Non-violent Indus Valley
The ‘official’ and ‘accepted’ version of Indian history, that is ‘taught’ starts with Alexander’s invasion. The dates of the Mauryan dynasts, Buddha’s birth have been arbitrarily decided to meet Western dating guidelines – especially the Bible.
By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’. One ‘victim’ of this ‘blindness’ is the military paradigm of the IVC.
The public face of modern research on the Pakistani sites are three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (FSW). In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.
“Three portions of the ancient city were surrounded by perimeter walls that served – what function?” asked Meadow, recently, while delivering “a standing-room-only talk at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology”, basking in the glory of Harappa excavations. Writes another specialist on Indus-Saraswati sites,
to the bafflement of scholars, they appear never to have developed any sort of standing army; neither has any evidence been found of militarism, battle damage, or even defensive fortifications in the Harappan domains. Instead, Kenoyer and others believe, the elite seems to have kept order by controlling and promoting trade, commerce and religion.(from Traders of the Plain, Written by Graham Chandler).
The most unnerving aspect, especially for believers in the Desert Bloc, is the complete lack of ‘usual’ markers. No emperors, no victory stele, no palaces, no prisons, very few weapons, no central authority – yet standard, weights, similar ‘script’ signs, parallel evolution of city design and planning. As one writer proclaims, “An entirely peaceful state seems anomalous in the history of world civilization.” This makes the Indus-Saraswati model worthy of deeper study – and not an excuse to go into a catatonic state of denial.
Covering up this nervousness, and out of their depth, all these historians, seemingly want to make out that the Indus-Saraswati peoples were sitting ducks – waiting for ‘Aryans invaders’ to come and massacre them. Unfortunately, for the FSW (and their followers) the imagery of sitting ducks and Aryan invaders is fanciful imagery, based on zero evidence – as we will see.
India then, like now, was not in the quietest of the neighbourhoods. The carnage and wars in the neighbouring Elamite region, or in the further Hittite, Assyrian kingdoms, the Kassite wars, the Egyptian wars, to enslave peoples, would give you, Bhai Meadow, an indication of the loot-plunder-enslavement threat.
Indus-Saraswati’s good luck, is very similar to the argument used by Western historians to explain away why Genghis Khan’s armies bypassed India completely. Usually, and realistically, Bhai Meadow, a culture of the scale of Indus-Saraswati basin, does not depend on neighbours’ good-will or good luck for continued success, survival or existence.
Not for 2000 years.
Weapons, arms and armaments
The popular impression given by these ‘historians’ is that there were no weapons found in Indus-Saraswati sites. Archaeologists at Indus-Saraswati sites excavations found
Metal objects such as spearheads, daggers, arrowheads, and axes, were potentially weapons, though Wheeler noted that “a majority may have been used equally by the soldier, the huntsman, the craftsman, or even the ordinary householder”
Marshall writes of “Weapons of war or of chase comprised axes, spears, daggers, bows and arrows, maces, slings, and possibly-though not probably-catapults.” Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …” which may explain the lack of need for much armaments.
In 1880’s an European writer described how,
“Admirable bows of buffalo horn-small but throwing far, and strong-are still made in the Indus Valley about Multan. For this use the horns are cut, scraped, thinned to increase elasticity; joined at the bases by wooden splints, pegs, or nails, and made to adhere by glue and sinews.” (from The Book of the Sword, By Sir Richard F Burton).
And we know that the buffalo is represented in many of the Indus-Saraswati seals. Is that not right Witzel-bhai?
The volunteer army is the other answer. Large scale alliances, in warfare is the reason. Why is the absence of an extractive state to support an oppressive army, bothering all these historians so much? So, what do Western historians expect? A military-industrial complex? A conscript-slave army? We will see later, in the series, since there was a peaceful migration out of Indus-Saraswati basins, residents carried away all their useful belongings. Leaving behind little for the FSW!
A case of severe cynicismitis? Or is there is a problem because there are no nearby Greeks for 2000 kilometers for the next 2000 years?
Let us first look at some other low hanging fruits.
At different sites, fortified walls were an important aspect of various Indus-Saraswati sites. In some places, the city
“was surrounded by a very substantial fortification, as thick as 11 meters at its base (page 68)… (in one case) “a large residential area called the Middle Town was laid out, secured by the second fortification wall. This latter facility was provided with gates, bastions, and drains. (page 69) … Most of the people lived in lower town of Kalibangan. It was surrounded by a fortification wall ranging in thickness from 3.5 to 9 meters … The fortifications protected the town, which was laid out in a gridiron pattern, separating blocks of inhabitants … (page 76) … (At Sutkagen-dor, archaeologists), “unearthed a structure built against the Western fortification wall. This was made of both stone and mud bricks, some of the latter being rather large(50 centimeters long) and made without straw. A trench across the eastern fortification wall demonstrated that the inner face of the wall was vertical. It is estimated that the outer wall at this point would have been about 7.5 meters thick at the base (page 80) … (extracts from The Indus civilization: a contemporary perspective By Gregory L. Possehl, ellipses and underlined text supplied).
Significant measures, in that era, to deter attacking forces. Maybe FSW should study Tharro settlement (c.4000 BC), various Amri cities like Dhillanija Kot, Toji and Mazena-damb in South Baluchistan (of possibly Kulli culture), and at Siah-damb of Jhau. Mughal Ghundai is further evidence of fortifications in Saraswati-Indus belt. At “Kot Diji, some fifteen miles south of Khairpur and 25 miles east of Mohenjo-daro” of pre-Saraswati-Indus cultures.
And usually, Bhai Meadow, fortifications are a defensive feature! The large water storage systems and granaries(?) would have helped the city to weather a siege situation. So, why these numb questions?
Is it the simplicity of the culture or the grandeur of the achievement, which is causing this numbness?
Elephant seals, bones – and toys
Now, FSW-combine have indulged in great debates on the mythical ‘Aryan Invader’ horse. Mythical, because there were no Aryan Invaders – and there cannot, therefore be an Aryan horse.
Between the Indian ‘khur’, or the mule, the wild ass and an actual horse. The equine vs asinine debate, about 13 ribs versus 14 ribs, with the false tones of certitude is a non-sequitur.
But, while demanding non-existent evidence, they cannot see the rich lode of markers, to construct credible historiography. For instance, the elephantine evidence.
At the various Saraswati Basin sites, clay seals are the earliest evidence of elephants. Clay elephant toys, copper elephant figures, clay elephants toys are some of the other items found at these sites. Elephant bones have also been found at various Indus-Saraswati sites. And these elephants were not bareback animals, but with a riding blankets on their backs. One seal shows an elephant with a feeding trough.
May I remind you that at one time, these elephants were used to frighten, intimidate people also – as the Kuvalayapida incident, at the time of Kamsa’s death. In the Battle of Mahabharata war elephants were in use. The Kuru capital city was Hastinapur – Elephant fortress.
So, while they demand evidence of the mythical Aryan Invaders’ horse in the Indus- Saraswati haystack, they cannot see evidence of elephantine proportions.
Elephants in later day history
The elephant story continued in post Indus-Saraswati Basin history also.
Semiramis (most probably, the Assyrian Queen, Shammu-ramat) and Cyrus paid heavy price when confronted by Indian elephants. Seleucos Nicator, ceded a large part of his kingdom – in exchange for some 500 elephants, which played a vital role in the Diadochi wars, at the Battle of Ipsus. Hannibal reached the gates of Rome, with his 37 elephants. Roman armies were beaten back by Persian armies, supported by Indian elephant units.
India till the nearly 1000 AD, were the only significant culture to capture, train, and utilize elephants. So, much so, there is an Indian medical treatise on the care and cure of elephants, Hastyayurveda. Or the Matanga-lila, a book on elephant lore and legends. Till about 1600 AD, Indian elephants corps were the envy of the world – and elephant training skills were not independently replicated anywhere else in the world. Did these skills come about as a result of some ‘spontaneous’ frisson of invention?
Or, do you, Mr.Meadow, think that Hastinapur, was named because the city-founders loved elephants, for the sake of elephants? A case of elephas gratia elephantis, you think? Elephants for elephants’ sake? Were these elephants seals proof of military use of elephants? In 2000 BC, were armoured elephants required? Says an old hand at Indus Saraswati sites
“There’s no evidence for armies or war or anything like that,” says archaeologist Jim Shaffer of Case Western Reserve University.
Surprised, Mr.Shaffer? I am not!
After all, wouldn’t the sight of trumpeting and rampaging elephants be enough to deter invaders?
Swing low, sweet chariot
Why would Indus-Saraswati valley people need chariots? To do wheelies? Or for use in Hollywood for Benhur prequel? Or because the Egyptians had them? Or should the Indus-Saraswati people have used horse-drawn chariots, to impress the firm of M/s Farmer, Sproat and Witzel? Talking of vehicles and motive power, “In the Atharvaveda we find that camels drew cars, mules were used … for drawing wagons and carrying loads … to be drawn by a single horse was considered no distinction at all.”
The reason why we see no ass-drawn or mule drawn chariot images, is because the same had negative associations. Trijata, the sympathetic demoness in Lanka, lifts Sita’s spirits by narrating her dream of Ravana being dragged down to narak, in ass-drawn chariot, by a devi, most probably a personification of Nirrti.
Not to forget the use of khara (khur in modern Hindi), used by Dhumraksha, the asur general, (meaning grey eyed) in Ravana’s army. His chariot drawn by khurs, was smashed by Hanuman, with a huge rock. Ravana’s chariot, in which he was carrying away Sita, was drawn by mules.
But, if it was rational uses like transport of soldiers, weapons, armour, food, camping equipment, bullock carts were good enough. The common Indian zebu bull was a prized possession, with enormous pulling power, can survive on anything, high resistance to diseases, long life – and can be easily trained. From carts to chariots would be, but a small step, with the arrival of horses – whether home-bred in the Asvakan (modern Afghanistan) region – or brought by India-Scythians, from Central Asian steppes. I wonder how many ribs the Marwari breed of horses have?
Remember, Alexander sent back some Indian zebu cattle to improve cattle breeds back home. At the battle against the Asvanyas (Khamboj), called by the Greeks as Aspasioi /Aspasii /Assakenoi /Aspasio /Hipasii /Assaceni/Assacani, Osii /Asii /Asoi, and Aseni in Greek records, Alexander took some 230,000 Asiatic humped zebu cattle to, says Arrian, improve cattle stock in Macedonia.
A more modern example of this paradigm comes from Jan Hus. The Taborite faction, using ordinary wagons, modified with armour, routed the combined Christian armies of the Vatican, Germany and their European allies, in many battles, during the Hussite Wars. It were these lowly wagons, which put and end to Church tyranny. The only people living in Tabors (meaning mobile camps) at that time (and now) in Bohemia, were the Roma Gypsies, migrants from India to Europe. We will see later in the series, how the Roma Gypises were an important part of the Indus-Saraswati trade equation.
Interestingly, the Vedas refer “to ‘pur charishnu’ or a moving fort which was probably an engine for assaulting strongholds …”
Would worshipers of Thor, Mars and Apollo become non-violent protesters in the face of a military threat? Similarly, why do you think that worshipers of Shiva would be passive by-standers. Would they just lay down and die if looter-invaders and slave-raiders came calling?
A matter of co-incidence is how “bone dice have been unearthed at the ancient site of Mohenjo-Daro, ‘the city of the dead’, in the Indus Valley.” In Mahabharata, Shakuni’s brothers were imprisoned and starved to death by Duryodhana.
Shakuni’s motive! Avenge the death of his brothers. Shakuni’s revenge? Bring about the downfall of Duryodhana! Gameplan? Foster conflict between Pandavas and Duryodhana. The tools – Shakuni’s dice were made from the bones of his brothers. And the dice obeyed his commands.
The other thing you must remember is that Balarama, the elder brother of Ghanshyam Krishna can be co-credited as pioneer of Indian wrestling and unarmed combat – and the plough. Bhima’s (the 2nd of the Pandava brothers) was known for his strength – and skills with unarmed combat. As was his primary adversary, Duryodhana. Bhima’s duel with Jarasandha, was again based on skills rather than brute force.
the established modes of wrestling amongst Hindu athletæ. 1. Sannipáta is described ‘mutual laying hold of.’ 2. Avadúta, ‘letting go of the adversary.’ g. Kshepańa, ‘pulling to, and casting back.’ 4. Musht́inipáta, ‘striking with fists.’ 5. Kílanipáta, ‘striking with the elbow.’ 6. Vajranipáta, ‘striking with the fore-arm.’ 7. Jánunirgháta, ‘pressing or striking with the knees.’ 8. Báhuvighat́t́ana, ‘interlacing the arms.’ 9. Pádoddhúta, kicking.’ 10. Prasrisht́á, ‘intertwining of the whole body.’ In some copies another term occurs, Aśmanirgháta, ‘striking with stones,’ or ‘striking blows as hard as with stones;’ for stones could scarcely be used in a contest specified as ‘one without weapons’ (from the Vishnupurana).
The transmission of unarmed combat systems to China, Japan, and the rest of South East Asia thereafter is well documented. On the other hand, the wrestling match between Sugreeva and Bali was based on brute force, as were Hanuman’s duels.
The Kampilya project shows, the Drupad city was about 2000 years after the Saraswati Basin sites. This site, being handled by ASI and two Italians archaeologists, Gian Giuseppe Filippi, Bruno Marcolongo shows significant continuity with the Dholavira site.
As for Kampilya, maybe Shri Meadow, you do know that Draupadi was born in Drupad. Draupadi’s brother, Dhrishtadyumna, was the general of the Pandava army, in the battle of Mahabharata.
So, instead of basking in the reflected glory, is it not time that you (Farmer and Meadow) got off your … whatever it is … and start doing something useful! Instead of asking such inane questions.
Coming to horse
The FSW school has stampeded Indian historians into a construct that horses and chariots (e.g. Rajaram and Jha) are essential to prove a continuity between ‘Vedic’ Indian and Indus-Saraswati culture. Between post-IVC and pre-Mauryan India. The hub of the FSW logic is the ‘Vedic’ horses.
On the importance of the horse, to ‘Vedic’ aryans, I have wondered why, none of the Vishnu dashavataras (except one) use horse as their ‘vahana’. Looking at the wide variety of vahanas- animals used by the gods as their ‘vehicle’, is illustrative. Indra is airavata, (even though he owns the the horse, Uchaishravas), Vishnu is garuda, Skanda is peacock, Durga’s lion, Saraswati rides a swan, Shiva the Nandi bull, Yama on the buffalo, Varuna on a makara, Vayu on a mriga (deer /antelope) or sometimes on a chariot pulled by a thousand horses, Ganesh on a mouse, Lakshmi on gaja or uluka, Shani on a crow, Manmatha on a suka (parrot), et al. No god (except one) uses the horse as a vahana.
Consider that Indra and Lakshmi both use the airavata. Vishnu saves Indrayumna /Gajendra, as a gaja from the crocodile’s jaws. The eight guardian dieties, who protect the eight directions on the compass sit on an elephant – Kubera (north), Yama (south), Indra (east), Varuna (west), Isana (northeast), Agni (southeast), Vayu (northwest), and Nirrti (southwest).
Western ‘scholar’s’ of Indian texts and literature and historians keep on about the horse, while the horse does not have the centrality that they claim it does! The use of saddled horse in Indian texts is also a major element that goes against the ‘centrality of the horse’. The Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata do not use the saddled horse as a means of transport – which only reinforces that the saddled horse gained popular much later – maybe even a latter day ‘invention’. Unquantified Witzellian claims of Indian Sanskrit texts “teeming with horses as the Rigveda indeed is” are grossly misdirected, if not deliberately exaggerated.
Remember Witzelbhai, the Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, a first in the world, happened probably around 500 BC-300 BC, at the latest by 200BC. The Indian invention of the toe-stirrup, made horses easy to ride and manage. And made the Parthian cavalry into a fearsome fighting force. In 200BC. Well after the vedas were written.
So, much for the horse being central to ‘Vedic’ India.
Deconstructing Indian dates
All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and dating models.
Sanskritic compositions were based on team effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000’s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.
They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.
FSW deny the theory of evolution
The HARP and FSW combine cannot accept that Indians evolved. Presumably, the evolution of horse usage in Indian geography went through simple four phases – wild-tame-rare-common phases. Why are horses essential to any history? Why do M/s Farmer, Sproat, Witzel assume that the Rig Veda was not ‘updated’.
Why this assumption that there were copyright laws? Where is a law which states that Indians cannot exist without horses – or write about these horses. In fact, in the entire Ramayana, the occurrence of chariots is rare and far in between. Raghu Ramachandra did not fight Ravana while mounted on chariots. Apparently, chariots were not a common occurrence when Ramayana was being written.
Interestingly, Ravana had chariots – as did Dashratha, while fighting Shambara /Samhasura. Sumantara, the minister was asked to prepare a chariot, by Dashratha, for Raghu Ram’s exile – which was sent sent back from the edge of the forest. Presumably because it was rare, considered a luxury and it was valuable. While the rest of the time Raghu Rama walked. While fighting asuras under Vishwamitra, or during his exile or during the campaign against Ravana. So, this basis that chariots were the beginning and the end of Indic texts is simply misplaced.
But in the Mahabaharata, the picture is completely different. We have Nala (of Damayanti fame), who was an expert charioteer. His exchange of ‘charioteering secrets’ for ‘secrets of the dice’ from King Rituparna is interesting – as it displays an understanding of permutations and combinations, and even maybe fractals. Adhiratha, a poor charioteer, was Karna’s foster father. During the 18-day Mahabharata war, chariots had a central place.
The evolution of chariots and horses in Indian society was gradual and slow – and not an ab initio aspect as claimed by ‘Aryan invader’ theoristas.
The face of ‘Indus Valley’ research
Current research on Mohenjo-daro and Harappa sites in Pakistan is controlled by a joint American-Pakistani project – Harappa Archaeological Research Project – HARP. Three American researchers, Steven Farmer, Richard Sproat and Michael Witzel, (referred to as FSW) are the public face of this research. In the background are RH Meadow and JM Keyoner.
Any attempts to disagree with the HARP theories or introduction of any Indic element is met with fierce personal attacks, withering criticism – marshaling, all the resources of the American establishment. At various stages, these three researchers (FSW) have raised the pitch of the debate to a point of shrillness which is puzzling.
So, M/s Farmer, Sproat and Wtzel, your relevance (FSW’s) is directly related to the attention that Indians give you.
Remember that Indian history is your meal ticket.
09:00 hr, 23rd October, 4004
Western history and historians, then and even now, have tried to fit Indian civilization into a Biblical calendar frame.
Western historians needed a Day-zero date, the date of creation, to build their historical narrative. Various Western ‘scholars’ and ‘historians’ worked backwards and arrived at a date. The date was 4004 BC.
For all those, to whom the year 4004, was not precise enough for the beginning of mankind, Earth, history, further refinement was supplied – Monday, October, 09:00 hr. This chronology estimated that God created Earth in 4004 – based on Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. A situation where
each generation of Orientalists accepting almost without question or examination the dates handed down to them by the first pioneers, whose thoughts and imaginations were cramped with the limits set by the archbishop Ussher. (1906, from The theosophical quarterly, Volume 4, By Theosophical Society in America).
Max Muller, the ‘Orientalist’, whose template for Indian historiography is followed till date, significantly, had no choice but to use the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology. Till 1857, Britain through the East India Company, followed Spain and Portugal, who had planted ‘the banner of Christ in heathen and pagan lands’. The Chairman of the Directors of the East India Company, Ross Donnelly Mangles, piously declared in the British House Of Commons –
“Providence has entrusted the extensive empire of Hindustan to England, in order that the banner of Christ should wave triumphant from one end of India to the other. Everyone must exert all his strength that there may be no dilatoriness on any account in continuing in the country the grand work of making India Christian.”.
In all this, Egyptian history was the hub, around which the spokes of Western historical constructs rotated. Hence, there has been resistance to changing Egyptian dates. Even with
“helpful data such as the record of a solar eclipse recorded in an Assyrian document that can be equated by modern astronomers with the one that took place on 15 June 763 … Before 1400, chronologies are much less precise, largely reflecting the poorer survival of useful evidence. As a result the debates over an absolute chronology for both Egypt and Babylonia are much fiercer.” (from From Egypt to Babylon: the international age 1550-500 BC; By Paul Collins; pages 10-14)
This resistance to change is an especially important consideration for dating of the Egyptian artefacts and history. Radio carbon dates for Egyptian history were dismissed as “errors have recently been revealed by comparing carbon-14 dates with known Egyptian Dynastic dates … carbon-14 estimates for Egypt are from several hundred to a thousand years too late …”
Change in sources
From around 500 BC, sources also change. After the Greek Dark Age, modern Western history assigns greatest weight to Greek ‘sources’.
After 150 BC, as the Greeks disappear, entire races, nations and dynasties mysteriously vanish. History becomes speculation. The fact that the Greeks themselves disappear after 150 BC, is not important, as per Western historiography.
For instance, instead of the disappearing Mittanis, it has been suggested that the Mittanis and the Medes were the same. Phoenicians make an entry and the Canaanites disappear – even though they are both the same.
In the Canaanite avataar, from being a race of Semitic people, Phoenicians become a trading and sea-faring people of unknown origins. Similarly, a hypothesis that instead of disappearing, Hittites became Lydians, is ignored. Another study proposes that Cyrus and Tiglath-Pileser III were the same.
The Dating Imbroglio
Historical dating till the 1960’s was based on a matrix of theology, politics, colonialism, archaeology, books, records, events, cross-indexing, astronomy. In most cases, all these factors were NOT present, resulting in a significant element of guess–work – and a major element of vested interests.
In 1960s, came new tools to assist archaeological dating system – the the Carbon-14 and the Bristlecone Pine tree-ring system – as well as others. Even this has been distorted by calibration, aberrant data and acceptable readings – all the time maintaining a veneer of secular and objective history.
Indian chronology – Deconstructing Indian dates
Behind this dating ‘logic’, is a man who is much admired (wrongly) in India today – Max Mueller. For instance in Max Muller’s colonial propagandist history, when it comes to Indian triumphs over Semiramis, she becomes half-legendary. Yet in another book, the same Semiramis becomes one of ‘the great conquerors of antiquity.’ In a matter of a few pages, he dismisses Indian history completely, in a half-Hegelian manner.
All these theories rest on the axle of philological dating. Based on imprecise evidence, tools and estimates, of when various texts were ‘composed’ and ‘reduced’ to writing, and ‘frozen for ever’, which are based on stylistic changes in Sanskrit language. Looking at construction of Sanskrit language and texts, the logic of oral ‘composition’, ‘reduction’ to writing, ‘frozen for ever’ is a wrong model – and creates these false debates and models.
Sanskritic compositions were team-based effort, (picture Sage Durvasa travelling with his 1000’s of disciples), a vast body of argument and debate (Kahoda-Vandin-Ashtavakra debate) over many hundreds – if not thousands, of years. Vishwamitra, Vyasa, Vashishtha, Narada were the most well-known of the wandering monks of many Indian texts and scriptures. Appearing and disappearing at various points of time and events.
They could not have been the same person, because they appear at the (near) beginning of Rahgukul (Vishwamitra at the Trishanku incident) and at the (near) end of Raghukul (the marriage of Sita and Ram) – spanning more than 30 generations of kings. Was Vashisht, Vishwamitra and Vyasa, a titular system, decided by a collegium of peer rishis. The ascension of Vishwamitra from a rishi-to-rajrishi-to-brahmarishi supports this.
The difficulty that Western historians have is the internal consistency across the vast body of texts and scriptures. For instance, Western historians trace Indian own significant achievements in astronomy to ‘import’ from Babylon – via Greece! David Brown, an ‘expert’, on Mesopotamian astronomy and astrology, goes further and asserts that the “evidence for transmission to Greece and thence to India in the Hellenistic period was overwhelming.” (from Learned antiquity By Alasdair A. MacDonald, Michael W. Twomey, G. J. Reinink).
What is this ‘overwhelming’ evidence that he presents? Nothing, but the usual dating mix ups. Considering “it unlikely that it was the work of one person’, analysts are surprised, ‘considering its internal consistency”.
Worried? There is more, where this from, Mr.Brown.
The fallacy of the Vedic age
There never was a Vedic age. Not in the sense that Western historiographers slot and exclude various developments. This presupposes linear, directional, phased, and centralized development of the Vedas. Assuming a command and control system, it has a non-empirical base.
For instance, this assumes that the Vedic age was dedicated to the Vedas – and all other texts developed after that.
Fact is that the Vedas depend on the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh; along with the Devatas and Asuras. The structure of the Devas, Asuras, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh can really be understood through the Upanishads, the epics and the Puranas. And we have not even begun on development of an ‘artificial’ language like Sanskrit (as opposed to Prakrit).
Pauranik structures, Upanishadic debates, technical compendiums, the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata were parallel developments and coeval – albeit at different stages of evolution, structure, style, pace and direction.
While other cultures struggle with low or high double digits of ancient texts, India has lakhs of them. This vast body of textual creation, has not happened anywhere else in the ancient world. The very assumption that it happened in India, in a matter of a few centuries – while the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Scythians, Tocharians, Huns, were conquering India.
During these ‘invasions’, the conquerors were kind enough to leave Indian seers, sages, munis and rishis alone so that they could carry on with the composition of these texts. Massacre of the males, raping of the women and enslaving the rest, in the meanwhile continued in the parallel. And after these massacres and conversions, these invaders were of course kind enough to convert to an Indian way of life – and melt away from the centre stage of Indian history.
To pass of these caricatures as attempts to phase Indian culture are artificial and unproductive. and simply not history.
Alexander, Porus, Takshashila and Gymnosophists
At the time of Takshashila’s decline in the 5th century, a significant Gupta king was Purugupta – successor of Skandagupta. Written records from Purugupta’s reign are few and far in between. He has been variously named as Vikramaditya, Prakashaditya and of course as Puru /Pura Gupta.
The most authentic link to his reign is the Bhitari seal inscription, (near Ghazipur, in modern UP). The Bhitari seal provided proof of an elongated Gupta reign – than the Skandagupta-was-the-end-of-Gupta dynasty dating. Currently dated between 467 AD, Purugupta’s reign saw many border wars.
Purugupta’s reign saw Vasubandhu, a known teacher of logic and debate, become famous and Huien Tsang reported on the debates based on Vasubandhu’s texts. Today Vasubandhu’s texts exist in Chinese and Tibetan languages – the original Sanskrit volumes remain untraceable. Purugupta also restored the gold grammage in the ‘suvarna’ coins, probably debased in Skandagupta’s time, possibly due to the cost of the fighting the Hunas.
Alexander’s ‘debates’ with Indian Gymnosophists was possibly with Vasubandhu’s disciples. Is it that the Porus identified by the Greeks, Purugupta? Were the marauding soldiers, mentioned in Chinese texts, and in Indian texts during Purugupta’s times, mercenary Huna soldiers hired by Alexander to replace the ‘deserting’ Greek’ soldiers, on the eve of his Indian ‘campaign’? The 8000 Brahmans that Alexander massacred were possibly teachers at Takshashila. The dating of the Gupta dynasty to end of the 5th century AD, is probably off by about 800 years.
State propaganda as history
The two point agenda was the maintenance of the Greek Miracle – motivated by desire to use history as a colonial and exploitative tool. And the other item on the agenda was the proving of the ‘correctness’ of Biblical events – which was motivated by a racial agenda to prove Western racial superiority.
By the time Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) was officially announced, (interestingly, to coincide, with Boghazkoi decipherment), colonial history was set – and IVC at that time, was force-fitted into these datelines and ‘structures’.
Modern history, is now caught between the Greek Miracle History School, which has stuck to the Sumer->Turkey->Egypt->Greece->Rome->Europe–>West-Is-The-Greatest Axis and the Velikovsky School which is stuck to proving that the Bible is indeed the Last & Only Word.
Understanding Western history and agenda becomes impossible unless these motivations are remembered.
Reform by stealth
In the last 18 months, there has been a synchronized campaign to effect major ‘reform’ agenda into the Indian education sector. The suggested template is similar to what has been implemented in the telecom and automobile sectors with reasonable levels of success.
The underlying assumption seemingly, is that education is yet another ‘industry’. Hence, similar templates can be ‘imported’ from other ‘industries’ into the ‘education’ industry also. After all, it had earlier been imported into the film ‘industry’ with some success. While 2ndlook has no quarrel with ‘commercialization’ of education, short term safeguards for a sensitive sector like education maybe essential. Some features of this campaign create disquiet due to significant silence on some aspects and overheated discussions on some other aspects.
Backdoor privatization and hidden subsidies
The Vedanta industrial group is setting up a University in Orissa. From a campus at the new Lavassa township, Oxford is going to start offering courses. These and other represent the quiet backdoor ‘privatization’ of Indian higher education. NIIT, which pioneered computer education in India, is opening an university at Neemrana, Rajasthan.
Large tracts of lands are being acquired by the Government, and handed over for a pittance to the private sector. Soon, India will have competition between State subsidized English education – and private sector English education, subsidized by the State.
‘Private’ colleges vs ‘world class’ universities
Over the last 30 years, various state Governments in India have allowed private engineering and medical colleges to open up – and operate on a partially commercial basis. This colleges were first called ‘capitation’ colleges. Most of these colleges were fronts for the rich and /or powerful.
A banker contact pointed out, politicians are the only people who can swing the system. Private-sector colleges, can come up if ‘contacts’ and ‘influence’ are used to corner approvals, exemptions, land, licenses, permissions – and hence also the financing for these colleges. To make education into an extortion opportunity.
Pitted against a regime of money bags and power centres, is the new paradigm of ‘international’ standard, ‘world-class’ universities. These foreign universities will come to India – and give Indian students, ‘cutting edge’ education. Faced with a choice of extortionate ‘private sector’ against glossy ‘world-class’ universities, Indians are faced with an open-and-shut case.
But the case is not so simple or uni-directional.
Indian software success
Indian software sector has built up a US$50 billion a year business, in less than 15 years. The Indian ramp up in software, from a software minnow to leadership status, happened in a short span of 15 years. These 50 billion dollars of software business has come out of (arguably) US pockets.
Indian private education can follow the software model. It was private sector Indian education system which sprang up in every nook and corner of the country. In millions of these ‘teaching shops’ software programmers were churned out. Without subsidy, without Government oversight, without regulation. Meeting the highest standards in the world.
How did this happen
The Y2K was predicted to be a major disaster – waiting to happen! The world waited with bated breath – for planes to crash; banks feared billion dollar frauds; army generals were afraid that defence systems would go on the blink. Indian software companies got Y2K contracts by truckloads.
The world piled on to Indian software companies – as there were few credible alternatives. The biggest of Fortune 500 companies entrusted the biggest software problem the world had, the Y2K problem, to the Indian software industry. Licked in less than 5 years time.
Come Y2k, nothing happened. The world over!
The Y2K meteor did not crash onto mother earth. It was just another day. It was the biggest triumph for the Indian software community. Done at a cost of a few billion dollars. By Indian software programmers. India did not celebrate this major success. Instead, they were hard at work, minimizing this success – as usual. (Instead they make a big deal of the 20:20 world cup).
Credit for India’s software success has many claimants – and all of them have had a role to play.
How did software become such a big thing
Why is it that software became such a big thing in India? How could Indian engineers ramp up so quickly and tackle such a complex problem – with such low levels of prior exposure to computers? With the lowest computer penetration, how could India become the largest exporter of software in less than 10 years.
The historical advantage of Sanskrit (a tabular, artificial, data base language) does not explain the impossible build up in less than 10 years. Of capacity, training, infrastructure, investments, recruitment, user engagement, application mapping, stress points understanding, testing, et al required to tackle such a complex exercise.
Since the entire code of the industrial world (at least, the Anglo-Saxon world) was rewritten, it was similar to implementing a global computerization programme in 10 years. The new code written by Indian programmers could have crashed a 100 times – for reasons other than Y2k.
Poor application understanding to start with.
The dark cloud on ‘software success story’ is dominance of two countries. Actually, US and UK account for 70%-80% of Indian software business. Indian software industry does not get multi-lingual recruits who can address the Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German software business opportunities.
The huge subsidy given by the Indian Government to English language in higher education has actually hobbled the Indian software industry.
India’s ‘indigenous’ education model
The software industry education system was not a new system. It was an pre-existing model – subterranean and invisible in official stats or mainstream media.
This Indian education model was, till about a 150 years ago, unique in the world. With the highest literacy ratio in the world, and completely privately funded, it set global and historic benchmarks. This model has been buried under a mound of silence – and once in a while you get a glimpse of this.
My first glimpse of this model was through the draft of Parag Tope’s recently released book – Operation Red Lotus.
The beautiful tree
Gandhiji, in correspondence with Sir Philip Hartog, (chairman of the Auxiliary Committee on Education), laid out the the pre-colonial scenario, which has now been buttressed by research by Dharampal, a Gandhian, in his book, Beautiful Tree, Indian Education in the 18th century.
I say without fear of my figures being challenged successfully, that today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago, and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India, instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They scratched the soil and began to look at the root, and left the root like that, and the beautiful tree perished. (Gandhiji, at Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, Oct 1931 - extracted from Indian Models Of Economy Business And Management By Kanagasabapathi; Page 60).
At the grass roots level, India is struggling to recreate this system. James Tooley, an IFC-World Bank employee (for sometime), researched and wrote a book (funded by the Templeton Foundation), called The Beautiful Tree (what else did you expect?). Sreelatha Menon, a journalist reviewing Tooley’s book and research, seemingly, depends on Tooley’s own PR handouts to write an entire post in Business Standard.
Does she ever make a mention of Dharampal, whose work is the most authoritative today?
Between a rock and a hard place
Dharampal’s pioneering work, in 1983, has, not surprisingly, been ignored by the Amartya Sens and the Jean Drezes of the world – and all their avid followers in India. Kapil Sibal has been trying to further the colonial British efforts by laying out a red carpet for foreign universities – while tying up Indian institutions into-knots-into-knots-into-knots. The ‘modern’ theory about Indian education goes that all credit for Indian education should go either to the British Colonial Raj or the Christian Missionary Benevolence.
End of the road … the bankrupt model
The health care system in USA, social welfare entitlements of USA, employment benefits costs by UK, showcase projects of Japan are running countries into the ground.
India has, as yet, not gone down that path. Though, the Indian State has been trying – quite hard.
Crisis in Iceland
The major beneficiary of this policy by stealth is likely to be UK’s struggling education sector. The UK education sector significantly depends for upto 80% of its funds, from the State. UK’s universities are clearly struggling to stay afloat, hit by the ongoing economic recession and banking sector problems. An examination of UK’s education sector will reveal problems with this approach. British students are scrambling to rework their finances affected by decreasing ability of the British state to support education. British universities have ‘threatened’ to cut various study streams to cope with decreasing funding levels. Due to current recessionary trends and a contracting European economy.
A major hit to British Universities was the crisis in Iceland. And many British universities had their money stuck in a Icelandic banks, totalling some GBP77 million. Oxford had some GBP30 million in Icelandic banks. Cambridge followed with GBP 11 million.
Iceland had also presided over the fastest expansion of a banking system anywhere in the world. Little did anyone know that the expansion once so admired would go on to saddle the country with liabilities in excess of $100 billion – liabilities that now dwarf its gross domestic product of $14 billion.
Iceland overreached itself in spectacular fashion, and the party is coming to a messy end.
Economics forced the British authorities to backpedal, as some 3,40,000 international students support the British education system with fees totalling to some GBP 8.5 billion). From China (50,000), India (20,000) Malaysia (10,000), Nigeria (12000), Pakistan (10,000) and other countries like Turkey (some 1,600 students).
UAE red carpet welcome to Western universities
The recent expansion of US universities in the UAE is instructive – and illustrative of the pitfalls. Faced with decreasing State support, shrinking student budgets and depleted teaching populations, reactionary local populations, US and struggling British universities are seeking to diversify out of their home countries.
What better choice than India?
The collapse of Dubai’s overheated economy has left the outposts of Michigan State University and the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) struggling to attract enough qualified students to survive.
In the last five years, many US universities have rushed to open branches in the Persian Gulf, attracted by the combination of oil wealth and the area’s strong desire for help in creating a higher-education infrastructure. Education City in Qatar has brought in Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth. (via US university branches in Dubai struggling – Corporate News – livemint.com).
Recently, the Government has taken another step towards ‘progress’ in Indian education sector.
The HRD ministry has decided to de-recognize as many as 44 “deemed universities”, spelling uncertainty for nearly two lakh students who are enrolled with them. The ministry’s decision amounts to an acknowlegement of irregularties in conferring the “deemed” tag to these institutions under the first UPA government in which Arjun Singh was the HRD minister.
These two lakh students (200,000) will add to the already over-burdened Indian higher education system. To see that this ‘de-recognition’ will create a ripe target for the new ‘world-class universities’ coming to India, does not need prescription lenses. With this preparation, international universities will find Indian ‘consumers’ sitting ducks – which they can pick off with their pea-shooters.
While all these policy formulations were being ‘crafted’, a well-oiled media campaign was unleashed. One such case was where Sanjeev Bikchandani (of Info Edge, which operates Naukri.com) and Jayant Sinha (of Courage Capital Management) wrote a pseudo-paper outlining ‘reform’ proposals for education in India.
Five points to perdition
These two writers feel, that Indian education ‘requires radical action in five key areas‘.
One – all Government controls must be scrapped. Two – Taxpayers must pay for scholarships. Three – private Indian and foreign universities must be allowed freely into India. Four – the tax payer (via the Government) must fund scientific and technical research. The fifth point (not clearly defined) that they probably make is that probably affirmative action should not be compulsory – but can be tied to Government funding.
What these two worthies pretend to address is the problem of the Indian education system. Instead, what they end up doing, is push forward the bowl in front of the Indian taxpayer – without pre-conditions. All that they are interested in, is addressing the problem of the English speaking elite. They don’t even pretend to address the problem of non-English speaking students.
Is it possibly, that the writers think it is below them, to attempt such ‘base’ ideas? Imagine addressing the problem of Maithili speaking students of Bihar or Telugu students from Rayalaseema! (Dont push me! I can be grosser still!!)
Of course, we should not expect them to talk about how nearly 800 years of violence against Indian education system must be reversed – and the Oriya student needs help more than the elitist English speaking student.
Of course, maybe I expect too much from them! Possibly my over-expectations make me fault them for not seeing the contradiction of allowing ‘foreign’ establishments to set up indoctrination and recruiting centers in India.
The Indian tax payer must subsidize the education of a privileged few. But the tax payer must NOT ask any questions or raise any queries or impose any agenda. The Indian tax payer must just quietly pay up and take whatever the English speaking elite dishes out.
For the last 60 years, the Indian tax payer has entrusted this English speaking elite with authority for setting the agenda in the Indian education sector – and the track record of this elite is obvious.
How many times do the writers mention Indian languages (vernacular, native, Indic, regional, etc.). Nil. How many times do they use the word exclusion, colonial, Westernized. Nil again.
But, they sprinkle their article liberally with Western examples like how, “In the US, the top 10-15 universities such as those in the Ivy League, MIT, Stanford and Chicago play a similar role”.
Even though India pioneered the system of reservation for the disadvantaged, and the US followed India by nearly 20 years, with their diluted system of ‘affirmative action’, these two worthies use the term affirmative action four times – and reservations (nil times).
While a weak case can be made out for funding education in India for a limited period, the ‘freeing’ that these worthies propose is interesting. Freeing. Umm! Who is likely to benefit from the ‘freeing’ that the two worthies propose? For the English speaking elite, I suspect.
Idiots on idiots
At another level, there is yet another kind of ‘progress’ being made in the India education industry.
Indian educational success is being written off as rote learning. This rote learning, it is alleged hampers ‘innovation’. Critics of Indian educational practices support their argument with a thin statement like “you only have have to look at American ‘innovation’ to understand how rote learning hampers Indian students.”
Without ever looking how Indian coders rewrote the entire software of the American and UK corporates in a matter of 3-5 years during the Y2K problem. Or how Indian generics rule the world. Or how Indian pharma R&D is generating molecules for commercialization by better ‘endowed’ Western corporations. Or how Indian frugal engineering is developing world class products – at home, with Indian capital.
The most recent and egregious example of this is the Bollywood film, 3 Idiots, which encourages student laziness with delusions of genius. Behind the film is the book by the hallucinatory intellect of Chetan Anand. A supremely facile and baseless story, written without understanding either human epistemology or education.
Or the essential nature of the Indian. Indians are the most optimistic people on earth for the last 50 years of measurements. And they are also willing to work hard, very hard, to sustain and realize this optimism.
The Great Indian progress
The poor, landless labourer, remains poor and landless. Hardly any change. The only way he can get educated is, if he agrees to learn English!
The Indian State does not allow private sector into education – and denies the poor, education in the manner and medium that is useful to him. He is comfortable with.
Independent India – colonial practices
The Indian State today subsidizes English Language with billions of dollars – a policy that the British started in 1830. In the meantime, Indian language education systems have languished – and their survival is a credit to the Indian social strength.
English should immediately be deprived of all State support – and Indian language education system should be helped back on its feet. Privatization of education is the Indian way – back in history and way in the future.