Indian Classical Texts: Are they History, Mystery or Mythology?

Posted in History, India, politics, Propaganda by Anuraag Sanghi on June 26, 2012

Over the last 8-12 centuries, Indian historical figures have undergone ‘religiofication’. Result – India’s political history has been ‘lost’.

From: The true believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements  |  By Eric Hoffer  |  Page 6

From: The true believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements | By Eric Hoffer | Page 6

“Religiofication” as Eric Hoffer defined it, was all about turning practical purposes into holy causes. As noted, this leads to the politicization of religion and the religiofication of politics.

An important element of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra was restrictions on power of elites over other people. Hence, power to criminalize or demonize people was anti-भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

De-Constructing History – And Language, Metaphors Mnemonics

If Indians classics like Mahabharata and Ramayana were mythology, then they would not have so many characters. So many of these characters appear in a line or a few verses and contribute nothing to the ‘story.’ Take the chapter on the descent of Gnaga. There is the vague king called asmanjas – whose name has come to embody dilemma. There is no need for him in the story – yet he is there. He interestingly, reappears in Egypt, in the Amarna tablets as Zananzas.

Now, if we assume that this history, then a lot of the overlays have to deconstructed.

Three de-constructions that I will leave you with: –

1. Sita – the name means furrow – as she was orphan found by Janak. (Unrelated, but Sita was also a vague, Vedic goddess, who we have forgotten, who was the goddess of fertility).

This simply means that she was a child of commoner – and earth’s child. Bhumiputri. Even today, bhumiputra is a political term used in Malaysia to denote natives – as opposed to immigrants.

When her husband’s exile was confirmed, she could have easily stayed back in the royal palace – and awaited the return of her husband. But again, her upbringing comes into play. As a commoner, she valued merit over birth. She would rather enjoy life with her husband than live alone in royal palace.

Again, after marital /political discord, Sita is unworried about royal comforts – and walks out. To reclaim her common life.

When her sons’ attain age, she again walks away and goes back to earth, her common, anonymous life, to prevent any emotional conflict and the dilution of loyalty in her sons towards their royal father, who kingdom they were to inherit.

How many times, we see estranged mothers use their children against the father? Sita eliminated this possibility by going back to earth.

And walking away from her sons.

This deconstruction is consistent with Sita’s meritocratic behavior. If Sita had an iota of entitlement-based thinking, she would have accepted Ravana’s proposal for marriage, instead of a disinherited, wandering, friendless prince that her husband was. She was entitled to all that Ravana was offering. But Sita values on loyalty and meritocratic thinking would not accept that proposal.

This also contrasts against the silly, modern interpretation of defenseless, victim of a patriarchal, backward, social structure.

2. Agnipareeksha – How will a husband, test his wife’s feelings, after nearly ten years of separation? After ten years of loneliness? If she still loved a disinherited, wandering, friendless prince that her husband was?

Even after victory over Ravana, Rama did not have a kingdom or a home.Remember that Bharat was anointed king of Bharata by Dashratha, and ruling over Ayodhya.

Rama did not know that a welcome awaited him. If Bharata decided there could have been another war to reclaim Ayodhya. And another few years of agony for Sita.

How would a husband test his wife’s love in such a situation?


I think not!

What could be the alternate meanings of agni, fire in such a situation? Was ‘agni‘ a metaphor?

3. War and women in India – If you read Mahabharata, after the war, it is the women of the slain warriors who do the final funerary rites. These soldiers had come Keykaya (Iran). Gandhara (Balochistan), Pragjyotishpura (Assam-Bengal-Afghanistan) etc.

How long would it take for messengers to reach their homes, and bring the women? Were the bodies rotting for so long? Disease, pollution from thousands of bodies lying for weeks would have made Kurukshetra unlivable.

Did the wives travel with the soldiers?

I believe they did?

Remember how after the Third Battle of Panipat, some 20,000 odd women were taken as captives? Similarly if you read the accounts of Nunez, the 16th century European chronicler in India, he talks of many women accompanying the soldiers. Nunez thinks they were prostitutes – because he could not imagine loyal wives who would follow their husbands to battle.

Why is Krishna Worshipped

Krishna was a completely different story. Off the top, I can think of the ten really big achievements.

1. Unarmed Combat: – Krishna’s killing of Kaiwalyapidu, Kamsa’s rogue elephant, the deaths of Chanura and Mustika and of Kamsa himself were all chronicles in unarmed combat, where as children, Krishna and Balarama showed that even children can defend themselves. This went later to China – and we have the birth of Kung-fu.

2. Kill-and-eat: Krishna pioneered the grow-and-eat economy with dairy as the backbone of the food chain. He started with the cleaning of Yamuna – which I presume was heavily polluted by endless dumping of meat-waste. You only have to see how animal fat is extracted or glue (sares) made from animal waste (bones and skins) to understand how polluting this is.

Krishna, it was who probably, replaced animal fat with dairy fat – and his love of butter was an indicator of this change. Krishna’s jumping into the polluted Yamuna, to get his ball, and the killing of Kaaliya nag, is how he cleaned the Yamuna – by transforming a kill-and-eat food system to grow-and-eat system.

3. Animal Husbandry: He also pioneered the taming of the bull-calf – which is why he is called natho.

4.Agriculture: Balarama pioneered ploughing and irrigation – the backbone of agriculture.

5. Transportation: As a charioteer he popularized fast transportation – which is why you will find him in all parts of India.

6. Plant Breeding: He brought the legendary Parijaat tree – which is the famous Baobab tree from probably West Asia or Africa (supposedly flying on a Garuda). Baobab tree is unique tree that lives for hundreds of years, can store enough water for a small village population, and its fruit and leaves have great nutritive value.

7. Escape From Superstition: Krishna swept away all the superstitions and ancient folk-gods during the Goverdhan incident.

8. Diplomacy: He laid out principles of diplomacy during Shishupal Vadh and his peace embassy before the War of Mahabharata.

9. Marriage & Society: He also reinforced the principles of free marital choice in the Subhadra-Arjun incident with well-structured arguments and negotiations.

10. His warcraft was second to none – which is why he alone was enough for the Pandavas. He was the inventor of the discus – the Sudarshana chakra. As an expert war-charioteer, he played a crucial role in Mahabharata.

Thus Krishna’s contribution in politics, ethics, combat-and-warcraft, transportation, animal husbandry, agriculture have never been duplicated in history.

Krishna’s two most famous killings were Kamsa and Jarasanda. Both these rulers were prolific ‘imprisoners’. Krishna killed both of them – and Narakasura. All three have been mentioned as rulers who imprisoned people.

How many people were imprisoned in Ram Rajya? How many people did Yudhisthira or Yadava Krishna imprison?

Here is an interesting review of literature and treatment of Krishna in India – over the centuries. The narrative below misses out many such points  – but remains a powerful study of the forgotten colossus – the political Krishna.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote Krishna-Charitra in 1886. Since then, more than a century has gone by. This work of Bankim, one of the finest in Bengali literature, has remained within the confines of Bengali, totally unknown to the vast readership of the country as well as of the world. Bankim brought Krishna out from a maze of confusion and misinterpretations created by myriads of interpolations and inexactitudes propagated by many ill-informed and little-informed Western writers. He had the gigantic task of separating the grain from the chaff in his quest for the historicity of Krishna and, in that process, to some extent, that of the Mahabharata.

Bankim’s was the first attempt to establish the historicity of Krishna and consequently of that portion of the Mahabharata that deals with Krishna. In the process we find that Krishna emerges as a supreme human being with all the desirable human qualities in all their resplendence, and not as a God churning out miracle after miracle from his divine repertoire. Bankim put forward Krishna as an ideal before the nation to be emulated, to be followed as a ideal man and not to be worshipped as a god who remains a Utopian dream forever.

Bankim was a pioneer, a pathfinder who limited his study only to Krishna, basing his research entirely on cold logic and scientific analysis. He destroyed some extremely popular myths which had found their way into the socio-cultural milieu of the entire country, namely the miraculous slaying of Kamsa, Jarasandha, Sishupala, Jayadratha and Drona. He established them as a simple matter of normal battle, bereft of any divine interference of godly prowess or base political machination.

Bankim began to write Krishna-Charitra as a skeptic but by the time he reached the end he had become a devotee of Krishna, an ardent believer in Krishna as God.

Bankim identified the decadent ‘Babus’ in Kamalakanter Daptar, Muchiram Gur etc., lashed at them viciously and resurrected Krishna from confusion, misinterpretation and intellectual oblivion to put him up before them as an idea who must be followed, emulated, as an ideal around whom they should mould their own personalities. Like the proverbial phoenix, must arise a generation of rejuvenated youth, conscious of their responsibility in a subject country, led by the hand of the Krishna he had created. Bankim provided Krishna. We have seen the excellent impact of it in the history of our Independence.

Why did Bankim choose Krishna and not Rama, the other epic hero who could do no wrong’ the maryada purushottama considered the ideal human being throughout the length and breadth of the country? There is a reason. Bankim was mainly concerned with Bengal. He was a part of the Bengal Renaissance and his target population was the Bengali. He wrote in Bengali for the Bengali reader and Rama is not the popular deity in Bengal. It is Krishna throughout. Therefore, he decided to deal with the character of Krishna. He knew that he could get the attention of the common Bengali only if he wrote Krishna-Charitra and not Rama-Charitra. But he found the Krishna of Chaitanya, the Krishna of the brilliant Vaishnava poets Jayadev, Vidyapati, Chandidas etc., the Krishna of the Bhakti cult, a romantic, erotic and rather soppy Krishna who went about gallivanting in the groves of Vrindavana along with Radha, Chandravali and other gopis, playing his irresistible flute. The whole of Bengal was drowned in the worship of this Krishna.

Instead of the emotionalism of the lyric poet, he brought out the toughness of the epic poet. He attempted to replace the erotic Krishna of the Bhagavata, Harivamsa, Chaitanya and the Vaishnava poets by the tremendously powerful personality of the epic, totally divested of his godhood, and involved in nation building, shifting power centers, politics, diplomacy, using peace and war according to requirement’ in short, using his overpowering but human wisdom and intelligence in the struggle for supremacy, resulting finally in the establishment of truth over falsehood, of good over evil, and of right over wrong. Here we find a Krishna bathed in the brutality and complexity of real-life struggle who is far removed from the flute-wielding romantic totally immersed in inane activities like hallisha krida. We find a strategist, a diplomat and a warrior, instead of a lover, a stealer of women’s hearts and butter and cheese.

The tremendous political acumen of Krishna is highlighted in the way he used all the four principles of Dandaniti to destroy the malignant power centers, create new alliances that emerged as counter balances to the existing power structure and use diplomacy to bolster the Yadava interest. He used war and peace, he used marriages and he used his basic superior intelligence for this one purpose. Consequently, the Yadavas accepted him as their supreme commander. It took some time. It also took some effort. But in the final analysis, he emerged as the leader whose judgement and veracity could not be disputed. His political acumen combined with his sharp intellect, personal courage and physical prowess established him as a major force. The contemporary powers came to regard the Yadavas under Krishna with respect and fear. It has not been spelt out clearly anywhere in the Mahabharata but his guiding principle must have been the establishment of a Yadava hegemony on the political map of northern India. Every evidence seems to indicate that. To understand his plans and actions clearly, the political situation of the country at the time of Krishna must be visualized.

The prevalent political situation has its roots in Yayati’s lust. He gave the kingdom of Pratisthana (later shifted to Hastinapura by Hasti and his son Vaikunthan) to his youngest son Puru, depriving his other sons, Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu and Anu. Consequently, they established themselves elsewhere in the country. For the purpose of our discussion, we shall ignore the others as they are not relevant and concentrate in the progeny of only Yadu and Puru, i.e. the Yadavas and the Pauravas.

Between Yayati and Yudhisthira and Krishna, there are twenty-six generations. Much naturally happened during these years. We find a sort of internal conflict within the Paurava and Yadava clans and also existence of bad blood between the Yadavas and Pauravas. These naturally had developed and distanced the clans and sub-clans over a period covering these twenty-six generations. The main Paurava line continued at Hastinapura. We find Dhritarastra ruling a very powerful political assemblage that included such stalwarts as Bhishma, Drona, Kripa, Kama, Ashvatthama, Vidura and Sakuni.

Another line of the Pauravas left Hastinapura (or were made to leave) and conquered Chedi from the Yadavas. This was another reason for the Yadava-Paurava enmity that began with the ouster of Yadu. Later, of course, this line re-established the Yadavas at Chedi and moved on to establish their sway in Magadha. We find one of the finest statesmen of the time, ruling at Magadha was Jarasandha, who easily was superior to any contemporary, including Krishna, in might, diplomacy and power. He even managed to alienate the Southern Yadavas from the mainline Yadavas of Mathura and bring them inseparably under his tutelage. This Paurava line became supremely antagonistic towards the Mathura Yadavas after the slaying of Kamsa. Jarasandha vowed to annihilate them totally.
The third Paurava line went and established themselves at Panchala (around Badaun, Bareilly etc.), and were known as the Panchalas. There was bitter enmity between these relations and neighbours which even the gap of generations could not dilute. In fact it went on increasing, finally culminating in the Kuru-Panchala War.

The Yadavas spread all over. The mainline Yadavas remained in and around Mathura. Other lines went to Dvaraka, Mahismati, Vidarbha. Chedi, Avanti, Dasharna, even up to Mysore. The entire Paurava kingdom practically was surrounded by the Yadavas. But though the Yadavas were a large clan, there was no cohesion among them. There was a lot of conflict within the Mathura Yadavas, mainly due to Kamsa who became king after imprisoning his father Ugrasena. There was no peace due to the power struggle between Andhakas, Shinis, Sattvatas, Vrishnis etc. The southern Yadavas were not friendly towards the Mathura Yadavas. Even though two of Vasudeva’s sisters were married to the kings of Karusha Chedi, they remained firmly on the side of Jarasandha who took advantage of the situation. He married his daughters to Kamsa, supported him in his ascendancy and brought Mathura too under his control. In this way, it was Jarasandha who controlled the entire Yadava clan for some time. Even when Jarasandha attacked the Mathura Yadavas, Vidarbha, Chedi, Dasharna, Avanti, Karusha etc. joined his imperial forces.

Besides these warring relatives, there were other power centers in the country. The most important were the Matsyas of Virata (Jaipur of today) who played a vital role in shaping the course of history of the time, Salva of Sauva (Punjab) and Paudrak Vasudeva of Anga, Pundravardhana etc. Also, there were Gonanda of Kashmir, Subala of Gandhara, etc. These were all friendly towards Jarasandha and joined the imperial forces in their campaign against Mathura.

This, in very short, was the political situation of northern India when Krishna appeared on the scene with his heroic abilities, superior intellect and tremendous political foresight. He, having been thrown into the situation, was quite clear in his objective. He had to retrieve the Yadavas from the political quagmire into which they had fallen and slowly re-establish them as the supreme power in North India to take their rightful place as the heirs of Yayati by replacing the usurpers, the Pauravas. His course of action was also clear to him. He had to bring back unity among the belligerent Yadavas. He achieved this which a master’stroke of diplomacy, a combination of brain and brawn. He slew Kamsa and his henchmen but did not assume power himself. Neither did he put Vasudeva, his father, on the throne. Instead, he brought back Ugrasena, Kamsa’s hapless father and set him on the throne. This endeared him to all the Yadavas, irrespective of clans, including Kamsa’s supporters. Then, when Jarasandha attacked to avenge the death of his son-in-law, he kindled the Yadavas with the spirit of patriotism and provided inimitable leadership in the defence of Mathura. It is a remarkable achievement of Krishna that he was able to defend Mathura with a handful of Yadavas against the colossal imperial army that included practically all the major powers of India, namely, Salva, Gonanda of Kashmir, Chedi, Bhishmaka, Virata and of course Duryodhana and his brothers. This imperial force was thwarted time and again not only by Krishna’s personal courage and prowess, but also by the leadership provided by him. All the Yadavas stood by him as one. By the time he retreated to Dvaraka in the face of the superior forces of Jarasandha, he had achieved his goal. The entire Yadava clan, the Bhojas, Vrishnis, Andhakas, Shinis, Kukuras, Sattvatas etc. swore by him and looked up to him as their natural leader in all matters of importance. Every future incident reconfirmed his position as leader and the bond of the Yadava brotherhood went from strength to strength. The path was not free of obstacles. Nevertheless, he achieved what he wanted-unity among the Yadavas. He did not succeed in bringing the southern Yadavas immediately into his fold. But by this time, the Mathura-Dvaraka Yadavas had already emerged as a major force, feared even by Hastinapura.

Having united the Yadavas, Krishna found it necessary to consolidate. Though powerful, the Yadavas were politically isolated and had powerful enemies. So, he needed political alliances, which would help him in containing or removing the enemies. His main adversary was Jarasandha and his allies. He realised that only after destroying him, could he turn his attention to Hastinapura, his final goal. That Duryodhana joined Jarasandha in the siege of Mathura, must have weighed with him considerably in his antipathy towards the Pauravas. But, first of all, the alliances.

Krishna saw that to destroy Jarasandha, he had to use the Pauravas, the other most powerful nation. For that, he needed to make an inroad into them. Luck was with him. He found the Pandavas. There were three distinct reasons why the Pandavas must be chosen as allies. First, they were individually extremely gifted, not only in the art of warfare but also in the qualities of head and heart. Most important, they too were isolated, without much political support and constantly persecuted and hunted by their kinsmen of Hastinapura. They needed help. Secondly, they were matrimonially linked with the Panchalas, the biggest hardcore enemies of Hastinapura. That too suited him very well. Thirdly, the Pandavas were his natural allies, being his first cousins, through their mother Kunti who was the sister of his father Vasudeva. Providence was therefore with him. He needed the Pandava-Panchala alliance and they needed the power of the Yadavas at their back. He therefore extended the hand of friendship which was gratefully accepted. He chose for his friend Arjuna, who he saw was the most versatile, balanced and capable among the five. Arjuna was certainly the kingpin in this alliance and he needed cultivating. He did it with such consummate grace and finesse that Arjuna could nor even think without Krishna and was always willing to do what was pleasing to Krishna. So, what began as a political need ended up as a deep emotional involvement for both. This attitude of Arjuna had far-reaching effects. It was not for nothing that Arjuna’s grandson inherited the empire. Krishna ensured it with a Yadava angle to it. It was a dubious Paurava inheritance with a strong Yadava flavor. He conceived a plan the moment he saw the Pandavas and nurtured it fondly, always progressing steadily towards the fructification of his ultimate plan.

Krishna used another traditional diplomatic instrument, matrimony, for securing political alliances. His grandfather and father used it, with only limited success. Pritha, Vasudeva’s sister, was married to Pandu who did not live long. So this alliance did not produce the expected results, except, that it provided Krishna with the invincible Pandavas and, through them, with a strong foothold in the Hastinapura sphere of influence. Two other sisters were married to the Yadavas of Chedi and Karusha. These were not successful at all as, in spite of these marriages, Chedi and Karusha remained firmly in alliance with Jarasandha. However, there was another powerful Yadava kingdom in the neighborhood of Chedi. which also was an ally of Jarasandha. This was Bhishmaka of Vidarbha and his son Rukmi. Bhishmaka was also very friendly with Sishupala of Chedi and had planned to marry Rukmini, his daughter, with Sishupala. Krishna wanted to rectify the situation and win the powerful Yadavas of Vidarbha to his side. He abducted and married Rukmini hoping that this marriage would unite the Vidarbhas with the Mathura-Dvaraka Yadavas, but this effort failed. Vidarbha was incensed with the abduction and was driven more firmly to Jarasandha. This also enraged Sishpuala of Chedi, who was already a sworn enemy of his cousin Krishna. In the end of course, we find that Rukmi came to join the Pandava forces on the eve of the war, with an expressed desire ‘to do something pleasing to Krishna.’ But how much of it was political expediency (since the Krishna of now was a much more powerful person than the Krishna of yore) and how much of it was his genuine feeling for a brother-in-law, is a matter of conjecture. But it did not matter any more. Neither Krishna, nor the Pandavas needed him.

When Krishna realised that he would have to base his activities solely on this Pandava-Panchala alliance he strove to make it more lasting and powerful. He wanted to bring the Yadavas too into this alliance. And this he decided would be done through Arjuna. He arranged the marriage of his sister Subhadra with Arjuna which was most unusual, as Arjuna and Subhadra were first cousins. Unusual but politically very useful. Also this marriage brought the Yadavas into the Panchala-Pandava alliance firmly. This marriage therefore he nurtured fondly. He brought up Abhimanyu and trained him to be the equal of Arjuna and himself. Such allegiance was not paid to the sons of Draupadi, which is significant. The new alliance becomes powerful but not enough. Now Abhimanyu had to be married. Opportunity presented itself in the form of the Matsya Princess, Uttara. Why did Arjuna prefer Abhimanyu and not any of the sons of Draupadi who were equally available and marriageable? Perhaps, Krishna’s farsightedness and well-laid plains bore fruit now. Arjuna was never in love with Draupadi. His beloved was Subhadra whom he married out of love. So, it was not surprising that he considered Subhadra and Abhimanyu to be his family. Draupadi after all was not his alone. She was more of a political entity, a matter of convenience. Also, Abhimanyu was the rephew of Krishna, Arjuna’s friend, philosopher and guide. Arjuna would always do what pleased Krishna. Who else could he choose except Abhimanyu? This marriage further confirmed the Yadava claim on Hastinapura’s throne, because Abhimanyu’s son Parikshit would be the king of Hastinapura later. And Abhimanyu or Parikshit were more Yadavas than Pauravas. Abhimanyu’s mother and grandmother were Yadavas. His father was not strictly a Paurava. Both Arjuna and Pandu did not have any Paurava blood in them. Both were ‘kshetrajna’ sons of their family.

The political outcome of this marriage was an invincible alliance of Paurava-Panchala-Yadava-Matsya which the marriage of one of Draupadi’s sons could not have brought about effectively. It brought the Yadavas into direct contact with the Matsyas. This axis very conclusively set up a balance of power which more or less neutralised the immense authority of the Hastinapura monolith.

In all this power game, what is bewildering is the marriage between Krishna’s son Samba and Duryodhana’s daughter Lakshmana. It is true that Krishna did not know anything about it. It was Balarama who went and rescued Samba and Lakshmana from the clutches of Duryodhana who had forcibly detained Samba for his misadventure of marrying aud trying to abduct Lakshmana. This is intriguing. Did the marriage please Krishna? Or was he enraged? Did it add to his negative feelings towards Duryodhana for imprisoning his son or was he happy on being presented with another, possibly useful, alliance? However, this marriage did not in any way affect the course of history, nor does it throw any light on the character of Krishna.

All through these happenings on the matrimonial front, Krishna kept himself busy, with eliminating those malignant powers that were irretrievably inimical towards the Yadava cause. No amount of diplomacy would have helped. Some he removed himself, others he tackled with the help of the Pandavas. He systematically destroyed Kamsa, Kalyavana, Hamsa Dimbaka and Sauvaraj Salva. Then he saw that unless Jarasandha was eliminated, the Magadha confederacy, the most powerful one at the time, could not be broken. He also knew that there was no power in the country that could take on the Magadha confederacy in direct conflict. Nor could he handle it alone. So he took recourse to stratagem and, with the help of Bhima and Arjuna, slew Jarasandha. Then he went on to destroy Sishupala of Chedi, Paundraka Vasudeva of Pundravardhana and other minor adversaries to clear the stage for the final holocaust which he knew must come. The Magadha confederacy was completely defused. He had realized that if all these people came to help the Kauravas, nothing could save the Pandava alliance.

An interesting gambit, which was often employed by Krishna, also bought him considerable allegiance from the erstwhile enemies. He never usurped the territory of the vanquished. He established their surviving relatives or the throne and returned the territory. He made Ugrasena, father of Kamsa, the king of the Yadavas. He gave the empire of Jarasandha to his son Sahadeva. He made Dhrislaketu the king of Chedi after his father Sishupala was slain. These kings gave their loyalty to Krishna out of gratitude for his magnanimity. Consequently we find them at the side of the Pandavas during the War. Kalhana tells us that Krishna placed one of the female relatives of Gonanda on the throne of Kashmir. He was a kingmaker and not a king. And in the history of mankind we have seen time and again that it is the kingmaker who wields real power, never the king thus made.

Therefore, Krishna succeeds in all his plans. He unites the Yadavas. He removes the enemies. He makes the Yadavas very powerful through various alliances. He uses marriage effectively for the purpose. And for the final battle, he sets up a powerful axis of Yadava-Panchala-Pandava-Matsya aided by his grateful proteges against the Hastinapura allies. All the time, the Pandava interest is never lost sight of. When suddenly, at the end of the War, Abhimanyu’s unborn son was also killed (which eventuality even he had not foreseen), he resurrected him so that he could become king. Why did he do it? Why not one of Draupadi’s sons who also had died on the same night? The tragedy of Draupadi was that nobody really cared for her. She was a queen, she was a wife and she was a woman with very feminine emotions and frailities. This Draupadi was always ignored. She was a piece on the political chess-board of the time, to be used at convenience. Arjuna preferred Abhimanyu to her sons, because he was Subhadra’s son and Krishna’s nephew. Krishna preferred him because he was Subhadra’s son and more or less a Yadava. For the same reason, he resurrected Parikshit. Draupadi’s sons were not Yadava relations and for Krishna it was necessary that a Yadava relation survived to rule Hastinapura. It was a political necessity for him. He was all for Draupadi. But whenever there was any clash of interest between Draupadi and Subhadra, he invariably chose Subhadra’s cause, because the Yadava interest coincided with that of Subhadra, not Draupadi. For Krishna, blood was always thicker than water. Therefore, it was Subhadra and her progeny who must survive to carry on a Yadava history (even if it is in the guise of a Paurava history).

The blood and water theory seems to be apposite when we consider an aspect of the Mahabharata which is not much talked about. Why did the Yadavas refrain from joining the War? Why did no one question them on this? Again it was Krishna. Krishna offered only himself without arms, and an akshauhini of Narayani Sena (probably mercenaries) who were as powerful as he was (mere sales talk, no doubt, but enough to fool Duryodhana). That is all. Satyaki joined the Pandavas out of friendship with Arjuna and Hardikya Kritavarma joined the Kauravas, out of an old enmity with Krishna, And, most surprisingly, at the end of the War when everyone died, the only survivors, besides the Pandavas, were Satyaki and Kritavarma. Krishna, one feels, prevented the Yadavas from annihilation by keeping them away. Out of all the nations, only the Yadavas survived to be supreme and to be the rulers of the earth. It was an unparalleled master-stroke which may not be a appreciated but was in total consonance with his policy of establishing a Yadava hegemony.

At the end of it all when all the dust settles down on Kurukshetra, when the earth has drained the blood of eighteen akshauhinis and is ready once again to pick up the reins of life after bathing in death, we find the Yadavas at the helm of affairs. And a little later, we find Subhadra’s grandson Parikshit on the throne of Hastinapura and Krishna’s grandson, Vajra, on the throne of Indraprastha that was founded by the Pandavas on the site of Yayati’s ancient capital. The wheel had indeed turned full circle. Yayati created a rift between Puru and Yadu by throwing out Yadu. His successor, after 26 generations, brought the Yadavas back into power in the land of their ancestors. If one is a little more gracious to Krishna, one can of course say that he brought the progeny of two brothers, who had fallen out, once again together in Parikshit who was both a Paurava as well as a Yadava.

Power brings decadence and decadence destroys a race. The Yadavas were no exception to this rule. They destroyed each other before the grieving eyes of Krishna. He had made them powerful, saved them from the war and brought them so far. But he could not save them from themselves. This was the peculiar tragedy of Krishna. Nevertheless, he succeeded in placing the Paurava-Yadava Parikshit on the throne of Hastinapura. This is where he won.

Bankim perhaps did not get an opportunity to place this aspect of Krishna-Charitraon record. He did not give Krishna the credit for being a supreme leader of men, a diplomat of indisputable caliber and unrivalled political far sight. Bankim failed to place Krishna in the political geography of the country and to underline his political acumen in bringing about a completely new political set’up. Bankim missed this master statesman, but then, as he himself has said, Krishna is an ideal person in every field of human activity. Therefore, we have no difficulty in including Krishna’s political excellence within Bankim’s comprehensive definition.

via Bankim’s Krishna-Charita by Maj. Gen. Shekhar Sen.

In the rest of the world, religion was politicized and politics underwent religiofication. But India with the tradition of भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra stopped at deification of political figures.

Outside India, even Gautama Buddha, a huge political reformer, in post-Saraswati India, was deified – while in India he was revered as a teacher.

Piercing this mist of religiofication, will be the biggest challenge that Indians face.

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


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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