After The Death Of English Language …

Posted in British Raj, History, India, language, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on August 13, 2008

Silent ships in the dark

Between the World Wars, (1919-1939), Britain was the unquestioned super power in the world. Diplomats lobbied to get postings to Britain.

“In December 1937, Joseph Kennedy, father of the future President, John F. Kennedy, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. It was among the most prestigious of all the diplomatic posts—one he had lobbied for over many months. … In London, the American Ambassador and his wife soared to the heights of British society. In the spring of 1938, just before war would cast its shadow across Europe, the couple luxuriated in the warmth of English hospitality, hobnobbing with aristocrats and royalty at the many balls, dinners, regattas, and derbies of the season. The highlight was surely the April weekend that they spent at WindsorCastle, guests of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. In great detail, Rose Kennedy chronicled those unforgettable days in her diary.”

Of course, this situation changed soon after WW2 (1945). In 1947, Britain lost India. In the next 15 years, British economy collapsed – in spite of the Bretton Woods crumbs. By 1970, there was no British car industry. British Steel was on the verge of closure. British film making was non-existent. British electronics was an extinct species. British shipbuilding was history.

The Bretton Woods system worked for 20 years because Indians were not allowed to buy gold. During that crucial post-colonial period, Morarji Desai, India’s finance minster (allegedly on CIA payroll during Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency 1963-1968), presented a record 10 budgets, between February 1958, up to 1967. His break with Indira Gandhi began when the Finance portfolio was taken away from him. Morarji Desai’s ban on gold imports into India, allowed the sham of Bretton Woods to continue for 20 years. His adamant attitude on gold cost the government popularity and electoral losses – and the Indian economy and Indians much more.

The collapse of Britain was noiseless. Without a sound! Much like the Spanish Empire – and the collapse of other slave societies before.

WorldWide Educational Spending

WorldWide Educational Spending

Persian was an important language – once

Many centuries ago, Indians thought that Persian was the most important language in the world. And then it became Urdu. Now there are hosannas to English. Persian and Urdu were languages that the ruling class foisted on the Indians. As is English.

Colonial India‘s English push was understandable. But, after 60 years of Independence, state patronage by the Indian Republic of English language is unwarranted – and illegitimate.

Desert Bloc colonialism

`The centres of Indian thought, Takshashila, Nalanda, etc. were destroyed by Desert Bloc invaders. First was the destruction of Takshashila.

Allegedly, by the Hunas in 499 AD – Western history calls them White Huns, Romans called them Ephtalites; Arabs called them the Haytal;  The Chinese Ye Tha, who supposedly 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).

The Huna (Ephthalite) Empires

The Huna (Ephthalite) Empires

The White Huns, was a Central Asian, nomadic tribe, roaming between Tibet to Tashkent, practicing polyandry had no reason to do this.

Takshashila lying at the cross roads of the Uttarapatha (West calls it The Silk Route) – from Tibet, China, Central Asia, Iran – and India. The destruction of Takshashila (Taxila) meant that students and scholars needed to travel an extra 60 days, to reach other Indian universities of the time.

Mohammed Bakhtiar Khilji destroyed the universities and schools of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapura and Jagddala around 1200 AD. This marked the destruction, persecution and decline in Indian education, thought and structure. 600 years later, the British further damaged the Indic system of education, with State subsidies and patronage of Western education – the watershed being Bentinck’s proclamation in 1835.

Thus, the reduced (quality and quantity) output from the ‘Indian thought factory’ led to stasis and the decline that we see today – through the prism of last 800 years of violence and destruction of Indic thought. This problem gets further magnified with the existing and continued subsidy to English language /Western education by the Indian Government.

Like many slave civilizations before, the Anglo-Saxon bloc will also see its demise – sooner than later. What will happen to Indian education after that? Will we re-invent our education to suit the new dominant economic power at that time – if it is not India at that time? Will Indian education become a puppet, playing to the ups and downs of foreign economic entities?

Historic Precedents

Will we become a nation that loses control over its future? The danger of becoming a South American clone is all too real. After, Spanish decolonization, the South American countries persisted with Spanish practices – and Spanish language. We all know how South American countries tracked the descent of Spain into dictatorships and instability.

But the Netherlands, even though under Spanish-Portuguese rule, did not give up on their language. The Dutch took up arms against Spain (a super power then) to stay Dutch. A significant mercantile and colonial power till the middle of 20th century.

The decline of the (Greco-Roman) Byzantine Empire, was similar. After the split of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Western, over the next 200-400 years, Greek language became the official language of the Byzantine Empire. Eastern Europe followed the lead of the Byzantine Empire and used Greek extensively – at a cost to their own language.

Alongside the Eastern Europe were the Jews. After Alexander’s death, under the Seleucids, the Greeks became completely Hellenized. Their loss of language closely paralleled the loss of power, security and nationhood.

Large parts of the West Asia /Levant used Farsi (Persians) and Arabic – again at the cost of their own language. All these countries lagged behind in the growth cycle. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Europe lagged Western Europe. The entire Middle East and Africa, lagged the world in growth – struggling with foreign languages.

Brain Drain & Foreign Languages

Each year, India loses more than 1,00,000 doctors, engineers, other post graduates to the West and other countries – commonly, referred to as ‘brain drain.’ These well-trained, qualified young people at the start of their productive lives are lost to the West (and others). The Indian tax-payer supports India’s higher education system to the tune of Rs.2,50,000 crores (US$60 billion). The Rest Of The World picks up these Indian assets at no cost – and the poor Indian tax payer continues to subsidize English language education which benefits the entrenched Westernized Indian elite. The cost to the Indian tax payer – US$ 2 billion, or Rs.10,000 crores annually.

The usefulness and transferability of utility would be highly reduced, if India were to completely use Indian languages in higher education. Indian investment in higher education would then start benefiting India – and the poor Indian tax payers. A recent report on ‘brain drain’ for India Government circulation did not even mention how the use of English language for higher education in India increases transferability of utility from India to richer English using academic systems – like the USA.

Indian Investment In Foreign Languages

When will we start investing in our languages and our learning? How much will we spend on learning from others? Today India spends Rs.2,50,000 crores, (more than US$60 billion) on promoting English. The UK too, spends US$60 billion on education in English. Who said anything about that India which gained Independence?

When will IIT Chennai start creating a Tamil curriculum? What is IIT Kanpur doing about creating a Hindi based technical teaching system.

India is today an US$ 1 trillion economy. The Government aims to increase spending on education to 6% of GDP. That is about US$ 60 billion. That is based on currency conversion method. The moment we use, PPP method, Indian US$60 billion soon, becomes equal to US$100-150 billion. Is that what the Indian voter is paying taxes for.

To support foreign languages?

In fact, for every discipline shown except for the social sciences, a majority of major research institutions are in the United States. Even in the social sciences a plurality of the top departments are based in the United States.

Across all disciplines shown, 80 percent of the top research departments are in the United States. The next-highest share is in Britain (light blue bars), which is host to 10 percent of the world’s top research departments.

American tertiary education dominance may not last forever, though.

The share of residents who hold doctorates is lower in the United States than in many other countries, as shown in the chart below. Indeed — partly because the rest of the American education system is so weak — many of the students attending American doctorate programs are visiting from abroad.

As other countries devote larger shares of their economies to research and development, the world’s top students may see new educational opportunities at home. And they may not bother reinfusing America’s university system with new talent. (via U.S. Still Dominates in Research Universities – NYTimes.com).

English Speaking countries are able to attract students from India and increase their levels of doctrates in the population.  |  Source: OECD (2011), Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, and OECD (2009), Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932485728  |  Extract from nytimes.com

English-speaking countries are able to attract students from India and increase their levels of doctorates in the population. | Source: OECD (2011), Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, and OECD (2009), Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932485728 | Extract from nytimes.com.

The Gift Of English Language

First, the great benefit of English language.

These stupid Germans, Italians, Japanese, Russians, French, Chinese – they don’t know what we know!!

English is the universal language.

All other super powers and developed countries (Japan, China, Russia, France, Germany, Italy) use their own languages. They could have been very successful (like India) if they had learnt English, talked English, walked English, read English, cooked English, washed English.

Done everything in English.

I must admit, this small, little, disloyal question keeps raising its head, in my head? Why cant the British use that great English language to lift themselves from that terminal decline?

Language As A Utility: Language:GDP Correlation

The combined GDP of the English-speaking world is 14.1 trillion (2003 figures). By a similar comparison, the next largest bloc of multi-nation, same-language speakers is the Spanish whose combined GDP is US$ 3.20 trillion. The French speaking bloc comes a poor third at US$2.20 trillion. The English speaking bloc, in spite of their temporary dominance, is still worried about the French attempts to keep its Francophone flock safe.

Of course, this data set gets skewed by the fact that the US, (currently) as the world’s largest economy is English speaking. English speaking numbers (in the world) also get inflated due to the number of Indians speaking English. Hence, Indian national policy cannot be viewed from the prism of current trade dominance. Antonio Bezerra in another paper writes,

In a 2003 article, HBS professors Pankaj Ghemawat and Rajiv Mallick show that bilateral trade increases 42% when countries share a common language. Taking Mexico as an example, such an increase in trade with the U.S. and Canada would amount to ~$150B, or ~20 percentage of their GDP. Another paper by IMF economists David Dollar and Aat Kraay indicates that this trading increase corresponds to 0.5 to 1.0 percentage GDP growth (although the cause/effect relation is not clear; Frankel and Romer are more pessimistic in this matter).

Mr.Bezerra, you are suggesting that we are all drive into the future, all the while looking at the rear-view mirror? 200 years ago, Spanish speaking population bloc was the largest GDP Bloc in the world. For some time, after the eclipse of the Spanish, the French speaking bloc and the English speaking bloc competed for dominance. Today it is English.

Language And GDP Ratios

However, this hegemony is now being supported by the Bretton Woods regime. Take away that Bretton Woods effect – and what will London’s position be in the world financial markets! Nowhere. Where will New York be, 20 years after the death of Bretton Woods? Close to nowhere?

Languages Of The Future

Brazil and Russia, with large natural resources, may become significant trading blocs! Is India ready to do business in Russian and Portuguese? Arabic is spoken across West Asia and with Swahili (which is Arabic+Bantu) is a significant language in Africa! In the future, the world will have to do more business with Africa. Is India preparing to do business in Swahili and Africa?

India itself will be significant trading centre. Are we preparing the world to do business with India? The world’s second largest GDP bloc (currently) is Japan – but obviously a geriatric Japan rules itself out. China may seem as an attractive language bloc – but if mainland China were to split into Tibet, Xinjiang and Han China, does it still remain an attractive trading bloc?

Fift years earlier

Cartoon published in Times Of India on 14th December 1958 – Fifty years earlier

Lost In Translation

I have a feeling these things are lost on Bhai Manmohan! Methinks, he is busy trying to get ‘a place at the high table in the comity of nations’, using English language to ingratiate himself.

On February 16, 2008, I read a post in Business Standard, one of India’s leading business newspaper. It carried a preview of a book by Nandan Nilekani, a business leader and director of Infosys. Nandan Nilekani says, his book traces (apart from other subjects) how India has “gone from seeing population as a burden to population as a source of human capital.” That is the good news.

Farcically, in the same breadth, Nandan holds forth on the importance of English, “how English went from being an alien imposition to the language of aspiration”. Is he implying that without English, India would have been backward like – China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Italy, Korea. In fact dear Nandan, show me one country that has become a significant entity using some other country’s language – in the last 4000 years of history. Look again Nandan, Take A Secondlook.

By 15th August, 2008, Nandan Nilekani, was invited to write for Economic Times. This time around, Nandan did not make too much on the importance of English language. This time around he wrote about,

People like Fatima and Prasad were toppers in their schools, scoring in the highest brackets in state examinations. But Prasad’s parents could only afford to send him to a government school that taught no English. He got English and soft skills training through the Jawahar Knowledge Centre initiative that the Andhra Pradesh government had started in 2004. Similarly, the Andhra Pradesh State Minorities Finance Corporation helped out with Fatima Bibi’s fees. And despite such assistance, the extreme poverty of these families meant that they had to struggle every step of the way … the reason that so many Indians remain cut off from the economy is that we have yet to fully embrace what ought to be the core idea behind reforms – expanding access. (ellipsis mine).

Fifty years earlier, RK Laxman’s cartoon made us smile. Today, the status remains as bad as 50 years ago. Today, it is no longer a smiling matter – it is tragic.

Post script

The UK, in its death throes, is using English as a last prop – to remain standing. The British PM Gordon Brown has decided that

“In total, two billion people worldwide will be learning English by 2020. But there are millions more on every continent who are still denied the chance to learn English.

“So today I want Britain to make a new gift to the world: a commitment to help anyone – however impoverished and however far away – to access the tools they need to learn English.”

Also, the British are co-opting the US in this exercise. Gordon Brown made a visit to the US to

propose that together Britain and America strive to make the international language that happens to be our own far more freely available across the world. I am today asking the British Council to develop a new initiative with private-sector and NGO partners in America, to offer anyone in any part of the world help to learn English.

But, the most interesting, was this post by a Quebecois, where he makes a case with a question ‘Is the English Language Bubble About to Burst?’ Worth a read, this post.

Hannibal’s Elephants

Posted in Desert Bloc, European History, India by Anuraag Sanghi on August 7, 2008

War elephants were a uniquely Indian innovation – or skill, if you like. So, how did Hannibal get elephants into his Carthaginian armies that invaded – and came within spitting distance of Rome.

Hannibal's Elephants

Hannibal's Elephants

Hannibal’s Campaign Against Rome

In 218 BC, Hannibal from Carthage (near modern Tunis) crossed over the Alps and attacked Rome. The Roman army was surprised. They did not expect any enemy to cross  frozen Alpine ranges and attack them.

And after the surprise, came the terror. Hannibal brought in elephants with his army. Terrorized Romans had no experience against elephants – and no answer either. And how many elephants did Hannibal have?

Hannibal started with 37 elephants. By the time he crossed the Alps, twenty were left. By the time he reached the outskirts of Rome, he was left with just one – Surus.

But, Rome never overcame the surprise of Hannibal’s attack or the terror of elephants. Over the next few years, Hannibal defeated the Roman army in a number of battles. Hannibal’s allies were the Numidians and other African rulers. For the last 2000 years, Western historians have written reams on Hannibal’s campaign – and his elephants.

Recently, (from 1994-2006) a Stanford University team worked on tracing Hannibal’s Alpine Route. During the 12 years, they asked all the questions.

Except the really important ones.

Epirus Elephant Dish

Epirus Elephant Dish

Where Did Hannibal Get The Elephant Idea From

Plutarch narrates that Hannibal had a high opinion of Pyrrhus – and it is speculated that he may have read Pyrrhus’ manual on generalship.

Pyrrhus (of Epirus and Macedon), Alexander’s cousin, used 20 elephants c.280 BC against the Romans. And won a ‘Pyrrhic’ victory.

Another case of terror inspired by elephants. Pausanias, lets the cat out of the bag. He says:

“… being perfectly aware that he (Pyrrhus) was no match for the Romans, he prepared to let loose against them his elephants. The first European to acquire elephants was Alexander, after subduing Porus and the power of the Indians; after his death others of the kings got them but Antigonus more than any; Pyrrhus captured his beasts in the battle with Demetrius. When on this occasion they came in sight the Romans were seized with panic, and did not believe they were animals. [1.12.4] For although the use of ivory in arts and crafts all men obviously have known from of old, the actual beasts, before the Macedonians crossed into Asia, nobody had seen at all except the Indians themselves, the Libyans, and their neighbours.”

Elephant stories – from The Rest Of The World

The interesting story of Ptolemy’s elephants comes from another Greek ‘historian’ Polybius in Raphia (book V)

few only of Ptolemy’s elephants ventured to close with those of the enemy, and now the men in the towers on the back of these beasts made a gallant fight of it, striking with their pikes at close quarters and wounding each other, while the elephants themselves fought still better, putting forth their whole strength and meeting forehead to forehead. The way in which these animals fight is as follows. With their tusks firmly interlocked they shove with all their might, each trying to force the other to give ground, until the one who proves strongest pushes aside the other’s trunk, and then, when he has once made him turn and has him in the flank, he gores him with his tusks as a bull does with his horns. Most of Ptolemy’s elephants, however, declined the combat, as is the habit of African elephants; for unable to stand the smell and the trumpeting of the Indian elephants, and terrified, I suppose, also by their great size and strength, they at once turn tail and take to flight before they get near them.

Two things we know – which Polybius did not.

One – the African elephant is larger than the Indian elephant – not smaller.

Two – African elephants have never been tamed in large enough numbers to be used in wars. In the rare instances, where African elephants have been trained, it has seen the involvement of Indians – both Indian trainers and Indian elephants. But, we are getting ahead of the story.

More on that later …

Indian elephants in battle history

In the battle against the Massagetae, resulting in the defeat and death of Cyrus, against Queen Tomyris, Indian elephants played a crucial role. Thereafter, Persians (then Zoroastrians) did not use elephants for a long time (considered evil by Zoroastrians). Possibly, the outcome against Alexander would have been different, had they used more elephants at Gaugamela – instead of 12-15.

The story of Semiramis the Assyrian Queen and the Indian King Stabrobates by a Greek ‘historian,’ Ctesias (in Diodorus Siculus) is of interest. Apparently, foreign armies used faux’ elephants to frighten enemies.

One of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus Nicator traded in some part of his empire, for 500 elephants. After Alexander’s death, in the ensuing Diadochi wars, at the decisive battle of Ipsus, the Indian elephant unit won back a larger territory for Seleucus than what he had ceded to Chandragupta for obtaining them. It was the Indian elephant unit, that was “largely responsible for the victory which netted him (Seleucos) the province of Asia”.

At Ipsus, the Seleucid army fielded “the largest number of elephants ever to appear on a Hellenistic battlefield” which turned out to be, as a historian describes as the “greatest achievement of war elephants in Hellenistic military history.” And Pyrrhus learnt his lessons, on using elephants, during the Diadochi wars.

At the decisive battle of Ipsus – where it was the Indian elephants that gave Seleucus a victory.

Battlefield value of elephants

If the Roman armies could be frightened by twenty of Pyrrhus’ elephants, or Hannibal’s thirty-seven, these war elephants did have significant military value.

Again, if Roman armies could be frightened by 20 elephants of Pyrrhus, or Hannibal’s 37, what happened to Alexander when faced with 100s, if not 1000s of elephants, which were common in Indian armies. To put that in perspective, Chandragupta Maurya had thousands – figures range between 5,000 to 9,000. And how many elephants did Porus’ army have?

200 elephants is the estimate by Greek hagiography.

So, if elephants were so valuable, why did elephant training not take root in other countries? Why were elephant trainers not encouraged? Where did the elephant trainers of Pyrrhus and Hannibal disappear after 100 BC?

Seleucus did set up a centre for elephant training at Apamea, a city named after his Bactrian wife, Apama, manned by Indians. And actually, having learnt their lessons, the Romans, in 163 BC, sent a contingent into Laodicea, Syria, to neutralize this elephant unit and destroy Seleucid navy.

Again there are inconsistent reports about the search for war elephants by the  Greek Ptolemy rulers of Egypt. Ptolemy-I banned the killing of elephants. Ptolemy-II Philadelphus, then supposedly recruited 300 African elephants from modern day Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia – which were delivered to him by the Kushites (Ethiopians).

Supposedly, the Kushites had tamed elephants – though not for war purposes. Apart from the few Kushite elephant riders, Ptolemy II sent special envoys to India to recruit elephant riders. These ill trained elephants and their riders were singularly unsuccessful against the Indian elephants (in the Seleucid army) at Raphia (Polybius in Raphia (book V).

Probably the figure of 300 elephants in Ptolemy’s army was inflated for disinformation purposes. The Kushites did not (possibly) deliver African (usually, larger) elephants, but switched these with small Asian elephants. These smaller animals were probably rejects, going at a discount, from other professional Indian elephant trainers.

Two things that Ptolemy (possibly) did not know – One, elephants (Indian or African) cannot truly be ‘tamed.’ Two, elephants can only be taught to trust and do ‘favors’ for specific elephant trainers. Individual elephants form a life long link with individual trainers.

Alexander – Hagiography and /or Cultural Dacoity?

The mythos surrounding Alexander calls for serious questioning of the sources themselves. What and who are these sources?

Our knowledge of Alexander therefore rests on histories produced long after the fact: a late first-century b.c.e. section of a world history written in Greek by Diodorus of Sicily; a Latin History of Alexander published by the Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus in the first century c.e.; a biography in Greek by Plutarch of Chaeronea, also produced in the first century c.e.; a history written in Greek by Arrian of Nicomedia sometime in the second century c.e.; and Justin’s third-century c.e. Latin abridgment (Epitome) of a lost Greek secondary account by the first-century author Pompeius Trogus. Each of these five narrative treatments of Alexander’s reign claims to be a serious work of history or biography, but all five contradict one another on fundamental matters and cannot be considered absolutely reliable unless somehow corroborated by other evidence. Beyond these texts, we have little except a compilation of legendary material known as the Greek Alexander Romance, a wildly imaginative work filled with talking trees and other wonders that later thrilled the medieval world. (from Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions By Frank Lee Holt).

This is the foundation on which Westerners have based their version of Indian history. 400 years after Alexander’s death, Arrian’s hagiography is today seen by the Western world as the last word on Alexander. One man’s word as history? This version of history alleges that Alexander conquered India by defeating King Porus. Western historians cannot see the contradiction between a ‘disunited’ India with more than a 100 kings – is suddenly ‘felled’ due to the defeat of one King Porus?

Alexanders shown with elephant headdress

Alexander's shown with elephant headdress

Alexander’s ‘boasts’ about his conquest of India, a super-power then, did get him mileage. Subsequent to his Indian ‘conquest’ Alexander minted elephant coins – which modern Western historians ascribe to his conquest of ‘India’ by winning against Porus.

The significance of these coins itself is questionable. Elephant units, managed by Indians, were a common feature in Central Asian region – and later Greek armies also co-opted elephant units.

These elephant coins could well have been stuck to celebrate Alexander’s victory at Gaugamela over Darius. Elephant coins were also issued by Ptolemy, to lend legitimacy to his rule, showing Alexander wearing an elephant head looking like a mixed Zeus and Ammon.

It also became the butt of comedies. These Greek comedies survive through Roman writers like Plautus’ Curculio – with an ex-India soldier, Therapontigonus Platagidorus, who boasts of his conquest of

the Persians, Paphlagonians, Sinopians, Arabs, Carians, Cretans, Syrians, Rhodes and Lycia, Gobbleollia and Guzzleania, Centaurbattaglia and Onenipplearmia, the whole coast of Libya and the whole of Grapejusqueezia, in fact, a good half of all the nations on earth, have been subdued by him single-handed inside of twenty days

and wants a golden statue – made with melted gold from Philip (of Macedon’s) gold coins. Other such unbelievable accounts were written in Greece and Rome about Alexander’s victory against Porus – “a popular subject in Greece and Rome for many centuries.”

Alexander meets Diogenes | Houghton Library. MS Typ 207. from the French medieval Manuscript - Les diz moraulx des philosophes. f. 6, Diogenes speaking to Alexander. | Original page at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL.HOUGH:795200?n=5

Alexander meets Diogenes | Houghton Library. MS Typ 207. from the French medieval Manuscript - Les diz moraulx des philosophes. f. 6, Diogenes speaking to Alexander. | Original page at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL.HOUGH:795200?n=5

Tired soldiers? More like frightened …

Indian archaeology, writers and history do not know of any Porus – or Alexander. Why did Alexander’s undefeated troops, after the Indian campaign, suddenly feel homesick?

What possibly frightened Alexander’s army was the ‘information’ that further lay places

“where there were elephants in yet greater abundance and men were superior in stature and courage

As per Arrian, the only ‘victory’ celebration by Alexander’s troops was after the battle with Porus. Surprising – that Alexander’s troops did not celebrate any victory, till the very end of the campaign.

Was it instead, a celebration of their ‘Great Escape’ from India – with their lives?

During the (nearly) half-year long siege of Tyre, Alexander’s ‘tired’ soldiers’ were reinforced by fresh troops reinforcements from Macedonia. Before his India ‘campaign’, Alexander cashiered thousands of his Greek troops, at Ecbatana, who wished to return home. After the death of Darius, at Ecbatana (330 BC), to all the Greek officers, wishing to return home, Alexander awarded one talent of gold (approx. 25k-60 kg).

Also at Ecbatana, Alexander dismissed the allied Greek troops he had requisitioned thus far under the powers granted him by the Greek league. The official gaol of the invasion, the destruction of the Persian empire in revenge for its attack on Greece, had now been achieved, so the official duties of these troops were fulfilled. (from Alexander the Great By Arrian, James S. Romm, Pamela Mensch)

At this stage, Alexander also inducted into his army, fresh Persian soldiers, trained in Macedonian style of warfare. Again, after his marriage to Roxanne, 10,000 Persian soldiers joined his army.

Hence, the troops left were either fresh or those who decided to stay with Alexander. 326 BC was the year of the battle with Porus. The pleadings of Coenus, that Alexander’s men, “long to see their parents, wives, and children, and their homeland again.” were patently the cries of frightened soldiers.

Once back in the folds of the secure Macedonian Empire, the same ‘tired’ soldiers, joined the mutiny at Opis and revolted after they were released by Alexander, to return to Macedonia.

This demonstrates that reason for the revolt in India, was not home-sickness.


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).

Alexander had to return the territory of Punjab to Porus – purportedly, after winning the battle. The lean pickings and small loot from India provoked a vicious  response from Alexander“the Macedonians frequently massacred the defenders of the city, especially in India.”

As Alexander retreated from India, a Mallian force attacked the Macedonian army. In this Mallian attack, Alexander was himself injured – and his very life was in balance for the next many weeks. Greek writers wax about Alexander’s grief at the death of his horse, Bucephalus during the Indian campaign.

Ekkehard, a 12 century Benedictine monk, a participant in the Crusade of 1101, had many such questions, in his updates of Chronicon Universale, (probably co-written by Frutolf of Michelsberg).

Coming so soon after the schism between the Greek and the Roman Church, Ekkehard must also be seen through the prism of Christian Church politics. After all, how could a monk of the Roman Church let go of such a juicy Greek target? Similarly, in 19th century environment, Alexander’s inflation must also be seen in the context of Western colonialism.

After all, colonialism could only work on the basis of ‘Western’ superiority.

After Alexander

By 303 BC, less than a 20 years after Alexander’s death (323 BC), Alexander’s greatest general, Seleucos Nicator, sued for peace with Chandragupta Maurya. Megasthenes was Seleucos’ Greek ambassador at the Indian court. Megasthenes’ account of India (which, allegedly does not exist) was widely quoted by other Greek historians. His account of elephant capture using decoy female elephants was (presumably) known in Greece.

So, where did Hannibal and Pyrrhus get their elephants from?

Elephants obviously cannot be transported over sea – cooped in a cage for weeks or months. This is assuming that strong enough to hold an elephant for 2 weeks to 2 monthscages and holds could have been made – 2000 years ago.

The Only Country That Tamed Elephants

Alexanders Coins Boasting Of His Victory Over Porus

Alexander's Coins Boasting Of His Victory Over Porus

The only country in the world to use elephants, significantly, in peace and war were Indians – for more than nearly 5000 years. Alexander’s turning back at Indian borders was symptomatic of the fear that Indian elephants evoked in the rest of the world.

The use of elephants was significant only to Indians. In most of China, elephants became rare by 300 BC. Although the South Han dynasty maintained a small elephant unit in their army, Chinese were never significant users of elephants in armies.

Elephant capture (khedda), training, manuals and terminology originate in India. Elephant riders (mahavats), elephant chairs (howdahs) and elephants in heat (masth) are all Indian terms. From India, elephant management skills, in a limited manner spread, to Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and other parts of South East Asia.

Elephant Training

So, who was riding Hannibal’s elephants?

Did Hannibal and Pyrrhus create an elephant training school, get the right recruits, identify the right species, capture wild elephants, tame these wild elephants and induct these elephants into their armies in a short space of a 3-7 years? For a single campaign?

Unlike horses, elephants can’t be ‘broken’ or ‘tamed.’ They cannot also be trained to trust ‘human beings’ as a species – like horses can be trained. In India, elephants have been managed, by skills garnered and conveyed over centuries, for generations, within a small specialized community. The English word, elephant is derived from Sanskrit word for ivory (ibha+danta = elephant+teeth).

Unlike horses, elephants can be ‘ridden’ only by specific individuals. Each elephant has a specific ‘rider(s)’ – and mahavats are not interchangeable. Elephants trust individual mahavats – and this relationship is nurtured for the life time of an elephant.

Did Hannibal and Pyrrhus, create a team of elephant trainers for just a few years? Where were these elephant trainers themselves trained? Where did these trainers subsequently disappear? Since, elephants were such a valuable military advantage, why did Hannibal’s and Pyrrhus’ elephant managers disappear? Why were these skills not transferred considering the obvious commercial value?

African … Libyan … Syrian … decide

Hannibal’s allies were the Numidians (now known as Libyans) and other African rulers. Facilely, Western historians claim that Hannibal used African elephants. We also know that African elephants (even today) are difficult to train. There is the legless theory, that extinct Mesopotamian-Libyan-Syrian breed of elephants, the Elephas maximus asurus, were used, is based on pure speculation. Resting in air, without any archaeological, written, oral, history evidence,

The so-called ‘Syrian elephant’ has been seen by some as a distinct species of the Asian elephant (i.e. E.maximus assurus). However, this identification rests on dubious rounds, namely tusk shape and representations of the animal, e.g. (in the Theban Tomb of Rekhmira, the vizier of Thutmose III (TT100, see below). Osteological work has been limited, but molars found at Ugarit suggest that the elephant of the western Asia was was identical to the living species (E.maximus). (from Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology By Paul T. Nicholson, Ian Shaw).

These Syrian were possibly Indian elephants, obtained by Syrian kings, Seleucus I and Antiochus III – at a high costs. Did this ‘Syrian’ elephant breed, supposedly became extinct, promptly and conveniently, after winning battles and wars, for Pyrrhus and Hannibal around 100 BC?

Another case of a lazy historian, was

paper by John Mathew of the Department of History of Science, Harvard University, in my lap. His paper, titled ‘Nichola Poussin and the vexatious case of the elephants of Hannibal’, wonders why Hannibal chose several Asian elephants for his campaign, including his own Surus. Mathew’s interest in the subject was kindled on seeing a famous painting, from the 1620s, in Harvard’s Fogg Museum. The painting, titled Hannibal Crossing the Alps, was done by a French artist, Nicolas Poussin, and shows Hannibal on an Asian elephant during that epic march.

The reason, Mr.Matthew, why it is Asian elephants (and specifically Indian elephants),  is that war elephants is not everyone’s game. It was a game that only Indians knew how to play! Maybe you (Mr.Matthew) don’t like the answer, but sometimes there are inconvenient answers. Is it the fear, that this answer, may raise many more questions, which possibly stops you from giving the correct answer?

Indus valley seal

Indus valley seal

The Riddle & The Answers …

Question: Quick! What is common between Western (Eurocentric) history and Swiss cheese?

Answer: Easy! They are both full of full of holes.

The simple answer is, Indians (from the sub-continent) or the Hittite stragglers, from the armies and kingdoms of Indo-Aryan Elamite-Hittite-Mittani rulers. The probable source of the Latin word for elephant , luca bos is also derived from the Hittite word, luhabos, meaning ivory. The modern word elephant, is also possibly derived Indic words, ibha+danta – meaning elephant teeth.

These Indians were in Europe with Hannibal and Pyrrhus. Either fighting these battles (as mercenaries) or as elephant riders or training an (improbable) second line of Greek elephant riders. Polybius does mention that it was the Indoi that were riding these elephants – but modern historians take considerable pain to deny this.

John Hoyte on a Indian elephant, Jumbo, through Mount Cenis Pass

John Hoyte on a Indian elephant, Jumbo, through Mount Cenis Pass

The Stanford University has approved a project to work on tracing Hannibal’s Alpine Route. During the 12 years, they asked all the questions – except the really important ones. Another, John Hoyte, British engineering student decided to trace the Alpine route on an elephant – an Indian elephant, called Jumbo, borrowed from the Turin Zoo. Maybe, these questions would be answered if this trek was done on African elephants – clearer answers!

The only country which has a 5000 year history with elephants is India – from Indus Valley to date. In peace and in war. But, Western historians tie themselves in knots denying the Indian connection.

And that strengthens the ‘intellectual export’ from India to Europe theory rather than the ‘Greek miracle’ story.

Manmohan At ‘The High Table In The Comity Of Nations’

Posted in Current Affairs, Media, Satire, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on August 3, 2008
Manmohan Singh Hankering For A Place On The High Table

Manmohan Singh Hankering For A Place On The High Table

At The High Table

In 2006, Bush promised India a place at ‘the high table’. A conference paper noted that “In India, the shift in diplomatic strategy necessitated by the opportunity to sit at the high table, because of the nuclear deal, and participate in nonproliferation, as well as become a member of the nonproliferation system, appears stalled owing to apparent timidity or the persistence of yesterday’s thinking”.

Fareed Zakaria writes about how some (!) countries want a place at the high table. Sitaram Yechury, CPIM, of course, thinks the deal will no such thing as enable India to sit on the high table. President Sarkozy and Tony Blair have been leading India by the nose, proclaiming that India should get a place at the high table. India’s quest for a seat at the high table in the global comity of nations, puts India in a position of being patronized. A senior American official condescendingly says that the US wants to be “helpful” to India as it “emerges as a world power”.

The Comity Of Nations

And Manmohan Singh keeps getting his kicks at the thought of sitting at “the global comity of nations“. His comment after winning the trust vote was, “India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.” A year earlier, he wrote in a newspaper, how India has “earned … a special place in the comity of nations.” And in 2005, Manmohan Singh promised landless farmers, that India “in the next 10 years … earn its rightful place in the comity of nations”. But before that, in February 2005, he had informed at the India Today Conclave in New Delhi, how India must recover its “lost space in the global economy and our economic status in the comity of nations”. (ellipsis mine).

On July 29, 2005, after his US visit, it was reported that Manmohan Singh could not inform the Indian Parliament exactly how “tall in the comity of nations” India was standing. He decided that the focus in 2005 will be on making India taking its rightful place in the comity of nations.” In 2006 again, he reminded all Indians “to claim our rightful place in the comity of nations”. But he started this story way back in 1995-96 budget when he announced that he planned to “raise India to her rightful place in the comity of nations”

Wish Manmohan Could Talk Like This

Wish Manmohan Could Talk Like This

Manmohan Kyon Darta Hai

Manmohan Singh was reportedly hesistant to travel for the G8 summit without a nuclear deal go ahead. With what face will India’s Prime Minister engage the G8 leaders, occupied the Government’s attention?

Manmohan’s fears were captured by Prem Shankar Jha, a journalist from New Delhi’s main newspaper, The Hindustan Times. “India‘s retreat from the agreement bordered on disaster. “It may not be the end of the world,” he wrote, “but it will be a very long time before we are invited to the High Table again.”

Sonia’s Sets The Precedent

This is much like Sonia Gandhi’s Belgian medal. Her reluctance to give up that tainted piece of metal was sad – as is Manmohan Singh’s hankering to “sit at the high table” and to join “the comity of nations”. This ‘comity of nations’ and ‘the high table’ are verbal markers for rich nations – especially the West.

Craven Desire For Approval

What about the West attracts you, Mr.Singh? What makes you so eager (if not desperate) to join them and sit with them? What is the legacy of the West? What about the West can we copy? This hankering for Western approval does not behove you, Shrimaan Singh! India will get its place in the sun – without these doomed slave societies.

Whose Agenda Is This

Who exactly, Mr.Singh gave you the idea that it was your job to make “place for India at the high table in the comity of nations?”

The Indian Voter didn’t.

The ‘aam aadmi’ didn’t. There was no mention of ‘India at the high table in the global comity of nations’ in the Congress manifesto – or in the Common Minimum Programme. In fact, when the BJP promised ‘India Shining’ to the Indian Voter, he clearly rejected them. Are you marching to the BJP’s tune? Or are you sneaking in your personal agenda to rub shoulders “at the high table in the comity of nations that is driving you.” Mr.Singh, do you realize that this is a fraud.

Look At Who Is Sitting At The High Table Mr.Singh

Look At Who Is Sitting At The High Table Mr.Singh

With Or Without The West

For 60 years, India has managed, in spite of the West. India‘s defense production, its nuclear program or its space program and its India‘s software success are homegrown. As are its successes in industry, stockmarkets, education, films and television programming, its democracy and the rise of its middle class. In the nuclear industry, India’s thorium approach to nuclear energy design will possibly open new realms in nuclear arena. At various times, when India has been stuck, it has been the West that has pushed India further into a corner. Even in matters of foodgrain, when India was a user of PL-480 grain. Or for instance, the Kaveri jet engine or the cryogenic engines.

Look Ma, Who Is Sitting At The Table

George Orwell’s Animal Farm describes another high table – when the Pigs sat down to eat with the human beings.

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. … What could be happening in there, now that for the first time animals and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? … There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs … Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which. (ellipsis mine).

Shrimaan Singhsaheb – Does India need a seat at this high table; a table where the other seats are taken by countries who have brought humanity “under the heel by means that will not bear scrutiny“. Do we need to sanctify the power gained by these slave masters? Does the wealth gained by loot and prosperity by labor seem equal to you? Does wealth gained by fraudulent practices ennoble the wealthy?

Post Script

One week after this post, Arvind Panagariya, a professor from Columbia University and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, wrote how the emerging giant can accomplish something the diminishing giant couldn’t!.” Both, Manmohan Singh and Arvind Panagariya seem to be infected with this strain of imported virus. The main symptom of this infection is this overwhelming desire for Western approval. At least, the professor admits to the reality of the ‘diminishing giant’, though, he seems to equate a giant of brute force with a moral one.

Another well known corporate executive, R. Gopalkrishnan, is afflicted by this same ‘comity of nations’ infection. On 15th August, 2008, in an article in Economic Times, he paid obeisance, by quoting JRD Tata who once said, “I do not want India to be an economic super-power . I want India to be happy.” By the end of the article, he reverted back to his usual self. He intones, “Over the coming decades, India has the real chance of reclaiming its place at the top table in the League of Nations, a position she held for centuries but lost in the last few hundred years.”

%d bloggers like this: