2ndlook

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!

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17 Responses

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  1. raman said, on August 11, 2009 at 9:27 am

    anurag, after a (somewhat) long hiatus u have “emerged again” with brilliant and extremely infiormative essays on Indian history !! My sincere thanks.

  2. […] fact, after 1857, racist, propaganda and cultural baggage came covertly – to gain better traction at home and in the colonies. For instance, Priya […]

  3. Naras said, on August 13, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Wonderful analysis. I learn a lot from you on each visit. I wonder if Sanskrit/Prakrit/Pali can be our Rashtra Bhashas? The Brahminist tag can be diluted if the latter two are promoted overtly, with Sanskrit taking a secondary position.

    I hate and yet admire the Macaulay, Max Muller and Wheeler efforts and programs in a perverse way, the way one admires a civilizational enemy. Imagine giving up immediate existence for a higher existence. In a way, they deserve it because of their far-sighted determination to dominate on metaphysical levels, rather than physically.

    We need Indic thinkers who can gather the will to reverse the flow of history. Can I fantasize about colonizing Britain, dividing them into Cockney tribals, southern English Aryans who invaded the northern Scottish Dravidians and so on 😉 Is it possible to establish irreocillable racial differences and say finally that UK was never a nation? The game we constantly lost was the game of theorizing, and paradigm setting. Whoa, hold it there, day-dreamer! Spiritual sons of Macaulay are happy with the state of things in Nehru’s India.

  4. Anuraag Sanghi said, on August 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I wonder if Sanskrit/Prakrit/Pali can be our Rashtra Bhashas? The Brahminist tag can be diluted if the latter two are promoted overtly, with Sanskrit taking a secondary position.

    the cornerstones of ‘modern’ societies (based on older religions) from the Desert Bloc are One God, One Book, One Holy Day, One Prophet (Messiah), One Race, One People, One Country, One Authority, One Law, One Currency, One Set of Festivals, et al.

    From this Oneness, we get the One Currency, One Language logic – a fallacious syllogism. Once you accept One, you will accept all others, including ideas like one shape of vegetables. This quest of ‘oneness’ is the root of most problems in the world.

    Why should we have one राष्ट्र भाषा! We can have multiple languages. People will learn whatever language they need to learn.India is about values – and not about an artificially enforced external prop like One National Language.

    Imagine giving up immediate existence for a higher existence.

    I think you have misunderstood this.

    If they did not pervert history, their victory in WW2 would have still been a loss. Perversion of Indian history was a bigger battle than WW2!

    In a way, they deserve it because of their far-sighted determination to dominate on metaphysical levels, rather than physically.

    Yes – just like bank robbers case a joint before raiding it!

    Can I fantasize about colonizing Britain, dividing them into Cockney tribals, southern English Aryans who invaded the northern Scottish Dravidians and so on 😉 Is it possible to establish irreocillable racial differences and say finally that UK was never a nation?

    I cant speak for you – but as for me! I have no time for such fantasies. Why waste time with Britain – it is “been there, done that and finished here and now” Britain is all in the past. The story is over. Like many other slave societies before.

    You and India, my dear Sir, have future. Look at that.

    • Naras said, on August 25, 2009 at 12:41 pm

      AS:
      >Why should we have one राष्ट्र भाषा! We can have multiple languages. People will learn >whatever language they need to learn.India is about values – and not about an artificially >enforced external prop like One National Language.

      Sounds liberal and fine in principle. The elite of India will converse in a common language, and English gets into that vacuum. I myself think in English all the time. It seems to me an agent of alien values, especially materialism, in the sense of aggrandizement. The spiritual vocabulary of Indic thought is available in Sanskrit/Prakrit/Pali. The influence of language on culture, psychology and thought frameworks is well-known.

      >From this Oneness, we get the One Currency, One Language logic – a fallacious >syllogism. Once you accept One, you will accept all others, including ideas like one >shape of vegetables. This quest of ‘oneness’ is the root of most problems in the world

      I agree totally. The link was hilarious to read.

      Insistence upon belief in “The One” immediately clashes with belief in “The Many”. It also clashes with other beliefs in “The One”, if it is a different One! The Advaithic way seems to offer a transcendent view – The Many are a manifestation of The One.

      My fantasies were tongue-in-cheek. I am old enough to know that one cannot get even with history.

      • senthil said, on March 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm

        language influences the way we think.. for eg, the english word “Nation” is equated to Indic word “Desh”.. but on careful analysis, both are different..

        The concept of Nation in europe was framed on linguistic and racial lines, and it holds good even today.. but the concept of desh is NOT racial, but on the concept of rajyam..

        So this is the main problem with many of indian thinkers.. they think in western language and could not understand the indian context..

        Every language evolves around their society and environment and hence the context differs..

        Another such subversion is the concept of village vs grama.. city vs nagara.. The concept of grama is different from the concept of village.. the concept of nagara is different from that of city.. the way nagara is designed is different from the way city is designed..

        But yet, we equate both the terms equally and forget the context.. So the english language distorts the understanding with respect to context..

  5. Naras said, on August 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    On Language, this study

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/boroditsky09/boroditsky09_index.html

    and this illustration

    http://www.frogview.com/show1.php?file=4002

    may interest you

  6. […] deliberate colonial distortion of Indian history continues unchecked and unhindered. You only have to read Congress Prime Minister, Manmohan […]

  7. […] Khan. More seriously from 1906. After subduing the native population with unprecedented levels of brutality during the 1857 War and subsequent revolts and […]

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anand Philip, St. PT Barnum. St. PT Barnum said: How 1857 changed world history …: http://wp.me/p8KUL-Ur […]

  9. uberVU - social comments said, on April 28, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by StPTBarnum: How 1857 changed world history …: http://wp.me/p8KUL-Ur

  10. Shankara said, on April 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    A tremendous work. A work very original and informative. Sir hats off. I do recollect somethings which I want to bring to everyones notice.

    1) In the recent movie on Alexander by Oliver Stone you will see the entire screen turn red during the battle between Porus and Alex. It was Olivers way of ack. that this was by far the biggest bloodiest battle Alex had to fight. Towards the end Alex is felled by a spear / arrow and he is saved by his captains. Macedonians retreat. Nowhere is Porus defeat shown. At least I dont remember it

    2) Yes europe has appropriated Greek civ for their own which Greeks dislike. Alex was a Macedonian but they made sure he was made to look of Greek origin so that Greek civ becomes a world civ.

    3) 1857 became significant as mentioned here because UK had lost America as a colony. Needed one badly. East India co. provided one for the crown by mismanagement and 1857 revolt. Crown took over henceforth and started a subversive campaign. The plan was to rule India for a 1000 years. For this to happen a total undermining of Hindu culture was required.

    I have written something on similar subject please read here.

    http://sowingseedsofthought.blogspot.com/2009/04/unfettering-hindu-mind-part-1.html

  11. Anuraag Sanghi said, on April 29, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Related and covered in other posts are three other aspects: –

    1. Britain was the largest user of Slave Labour – in the Caribbean and also at home. This Slave trade and labour was a significant source of wealth for Britain.

    2. The Anglo-Indian War of 1857 happened at the very height of British economic and industrial powers. The Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace was inaugurated by Queen in 1851was a huge propaganda effort in this direction.

    3. China was bleeding its wealth in the Opium Trade –

    4. These ‘advantages’ of slavery, opium trade, cheap raw materials from India flowed into Western trade channels, created huge industrial and technology complexes, with large numbers of employees.

    5. Britain, of course, was not alone in propaganda by the rulers against the ‘subject’ people. In Hyderabad, it was done by the Nizam and in modern India by Congress continues this glorious tradition.

  12. Nakul said, on September 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

    India is an independent country today with majority of hindu community (including sikhs,jains,buddhists) .Hence now we can easily restore the real history of India with the help of Puranas which is rich source of Indian history.Also name needs to be changed to Bharatvarsh from India.We don’t have to give importance to western historians or their archeological stuff at all.All hindus not only In India but also all over the globe need to back hindu based parties from now on.This should happen everytime election comes,not just for 4 years.Once hindus take control of their country,THE GLORIOUS HISTORY OF INDIA RIGHT FROM THE ANCIENT PERIOD OF EKSHVAKU AND NAHUSHA DYNASTIES WILL BE RETOLD.

  13. […] 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 p … Read More […]

  14. admin said, on October 1, 2011 at 11:26 pm

  15. Dave said, on January 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Not sure why I get the “feeling” that anyone bringing up “Aryan” (which is a word documented in ancient Indian sources as either “royalty” or “plowers/tillers”) is immediately assumed to hold the Aryans were “white/caucasian” peoples. Perhaps because of well-deserved lingering resentment….but Aryan did exist as a word in ancient India.

    I see an “Aryan” culture, (Traders), that stretched from Europe to China, Russia to India. Don’t see them as being any particular race, nation or people. But one that “seems” to have been centered in India. Why? Because India is “in the center” of the preceding areas given. Hence, “Aryan” perceived as Indian: that is the source of the word. (Frankly speaking, DNA shows a migration of “modern humans” from southern Africa, up the east coast to India, @ 40,000 years ago. Hard to argue India shuld not be considered, at the least, “one” of the likely places for civilization to have formed and started.)

    Question: I am aware that Ramses II usurped a “Vedic” myth to propagandize his defeat at Kadesh into “victory.” I was unaware the same holds true for Meggido. Can anyone give a link regarding this assertion, please? Ramses II should be called “Ramses II, the Great (Usurper)”, as he usurped Amenhotep III’s temples and stables and shipyard.

    Btw: I am certain someone has already noted this, but if not: Jewish “Purim” is a Purranic tale of gods battling for supremacy. Ester/Istar, Mordecia/Marduk, Vashti/Vach, Haman/Haruman.

    As is “Homer’s” Odyssey. Look closer if you haven’t noticed before. Apollo is Ullyses…. he is Ullo/Ollo, the Archer. An older mythic form battling the newer “Greek” forms of myth. Note well how the “gods and goddesses” take sides….

    And the Egyptian “Djed” column? That is, without doubt, a Chedi. What did the old Sufi in Pyramid Code say the “Djet” column stands for? “The Ancestors.”

    In fact, in Wallis Budge’s “Gods of the Egyptians, Vol. 2”, is shown an image of “Amun-Re” guarded, by what Budge calls (spells) “Wat Chedi” female guardians, and Amen-Re has an 8-headed serpent around his head.

    Great website, thanks!

    Dave aka farang


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