawley the famous Vedic scholar remarks that “one of the main ideas used to interpret and generally devalue the ancient history of India is the theory of the Aryan invasion. According to this account, India was invaded and conquered by nomadic light-skinned Indo-European tribes from Central Asia around 1500-1000 BCE, who overthrew an earlier and more advanced dark-skinned Dravidian civilization from which they took most of what later became Hindu culture.”
At that time when this myth was perpetrated, it was even questioned by stalwarts like Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. But now it is now completely discredited among scholars. In his book ‘Demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory’ Frawley mentions that,” This idea totally foreign to the history of India, whether north or south has become almost an unquestioned truth in the interpretation of ancient history. Today, after nearly all the reasons for its supposed validity have been refuted, even major Western scholars are at last beginning to call it in question.”
Myth: India was not a country when the British arrived
The first definite mention of Bharat as a country and as a nation is found in the works of the great Panini (7th century BCE). India as a political entity can be documented as early as the 3rd century BCE according to ‘Arthashastra’ and as a cultural entity as early as the 4th century CE according to Brahmapuraan. Also, common sense makes one wonder why Christopher Columbus and the Portuguese travellers came looking for “India” though at that time India had many kingdoms ruled by different Kings.
Culturally India was one, despite many attempts by rulers to give a single political authority. But this did not mean that India lacked the concept of statehood.
Simply put, India had a collective cultural nationalism with long periods of political disunity and that’s not unnatural according to the American historian C.J.H. Hayes who says in his book ‘Nationalism: A Religion’ that “If we are to grasp what a nationality is, we must avoid confusing it with a state or nation… Cultural nationalism may exist with or without political nationalism. For, nationalities can and do exist for fairly long periods without political unity and independence.”
“India is not just geography or history. It is not only a nation, a country, a mere piece of land. It is something more: it is a metaphor, poetry, something invisible but very tangible. It is vibrating with certain energy fields which no other country can claim.” - Osho Rajneesh
Myth: India was always backward and poor
It has now been established that before the British came, India was one of the richest countries in the world. Samuel P. Huntington the American political scientist in his ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order’ confirms that “In 1750 China accounted for almost one-third, India for almost one quarter, and the West less than a fifth of the world’s manufacturing output.” But today’s economic situation is no excuse for it to remain poor after the foreign rule. Gandhian thinker and historian Dharampal did some extensive research and razed the myth that India was backward educationally or economically when the British entered. Dharampal’s researches have led to a sweeping re-examination of conventional views of the cultural, scientific and technological achievements of Indian society when the British first arrived.
Myth: Caste system of India is based on birth
Firstly there is no such word as ‘Caste’ in any Indian language. The word caste comes from the Portuguese word ‘casta’ which was imposed on the Indian psyche during their first voyage to India in the 16th century. India had a natural Varna vyavastha system which follows a natural order of evolution. Nothing is deterministic. Nobody is born into a Varna by default, just as a Doctor’s son cannot be a doctor by birth. Evolution is earned and determined by one’s mental framework (guna) and conduct (karma) as the Bhagavad-Gita confirms. Sadly today this Varna system has degenerated and knowledge will hopefully dispel the ignorance.
Myth: There are too many Gods in India
The oriental understanding of God is unique and universal. What appears pantheistic with many Gods reflects the support needed for the minds of people. According to this, Dr S. Radhakrishnan says “Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced. Evil and error are not ultimate. There is no Hell, for that means there is a place where God is not, and there are sins which exceed his love”. All the major sects and groups accept the Vedic Upanishads as the main authority on religion and spirituality, which is monotheistic in nature. The Upanishads doesn’t talk about some elderly God sitting over the clouds controlling everything. The Vedas confirm that “Truth is one but the wise call it by many names.”
Hopefully these myths will eventually die out in the mass psyche and a full recovery will happen to give us a correct vision about the 5000 year old India – just as Nehru put it in his ‘Discovery of India’ in 1942: “That vision of five thousand years gave me a new perspective, and the burden of the present seemed to grow lighter.”
Happy ‘Independence from Myths’ day.