2ndlook

India – Beyond Individuals

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on January 26, 2008

Bhagvad Geeta4, 7Bhagvad Geeta4, 8“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in righteousness, O descendant of Bharata, and a rise of evil — at that time I manifest myself. To deliver all those who believe in goodness and to annihilate the evil, to reestablish righteousness, I will appear, in millennium after millennium.” Bhagwad Geetha IV, 7-8.

Who was Kalidasa? No one quite knows. After composing some of the best lyrical poetry ever, (in Sanskrit), little is known about him. His life lives in his works. Who was Ved Vyasa – the writer of Mahabharata? Or for that matter Valmiki! No one knows. About any one of these people.

Yet, whenever, India had needed, inspirations have come. To lead us … असतो मा सद्गमय From untruth to the truth … तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय … From darkness to light … मृतयोर् मा अमृतं गमय … from termination, to eternity …

Portrait Of Tipu SultanTipu Sultan unceasing opposition for more than 30 years (The Mysore Wars – 1767-1799) to the foreign rule before the 1857 War made the British rulers cautious about waging war in India. Immediately thereafter was the challenge of the Sikh qaum – led by Ranjit Singh. The death of Ranjit SinghRanjit Singh & Laili - His Favorite Horse in (1839) gave them another opportunity. Then followed the Afghan wars and the Sikh Wars (between 1839-1850). In 1857 was the India‘s first war of Independence.

From 1857 to the 1900, the British colonial government decimated Indian leadership. Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent to Rangoon. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Ahalyabai Holkar. Tantia Tope. Leader after leader came to the fore. And India continued to redefine itself.

Swami VivekanandaFrom feudal and hereditary leaders, the leadership slowly changed. From political to social. In parallel. In 1828, Raja Ram Mohan Roy formed the Brahmo Samaj. In 1875, Swami Dayanand formed the Arya Samaj. On 24th December 1892, Swami Vivekananda reached Kanyakumari – after travelling across India. He was entertained by rajas and the रंकDadabhai Naoroji (commoners) of his day.

Then followed the political leadership. Dadabhai Naoroji’s (Congress President in 1886, 1893 1906) research and quantification of the British Loot from India started a new set of leaders against colonial rule – and a new definition of India. Tilak’s demand for ‘swaraj’ and ‘swadeshi’ Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilakgoods unnerved the colonialists. The colonial British Government deported Balgangadhar Tilak to Rangoon. He came back stronger than before. In other countries, when old leaders and rulers were removed or replaced, those countries descended into dictatorship, confusion, poverty. In India, we had wave after wave of leaders – and each time India moved forward. In a direction which has no precedents in world history.

What Happened In Other Countries

Why do Australia and Canada still acknowledge the British Queen as the head of the state? Spain has Juan Carlos I as its king! Did you know that Belgium has Albert II as it King? And Queen Beatrix rules over Holland (The Netherlands). King Akihito is venerated by the Japanese – and is the head of the state. Sweden is ruled by King Carl XVI Gustaf. Luxembourg has the Grand Duke Henri as its equivalent to a King! King Harald V lords over Norway! Queen Margrethe II rules over Denmark. The world still has quite a few monarchies – especially in the OECD. Why?

France removed and guillotined the monarchs – and they got Napoleon Bonaparte, as dictator! Russia tried – and they got 70 years of communist dictatorship. Italy asked King Victor Emmanuel III to go – and got Mussolini. The British exiled the Kaiser of Germany – and the Germans had to put up with Hitler thereafter.

Britain terminated the Turkish Ottoman Empire – and Turkey got a benign dictator, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, and then not so benign dictators – and is yet to recover! East Europe (Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Albania, etc) promptly started fighting with each other, within and without – after the kings were removed. China became communist after the last emperor – and still has a communist dictatorship. Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, most of Africa, South America – same or similar story.

This history is why Canada and Australia cling to the skirts of British Monarchy.

Republican Democracy

America became one of the first successful Republican democracies – from 1789, when George Washington became the first elected President of USA. (70 years later there was a Civil War). America survived.

Israel, (propped up by massive US aid) is another country which has been a republican democracy for more than 50 years. Switzerland (with guaranteed neutrality from the European powers) is another in modern history to survive 50 years of republican democracy. Srilanka has been another country which has survived 50 years as republican democracy – but just about.

India is the youngest Republican democracy – and we have completed a historic 50 years as republican democracy – Jan 26th 1950, till date.

Gandhiji’s Conquest

But before the republic, came the unification of India – the crowning achievement of Gandhiji. Not the political union (achieved by Sardar Patel) – but the ideological union!

Garibaldi (united Italy), Bismarck (united Germany), Simon Bolivar (liberated and united South American countries) were unifiers who succeeded with the help of armies.

Gandhiji (armed with a walking stick) unified a larger India (and Pakistan) without an army. An India and a Pakistan – bigger than what the largest empire in the history of the world, the British Empire could not conquer with its armies.

One Clean Break

To make a one clean break from the feudal-colonial past – and succeed! That is a dream – never before in the history of the world. India made history – by surviving for 50 years with a republican democracy.

In 1947, India was a feudal society with more than 500 Kings and (some) Queens at the time of Independence. (No, the British did not rule over all of modern India). Large parts of India also had to change from a colonial mindset.

How Is India Unique

However, no other country has 15 official languages.

Switzerland has only 4. Sri Lanka’s Sinhalas do not want to accept Sri Lankan Tamils as full and equal citizens – hence the 20 year old civil war.

Social Equality

The liberation of Blacks in the USA is a 1970s phenomenon. It took non-violent protests (Martin Luther King) and violent threats (Malcolm X) for some kind of real emancipation and equity to come in.

Blacks in the USA legally got full and equal liberty only in 1964 after President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act of 1964. Earlier in 1954, President Eisenhower had to send in the army (the National Guard). In the Cold War scenario, under international media glare, during the Little Rock School stand-off, Eisenhower (a Southerner himself) reacted. The Mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas closed down the school rather than de-segregate. De-segregation (between the Blacks and Whites) happened clearly and fully only by 1970-75. Non-violent protests by Martin Luther King (inspired by Gandhiji’s) till 1968 and violent threats by Malcolm X thereafter, made desegregation a reality. Not to forget Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. The eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation during the Kennedy years produced the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But, Gandhiji’s first step, after coming back from South Africa, (many decades before India’s Independence, Unification and the creation of the Republic) was to start social reform against untouchability.

Enforcement – or Help

India and America, created their own constitutions without external enforcement. Republican democracy in Germany was imposed by the Allied Powers – hence their record is blemished.

Religions

In most countries, religion divides. In India, we are different. India has the world’s second /third largest Muslim population. The Indian Christian population is equal to that of most majority-Christian countries – excluding just a few big one like USA, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, etc. Buddhists number nearly 50 lakhs. Sikhs, Parsis (Zoorastrians), Bahais, follows their own religion. Iranians, Armenians, Jews, Chinese have come to India – when persecuted in their homelands.

Racism! Anyone?

No, thanks!

India has the Caucasoid stock – spread over the North and West India; Australoid stock spread over South India and the Mongoloid stock spread over of East and North East. There is also a very small sprinkling of the Negroid stock – less than 1%.

The Challenges Ahead

The challenges ahead are defence and economics.

India’s defence unpreparedness is beyond comprehension. Worse, is the lack of threat perception. Indians (sadly and truly) limit their threat perception to the Pakistanis – and the Chinese. with the world’s largest private reserves of gold India becomes a target. The resultant global and emerging threats are unrealised. We spend billions of dollars on buying arms all over the world – but our domestic arms industry is starving.

The second is economics. The world trade systems, financial agreements, currency management continue to drag down India – and many other countries. Navigating these uncharted waters successfully is the other.

And I am sure that another set of new leaders will arrive and take India forward to another level.

Sooner – not later.

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India’s Silent Revolutionaries

Posted in Business, Current Affairs, History, India, Media, politics, Satire by Anuraag Sanghi on December 9, 2007

“Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” Ian Fleming, in Goldfinger.

In 60 years of post-colonial India, 3 significant developments will win the award for deepest impact – but least appreciated or known.

Potti Sreeramulu - Spirit Of The Linguistic State Reorganization (Image source - hindu.com). Click for larger image.

Potti Sreeramulu - Spirit Of The Linguistic State Reorganization (Image source - hindu.com). Click for larger image.

1953 – The Language Genie

An issue on which the colonial rulers ‘set up’ the new rulers of India for failure was on the contentious issue of language. Rightly, the colonial rulers pointed out that there never has been a successful country with so many languages.

Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose were all for one national language – much like numerous western countries, whose success they so wanted to rival or exceed. And the language of their choice was Hindi.

What kept Europe divided, amongst many things (not that they need help), is language. Belgians (a country with 1 crore population; smaller than Chennai) are being prepared for probable split between the Flemish and the French speaking populations. Canada has been at the precipice for 100 years – torn between two languages. The Balkans , homeland of Alexander the Great (who wanted to make one world), have been at each other for the last 80 years – after they became independent of the Ottoman Empire.

There never has been a country, in modern history, which has had 2-3 languages, without splitting at the seams. One man, who is forgotten and who made a difference was Potti Sreeramulu. A believer and follower of Gandhiji, he pushed Nehru for re-organising India on linguistic lines. Nehru vacillated. Potti Sreeramulu, like Gandhiji, went on ahunger strike. Nehru ignored Potti Sreeramulu’s hunger strike. Potti Sreeramulu died.

The ground swell of international (and also domestic) opinion forced Nehru’s hand. He was left with little choice. And India has since then been administered on linguistic lines. This has given enough space for every sub-culture – without diluting their renewed Indian identity.

In the meantime, Indians have become adventurous in their integration. Idli and Dosa are a part of a Punjabi households and salwar kameez have become popular in Kerala. Hindi film industry is second only to Telugu film industry.

If India had followed colonial administration’s advice of one national language, Tamil Nadu would definitely have seceded in the 1960’s. Ask Sri Lanka. I do hope that Malaysia does not make the Sri Lankan mistake.

A Young PV Narasimha Rao1991 – Problems From Outside

Rajiv Gandhi came back from Sriperumbudur in a coffin. Assam problem seemed beyond resolution. The common Indian had given up on Punjab. The 1984 anti Sikh riots only strengthened the negative outlook. Kashmir was simmering. The Indian electorate had given a fractured mandate. A hung Parliament.

Indian economy was going downhill – and nothing seemed to get the economy out of the “Hindu rate of growth”. India was on the verge of a debt default. Indian debt was downgraded by western rating agencies. The Asian Tigers had done wonders – under US tutelage. China was furiously reforming – and succeeding at it. USSR India’s faithful ally, was breaking up. Corruption was endemic and every politician was an Untouchable – nobody or anything could touch them. There were no laws. Many across the world shook their head and could be heard saying, “I knew … I told you … It had to happen …”

All bets on India were off.

A “intellectual” politician, was called back from retirement – to become Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. Forgotten today.

By 1995, he set up India for today’s growth. In a matter of 4 years, he cleared 40 years of cobwebs. The direction that he put India on has been now been followed for more than 15 years – with great success by more than 5 Prime Ministers. His biggest success was accountability. Heads of administration do not appear in a court of law – which PVN did. Election Commission, CAG, Supreme Court acquired fangs – earlier docile shadows of their purported design of BR Ambedkar.

Naidu And Vajpayee1992 – The New Paradigm

One of India’s chronic under performer, Andhra Pradesh got a new Chief Minister – N. Chandra Babu Naidu. In the next 9 years, Andhra Pradesh moved in the Top 5 investment destinations.

Technology savvy, focused, driven – he changed the political idiom in India. State governments now pattern themselves along Naidu’s lines. Privatisations (instead of expanding public sector), tax cuts (instead of increases), administration automation (instead of increased recruitments), hand picked bureaucrats with a development agenda (instead of personal loyalty agenda earlier) were the cornerstones of his strategy. His state administration reform agenda convinced PM Vajpayee to commend Naidu’s template to other state governments to follow.

The Source

These 3 reformers were from Andhra Pradesh – carved out of the earlier Nizam state. The Nizam state was the largest Indian state (in Europe or any other part of Asia, it would have been a few countries) – ruled by an Indian ruler. The last Nizam of Hyderabad, considered at one time the richest man in the world, was also a very simple man. Famously, he never threw away half smoked cigarettes – frugality for world’s richest man. Especially, when other Indian Nawabs out did each other with their spending and peccadilloes in London and Paris.

Andhra Pradesh (most of) was not administered by colonials. Hyderabad is the largest modern Indian city – without a history of Colonial administration. Kolkatta, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi were cities ruled by Colonial India administration before the creation of the Indian Republic.

Indian consumer companies test market their products in Hyderabad frequently – as it lends itself to the Indian idiom. Other major metros (with a history of colonial administration) many a time give a “false positive”. Andhra Pradesh supports the world’s largest film industry – bigger than Hollywood and of course, Mumbai film industry.

Two significant creative minds were adopted by Hyderabadis as their cultural mascots. One was Allama Iqbal of “सारे जेहान से अच्छा हिंदुस्तान हमारा” “Saare Jehan Se achcha Hindustan Hamara” fame.

Chirkan, the second mascot, is the “poet” of dirty ditties. Chirkan was the irreverent break from the feudal and colonial Indian mindset – before the Indian Republic.

His rhymes on Qutub minar (a phallic symbol of feudal /colonial majesty of another era) have been repeated by every school child as his very own. He was feted at cultural events – and was a legend in his lifetime. His “sher” on a princess (the Nizam’s daughter) is repeated by schoolboys even today with raging hormones. It is to the Nizam’s credit that Chirkan was not persecuted – but given a token punishment of banishment from Hyderabad.

Forgotten today by the mainstream, Chirkan’s books still circulate in the underground. Chirkan’s rhymes and jokes spread to all of India. 75 years later, every teenager makes his rites of passage with Chirkan’s jokes. Most of Mumbai film industry’s dirty jokes are a take off on Chirkan.

India – 1 Country 2 Histories Many People

Posted in History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 22, 2007

यूनान-ओ-मीस्र-ओ रूमा, सब मीट गए जहाँ से, अब तक मगर है बाक़ी, नाम ओ नीशान हमारा,
कुछ बात है के हस्ती, मीटती नहीं हमारी, सदीओं रहा है दुश्मन, दौर ऐ ज़माना हमारा

Allama Iqbal (Taraana-e-Hind)

Dead Civilisations

Understanding dead civilisations is dead easy. Grand hypotheses or criticism on scanty evidence can be heady wine. Archaeologists can speculate freely about Egypt, Greece, Rome, Babylon, Assyria, Hittites, knowing they are safe with only a limited material. India is different.

World’s oldest living civilisation, India, on the other, is difficult to understand. At every stage, India challenges historians and archaeologists. To make sense of India, we have to define India in 2 set of histories and many peoples within the 2 histories. After that, the haze drifts and it becomes clearer.

The North Indian Geography

One India is North of Vindhyas and the other is South of Vindhyas. These 2 India’s have a overlap (as is to be expected) and are complementary. The North of Vindhyas, stretching from modern day Orissa, MP, Maharashtra upwards has its core around the Indo Gangetic plains and the Himalayas. It is the core of North Indian geography.

This North Indian geography radiates out and spreads on the उत्तरपथ Uttarapatha (the Western world knows this as the Silk Route) to modern day Samarkand, Afghanistan, Tibet, Pakistan, Iran, Oman, Tajikstan upto the Caspian Sea. Central Asian tribes andThe Silk Route & Aurel Stern kingdoms of Persians, Sakas /Scythians, Kushans (Kanishka, their most famous ruler), Huns, Mongols, Tartars set up empires with shifting boundaries. Hueng Tsang narrates that India ruled till east of Taklamakan desert. Sir Aurel Stern, recovered Indian language scripts from Central Asia.

Intermarriage, trade, alliances, diplomacy, military campaigns stretched and contracted zones of influence in this melting pot of peoples. Many board games played today were born along the Uttarapatha (the Silk Route from China to the Central Asia and thence to Europe). Chaturang, became shatranj and now known as Chess moved to Persia during the reign of Khusru Nuwshirwan in 6th century AD before the birth of Islam and from there into the Central Asia and the Levant – before the wave of Islamic aggression. Bana in early 7th century AD, praises Harsha, the King Of Kannauj, who reigned from 606-647. Bana describes this king as prince of peace, noting that in his kingdom the only wars were The Silk Routefought those moves on 64 squares. Thaayam, Chaupar, Pachisi (played today as Ludo) were Indian games that have become popular under different names all over the world.

In modern terms this geography was influenced significantly, by Greeks, Roman, Persian, Chinese and Indic cultures – in order of increasing importance. Indian classical characters have origins from various (now foreign) lands. Kaikeyi was a Caucasian /Iranian princess. Draupadi’s marriage with Pandavas was solemnised as per Tibetan practice (where polyandry is an accepted customs amongst in the ruling class). Gandhari was from modern Afghanistan or Gandhar as it was known earlier. Indian spiritual exchanges continued well till the advent of the colonial period. Guru Nanak Dev’s 11 years travel in the Middle East and his religious discussions with Bahlol Dana at Baghdad, Iraq are proof of this exchange.

Three major religions now dominate this Greater North Indian geography. Islam dominates most of modern Central Asia. Buddhism has deep roots in Modern Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma. Major population in the modern North India follows Hinduism and Sikhism and has an Islamic minority.

It is the North-of Vindhiya India that gave birth to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, the four major religions that dominate the world, Sanskrit (World’s first artificial, revolutionary language, as opposed to other evolutionary, Prakrit प्राकृत languages). India’s first known civilisation sprang in the Indus valley – evidenced by the cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Many more archaeological site of the same civilisation (Lothal, etc) have been excavated. The Indus Valley script is not yet deciphered – hence linkages to pre-Sankrit is difficult to make.

British colonial understanding of India depended on limited and intermittent Greco-Roman writers for the definition of India. Colonial British and European historiographers further limited India’s definition to suit colonial ends. Colonialists have resisted change from the Egypt-Greece-Rome-Europe world view – which was called in question by the excavations and study by Friedrich Delitzsch, Alfred Jeremias, Peter Jensen, Eduard Stucken and Hugo Winckler, whose work has been obscured. To view India from modern political boundaries is to severely limit understanding of India. India was historically (and as per Indian texts) has been different from the current India that one sees. Post colonial India has further limited its own definition.

What Does This Mean

European historians have traditionally dated Aryan Indian civilisation at 1500-1800BC. The Indus valley was dated 1500-2000BC. At these dates, Hammurabi, ancient Babylon were already established. Greece was flourishing.

As for India – (following Max Mueller’s theory), it was a desolate, backward civilisation, awaiting Aryan conquest. Aryan conquerors came, raped Indian women, pushed Dravidians to the South, and ruled India. India’s progress was thus entirely due to the colonisers. This was history that was used by British colonisers and is accepted today.

And this colonial history is suspect – and being questioned.

Aryan Invasion & Migration Theory

Max Mueller’s theory, a German (orientalist, whatever they are) popularised a theory that originates the Indic civilisation from the Central Asia down to Iran – whether migration or invasion is possibly immaterial. Max Mueller’s theory is questionable due to his “open” agenda of Christian propaganda and the British colonial state patronage.

As per Max Mueller, from Iran, the Aryans branched out to Europe and India. Hence, the similarities in languages. There are alternative historical scenarios being mapped out. Politically, Max Mueller’s theory created a political divide in India that proposed Aryan conquest (by North India) of Dravidians(from South India). Unfortunately, our schools and history books still carry this suspect theory.

Recently, after racist attempts in the USA to push this theory, some NRI /PIO academics have carried out further research – which has made this theory look very flimsy.

From India To Babylon and Russia

Post colonial historical revision is proposing new theories. New archaelogical evidence supports history that shows Aryans moved from India to the Anatolian plains and established the Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian cultures of Elam, Mitannites, Kassites along modern Syria to Turkey. The Elamites, Mittanis, Hittites competed and traded with the Egyptians.

West Asian reluctance to give up slavery, made Indo Aryan rulers disengage politically from West Asia and Middle East. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three ‘desert religions’, gained the first converts from slaves, but continued with slavery till the 20th century. The 3 ‘desert religions’ instead of reforming slave societies, just transferred slave titles. Old slaves in turn became the new slave masters. Non-political Indian role in West Asia and Middle East continued to grow in terms of trade and learning. Babylon became a part of Alexander’s empire (and then the Roman Empire).

In 1906-07, an Turkish archaeologist , Theodore Makridi-Bey, started excavations at Hattusas (Boghazkoi), 150-200 kms from Ankara, in Cappadocia. He was joined by Hugo Winckler, a German archaeologist, specialising in Assyria. They unearthed more than 10,000 clay tablets which proved to be of tremendous interest.

Deciphered cuneiform tablets show worship of Varuna, Mitra and Indra – Gods worshipped by Indo Aryans. Rulers and Kings had names likes Shutruk (Shatrughna), Tushrutta meaning “of splendid chariots” (similar to Dashratha; Master of Ten Chariots) Rama-Sin (Assyrian Moon Good was Sin; in other words Ramachandra) Warad (Bharat) immediately before and after Hammurabi – the world’s first law giver. The Elam culture had a language which is similar to Dravidian languages. The Mitannite, Kikkuli, wrote on how to manage chariot horses. Egyptian king, Amenhotep I, married a Mittanite princesses. Elamites were founders of the first kingdom in the Iranian geography.

The Amarna letters (written by Tushratta) have made historians sit up – and a reluctant re-interpretation of history is beginning.

Aryans In Russia

In the new theory of migration from India, a second stream of migrants went up Iran into Upper Central Asia to the borders of Siberia. In 1972, excavations at Dalverizin Tepe in Uzbekistan uncovered what are possibly chess pieces – a game that has been popular in India, Iran and Central Asia. These have been dated around 100 BC.

In 1987, north of Kazakhstan border, at Chelyabinsk Oblast, a archaeological site, situated in Southern Ural Mountains, was to be flooded by a reservoir being built. The complex city built seems to have been built by Indo-Aryans, named Sintastha. Sin was the Assyrian /Central Asian Aryan Moon God and stha meaning place. This can be loosely translated to Chandrapur in modern Hindi. This city, shaped as ’rounded swastik’, followed the burial culture of the Mitanni rulers and Gandhara Aryan cities of 1500 BC-1700BC period – but 3000 kms apart.

Scientific Proof – Apart From Theory

A further bolster to the new theory is DNA and mitochondrial mapping done by various teams. These mapping and analyses (Sanghamitra Sahoo, et al) show that there has been no major DNA (Analabha Basu, et al) inputs into India. Some expert interpretation show that this data may require more and further research – as everything does all the time. This same research also shows that Indians share certain DNA markers with West /Middle East Asia – which supports Indian presence in Egypt, Mesopotamia (Syria, Iraq) and Anatolia (Turkey).

DNA research shows that a band of Indians went into Europe – now referred to as Roma Gypsies and share Indian genetic code. These Roma Gypsies have been living at the edge of European society – and have been severely persecuted through history. While Nazi and Croat brutalities against the Jews is known, that against the Roma Gypsies is swept under the carpet. European derisory references to Indian untouchability, overlook their own treatment of co-inhabitants for at least 1000 years is matter of shame for Europe.

Does This Change Indian History?

January 19th, 1992, an archaeologist, Albert Glock was killed in Israel. Many rumours, many allegations and many theories. What is it that he had discovered? Why did his discovery make it essential to kill him? Israelis, Palestinians?

In 1996, another writer made waves – Suzanne L. Marchand (Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany 1750-1970. Princeton, NY: Princeton UP, 1996). The core of the book was how archaeology was being thwarted and her case in point – the Boghazkoi team.

If King Ram-Sin (1822-1763 B.C.), also Rim Sin, who ruled from the capital city of Larsa, a few miles north of Ur shortly before Hammurabi’s time was an Indian Aryan, then the history of the world changes.

It implies: –

  • Indian-Aryans had reached the borders of Greece (Boghazkoi) – as the Greek civilisation was being shaped.
  • Indian priests at Ur, managed the temple of Babylon where the world’s first banking was carried out.
  • Ramayana, Upanishads, Puranas, Vedas were already composed and far ahead of any known civilisation at that time.
  • Was the Temple Of Ishtar a temple to Durgalakshmi?
  • Were the Tower Of Babel a place where Sanskrit teachers moulded and shaped the languages of the world? Is the ziggurat a later day version of शीखर shikhar?
  • The oldest surviving Babylonian tower is an Elamite construction!
  • Russia and Urals, where significant gold deposits have been mined, is the site for the Sintastha, Arkaim.
  • The cylindrical seals at Ur were similar to the Indus Valley seals – including a sacred bull.
  • Was the Trojan War actually a war between Indic rulers of Anatolia and the Greeks?

For most modern Western historians (and also modern Indian historians), only the Core North India, is Indian history, society and culture. This is the history which British propagated and showed India as a defeated civilisation. Invaded, pillaged and dominated. Inferior. Technologically backward. This is the history that is taught in schools and exists in popular imagery. Despite its many fallacies, this view is being perpetuated by propaganda interests of the British (Euro-American interests now) and the (various versions of) Congress party which has been the ruling party for the most of post-colonial India.

Some of the myths that have taken root and which have done much damage to the post colonial India. The infamous population theory, Chidambaram’s ill-informed 5000 years of poverty, poor natural resources, the supine Hindu, non-aggressive behavior by Indians amongst many others myths.

Feminism, Women, Social Position, et al

Posted in Feminist Issues, History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 13, 2007

Indian women in the ancient world …

One of the wonders of the ancient world was The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for Amytis, his homesick Elamite princess. Amytis, the daughter of the Median King, (a neo Elamite King), longed for the greenery of her homeland. A prominent ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, 605-562 BC, (as spelt in English) not only married a Elamite princess, but also took on an Elamite name (related to the Dravidian languages). Replace ‘b’ with ‘d’ and you are very close the Tamil name of Neduncheziyan (Nedunchedianuru) – a current and modern Tamil name.

Interestingly, Neduncheziyan is more famous as the fabled erring Pandyan King in the Tamil classic – Silappadhikaaram. Neduncheziyan’s mistaken justice, brings him grief and finally death. In the Tamil classic, Neduncheziyan is overshadowed by the other King, Cheran Senguttavan. Cheran Senguttuvan’s fame rests today on the Tamil classic, Silappadhikaaram – written by Jain Saint, Elangovadigal.

And who were the Elamites?

The Elamites

The people of Elam (yes in Tamil, Eelam means homeland), were the first to civilise the Iranian Peninsula in the 2700 BC period. They were contemporaries of the Egyptians, the Mittanis and the Hittites. The Elamites were a significant people till the 800BC in Persia (modern day Iran).

The Elamites concluded a major treaty with the Akkadian, King Naram-sin (Naram to Narain and Sin is the moon goddess, Chandra; possibly Narayan Chandra). Akkadian language, is itself implicated of being in cahoots with Sanskrit and Indus Valley languages – and the creation and spread of most modern languages. The Elam culture had a language which is similar to Dravidian languages. Elamites were founders of the first kingdom in the Iranian geography.Bas relief From Susan

The Greatest Chariot Battle In History

1301 BC. An Egyptian land army, numbering more than 20,000, (divided in 4 divisions) was raised. The leader – Pharoah Ramesses-II of the XIX Dynasty. They were out to punish a small kingdom of Hittites, for trying to lure Amuru, Egyptian vassals, to their side. Another force set sail, in ships, to reach Byblos and squeeze the Hittites in the world’s first pincer movement.

What followed was a historic chariot battle.

Peace broke when the queens of Hatti and Egypt, Puduhepa and Nefertari, both of Indo-Aryan extract and parentage, respectively, sent one another congratulatary gifts and letters. Over the next 15 years, they arrived at modus vivendi and drafted a peace treaty.

This peace treaty is the first in recorded history. A replica of this peace pact, in cuneiform tablet, found at Hattusas, Boghazkoi, hangs above the Security Council Chamber, United Nations, in New York, – a demonstration to modern nations the power of peace through international treaties.

Enter The Mittanis

One series are letters written by a Mittani king named Tushratta (meaning ” of splendid chariots”, similar to Dashratha meaning ” of ten chariots”) writes to his son-in-law, Amenhotep III, the king of Egypt ( the letter reads much like an Indian father-in-law’s letter will). Amenhotep married Tadukhepa, Tushratta’s daughter.

In these letters Tushrutta reminds Amenhotep, how his father, Thutmose IV had sought marriage seven times, with Tushrutta’s daughter, before this marriage to, Tadukhipa, was agreed upon.

Hittites were one of the main branches of Indics in the region. Ramesis II is about 100 years after Akhenaten – (एकनाथन Eknathan meaning One God in Sanskrit). Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep-III who wanted to marry the Mittani (another Indic kingdom) princess, daughter of Dashratta (Tushrutta).

Similarly, in order to marry Hattusil II’s daughter, the Amorite King Putakhi agreed, in the treaty of alliance for a specific clause “to the effect that the sovereignty over the Amorite should belong to the son and descendants of his daughter for evermore”.

The daughter of King Artatama was married to Tuthmose IV, Akhenaten’s grandfather, and the daughter of Sutarna II (Gilukhipa, – “khipa” of these names is the Sanskrit “kshipa,” night) was married to his father, Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), the great temple builder (alike the focus on temple construction in South East Asia 1000 years later).

Queen Sitamen

Queen Sitamen

In his old age, Amenhotep wrote to Dasharatha many (7 requests are documented and evidenced) times wishing to marry his daughter, Tadukhipa. It appears that by the time she arrived Amenhotep III was dead. Tadukhipa married the new king Akhenaten and she became famous as the queen Kiya (short for Khipa).

What is it, about these Indic princesses, that made them so sought after?

Indic women and Political Power

Interestingly, most Indic countries have had women in political power – in the post WW2 nations. Srimavo Badranaike, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Shaikh Hasina, Khalida Zia, Sukarnoputri, (not to forget Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharathi) were amongst the first in the world to rule their countries. The three divas/devis of Indonesia are not a co-incidence. Aung San Suu Kyi is waiting in the wings to add to this list.

An all-time favorite is, of course, the USA without a woman President, Chief Justice. So, much for political opportunity in the land of the free!

Economic Power

India has the world’s largest private Indian gold reserves! And it is Indian women who have created, maintained these reserves over the centuries even to the amusement of the westerners. It is RBI’s failure that India has no financial instrument to make this gold, liquid, usable and empower India(n women).

Chinese Guanyin Figure

Chinese Guanyin Figure

Religious

The 2 most important festivals in India – Deepavali and Dusshera, are devoted to Lakshmi and Durga. Feminine goddesses. How many societies in the world have any female deities at all? Which society celebrates the biggest days in the year with female deities?

Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archaeologist, an expert in 16 European languages, excavated sites of Vinca, Starcevo, Karanovo and Sesklo cultures. Based on some pioneering work, she suggested that Indo-European cultures have descended from matristic (not even matriarchal) cultures which also worshiped “mother goddess” or female deities – something which starts happening from Indic cultures only. The whole of West Asian, European cultures have no worship of any female deity. Interesting thing is the furore this has caused – How can We Europeans, be female worshipers? is the unspoken objection!

In China, it was Buddhism which enabled the introduction of a female deity, Guanyin (or Kuanyin, Kwan Yin, Miao Shan, 观音觀音), the Goddess of Mercy, in the Chinese pantheon. Though there are 4th century mentions of Guanyin, but it was only 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, that worship of Guanyin became popular.

Working Women

Amongst the poor and low income income families, women are in a position of power as they significant contributors to family income. Malnutrition amongst poor, exists – regardless of gender or age.

Amartya Sen highlights in his landmark study (Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation By Amartya Sen) about The Great Bengal Famine that “…for every dead woman there were nearly two dead men …” Sir Charles Elliot Famine Commissioner in Mysore in 1876 the general belief about Indian famines that “all authorities seem agreed that women succumb to famine less easily than men.”

However, it was by the beginning of 20th century, that the West put the Birkenhead Drill in place. First used by HMS Birkenhead, in 1852, it allowed orderly evacuation of women and children first. Over the next 50 years this became standard practice. In India, during famines, the old, the children and women were the last to be deprived. It was the men who paid the price.

Role Models

Indian texts, scriptures and classical litertaure has no negative characterisation for a wife – Mandodari, Ahalya, Sita, Draupadi, Kunti – the entire pantheon. The story of Kannagi’s fight for justice for her husband (from the classic Tamil play, Silappatikaram) is repeated in some part of South India, every day, even now, 2000 years later.

The Western frieze of mythical characters includes Delilah, Helen, Clytemnestra , Jezebel murderesses, adulteresses. The entire Greco-Roman frieze does not have a single positive characterisation of a wife.

Women are the source of all evil is current western concept – after all, Eve led Adam to his downfall from the Garden Of Eden. After a war with Midianites, Moses asked the Israelite army to kill all the women captives.

Moses blames the women – and an angry Moses tells the commanders

“of thousands and commanders of hundreds – who returned from the battle.”Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They (the women) were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Italics, emphasis, bold letters mine).

In India a Grihalakshmi can take her Pati Parmeshwar anywhere in life.

Universal Suffrage

Universal suffrage came to the USA, Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Australia after a long struggle. The USA had to pass the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920; Italy in 1945; Canada in 1940; France gave women the right to vote in 1945; Switzerland in 1971 gave its women the right to vote in all elections.

These “advanced” countries, gave women the right to vote after a long struggle. In India, universal suffrage in 1950 started from the very first election in sovereign India. Without any female activism, Republican India had universal adult franchise from the very first day.

Education And Women

Indian women have been doctors, lawyers – and freedom fighters. The role of women like Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Nehru, Kasturba Gandhi’s Annie Beseant, Madam Cama is more famous than known.

An interesting insight on the role that Indian women are playing in education is highlighted in – “Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse” by Laura E. Donaldson, Pui-lan Kwok. Indian women have been in the vanguard of the Indian culture – Bharatnatyam, Classical Indian Music and Sanskrit. If Indian culture survives another 100 years, Indian Woman, you saved it.

In the explosive TV content sphere, it is a matter of interest that TV stars are women – and men seem to be playing a nominal role (of looking good; next to their women).

Indian Women & Fashion

Much to the grief of Luciano Bennetton, Indian women have not taken after western fashion – unlike Indian men. Indian women have changed their fashion sense – from very regional variations to the very pan-Indian salwar kameez. But Indian.

But 2300 years before Luciano Bennetton, when Alexander’s armies visited India, one of the few things they could take away were Indian clothes. Indian clothing became popular in Macedonia. The Macedonian national costume is the salvaria – which is the same as the salwar of the Indian North West. The entire North West Indian sub-continent, from Punjab to Afghanistan wears the salwar – which is tubular leggings.

This is a unisex garment – like the sari /dhoti also is. And popular all over India today. Unlike other parts of the world, where women were forced to conform to a male standards and prescriptions of dressing, Indian women were free and dressed like their men did (Feminists note – Indian men were forced to dress, like their women did, since you insist).

Unisex clothing, saris and dhotis dominate the Indian plains, and the salwars, in the North West mountain regions of Indian sub-continent. The Indo-Scythians used leather leggings – which were helpful in case of long marches on horse backs.

Criminals & Rape

While the press and activists beat their breasts about crimes against women, an interesting first hand insight that I can share. In Indian prisons, criminals and under-trials accused of rape are shunned by all other prisoners. They are not welcome in by other prisoners – in any any social activity. This is one crime that other criminals do not accept. However, much Indian films may show criminals targeting women, in reality, inside prison walls, criminals who have targeted women are not accepted.

Divide et impera

Indian women have a poor status in society – just like all other Indians. Period.

Indian society, due to economic poverty, political evolution, social changes has a long way to go before people (women, men and children) are treated right. Indian poli+bureau+crats are following their old colonial gurus and using ‘divide et impera’ divide and rule strategy. Further, western agenda, ideology, humungous funds drive many governmental programmes – which further creates false issues.

So, there are a myriad lost causes – child labour, dowry, poverty, backward classes, reservations, each one of which divides and gets lost in the “dreary desert sands”. Isolating “women’s” causes just furthers the date when everybody will get treated right. And that is my quarrel with all these sociologists, feminists, NGO groups who have serious misgivings about the status and empowerment of women in Indian society.

These misgivings – based on anecdotal evidence, ‘international’ (read as western) imagery and paradigms, social biases and prejudices completely miss the picture.

Post Script

Shobha Narayan, a columnist, wrote,

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Indian clothes are on the verge of dying out of corporate India. Sure, there are women executives who wear saris: ICICI’s Renuka Ramnath, Britannia’s Vinita Bali and HSBC’s Naina Lal Kidwai come to mind. In Bangalore, I am proud to say that prominent women such as Sudha Murthy and Rohini Nilekani don’t just wear Indian clothes, but bindis as well.

Unlike traditional Japanese attire such as the kimono, Indian clothes are wonderfully adaptable and comfortable. Nobody even knows what traditional Chinese clothing is. You have to go to Lijiang and Dali and observe pretty maidens from the Yi tribe in colourful red clothes to realize what China has lost in its race for economic prosperity at all costs

For my Delhi gig, I took the middle path, which I guess is the same as copping out. I wore Western clothes for one session and Indian clothes for another. I am not proud of my choice. I feel that I should have worn Indian clothes throughout, particularly in light of what I’ve just said. But cut me some slack, okay? It was my first presentation and I wanted to blend in.

Shoba Narayan has spent time in three countries – India, the United States and Singapore. After graduation, she enrolled as a Foreign Fellow at Mount Holyoke College where she majored in Fine Arts, focusing on welded steel sculptures. She went on to do five years of Art – three in graduate school in Memphis, and a summer at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.

After marriage, … she attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism (J-school) and received a Master’s degree. She also won the Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship awarded to the top three students in each graduating class. Armed with the degree, she pursued a career in freelance journalism, writing for many publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Condenast Traveler, Time, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Saveur, Newsweek, Beliefnet and House Beautiful, among others. She also worked as a commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered Weekend.

Shoba’s first book, “Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes” was published in April 2003 by Random House. She lives in Bangalore, India with her husband and two daughters.

And no! Indian clothes (and whole parts of India) are not dying out, Shobha! There are Indian Women (many more like you) taking care of that! Thanks.

But a rare piece of journalism was recently in the Times Of India. Untouched by Western effacement of Indian alternatives, this post makes some interesting points about the role of Indian women in Indian politics.

“A patriarchal ethos dominates both the societies, American and Indian, but they operate in different ways. In India, despite the patriarchal ethos, powerful women leaders have emerged,” says political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed.

The most famous examples are BSP chief Mayawati and AIADMK head Jayalalitha. Both emerged from the shadow of iconic godfathers, to establish themselves as leaders with grassroots support.

Neerja Gopal Jayal, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s centre of law and governance points out that “Even at the panchayat level, we have had women from the member families being nominated. But the first time, patronage may work but not the second time. And this is true at the national level too.”

Clearly, the Indian system — or lack of it — gives space to those who have no political backing or godfathers. For every Jayalalitha, Sonia Gandhi or Sheila Dikshit, there is a Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj and Renuka Chaudhary.

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research says, “What is unique to India, is the fact that women have the space to grow as leaders. Maybe, it has to do with our cultural ethos, where women are worshipped as goddesses.’’

More power to you Indian Woman.

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Chidambaram Says … “End 5000 years Of Poverty”

Posted in History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on November 12, 2007

Who Is The EnemyThis was Chidamabaram’s statement in the parliament and at least a couple of magazines – including India Today.

Nations Wealth

A nation’s wealth can be a number of things – intellectual wealth, economic wealth, social and political institutions and structures leading to wealth. But primarily, most look at wealth as a measure of economic wealth. And that is what Chidambaram was referring to and most of us accept. Therefore in this write up we will limit ourselves to the economic debate.

A few things.

Obviously, paper money cannot be a measure of wealth. Probably, the de la Rue family would have been the world’s richest family, if paper money was of value. The Bretton Woods mechanism under which the US dollar was the world’s reserve currency lasted as long as it was the only currency on the gold standard. The US Government broke the Bretton Woods mechanism by printing too many dollars. De Gaulle’s French Government started trading in US dollars for gold. In 1971 President Nixon abandoned the Gold standard. Thereafter the world got the first Oil shock and 10 years of stagflation. This French ‘perfidy’ strained US-French relations for the next 30 years. President Sarkozy is today trying to change that – and he can. The casus belli – the US dollar is no longer an issue. Today the US is the world’s largest debtor nation.

Measure Of A Nation’s Wealth?

How does one measure a nation’s wealth? A reliable method is, of course, gold reserves.

India’s private and governmental reserves of gold are by far the largest in the world. Estimates of total Indian gold reserves vary between 25,000 to 30,000 tons. The next highest is the United States with 14,000 tons of gold – with the US Govt accounting for 8000 tons. For at least the last 50 years, India has been world’s largest consumer of gold. (Pliny lamented 1800 years ago as to how imports from India were draining Rome of gold. In 1960’s, James Bond was sent after an arch villian, Auric Goldfinger, to close down illegal gold export from Britain to India in Goldfinger – the book.)

Secret of Japan’s rise

Year 1542. The Sado gold mines were discovered. In 16th-17th century, Japan became the second largest producer of gold in the world. Rapid rise of Japan after that and the rest of story is known to the world. Korea claims that Japan plundered Korea of hundreds of tons of gold from 1937-1944. Philipines, Indonesia have all raised claims against Japan for war time gold loot. Regardless, one American writer had definitely hit a jackpot – Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (By Sterling Seagrave, Peggy Seagrave). Ian Fleming is supposed to have based his story on the Yamashita chapter of WW2.

Sounds like a 5000 years of poverty?

The intellectual father of India’s freedom movement was a British MP of Indian origin – Dadabhai Naoroji. His seminal work on the British colonial loot of India cut away the legs of the Raj – and thereafter, the Raj could not stand. Statistical analyses by Angus Maddisson, Groningen University showed India with a world trade share of 25% for much of the 500 years during 1400-1900.

India loss of wealth is a recent phenomenon. This trend of increasing poverty was halted only with Indian independence and subsequent growth of the Indian economy.
India’s rapid economic decline in the first half of the 20th century is what Chidambaram refers to as the 5000 years of poverty.

Lees Mody Pact

October 28th 1933. Much of India’s Hindu rate of growth can be traced back to this date. On that day, the Bombay Mill Owners Association signed the Lees-Mody Pact. This earned all Indian industrialists Nehru’s distrust. The British had succeeded once again in divide-and-rule.

Japan had become the largest buyer of Indian cotton – in spite of imperial preferences. Lancashire was hurting. Duty on Japanese textiles was raised from 31.5% to 75%. Japan stopped buying Indian cotton in retaliation. Cotton prices crashed. Montagu Norman was already wreaking havoc with his economic policies. demand had collapsed. Britain agreed to “help”. Customs duty was lowered for British goods only to 20%. Britain agreed to buy Indian stock piled cotton at lower prices. Indian mills and the Indian farmer paid the price. GD Birla said “They have lost their nerve …”. Churchill made life difficult in Britain as this pact did not deliver.

While the whole country was following a boycott of foreign goods (specially Lancashire goods), 21 businessmen led by Homi Mody (father of Russi Mody, Piloo Mody) agreed to the system of ‘imperial preference’ – which was behind India’s impoverishment. Earlier, Homi Mody had warned Gandhiji against the renewing the swaraj movement. The “money famine” had collapsed demand in India.

Mody had his own political ambitions. After Independence, Nehru did try and make up with Homi Mody later. Homi Mody was included in to India’s Constituent Assembly – even though he had served the British well.

Chidambaram Should Look At …

What Chidambaram should focus on is a monetary mechanism to leverage India’s 25,000 tons of gold to make India a capital rich country. From there India can start on its way to becoming the richest economy of the world – again.

Significantly, Chidambaram needs to answer if the Indian defence system is adequately funded for its task of protecting the world’s largest gold reserves!

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