2ndlook

The Laws of Man…

Posted in India, language by Anuraag Sanghi on March 1, 2012

The Laws of Manu: The Sacred Books of the East Part Twenty-Five

Front Cover
Kessinger Publishing, 26-Jul-2004 – Philosophy – 760 pages

1886. Translated with extracts from seven commentaries. The Sacred Books of the East series, comprising fifty volumes, has translations of key sacred texts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Islam. The series was edited by the famous linguist Max Muller

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Reform by stealth – Indian education sector

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, Film Reviews, History, India, language, Media, politics by Anuraag Sanghi on February 13, 2010
Will he get education on his terms?

Will he get education on his terms?

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.

Typical computer teaching shops

Typical computer teaching shops

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.

Any empty room became a computer centre!

Any empty room became a computer centre!

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.

Government intervention

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.

Indian education needs a 2ndlook

Indian education needs a 2ndlook

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

The Beautiful Tree - by Dharampal

Click on the photograph to access Sri Dharampal Gupta's book

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.

Looking at the mess in Australia, with Indian students and locals, British immigration authorities clamped down on foreign student applications.

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).

Vested interests

Long queues for education breeds complacency

Long queues for education breeds complacency

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.

Interesting.

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.

Blow up tax payers money

Blow up tax payer's money

Billing address

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.

Throwing money down the English education hole

Throwing money down the English education hole

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.

3 Idiots - Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra star, director and producer of film 'Three Idiots' at Metro theatre on October 30, 2009. (BCCL/Deepak Turbhekar) 31 Oct, 2009

3 Idiots - Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Star, director and producer of film 'Three Idiots' at Metro theatre on October 30, 2009. (BCCL/Deepak Turbhekar) 31 Oct, 2009

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.

Penniless, landless, unlettered - but you gotta learn English (Landless labourers protesting against the SEZ in Raigard district. - PHOTO: MEENA MENON from The Hindu).

Penniless, landless, unlettered - but you gotta learn English (Landless labourers protesting against the SEZ in Raigard district. - PHOTO: MEENA MENON from The Hindu).

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.

Linguistics of the Jewish diaspora

Our knowledge of Jewish life in the second century B.C.E. comes mainly from Flavius Josephus (37/38-95/100 C.E.), the great Jewish-Roman historian who wrote in Greek, the scholarly language of his time. The hellenization of the Jews had been thorough.The King of Judea and the High Priest of Yahweh had Greek names. (page 240).

During the third century B.C.E., the Tobiads were the principal advocates of hellenization among the Jews (Grayzel 1969:49). The Jewish family called the Tobiads (the sons of Tobias) traced their ancestry to Tobias the Ammonite, governor of the Persian province of Ammon (now Jordan), east of Jordan River, during the tenure of  Nehemiah in Judea in the fifth century B.C.E. One of them, Joseph ben Tobias, became very prominent during the second half of that century. (page 219).

By the beginning of the third century B.C.E. the Jews were being hellenized rapidly. They no longer spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, but Greek. Their religious services were conducted in Greek. Their personal Hebrew names were hellenized: Honio became Onias, Ezra became Esdras, Yeshua became Iesous (Jesus), and Joshua became Jason. Some Jews had Greek names only, such as Antigonus, Hyrkanos, Aristobolus, or Philon (Philo).The choice of such names by Jews for their children indicated the degree of their hellenization. (page 219).

During the reign of Ptolemaios Philadelphos (Ptolemy II, 308-246 B.C.E.), the Torah and other Jewish holy scriptures were translated into Greek by a synod of scholars. (page 215).

During the years that he was the High Priest and ethnarch (175-171 B.C.E.) Jason promoted Greek sports at the expense of Temple worship. Jason did not last long in the office of High Priest. He was unseated in 171 B.C.E. by Menelaos, a member of the noble Jewish Tobiads and a more extreme Hellenizer than Jason himself.(page 224-225).

By the first century, Greek had become the language of the Jews in the”diaspora”. The Jews of the Hellenic world spoke Greek the way present-day American Jews speak English. During the Greco-Roman and the Byzantine periods, from the late fourth century B.C.E., to the early seventh century C.E. most Jews were thoroughly Hellenized.(page 454).

By the third century B.C.E the Jews of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt had become thoroughly hellenized. They worshipped Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the Greek pantheon. There were images of Greek sun god Helios, the wine god Dionysos, and the demigod Heracles on Jewish synagogue floor mosaics at Sepphori an other Gallilean cities as late as the sixth century C.E. But the Orthodox Jews violently resisted Hellenism. The conflict between Helenism and Judaism, or rather between hellenized and Orthodox Jews, was to lead to major trouble in the second century BCE, after Palestine was captured from Egypt by the Seleucid Greeks of Syria. (page 215).

Just as in modern America most Jews use English rather than Hebrew in their religious services and rituals, so Greek was used by the Jews of Egypt, including Judea, in their religion (page 215).

Hellenic culture was much more attractive to the young Jews of Judea than the rigid strictures of their own religion. The Greek myths and deities, projections of the deepest infantile conflicts and family relations, etched into the unconscious mind of every person, deeply appealed to the people, just as the Canaanites myths had to their ancestors. The Tobiads led the wave of hellenization among the Jews. (page 220)

Jews always spoke the language of the land which was their home. When expulsions and persecutions eventually brought about a wider separation between the Jews and the non-Jews, the result was a growing dissimilarity between the intimate languages spoken by each group.(Grayzel quoted on page 458).

in the early fourth century, the Jews were divided into three main groupings. Those living in the Western Roman Empire of Italy, which comprised much of Western Europe, spoke mainly Latin, the lingua franca of the West, and the native European languages of the ethnic groups amongst whom they lived. The Jews of the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium, with its capital at Constantinople spoke mainly Greek, the language of the East. The Jews living in Sassanian Neo-Persian empire east of the Euphrates spoke mainly Aramaic. Hebrew continued to be spoken by Jewish scholars and by the people in their prayers. (page 337).

During the seventh and eighth centuries the lands inhabited by Jew in the Middle East and North Africa were conquered by the Muslim Arabs. Arabic became the language of the these Jews. (page 454).

Text extracts from A psychoanalytic history of the Jews By Avner Falk.

Judaism – an existential challenge

Jews - the eternal victims

Jews - the eternal victims

The Jewish population, followers of one of the oldest religions in the world, across countries and in Israel, today faces an existential challenge. With 0.25% of world population, i.e. less than 1.5 crore Jews left, in a world of more than 600 crore people, they have made enemies of their neighbours around their country.

The Jewish state, dependent on US largesse, hangs by a thin thread. Without Hitler, the world population of Jews would possibly have been not much better. Maybe 2.5 crores instead of 1.5 crores (at the risk of sounding insensitive). Maybe 0.5% of world population, instead of 0.25%. Also, must be remembered that Jewish studies in the modern context are affected by the ‘Jews as the eternal victims’ syndrome.

Genetic analysis of the Jewish populations

So, what is the reason for this fragile position of the Jewish population? One recent study states that

Admixture analysis based on binary and Y-STR haplotypes indicates a high mean proportion of ancestry from North African (10.6%) and Sephardic Jewish (19.8%) sources. Despite alternative possible sources for lineages ascribed a Sephardic Jewish origin, these proportions attest to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the integration of descendants.

(from The Genetic Legacy of Religious Diversity and Intolerance: Paternal Lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula by Susan M. Adams, et al; Copyright 2008 The American Society of Human Genetics, The American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 83, Issue 6, 725-736, 04 December 2008).

Another study concludes that the Jewish population shares a high level of common paternal similarities.

Several lines of evidence support the hypothesis that Diaspora Jews from Europe, Northwest Africa, and the Near East resemble each other more closely than they resemble their non-Jewish neighbors. The only exception was the Ethiopian Jews, who were affiliated more closely with non-Jewish Ethiopians and other North Africans.

Second, despite their high degree of geographic dispersion, Jewish populations from Europe, North Africa, and the Near East were less diverged genetically from each other than any other group of populations in this study. At the most basic level, the genetic distances observed among Jewish and non-Jewish populations can be interpreted as reflecting common ancestry, genetic drift, and gene flow. The latter two processes will tend to increase genetic distances among Jewish populations, whereas admixture will also have the effect of decreasing genetic distances between Jewish and non-Jewish populations.

Our results suggest that common ancestry is the major determinant of the genetic distances observed among Jewish communities, with admixture playing a secondary role. (from Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes By M. F. Hammer, et al )

Of course, it begs the question, was the Jewish population ever a significant part of global population? One writer who has addressed this question is James Carroll, in his book, Constantine’s sword. He estimates,

Jews accounted for 10 percent of the total population of the Roman Empire. By that ratio, if other factors had not intervened, there would be 200 million Jews in the world today, instead of something like 13 million. (He goes onto recount that the) potential demographic crisis facing the Jewish people is defined by the loss of the murdered millions, not only in the twentieth century, but in all others. (from Constantine’s sword By James Carroll, page 26-27, texts in brackets, mine).

Population growth and changes (of not just the Jews) are subject to interplay of complex demographic factors – like assimilation, disease, migration, reproduction rates and proselytization. Since these factors affect all human populations, further analysis of these factors may just reinforce current red herring theories.

The Israel and USA tango - who is using whom!

The Israel and USA tango - who is using whom!

Jews – the eternal victims?

Of course, Jews have not been the only population group in the world who have had to face the problems of epidemics, migration, assimilation, and conversion. What could have been a significant reason for the decline in the Jewish population over the centuries?

A 2ndlook at history points out (extracts above) that the Jewish populations gave up their language and culture ab initio. Within a few centuries of its foundation, they were giving up on their culture.

Interestingly, and apparently, language plays an important and crucial role in the expansion and growth of populations – as the Jewish case seems to suggest.

Those who don’t learn from history …

The Jewish history has invaluable lessons for Indians. For one, all those who think that English is God’s special gift to India (and mankind), should look at the eclipse of the Greek language. I am yet to discover the logic which shows that English will fare better than Greek, Spanish, Persian or Urdu.

Reducing the role of the Indian State

The massive subsidy given by the Indian state towards English language education needs to be phased out. Indian languages (all of them) should start getting back on their feet. The people of India, each individual will choose their language. No bureaucrat, politician, ‘intellectual’ will decide that. Finito. Completo. Terminato. Endlich. Eindig. ändlig.

The Indian language basket also calls for diversification. India needs to learn more foreign languages. The great ‘software success story’ is actually two countries – US and UK who give between 70%-80% of Indian software business? This is coolie labour! We are missing out on the massive Japanese, French and the Spanish markets because we have not invested in those foreign languages. And we have missed out on computing in Indian languages, because we have not invested there either.

The Israel and USA tango - who is using whom!

The Israel and USA tango - who is using whom!

How 1857 changed world history …

A war of a different kind

During the 1857 War against the colonial rule of Britain in India, unable to gain military advantage, British armed forces started using Indian populations as human shield. For each military success of the Indian armies, the British armies exacted retribution on the local non-combatant populations.

This reign of terror and brutality on home populations disarmed Indian armies and ended the war. A impressive work on this period is by Amaresh Misra – a film critic and journalist, who was moved sufficiently to research for a few years, because, “Since 1957, no Indian has written a comprehensive account of the Revolt. Indian historians have done a limited work”. Another step in this direction is Parag Tope’s forth coming book, Operation Red Lotus, on the life and wars of Tatiya Tope.

And after subduing the Indian population with this brutal campaign, Britain started a more insidious war – a propaganda war. History started getting twisted, perverted, mutilated – and over the next 100 years, Indian and world history was changed beyond recognition.

    Semiramis Receiving Word of the Revolt of Babylon, 1624 by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)

Semiramis Receiving Word of the Revolt of Babylon, 1624 by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)

Let the games begin

After 1857, British racist propaganda and cultural baggage came covertly – to gain better traction at home and in the colonies. For instance, Priya Joshi, a researcher shows that after 1857, book shipments from Britain to India increased by a factor of three.

The death of Semiramis

In this propaganda campaign, the most interesting bit is the cold-blooded murder of the historical Semiramis. Readers will find that Semiramis as an Assyrian Queen till the 1850-60 period Western histories.

The Marchese Tommaso II of Saluzzo commissioned Jacques Iverny in 15th century to paint Semiramis, (alongwith Lampheto, Marpasia, Synoppe, Thamiris, Menalippe, Hippolyta, Orithyia, and Penthesilea) now known as The Nine Worthies. Chaucer’s character, Sowdannesse, is charged of being a ‘Virago, thou Semyrame the secounde’ in his Man of Law’s Tale. Edward Degas and Guercine made Semiramis the subject of their paintings. Calderon used her character in his plays. Mozart died before he could complete his melodrama based on Semiramis. A 16th century painter, Philip Galle used Semiramis and Babylon as the subjects of his paintings.

    Philippe Galle – The City of Babylon with the grave of Semiramis

Philippe Galle – The City of Babylon with the grave of Semiramis

Mired in legend and prejudice, Semiramis is discredited in modern Western history – especially starting from 1853-1857. Her very existence denied, accused of incest, Semiramis has been tarred and condemned to the rubbish heap of modern history – and the Bible.

Semiramis established an empire that lasted, practically till WW1. Some 300 years, after the reign of Semiramis, the Assyrian Empire passed into Persian hands. From the Persians, into Alexander’s lap.

Suddenly, from 1860 onwards, Western history started treating Semiramis as a wanton, decadent, probably mythical, a perverted sluttish character.

The reason.

Semiramis biggest defeat was at the hands of Indians. And soon after her defeat, was the defeat of Cyrus the Great, at the hands of Indians again. And before that were the Battles of Meggido and Kadesh, in which Indic armies confronted the Slave Empire of the Egypt. Such an Indian history was very inconvenient for the British Raj.

Edgar Degas. Semiramis Building Babylon. 1861

The Alexander mythos

Alexander’s raid of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, finally turned out to be a overthrow of the Achaemenid dynasty, usurpers of the Assyrian Empire. Unable to make headway into India, as the Indian Brahmins had helped and influenced Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, after this realization, at ‘The City of Brahmans’, Alexander massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmans.

Alexander’s massacres in India, a colonial historian informs us (without naming a source), earned him an “epithet … assigned (to) him by the Brahmins of India, The Mighty Murderer.” This Indian Brahmanic characterization of Alexander, commonly taught to English schoolchildren and present in English college texts, as The Mighty Murderer, curiously disappeared from Western-English texts soon after 1860 – and instead now “a positive rose-tinted aura surrounds Alexander” … !

Since Indian texts were completely silent about the very existence of Alexander, colonial Western historians had a free run. Using hagiographic Greek texts as the base, Alexander became the conqueror of the world.

Max Mueller – Son of Hegel

Behind this propaganda was possibly 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.

Among Max Mueller’s cohorts, was Karl Marx, who wrote from London, on Friday, June 10, 1853 on India, for the New-York Herald Tribune thus

Hindostan is an Italy of Asiatic dimensions, the Himalayas for the Alps, the Plains of Bengal for the Plains of Lombardy, the Deccan for the Apennines, and the Isle of Ceylon for the Island of Sicily. The same rich variety in the products of the soil, and the same dismemberment in the political configuration. Just as Italy has, from time to time, been compressed by the conqueror’s sword into different national masses, so do we find Hindostan, when not under the pressure of the Mohammedan, or the Mogul[104], or the Briton, dissolved into as many independent and conflicting States as it numbered towns, or even villages. Yet, in a social point of view, Hindostan is not the Italy, but the Ireland of the East. And this strange combination of Italy and of Ireland, of a world of voluptuousness and of a world of woes, is anticipated in the ancient traditions of the religion of Hindostan. That religion is at once a religion of sensualist exuberance, and a religion of self-torturing asceticism; a religion of the Lingam and of the juggernaut; the religion of the Monk, and of the Bayadere.[105]

Aiding Karl Marx-Max Mueller, English poets were press ganged into this propaganda war. Matthew Arnold wrote how, India, a ‘nation of philosophers, from

“The East bowed low before the blast
In patient, deep disdain,
She let the legions thunder past,
And plunged in thought again.”

Matthew Arnold’s influence in Indian education can be gauged by the fact that Indian-English language poetry was for long called derisively as Matthew Arnold in a Saree”. Just before 1857 War, the works of another ‘influential’ poet, John Keats, became popular. In his hubristic haze, Keats wrote how,

The kings of Ind their jewel-sceptres vail,
And from their treasures scatter pearled hail;
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans,
And all his priesthood moans,
Before young Bacchus’ eye-wink turning pale.

Much of modern history’s debates and questions were born during this time – verily created to wage a propaganda war against India – and the world. India’s cultural stature in the pantheon of world’s societies was reduced to a minimal role – and the Greek Miracle was born.

In the dying days of the Raj

This propaganda war continued well for another 100 years. In the middle of WW2, Britain pulled out a general from the Italian theatre of war. Brigadier General Mortimer Wheeler, the general in question, was sent to India – to head colonial India’s archaeological operations.

One evening in early August 1943, Brigadier-General Mortimer Wheeler was resting in his tent after a long day of poring over maps, drawing up plans for invasion of Sicily. Mortimer Wheeler was invited to become the director general of archaeology by the India Office of the British government in its last years of rule in South Asia … Summoning a general from the battlefields of Europe was an extraordinary measure, an admission both of the desperate condition of Indian archaeology and an acknowledgment of its vital importance. (from The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture … – Google Books).

Amazing!

Why would the glorious British Empire, on which the sun never set, struggling for its very existence, in the middle of WW2, suddenly pull a general back from the battlefield? Remember, the deceptive Operation Mincement had just been completed. The Allies for readying their armies for their assault on Hitler in Europe. The outcome of the war was far from certain.

And they put a Brigadier-General into archaeology! That too, Indian archaeology. Not Egyptian, not Greek! Especially, when it was clear, that they would be departing from India – sooner rather than later.

Rule Britannia
Rule Britannia

Right choice … right time

Considering what theories came from Mortimer Wheeler’s rather fertile ‘imagination’ and his rigourous archaeological process, in hindsight, from a Western perspective, this was sound decision. There may be the facile answer that the British were, after all ‘searching for history and truth’.

And it led Mortimer Wheeler to remark,

“They demonstrate with astonishing clarity the extent to which the brief transit of Alexander did in fact Hellenize almost instantly vast tracts of Asia populated previously by nomads or semi-nomads and villagers”

It is this one incident which possibly contains answers to many unanswered questions like: -

  1. The amount of energy expended by the West in defending the Aryan Invasion /Migration Theory,
  2. The lack of access to Indian scholars of the archaeological sites in Pakistan
  3. The many myths in Indian history
  4. The clues to the partition of India
  5. The dating problems

et al.

Just why did the world’s foremost imperial power, struggling for its very existence, suddenly pull a general from the battle field, in the middle of WW2 – and put him onto the job of digging dirt.

Only one explanation fits – it had to be a struggle for its own existence at a higher level!

Destruction of Takshashila – a defining moment

Posted in Current Affairs, European History, History, Indo Pak Relations, language, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on August 4, 2009
The theory that Huns destroyed Takshashila in 5th century is a theory with no legs – and a case without evidence. So … then what could have happened?
Julian (?) Monastery, Takshashila

Julian Monastery, Takshashila

The importance of Takshashila

As the oldest university in the world, Takshashila has a special place in the history of the world. More so, in Indian history. It’s destruction (purportedly) at the hands of the Hunas, as proposed by Western historians (and their followers) has been rather facile  – to say the least.

There is evidence that the truth may be otherwise. This post lays out an alternative scenario, but before that let us refresh ourselves with the history of Takshashila.

Takshashila in classical texts, history, geography

The Vayu Purana traces the start of Takshashila, to Taksha, son of  Bharata (brother of Raghu Ram Chandra). Takshashila also finds a mention in Mahabharata – citing Dhaumya, as the acharya of Takshashila. It was at Takshashila, that Vaishampayana made the first recorded narration of the Mahabharata to Janmajeya.

The Gitopdesha from the Mahbharata

The Gitopdesha from the Mahbharata

It finds continued mentions in numerous Jatakas, too. For centuries, across many cultures, stories of Takshashila (and its environs) swirled, like even later,

According to a story contained in the Mujma-t-Tawarikh a twelfth-century Persian translation from the Arabic version of a lost Sanskrit work, thirty thousand Brahmans with their families and retinue had in ancient times been collected from all over India and had been settled in Sindh, under Duryodhana, the King of Hastinapur. (from Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World By André Wink).

The Buddhist anthology of storiesAvadana-shataka mentions that “3.510 millions of stupas were erected at the request of the people of Taxila”.

Students paid upto 1000 coins in advance to receive education at Takshashila – and there were thousands of such students. Students came from all over the world – and paid large sums of money to Indian teachers for education! Kings, brahmans, commoners – all came to study at Takshashila. Its alumni included all the stars of the Indian firmament – Atreya, Pasenadi, Mahali, Patanajali, Jivaka, Panini, Kautilaya, Prasenjita.

Its development and importance lay in the fact that,

Takshashila and Purushpura on either side of the Sindhu river were connected with the Indian trade routes on the Indian side and Central Asian trade routes on the other. Strategically located, Takshashila, the capital of Gandhar, was the terminus of several inland routes and the starting points of the great trade routes connecting India and Central Asia. (from India and Central Asia By J. N. Roy, Braja Bihārī Kumāra, Astha Bharati (Organization)).

Based on subsequent excavation and diggings, it is thought that Takshashila was the oldest city in South Asia – when Alexander landed there. So Takshashila’s historic and cultural importance is too high to become a victim of slip-shod colonial propaganda – posing as history.

Faxian, Fa Hian, Fa Hien

Faxian, Fa Hian, Fa Hien

Chinese travellers to India

An important source for ‘modern’ history, much used by Western historians are the travels of Chinese travellers (like Fa Hian/ Faxain, Huien Tsang /XuanZang). Supposedly 1000 years after death of Gautama Buddha, overlooking some gaping holes in Fa Hian’s travelogue.

How could Fa Hien miss meeting /mentioning Kalidasa – supposedly a contemporary of Fa Hien? In fact, Kalidasa is not mentioned at all in Fa Hian’s account, which supports the hypotheses that Kalidasa preceded Fa Hian. It may be pointed out that since, Kalidasa’s works are artistic rather than religious or philosophical, the lack of Fa Hain’s interest in his works is obvious. But to ignore a man of Kalidasa’s stature and learning?

Then Fa Hian misses the name of the supposed ruling ‘Gupta’ king – a dynasty which ruled over most of South Asia! And it is Fa Hian who is supposedly a significant authority on the Gupta period. Western history labelled the Gupta period as the ‘golden age’ of Indian history – which Fa Hian seems to have completely missed. Similarly when Fa-Hien visited Takshashila in 5th century AD (travelled in India during 399-414 AD), he found nothing. His travelogue makes some cursory mentions of Takshashila.

And that leaves Indian history with some rather big ‘dating’ holes! Is it that Fa hian visited India much after Kalidasa, the Gupta dynasty, the death of Buddha? Maybe a few centuries later, relative to the period in Indian history. Fa Hian’s date is well indexed. So that possibly cannot move much. It is the the corresponding Indic dates which come into question!

Another Chinese traveller, Sung Yun, who had a rather exalted view of his country and its ruler, is largely responsible for overly negative image of the Hunas in ‘modern’ history. Sung-Yun’s peeve – the Huna king did not read the letter from the Wei Tartar king standing, but in a seated position. A modern historian writing on the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist traveller’s tales thinks that,

Like most things India it (Buddhism) suffered somewhat from the invasions of the Huns, who dominated many parts of the northwest from 480 to 530; but the immediate effect of their depredations does not seem to have been very striking. At any rate, the Chinese pilgrim Sung Yun, who travelled through this region in 518-21, gives us a picture in which Buddhism is quite as thriving as it was in Fa-Hien’s time. (from The Pilgrimage of Buddhism and a Buddhist Pilgrimage By James Bissett Pratt, page 111)

Subsequent Chinese travellers to India like I Ching (I Ching or Yi Jing, Yìjìng, Yiqing, I-Tsing or YiChing), were more about Buddhism the religion that it had become, instead of a school of learning and thought. I Ching also recorded details of the works and life of Bhartrhari, the (probably) 5th century grammarian and poet. His take away from India, from Nalanda “in ten years (A.D. 675-685), during which he collected there some 400 Sanskrit texts amounting to 500,000 slokas.”

The ‘end’ of Takshashila

The colonial narrative traces the destruction of Takshashila in 499 AD, by the Hunas (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Western ‘historians’ have ascribed the demise of Taxila to the White Huns, a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry.

Taksashila

Takshashila

Takshashila lying at the cross roads of the Uttarapatha (West calls it The Silk Route) – from Tibet, China, Central Asia, Iran – and India, fell to this mindless savagery, goes the ‘modern’ narrative. But specifically, there is no mention in Chinese, Persian, Indian texts (that I could find) of the Hunas who destroyed Takshashila. So, how and where did this story spring from?

Kanishka, a major Buddhist king, was a Yue Chi, known as Tusharas in India, related to the White Huns. Why would his tribal cousins destroy Takshashila?

History as propaganda

We have the ‘imaginative genius’ of Sir John Marshall to thank for this – a man who was “interested in Alexander’s campaign and in Graeco-Buddhist monuments at Sanchi and Taxila.” Sir John, who was “filled with enthusiasm for anything Greek” was also aware that it was at “Taxila that Alexander the Great halted and refreshed his army before advancing to do battle with Porus.” Not one to stoop below self-aggrandisement, he counts himself among the “few archaeologists now living who have devoted as many years to the excavation of a single site as I have devoted to Taxila.” He lays out the ground for the ‘destroyer White Huns’ theory, describing how

the hordes of Ephthalites or White Huns which swept over Gandhara and the Panjab in the third quarter of the fifth century, carrying ruin and desolation wherever they went. (from Taxila – an illustrated account of archaeological excavations By Sir John Marshall page 76).

Barbara Cartland and Mortimer Wheeler - both imaginative

Barbara Cartland and Mortimer Wheeler - both imaginative

And his evidence for this destruction is,

Thirty two coins, all of them silver, leave no room for doubt it was it was the White Huns who were responsible for the wholesale destruction of the Buddhist sangharamas of Taxila … several skeletons of those who fell in the fight, including one of White Hun, were lying. (ellipsis mine; from Taxila by Sir John Marshall page 791).

Join the gang!

A chorus of historians joined in Sir John’s smear campaign (published between 1940-1951) against the White Huns who were ‘guilty’ of ‘destruction of Takshashila’. Sir John lays the burden of guilt at the doorstep of the Hunas (Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha). Not surprising, since both ,

“Indian and foreign archaeologists often invoked invasion /diffusion as tools for explaining away the origins of fully-fledged archaeological cultures ranging in age from the Lower Paleolithic to the early historic period as well as individual traits concerning pottery, technology and other aspects. Africa, West and Central Asia and Europe were the favourite source areas. (From Theory in Archaeology: A World Perspective By Peter J. Ucko, page 132)

Lower Paleolithic is about 250,000 years ago and early historic period in India is 3000 years ago. Based on traveller’s tall tales, we have ‘modern’ historians who have depicted, without any evidence, that the

the White Huns, or Hephtalites, felt a kind of hatred toward Buddhism and strove to destroy all its physical as well as mental manifestations during the fifth century. This is how Taxila brutally vanished. (from Books on fire: the destruction of libraries throughout history By Lucien X. Polastron, Jon Graham page 107-108).

And this is from a book which claims to be a “historical survey of the destruction of knowledge from ancient Babylon and China to modern times”. Another book seeking to capture Central Asian history writes that these Hunas, who came,

sacking monasteries and works of art, and ruining the fine Greco-Buddhic civilization which by then was five centuries old. Persian and Chinese texts agree in their descriptions of the tyranny and vandalism of this horde.” (from The Empire of the Steppes By Rene Grousset, Naomi Walford).

It has been pointed out that

Although the exact relationship between the Buddhist communities of the Peshawar basin and the new Hun dynasty is not entirely clear, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Buddhism continued under Hun rule … (there is) textual evidence to show that Chinese Buddhist pilgrims continued to visit Gandharan sites in the Peshawar Basin into the early sixth century C.E.; The Bhamala main stupa can be compared to the 7th to 8th century cruciform stupas in Kashmir, Afghanistan, and other parts of Central Asia. (from The Buddhist architecture of Gandhāra By Kurt A. Behrendt pages 207-209).

Technically, it was also pointed out that Sir John did not stratify his digs, which creates a dating and sequencing problem. Going with self-aggrandizing nature, Sir John also focussed on ‘glamourous digs’ – without focussing on the connectivity issues.

Alexander in colonial historical narrative

For more on the decline of Takshashila, it is Alexander that we must turn to.

The Alexander mosaic, discovered in Pompeii

The 'Alexander mosaic', discovered in Pompeii

Alexander has long been a vital cog in Western colonial narrative of history. Alexander’s halo gave bragging rights – first to the Greco-Romans and then to the Euro-colonialists.

The American Department of Defense, in its Legacy Program, has a section on Cultural Heritage Training. The use of Alexander’s mythos there is self evident. Between the Greco-Roman historians and the Euro-Colonialists, has sprung an entire industry, to create a mythos surrounding Alexander.

Amongst Alexander’s first actions in India were his attempts to cobble up alliances. His most famous one was with Ambhi – the ruler of Taxila. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. To cement this alliance, Alexander ‘gifted’ Ambhi with ‘a wardrobe of Persian robes, gold and silver ornaments, and 30 horses, 1000 talents in cash’. 1000 talents is anywhere between 25,000-60,000 kg of gold! Does this look like Ambhi accepted Alexander as the conqueror of the world – or Alexander ‘persuading’ Ambhi to seal an alliance?

The payment of 1000 talents in gold to Ambhi aroused much envy and outrage in Alexander’s camp. It prompted Meleager, to sarcastically congratulate Alexander for ‘having at least found in India a man worth 1000 talents.’ What seals this incident is Alexander’s retort to Meleager, “that envious men only torment themselves.” (C 8.12.17 & 18).

Black and blue

Instead of the complete capitulation and collaboration that Alexander got from the defeated Achaemenid ruling family of Sisygambis, Stateira, Oxathres (brother of Darius III; also written as oxoathres and oxyathres) et al, the foursome of Bessos, Spitamenes, Datafernes and the Scythians made Alexander’s life miserable. At Gaugamela, it was Bessos and his Indian cavalry, which broke Alexander’s formations. As a 19th century historian reports,

During the three years anterior to the passage of the Indus, Balk (Bactria) was usually Alexander’s headquarters. It was in these countries that he experienced his only serious reverses in the field. (from On the practicability of an invasion of British India By Sir George De Lacy Evans).

The tribes and kshatrapas (satraps) of Indian North West swath, delayed Alexander for nearly three years – before he could step into India. In India, Alexander had to pay the King of Taxiles, Omphis, (Ambi) 1000 talents of gold (more than 25 tons of gold) – to secure an alliance. He had to return the kingdom of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. His loot and pickings from India were negligible.

To these lean pickings, Alexander’s reaction“the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.” What was Alexander’s response to a ‘sub-continent occupied by a complex network of peoples and states, who viewed Alexander as a new piece to be played in their complex political chess game.’ Another modern historian, an expert on Greek history writes that ‘the tale of slaughter told in the ancient sources is unparalleled elsewhere in the campaign.’ ( from Ancient Greece By Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan).

The Indian reaction

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander and the Indian 'Gymnosophists' - Medieval European drawing

Alexander’s massacres in India, a colonial historian informs us (without naming a source), earned him an “epithet … assigned (to) him by the Brahmins of India, The Mighty Murderer.” This Indian Brahmanic characterization of Alexander, commonly taught to English schoolchildren and present in Eglish college texts, as The Mighty Murderer, curiously disappeared from Western-English texts soon after 1860 – and instead now “a positive rose-tinted aura surrounds Alexander” … !

Greek writers report, that Alexander finally realized that it was the Indian Brahmins who had influenced Indian princes to organize and support the Indian war against Alexander. Greek sources cite, after this realization, at ‘The City of Brahmans’, Alexander massacred an estimated 8000-10,000 of these non-combatant Brahmans. His question-answer sessions with the 10 Indian-prisoners-Brahmans (called Gymnosophists by the Greeks), related by Plutarch, shows Alexander asking inane questions – at sea, completely lost.

And arising from this frustration, came Alexander’s wanton massacres at Takshashila – which thereafter limped along for the next 1000 years, but never to fully recover.

Takshashila – the pattern!

One must also recall that Alexander’s behaviour in Babylon – a intellectual freeport, city ‘under the protection’ of code of ‘kidinnu’. The code of ‘kidinnu’ allowed creation of sanctuaries where weapons and arms were not allowed. The religious persecution by Alexander of the Zoroastrians (as per the Zoroastrian accounts) bears out Alexander’s wanton cruelty. As a modern researcher, Jona Lendering writes,

the Zoroastrian tradition is unanimous that Alexander ‘killed several high priests and judges and priests and the masters of the Magians and upholders of the religion’ (Book of Arda Wiraz 1.9),  ‘quenched many sacred fires’ (Great Bundahishn 33.14) and ’caused great devastation (Denkard 4.16 and 7.7.3). This ‘evil-destined and raging villain’ (Denkard 8.pr.20) was not just regarded as a collaborator of Angra Mainyu, but as one one of the calamities that the evil one had sent to earth to destroy what is good. Alexander even received the surname Guzastag, the Accursed, a title that had until then only been used to describe Angra Mainyu. It is possible -perhaps even likely- that several apocalyptic texts from the Avesta were composed during the reign of Alexander.

BCHP 1: Alexander Chronicle (obverse; **) Photo coutesy livius.com

BCHP 1: Alexander Chronicle (obverse; **) Photo coutesy livius.org

A set of Babylonian tablets, published in 1975, the Alexander Chronicles, mention that Alexander killed Kidinnu – most probably the famed Babylonian astronomer.

The name Kidinnu itself seems to be derived from the Sanskritic word, ‘Krishna’, the Dark One. Was Kidinnu better known by his assumed Sanskritic name? The Indo-Assyrian collaboration, represented by the Babylonian texts and schools give significant weight to this hypotheses.

More questions on the destruction of Takshashila

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.

Is it that the Porus identified by the Greeks, Purugupta? Were the marauding soldiers, mentioned in Chinese texts, mercenary soldiers hired by Alexander to replace the ‘deserting’ Greek’ soldiers, on the eve of his Indian ‘campaign’? The dating of the Gupta dynasty to end of the 5th century AD, is probably off by about 800 years.

The Indian defence system

Taksashila’s destruction raises an obvious question! And also important. What did Indian polity do to defend centres of excellence like Takshashila?

To protect such a vibrant and important centre of leaning, the Indian polity had evolved a complex structure across the entire North Western swath. Thus while, within the Indic area, borders and crowns kept changing and shifting, invaders were kept at bay. A system of alliances supporting frontline kingdoms in the entire North West Indian swath was formulated.

For instance, against the Assyrian invasion, led by Semiramis, a minor Indian king, Stabrobates, was supported to beat back the Assyrian invasion. Against Cyrus the Great, Tomyris, a Scythian Queen was supported to massacre Persian invaders. Alexander’s nightmare began immediately, as soon as he crossed from the Persian area into the area governed by the Medes – an Indic area.

Death of Crassus

Death of Crassus

A symbol of these alliances, for instance, was the House of Suren’s traditional rights to install the crown of Persian rulers. Some ancient maps show the Gandhara-Takshashila region as Suren. And it was at the hands of these very Surens that Crassus met his nemessis. At the hands of the Indo-Parthian armies – led by a Suren general.

The Sassanian dynasty was able to wrest back and defend Persian dominions from the Greco-Romans, after setting up an elephants corps in their army – evidenced, for instance, by the carvings at Taq-i-Bustan. At one time, the Sassanian rulers had increased its elephant corps to 12,000 elephants.

End of Crassus

Laurence Oliver as Crassus in Spartacus

Laurence Oliver as Crassus in Spartacus

Less than 300 years after Alexander, Romans came close to Indian border. They were led by Marcus Licinius Crassus – estimated (or allegedly) worth 200,000,000 sestertii. A writer of classical journals estimated that to be worth about 7.6 million in 1860. Inflation adjusted, about 7.6 billions. Source of Crassus’ wealth – slavery, corruption, pillage, bribery et al. Crassus is more famous in history for three things – One, for his wealth, Two – for having crucified thousands of rebellious slaves on the Via Appia, after defeating Spartacus’ Slave Army and Three, as the man who funded the rise of Julius Caesar.

It is his death, that is usually glossed over.

Roman forces retreated, when confronted by Indo-Sassanian armies with Indian elephants. For the next nearly 400 years, Romans were wary of any large expeditions into Indo-Persian territories. 500 years later (nearly), with the help of the Indian elephant corps, the Sassanians stopped the Romans at Persian borders in 363 AD. But it is interesting that the enemies of the daiwas (enemy of devas are the asuras, in Indian scriptures), the Zoroastrians (followers of Ahura Mazda, speculatively Mahishasura) allied themselves with a Suren. A 1000 years later, the Sassanian army, had forgotten their lessons – and could not use their few elephants to full effect, against the Islamic Arabs.

The rise of religion in India

Without access to the ‘Indian thought factory’, after the fall of Takshashila, in 499 AD – by the Huna (dating as per Western history which calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha) Buddhism soon became a religion. Buddha in India, was another, in a long line of teachers. But in the rest of world, Buddhism soon became a religion.

The destruction of Takshashila (Taxila) meant that students and scholars would need to travel for an extra 60 days to reach the other Indian Universities of the time. This was a traumatic event in the status of the Indian ethos – even the Asiatic ethos.

The decline of Taksashila marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. Fewer believers in Indian faith systems made the trip to India. ‘Consumers’ of ideological products from the ‘Indian Thought Factory’,  were left with Desert Bloc alternative products. Buddhism soon became a religion outside India. A few centuries after decline of Takshashila, Nalanda, etc. were also destroyed by Desert Bloc invaders.

Travels of Fah-Hian and Sung-Yun, Buddhist pilgrims from China to India (400 …

By Samuel Beal

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