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Dedicated to that doctor who shall remain unnamed, and whose silent,
unstinted support made this book possible. You know who you are.
To Sheshachala for being there.
To my family for tolerating me.
And most importantly, to Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh for being ever the
pillar of strength, guidance, friendship and succor.

Copyright Ó Sandeep Balakrishna, 2018

By David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
After seventy years, there is a powerful new political, intellectual and cultural
churning occurring in India. The Nehruvian socialist era is coming to an end
in favor of a new India that has a transformative vision of the future but also
honors its ancient dharma and spiritual heritage.
We see a number of individuals and groups active on many fronts of a
national revival that reconnects to India’ older Independence Movement on
an intellectual and spiritual level. Yet this new movement remains in its
initial phases in removing ideological and cultural distortions about the
country and its ancient civilization. These distortions remain deep seated and
institutionally entrenched, particularly in India’s media and academia that
have served as neo-colonial advocates.
The shadow of the previous decades of independent India and its propaganda
and intolerance under what was called a “secular socialist” rule still weighs
heavily over the country. This inertia dominates the opposition parties,
including the Congress Party that has lost any national vision, and prefers to
take India back to previous decades of socialist backwardness than to move
forward into a new century. These regressive forces continue to have
powerful support both inside and outside the country, in several state
governments notably Kerala, Bihar and West Bengal, and in the judiciary and
bureaucracy that are staunchly resistant, with considerable financial resources
and their own enduring agendas.
Sandeep Balakrishna has written his book as a kind of stocktaking after
seventy years of Independent India, which is sorely needed today. His book
explains what India was before secularism and foreign rule, which was a
much more enlightened, expansive and prosperous civilization than people
recognize, and what it became afterwards, which was a shadow of outside
domination and subversion.
India’s secularism in fact has been colonialism, not in disguise but in a bold
new aggressive and intolerant form, propelled not by foreign rule but by the
rule of foreign mindsets by Indians themselves.
In examining this both hopeful and challenging scenario, Sandeep
Balakrishna provides us with tremendous insight on both why this negative
situation developed and how to counter the intellectual baggage and cultural
poison of the socialist era. Nehruvian-leftist India based its credibility and
morality under a distorted concept of secularism that was used to negate the
influence of India’s older culture that followed a yogic and dharmic vision
very different than western civilization.
That something is “against secularism” became a way to condemn anything
Hindu as effectively as missionaries and mullahs had used such terms as
polytheist, idolater, heathen or kafir. Secularism gained a new sanctity to
override any spiritual basis to India’s culture. Anti-secular forces were in
turn, deemed “fascist”, revealing the leftist rhetoric behind the charge. There
was an effort to make anything Hindu as fascist, just as the Chinese
communists regarded Tibetan Buddhism as fascist.
Sandeep Balakrishna’s book is a critique of what this false Indian secularism
has done to misrepresent, undermine and destroy the different fields of Indian
culture and history, particularly anything Hindu or dharmic, as motivated by
Marxist and Neo-Marxist world views. Secularism brought about a cultural
revolution in India, with some similarities with the Chinese Communist
Cultural revolution that targeted any traditional culture, religion or spiritual
ethos. Yet while India’s left-inspired cultural revolution was not as successful
as that of China, it has proved to be more enduring.
Sandeep Balakrishna’s conclusions are direct, revealing and daring; yet well
thought out, comprehensive and incisive. They throw a gauntlet against the
misleading scholarship of Nehruvian India that failed to penetrate the surface
of India’s older profound artistic, philosophical and yogic culture and instead
alienated its intellectuals and drove them intentionally in the direction of
western thought of a leftist persuasion.
The resultant western educated left-sympathizing Indian intellectual today
dislikes his own country, does not study or honor its cultural traditions and is
often actively working to replace them with what is deemed as more
progressive models from the West. Though living in India, such individuals
follow a mindset that represents western political and psychological theories
that have no comparable concept of dharma or recognize any higher
consciousness behind the body and the material world that has been India’s
predominant world view through the centuries.
Sandeep Balakrishna’s book examines a variety of civilizational issues, not
just politics. What are most notable is the detail of his references and the
intricacy of his understanding of diverse and subtle topics. His is not simply a
book of personal opinions but of profound scholarly research. In this regard
there is little comparable work of comparable depth, detail, originality or
broadness of vision on India’s situation today. One is reminded of the work
of Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup, but in an updated form, and a new, many-
sided approach.
The book documents the cultural genocide that the Nehruvian-Marxist
alliance wrought on India over the last seventy years, and its great civilization
of many thousands of years, under the name of secularism and socialism.
While India did not politically become communist, it was a communist
sympathizing culture and was under communist intellectual rule, even long
after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This shadow has yet to be entirely
lifted. Lifting it is the intellectual necessity for India to progress whether
materially or culturally.
Secularism Examined
India slowly came under western colonial rule, primarily British, in the late
eighteenth century, a process that was completed by the mid nineteenth
century, extending to educational and media levels. Even India’s
Independence Movement was not just a cultural revival but included a strong
influence from western trends of thought in regard to democracy, socialism
and nationalism.
One of the sad consequences of this western dominance is that the values and
concepts of India’s great dharmic civilization were translated and recast into
western ideas and judgments that brought in many misinterpretations and
distortions. Hindu thought was often dumbed down into western terms, in an
intentional way to make it appear inferior, compared to Western ideas of
religion or humanism, though colonial Britain was busy exploiting India and
allowing its people to suffer genocide by famine under British rule.
Secularism was one of these supposedly progressive ideas from Europe.
Modern European nation states such as Britain and France arose in reaction
to the medieval period in which the Catholic Church dominated politics,
culture and religion, such as was prominent in the period of the crusades and
under kings that ruled by religious right and along with priestly guidance or
control. Protestant Britain developed a notable anti-papal and anti-church
discourse, which was passed on to democratic America that was dominated
by Protestant thought.
Yet these secular western states were not necessarily against Christianity or
tolerant of other religions. They often looked back to the Bible for their
guidance and inspiration, extending to a Christian manifest destiny to rule the
world. What they were against was church interference in politics,
particularly at a decision-making or executive level, as with state
subordination to the church, particularly the Catholic Church. Catholic
nations such as Spain and Portugal were slower to follow this secular model
and continued church domination of the state until a much later period, even
into the last century.
Secular European colonial culture, with its idea that it had the right to rule the
world, found backward and missionary forms of Christianity that they
rejected at home to be helpful in taking over and controlling their colonies.
Colonial Britain in India favored Christian groups and promoted conversion,
which it did not feel violated its ideas of secularism. The United States did
the same in its own colonies and states, for example, banning the Hawaiian
native religion until the late twentieth century.
Islam, on the other hand, did not allow any difference between church and
state or mullahs and rulers, until well into the twentieth century, and has been
much more resistant of the idea of secularism. Religious domination of
politics in the Islamic world has actually increased over the past few decades,
after a more secular interlude post-World War II. Islamic states and Islamic
republics are quite engaged in removing any other religions than Islam from
the country, and not tolerating atheism either.
The India context was very different culturally. Indic dharmic traditions were
not based upon theologies and did not promote theocracies like Biblical
traditions, but emphasized Yoga and meditation over beliefs and dogmas.
Dharmic traditions cannot simply be regarded as religions in the western,
Christian or Islamic sense of the term, though they do address the human
relationship with the Divine, the eternal and infinite, and the issue as to what
happens to the human being after death.
Dharmic views permeate the culture, art, festivals and lifestyle of the people
of India. Unfortunately, secularism in India post-independence has been used
to remove Dharma and its culture from public life, as if it were some
sectarian belief. This means that making India into what was called a secular
state has meant continuing westernization of the country and both
misinterpreting and denigrating India’s great civilization as unsecular.
Secularism thus has become a controversial and confused subject in India’s
discourse. The term has taken on several different meanings over time, and
despite the emphasis on it in political discourse, has little to do with any
unbiased form of government or removal of religion from politics as the term
was originally regarded to represent. It has come to mean keeping Indic ideas
and insights out of political discourse, which remains defined by western
political concepts and even foreign connections.
Secular Socialism
The combination of India’s idea of secularism with socialism, which Indira
Gandhi brought in, has been particularly deadly. Indian socialism has come to
have a strong Marxist connection, particularly at an intellectual level, and
frequent political alliances between the dominant Congress Party and the
Communist Party at electoral levels, which is well known. It has been
remarked that Congress outsourced its intellectual wing to the communists as
it had none of its own. More accurately Nehruvian Congress marginalized the
older Congress of the independence movement and Gandhian Congress, and
used the far left to prop it up.
Jawaharlal Nehru himself honored Joseph Stalin, which India’s communists
still honor today, and though he promoted his idea of a non-allied movement,
his policies were blatantly pro-communist, which American politicians could
easily see and lumped India into the communist camp. Nehru gave Tibet and
a UN security seat to China in his adulation, though was never rewarded for
his obsequious behavior.
India’s Marxist left, since the fall of the Soviet Union, has propped itself with
alliance with Islam, Christianity and any other anti-Hindu group. Secularism
has become an anti-Hindu alliance that appears to have no other identity or
purpose, then to keep the Hindu and traditional side of India from awakening
and exerting any power either politically, intellectually or culturally.
Hinduism is by nature as a pluralistic tradition that is inherently more
pluralistic or tolerant than Christianity or Islamic with their conversion
oriented belief systems and theologies of heaven and hell. Yet Indian
secularism never criticizes Christianity or Islam, but actually often praises
them even in India’s own textbooks. It mainly criticizes Hinduism,
continuing many colonial stereotypes against them.
Indeed, it seems that anything Hindu is communal and anything anti-Hindu is
secular. Secularism absolves one of all other failings. A figure like Lalu
Prasad Yadav, though convicted of corruption, has remained at the top level
of leadership of the secular brigade. Voters have been asked to vote for
secular candidates over any other issues whether corruption, development or
We have the strange phenomenon of Christian and Islamic religious leaders
in India asking their followers to vote for secular candidates. This tells us that
India’s secularism is favoring of minority religions. We have Indian
communists asking people to vote secular, which means getting more votes
from religious minorities, not being neutral on religious matters. Under the
guise of secularism communists, Christians or Muslims may be brought on to
Hindu temple boards. Revenues can be taken from Hindu temples and
allocated for state purposes, which state governments give benefits to
religious minorities. Under the guise of secularism, separatist movements are
honored and nationalism questioned. Kashmiri separatists have long been
heroes of India’s left-leaning media.
Yet politics aside, secularism in India has been used to distort India’s history,
to make the Vedic culture extraneous, to honor Islamic leaders, and downplay
any Hindu history of a positive nature. Communist inspired textbooks in
India have continued the colonial agenda of India as having no united culture
and its main rulers historically of note being either Buddhist or Muslims.
Instead of rejecting the colonial view of its history and culture, India’s
textbooks have often justified it in the name of secularism and socialism.
Sandeep raises many crucial issues well known to me and addressed in my
books and articles over the past thirty years like Arise Arjuna, Awaken
Bharata and Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations. Notable also is NS
Rajaram’s book Secularism: The New Mask of Fundamentalism.
I remember some twenty years ago for being called a well known fascist
simply because I questioned the Aryan invasion of India at an historical level,
as well as promoting Yoga, Vedanta and Ayurveda, topics regarded as
unsecular and therefore politically incorrect. Today the situation has
improved, but questioning secularism in India is often regarded as a moral
failing, not simply a difference of opinion.
This secular leftist media and academia in India was dictatorial and allowed
no questioning of their poor scholarship and biases. Now there are cracks in
their armor and some of their citadels are falling but they still have much
residual poison to continue to inject into the public discourse, including using
the foreign media, which remains suspicious of a strong India or of any
Hindu point of view.
Certainly the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 and the BJP victory in Uttar
Pradesh and the appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu religious leader, as
Chief Minister, have put secularism on its head and opened up the possibility
of New India. I am personally very hopeful of the future.
Yet Sandeep raises issues and shows the extent of the problem that cannot be
underestimated. His probing questions must be addressed and his proposed
solutions respectfully examined. His is an important voice that needs to be
heard and can help transform the dialogue and create a new narrative that can
allow India to truly awaken to its great heritage.
The next few decades of India should not be dominated by this biased and
deceptive idea of secularism but by reclaiming and continuing India’s great
Bharatiya civilization and culture, which is pluralistic and open, yet far
beyond the confusion and propaganda about secularism that has made the
word pejorative. That would create a true renaissance of Indic thought in
India, which still struggling to be born.
Honourable Members…I ask you, Members, to stand in your places to
pay our tribute of respect to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah,
who by his grim determination and stead fast devotion was able to
carve out and found Pakistan and whose passing away at this moment
is an irreparable loss to all.[1]
That was the Honourable President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad addressing
the Constituent Assembly of India on Thursday, 4 November 1948.
* * * * * *
Sir…In the early hours of this morning Marshal Stalin passed away…
When we think of Marshal Stalin, all kinds of thoughts come to…my
mind...looking back at these 35 years or so, many figures stand out, but
perhaps no single figure has moulded and affected and influenced the
history of these years more than Marshal Stalin. He became gradually
almost a legendary figure, sometimes a man of mystery, at other times
a person who had an intimate bond not with a few but with vast
numbers of persons. He proved himself great in peace and in war. He
showed an indomitable will and courage which few possess…here was
a man of giant stature…who ultimately would be remembered by the
way he built up his great country…but the fact remains of his building
up that great country, which was a tremendous achievement, and in
addition to that the remarkable fact…is that he was not only famous in
his generation but…he was in a sense ‘intimate’…with vast numbers of
human beings, not only the vast numbers in the Soviet Union with
whom he moved in an intimate way, in a friendly way, in an almost
family way…So here was this man who created in his life-time this
bond of affection and admiration among vast numbers of human
beings…But every one must necessarily agree about his giant stature
and about his mighty achievements. So it is right that we should pay
our tribute to him on this occasion because the occasion is not merely
the passing away of a great figure but…in the sense of the ending of a
certain era in history…Some…describe him as…[a] gentle person…
Marshal Stalin was something much more than the head of a State. He
was great in his own right way, whether he occupied the office or not. I
believe that his influence was exercised generally in favour of peace…
May I also suggest, Sir, that the House might adjourn in memory of
Marshal Stalin?[2]
That was Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru addressing the Parliament
of India on 6 March 1953 on the occasion of Vladimir Stalin’s death.
* * * * * *
Much is said about the superiority of our religion, art, music and
philosophy. But what are they today? Your religion has become a thing
of the kitchen, as to what you can eat, and what you cannot eat, as to
whom you can touch, and whom you cannot touch[3]… the [real]
danger to India, is Hindu right-wing communalism.[4]
That was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru again on two separate occasions. The first
regarding the “superiority of our religion” was uttered in an address to
students in Bombay on 20 May 1928, and the second, in 1963.
Hollowed out at the Core?
This year marks the seventieth anniversary of India obtaining freedom from
more than a thousand years of colonial rule. It’s also a milestone of sorts to
hark back and reflect upon what India has achieved by governing itself as a
free country which adopted the Westminster-style democracy and had
secularism thrust down its throat as state religion by its first Prime Minister,
Jawaharlal Nehru.
The blunt but honest answer is that seventy years of secularism have reduced
a once-thriving ancient civilization, economic superpower, cultural magnet,
and educational and spiritual hub of the world into a shrunken lilliput where:
There seems to be no rule of law or fear of punishment at any
Almost all institutions of governance and administration, and the
judiciary have been almost irreparably compromised.
Penetration of foreign powers, missionary influence, and
innumerable separatist islands have torn the body politic, the
society, the legal system, and various key spheres of national
The system appears to have broken down with seemingly no fix
in sight.
All of this has occurred under the watch of just one dynasty that gave the
country three official Prime Ministers and one Super Prime Minister ruling
for a combined period of forty-six years upholding Jawaharlal Nehru’s
mantra of secularism. The vestiges of this dynasty though greatly reduced in
power in the present time have nevertheless succeeded in retaining the status
quo of secularism whose toxic influences continue to escalate the
consequences listed afore.
Indeed, the fact that even after nearly four years, the first single-party-
majority government to take office after thirty years (of rule by various
coalitions) has been unable to indict a brazen perjurer and an anti-national
political agent like Teesta Setalvad, let alone go after the massive scammers
who wreaked havoc on the nation between 2004 and 2014 is yet another
proof of how the Indian state has perhaps hollowed out right at the core.
Blame for this state of affairs solely lies with the character, actions, and
decisions of the top leadership of the Indian National Congress party
especially when it spotted independence, clearly visible on the horizon. And
when he became the “Unchallenged Caesar[5]” of the Congress Party after
Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, armed with the twin weapons of secularism
and socialism, unleashed the forces responsible for reducing India to the
present condition.
Where it Began
One of the most astonishing phenomena is the manner in which the top
leadership of the then Indian National Congress party[6] so swiftly capitulated
to the demands of just one person, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and gave in to
Partition. For Jinnah, it was a double victory of sorts: he not only got his new
nation but the Muslim hordes he had inflamed, got more than their share of
Hindu blood. And, for the Congress Party, it was a double loss.
But we really need to examine the role and legacy of Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi, the man whose policies and strategies dominated the entire freedom
struggle and culminated in one of the bloodiest episodes in human history,
but still refused to learn anything from it.[7] R.C. Majumdar one of the
world’s greatest historians puts all these events in perspective:
…Gandhi combined in himself the dual role of a saint and an active
politician…[his] followers did not make this distinction and gave unto
the political leader what was really due to the saint…best illustrated by
the implicit faith in, and unquestioning obedience to Gandhi…shown
by even very highly eminent persons. They mostly belonged to two
categories. The first comprised those who willingly surrendered their
conscience and judgement to the safe keeping of the political Guru…
the second…consisted of those who fell a victim to the magic charm of
Gandhi even though they fumed and fretted at his…irrational dogmas
repulsive to their own independent judgment. Such strange influence
of Gandhi…has been frankly and lucidly explained by the most
distinguished among them, namely, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru…great
political leaders of the Congress came to look upon Gandhi as a
superman…infallible and acted by instinct, not logic or reason, and
therefore should not be judged by the ordinary standards which we
apply to other political leaders…Gandhi was lacking in both political
wisdom and political strategy…far from being infallible, committed
serious blunders, one after another in pursuit of some Utopian ideals…
which had no basis in reality…he placed the cult of non-violence
above everything else—even above the independence of India…To
him, the Congress was a humanitarian organization for the moral
and spiritual regeneration of the world, and its aims and activities
were to be regulated accordingly…To Gandhi, not only was
independence of India a minor issue as compared with the principle
of non-violence, but it is painful…to relate, he was even prepared to
postpone Swaraj activity if thereby he could advance the interest of
the Khilafat…Gandhi was a dictator who could not tolerate
opposition. In 1930, he deliberately excluded from the Working
Committee…those who differed from his views…One of his admiring
devotees referred to him as “benevolent slave-driver”…it would be a
travesty of truth to give him the sole credit for the freedom of India…
The two great ends of Gandhi’s life…were to inculcate in the masses…
non-violence and to bring about unity between the Hindus and Muslims
by a change of heart. He failed miserably in both and realized it only
too well at the fag end of his life...The tragedy of Gandhi’s life was
that…members of his inner council who followed him for more than
twenty years with unquestioned obedience, took the fatal steps
leading to the partition of India without his knowledge, not to speak of
his consent…To what extent Gandhi’s cult of non-violence may claim
credit for the freedom of India is a matter of opinion. But there is no
doubt that the creation of Pakistan was the triumph of violence…and
the leadership of Jinnah.[8] [Emphasis added]
Three points emerge from this historical analysis.
First, Gandhi’s leadership of the Congress, like a banyan tree did not allow
anything to grow under its shade[9].
Second, by cultivating only fawners and flatterers, the post-Gandhi Congress
leadership under Nehru was made of weak men who went on to rule an
independent India.
And third, which flows from the second, was the reason for said swift
capitulation to Jinnah’s demand for Partition.
In other words, Gandhi’s unchallenged grip over the Congress Party and his
sway over the largely naïve Hindu masses who were captivated by his saintly
charm robbed them of a prized quality that had energized, reinvigorated, and
sustained them even under the direst existential threats under the prolonged
and oppressive Muslim regimes: an earthly spirit of ruggedness that
contributed to civilizational and cultural resilience. This spirit was supplanted
and consumed by Gandhi’s leadership, which replaced it with a national
weakness of spirit.
And it is exactly this weakness of spirit that we detect in the first President,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s shameful “tribute of respect” to Jinnah with which this
book opens. That it was done on the floor of the Constituent Assembly of
India is not really shocking. But what is truly stunning is the fact that not
even one member opposed Prasad. It is also the same weakness of spirit that
detects no wrong in or persists with the amnesia of still retaining the word
“secular,” which was unconstitutionally inserted by Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi in the Preamble to the Constitution when she imposed the notorious
Emergency in June 1975.
Perhaps no one else has traced the roots of this weakness of spirit as
effectively as the philosopher-litterateur-statesman, the late D.V. Gundappa
who evaluated it at the touchstone of fundamental human impulses.
Reflecting on the nature of the freedom struggle and the state of politics and
Government after attaining it, he observed[10] how it was true that
…our national leaders demanded ‘Swarjaya’ [self-rule]. It was equally
true that everybody had joined that demand. But the key [element] in
that ‘Swarajya’ was the ejection of foreigners. But it wasn’t crystal
clear in anybody’s mind as to the sort of people who would take the
place of these foreigners. “Let the foreigners get out first, we’ll rule
our country ourselves” – this was the only definite opinion back then…
thus, the leaders of India artificially embraced to their hearts a
political system that wasn’t convenient to our people…the pundits[11]
who authored Bharata’s political statute were bookish pundits…the
rights[12] that we upheld can be termed Theoretical Rights. They
weren’t directly related to the common citizens’ daily life…what we[13]
demanded was democracy; what we’ve got party-cracy.
But the questions that some folks had asked me back then continue to
remain intact. Mahatma Gandhi[14] himself led this haste. The day after
the riots at Vidurashwatha, he sent a telegram to Diwan Mirza [Ismail]
thus: “Give the Responsible Government immediately. People have
registered their qualification for it.” What’s the import of this? That
mob enthusiasm is a proof of qualification, right?
Why has what appeared as an attractive political system become so
abhorrent in practical experience? To state the truth, we cheated
ourselves…back then, we didn’t have an estimate of how wretched
human nature will become when confronted with the treasure called
power. Our activist zeal concealed basic, natural human weaknesses
from us[15].
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that India produced at best only second and third
rate political and administrative leadership starting with Jawaharlal Nehru,
which as it must, eventually descended into the kind of morass that’s
pervasive and commonplace today. In 1963, former British Comintern agent
Philip Spratt[16] characterized the leadership of the Nehruvian Congress as “a
ruling party of hungry careerists.” To understand the competence and
character of this sort of self-degenerating leadership, consider a rather
straightforward question: which other democracy in the world has sought
votes in the name of secularism?
If Nehru has been almost wholly blamed for this unfortunate state of affairs
as a consequence of his secularism, the intent here isn’t to demonize him but
to analyze his legacy truthfully. Indeed, Indians like Nehru could only arise
as the natural consequence of thorough and inescapable colonialized national
psyche. In his quest to somehow escape British colonialism, Nehru blindly
embraced the Soviet variety. His secularism is the ideological love child born
by fusing an incurable love for Stalinist Communism and an irretrievable
alienation from his own Hindu roots. But after becoming Prime Minister, he
had ample opportunities to better know his own roots and to apply
independent thinking with regard to the true nature of the (then) USSR and
China. He chose neither.
Stocktaking at Seventy
There’s no dearth for literature that critically examines and exposes Indian
secularism for what it is. Most charitably, it is an ill-understood and poorly-
conceived political-policy formulation for the newly-independent Indian
republic. At worst, and based on seventy years of lived experience, it is the
vilest form of Muslim and Christian appeasement to the physical death and
detriment of Hindus and Hindu society. As the ongoing instances of the
consequences of such appeasement, one can cite the frequent and recurring
carnage of Hindus most notably in West Bengal and Kerala: both, model
states of secularism in which Islamic Jihad flourishes with impunity and often
with state patronage.
This book was conceived as a stocktaking of sorts on the seventieth year of a
politically independent India which adopted democracy. Indeed, it appears
that starting from 15 August 1947 up to now, India has perpetually remained
a “developing” (more humiliatingly, a “third world”) country even as its
successive leaders sought to develop it through secularism. The same period
also witnessed three major upheavals: The Emergency of 1975, the
Ramjanmabhoomi Movement that crested in 1992, and the general elections
of 2014.
In the summer of 2014, the combined historical, social, and political currents
that these disruptions unleashed took a definitive turn. It perhaps put an end
to the strain of secularism that has caused such avoidable divisiveness and
destruction of epic proportions in the country for so long.
But this stocktaking is also hinged on a deeply historical facet, which Nirad
Chaudhuri[17] has perceptively captured:
The immense noisy crowds that greeted the end of British rule in India
with deafening shouts of joy on August 15, 1947, did not recall the old
saying: they thought nothing of British rule would survive in their
country after the departure of the White men who had carried it on.
They never perceived that British rule in India had created an
impersonal structure.... a system of government for which there was
no substitute.
Whether this substitute can and will be found in the post-2014 era will
determine whether India has conclusively buried Nehruvian secularism and
charted a genuinely fresh course. But then, India is the last non-Abrahamic
civilization surviving with an unbroken heritage of its pre-Abrahamic past.
And so, the word “past” has a deeper and longer significance and timeframe.
In this context, this word generally connotes a past in which the secularism
imagined and invented by Nehru was not even in the realm of fiction.
Scope and Plan
Which is how this book is organized: as a collection of essays all of which
are connected by the underlying strand of India’s timeless civilizational and
cultural heritage. Some of these essays appear for the first time in this book,
others are enlarged versions of my earlier work published elsewhere, and still
others are translations.
It is said that there’s nothing original that a human being can say that’s not
already in nature. It follows that even the best human “originals” are just
superlative imitations. So it is with the essays in this book. They are simply
the contemporary echoes of past masters who have captured the true spirit
and essence of India’s civilizational and cultural genius in various facets of
human endeavor. D.V. Gundappa[18] describes this spirit as follows:
What is the character and nature of the people of India? What are their
life-ideals? These are primary and basic questions that need to be
asked in our politics… [in the ideals of our people], the world is just an
instrument; the other world is a possibility, that is, it’s something that
needs to be attained. A thirsty man needs water. What is required for
water is a utensil. Thus, the utensil acquires a value because of water.
In the same manner, worldly life acquires a value because it enables
the attainment of the goal of reaching a higher world. And politics
acquires a value because of worldly life. This is the chief tenet.
Therefore, an India governed by political ideologies fashioned in the Western
mould is destined to lose its defining character, which is primarily spiritual,
accommodative, and inclusive. It is this spiritual character that has made
India the most resilient of all of world’s surviving ancient civilizations:
contrast India with the fate of the other ancient civilizations and cultures
which started out roughly around the same time. And this spiritual character
is fundamentally and wholly Hindu no matter what it is called: Dharmic,
Sanatani, Vedantic.
Seventy years of secularism is just one long tale of a project aimed at making
Hindus forget and disavow precisely this defining character. Among others,
an enduring method used to accomplish this includes instilling a lasting sense
of self-alienation and self-loathing using the medium of formal education.
The outcome is the cowardice resulting from a complete erosion of cultural
1 Ellora as a Monument of Cultural Amnesia
2 Reviving the Hindu Temple Ecosystem
3 The Symbolism of Saraswati
4 Facets of the Cultural Unity of India
5 The Connoisseurial Climate of Krishnadevaraya’s Time
6 Krishnaraja Wodeyar III: The Cultural Founder of the Modern Mysore State
7 A Brief Survey of the Tradition of Rama and Ramayana in Tamil Nadu
8 India’s Foreign Policy and the Dharma of Exigency
9 The Story of DA
10 Lessons in Statecraft from the Mahabharata’s Kanika Episode
11 The Mackenzie Manuscripts: A Neglected National Treasure
12 Krishnadevaraya as a Metaphor for Downplaying Hindu History
13 Distorted History Celebrates False Heroes
14 The Rise and Fall of History Research in India
15 How the Nalanda University was Revived by Draining Taxpayer Money
16 Decoding M F Hussain’s Art
17 New Age Gurus are Distorting Yoga and Chopping off its Hindu Roots
18 Jaipur Literary Festival as the Harbinger of Political Correctness
19 Has Tolerance Become an Albatross Haunting Hindus?
20 Using Atrocity Literature to Disarm Hindus and Christianize India
21 The Unaccountable Communist Republic of Jawaharlal Nehru University
22 Amnesty International as a Representative Sample of National Security Threat
India Before Secularism
To understand the contours of an India before Nehruvian secularism, it is
essential to grasp the roots: that is, the spirit of India’s core ideals as seen in
D.V. Gundappa’s earlier note about the basic character and nature of the
Indian people. This spirit and these ideals are informed by a spirituality
rooted in Vedanta, or the Upanishads.
In turn, they reflect themselves in every facet of human endeavor of Indians
even today in howsoever a diminished form, frequency, and fervor: in
classical music, temple architecture, sculpture, classical poetry, literature,
epics, painting, drama, cinema, and more fundamentally, in the attitude
towards food.
In all this, there’s an element that’s essentially feminine in the sense of
possessing the innate traits of beauty and the capacity to nurture, nurse, and
sustain. Putting it obliquely, it isn’t a mere coincidence that the notion,
codification, and practice of Dharma was something that originated in and is
unique only to India: the numerous meanings of the word “Dharma” include
“to uphold, to support, to nourish, sacrifice, study, charity.” It is this that gave
a sense of idealism even to warfare[19] in India.
Perhaps one of the best and most profound writings on the subject comes
from the pen of the towering scholar of the last century, Dr. S Srikanta
Sastri[20] who deserves to be quoted at some length.
The culture of India, like the country itself, is indivisible and
timeless. Just like its indivisible geography that stretches from Kashmir
to Kanyakumari, from Vishweshwara[21] to Rameshwara, from Bindu
Madhava to Sethu Madhava, Indian culture too represents this
indivisible continuum from the Rishis of the Vedas all the way up to
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa… Indian culture gives immense
importance to individual freedom. Differences of opinion exist among
various schools of Indian philosophy on the subject of the nature of the
relationship that exists between an individual, the Supreme Being and
the material world. However, all these schools also universally
recognize the fact that the individual, based on his/her nature and
temperament, is free to lead a life of his/her choosing. It is because of
this that there is no scope for totalitarianism in Indian culture... In
other ancient cultures, only specific facets of their respective cultures
flourished excessively and because it wasn’t balanced by a
corresponding development in other facets, they died out in the course
of time; or they reached a pinnacle and then perished due to a lack of
further development.
The spiritual outlook that lies at the heart of Indian culture is the
reason it’s still alive and flourishing in the world. It is also the reason
every single facet of Indian culture—food, social mores, business
ethics, philosophy, aesthetics, investigations into the nature of truth
and beauty—holds a special distinction. Not only does Indian culture
embody universal values, it has also infused its unique value system
both at the level of the individual and the society.
Indian culture is thus like Atman, the Self: timeless and
Another equally towering scholar, Mahamahopadhyaya P.V. Kane echoes the
same view when he talks[22] about “what the foundation of our culture and
civilization has been throughout the past ages:”
Ancient sages laid the foundation by insisting…that there is and must
be harmony between man’s spirit and the spirit of the world and man’s
endeavor should be to realize in his actions and in his life this harmony
and unity. The Upanishads teach that man gains by giving up (by
renunciation) and exhorts man not to covet another’s wealth
(Ishopanishad I: ‘tena tyaktena bhunjeetha maa grdhah kasya svid
there are certain values of our culture that have endured for three
thousand years, viz, the consciousness that the whole world is the
manifestation of the Eternal Essence, restraint of senses, charity and
kindness…Many young men have in these days hardly anything
which they believe as worth striving for whatever the cost maybe, and
hence they have nothing to practice as an ideal. We have to preserve a
religious spirit among common men and women, while getting rid of
superstitions…opposed to all science and common sense…It is not the
age-old principles of Hindu religion that are at fault, it is modern
Hindu society that has to be reorganized…[23]
Social reforms and politics have to be preached through our age-old
religion and philosophy. If a large majority of our people and the
leaders throw away or neglect religion and spirituality altogether, the
probability is that we shall lose both spiritual life and social
Indeed, Dr. Srikanta Sastri’s insight that Indian culture is akin to the timeless
and imperishable Atman, and P.V. Kane’s observation about specific values
that have endured are reflected in myriad ways even today in both positive
and destructive fashions.
There’s renewed interest in preserving ancient Indian art forms, literature,
poetry, language, and valuable primary texts on numerous subjects. Tireless
efforts are also ongoing to bring back invaluable stolen artifacts[25] and where
possible, to bring such criminals to justice. Numerous initiatives to re-study
various aspects of India’s past purely from a “native” perspective shorn of
ideology have made an impact. Equally noteworthy is the parallel effort to
rescue and revive[26] the unique and grand temple traditions.
But the best of the spiritual and cultural treasures of India are found
beginning from the foundational Vedic era, the Epic age and roughly up to
the end of the Classical Period, or the 13th century CE. At the risk of making
a sweeping statement, it can be said that almost everything that the India of
today takes pride in was produced during this period: from the spiritual and
philosophical lore of the Vedas to Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas,
Asthadhyayi, Arthashastra, Ayurvedic texts, Panchatantra, Brihatkatha[27] and
Kamasutra to the timeless works of Kalidasa, Banabhatta, Bhartruhari to the
Gupta, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and Chola temples and artifacts, to the
classical music and dance traditions patronized and sustained by innumerable
dynasties…it’s neither an accident nor a coincidence that India has the largest
number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
1 Ellora as a Monument of Cultural
What’s common to Stratford-upon-Avon, Westminster Abbey, Mount
Rushmore, Drumcliffe, Walden Pond State Reservation, Alcatraz Island, Jack
London State Historic Park, Hauteville House, and Zentralfriedhof? Equally,
what’s common to Hampi, Badami, Bhoja Shala, Ambernath, Grishneshwar,
and Ellora?
The former list includes all vibrant, living showcases of the deep commitment
a nation displays in preserving the memory of people and places about which
these nations have every reason to be proud of. For example, The Walden
Pond State Reservation is spread over 462 acres of land to honour the
memory of Henry David Thoreau, whose deep imprint the American culture
still celebrates. It’s also a tribute to the people of America who continue to
preserve Thoreau’s legacy in this manner.
The latter list represents the exact opposite of the former. They are classic
instances and living reminders of the mass assault on the cultural symbols,
monuments and memories of an ancient and hallowed civilization. The
magnificent fort at Chitradurga, Karnataka, is encroached by an ugly mob of
huts and houses that completely blankets one side of the mountain while
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a free-for-all haven from drug
addicts to vandals of all sorts.
And so it is with the Ellora caves, which I visited a few years ago on a trip,
which also included a visit to the Ajanta caves and the Grishneswar temple.
The Ellora Caves
To be fair, the Ellora caves don’t suffer from the same shocking apathy that
characterizes most historical monuments across India. However, the
difference in the apathy is only in degree. Contrasted with its neighbour at
Ajanta, Ellora, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s
finest architectural splendours.
The thirty-four caves, built between the fifth and the tenth century represent
the perfect model of Indian rock-cut architecture and stand unrivalled till
date. They are really not caves in the strict sense of the word but temples and
sculptures carved out through the basalt-rich Charanandri Mountain located
some 30 Kilometres from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These artistic
expressions of the finest of Indian spirit are spread across an enormous two-
kilometre expanse.
Kailasanath Temple Complex: The Crown Jewel of
The most spectacular of all of Ellora architecture is undoubtedly the
Kailasanath temple. I have used “temple” in this context to mean both Hindu
and Buddhist structures for the sake of convenience.

The Kailasanath temple in itself is a

study not merely of art and sculpture but is a living instance of what Ananda
Coomaraswamy said about Indian art: its impersonal nature and how an all-
encompassing religion like Santana Dharma brings out the best of
expressions in every field of human endeavour. It takes several days to
undertake a detailed and serious study of this one temple. The foregoing
photograph shows the 90-foot tall central pillar that’s always visible from any
corner of the temple complex.
TheAlas Plates dated 770 CE tells us that the Kailasanath temple was
commissioned in 757 CE (or 773 CE ) by Krishna I, an uncle of the founder
of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, Dantidurga[28]. The construction work took about
150 years to complete.
Because Krishna I was a staunch devotee of Shiva, he modelled the temple
after the Kailasa mountain, the divine abode of Shiva. The Kailasanath
temple in the height of its pristine and unspoilt glory must have actually
resembled a re-creation of the divine Mount Kailasa right amidst the
Charanadri mountain range because archaeological evidence points to the use
of white plaster all over, signifying the snow-clad abode of Shiva.
While the entire temple complex looks like it is a cluster of temples and
pillars and sprawling halls, it was actually carved out by vertically excavating
some 200,000 tonnes (or 400,000 tonnes according to other sources) out of a
single mammoth rock.

Indeed, it does evoke a

sense of awe when we try and fathom what it must have taken in terms of
mathematics, engineering, building technology, craftsmanship, artistry,
design, planning, and the entire project execution when we recall that this
“project” took over 150 years and spanned at least six generations of experts
in all of these fields. It also throws light on the political stability and
economic prosperity that the Rashtrakuta Empire must have sustained in
order to carry this activity on for over one and a half centuries. The
Kailasanath temple covers twice the area of the Parthenon in Athens. [29]
This singular temple is also akin to a university that imparts education in
almost all of the Indian epics, and some Puranas. In a way, it is the
architectural encyclopaedia of Hinduism.

Impeccable and perfect

sculptures of Nandi (vehicle of Shiva) who stands at the entrance of the
temple, the sprawling Indra Sabha, the inspiring majesty of Ravana trying to
lift the Kailasa mountain, the Sapta Matrukas (the Seven Divine Mothers),
the various avatars of Vishnu (see the picture below), Apsaras (Celestial
Damsels), and the Rudra Ganas (followers and servants of Shiva), all carved
into the walls are the sculptural guides of the said epics and puranas.
One can’t also help wondering at the intimate knowledge these architects,
artists, and artisans possessed about almost every facet of Hinduism and how
they used stone to bring these facets to life. Indeed, carving such immaculate
works of art was both an expression and the fulfilment of the spiritual needs
of these artisans and sculptors as well as a highly sacred duty they felt
honoured to perform.

The Kailasanath temple is undoubtedly the grandest of all in Ellora and

definitely finds a place in any compilation of the world’s greatest
architectural marvels. Its affluence of art, intricacy of engraving the minutest
of details, vividness in depicting life in all its moods and possibilities, and the
sense of sheer elevation it brings to the mind can only be experienced, not
explained. To illustrate this, we can examine one wall sculpture taken at
This wall sculpture shows the
lighter side of life–Shiva’s vehicle, Nandi being tormented by monkeys
pulling his tail, playing with his horns, yanking his leg, and indulging in other
mischief. The fact that the sculptor or the Master Sthapathi thought of
including this light-hearted scene only adds to the richness of the grandeur of
the Kailasanath temple.
Indeed, all structures, carvings, and sculptures in the Ellora caves are
consistent in proportion, form, artistry, and aesthetics, and adhere to the rules
and guidelines laid down in traditional Indian texts of temple building and
sculpture, including for example, the famous Aitareya Brahmana verse on the
subject[30] (Rig Veda, 6.5.27), Brahmanda Purana, Shilpa Ratnam,
Mahaagamas, Gargya Samhita, and so on.
However, in terms of the sweep, depth, richness, aesthetics and sheer
grandeur, the Kailasanath temple is truly the crown jewel of Ellora.
The Ajanta Caves
The well-known story of how John Smith, a British officer belonging to the
Madras army regiment, (re)discovered Ajanta caves[31] doesn’t bear retelling.
However, it suffices to say that he accidentally discovered it during a tiger-
hunting expedition with his soldiers. And to him we owe our gratitude for
unearthing yet another magnificent monument of our heritage. A case of
unintended consequences turned out to be immensely rewarding in this
instance. A viewpoint facing the caves has been erected to honour the event
of Smith’s discovery of 28 April 1819.
Ajanta Caves are a series of rock-cut cave-like structures numbering about
thirty. These caves are actually Buddhist chaitya-grihas and viharas (rest
houses and monasteries), set on one face of a formidable, stooping cliff in an
imposing valley overlooking the Waghora River.
When I visited the place, the Waghora “river” was a tiny stream, not different
in colour, texture and stench from the gutter-water dotting urban India’s
Ajanta caves are the perhaps the proudest, the most sublime, and the most
elegant rock-cut, physical evidence of Buddha’s philosophy. Gautama
Buddha resides in every rock, every orifice, every monument, every
sculpture, and in the wall paintings in these caves. Taken as one unit, all of
the Ajanta caves is arguably the best display of Buddhism sublimated in
stone anywhere in the world.
While Saranath is more famous as a site of pilgrimage, Ajanta caves are
notable for entirely different reasons. Ajanta is a grand and enduring display
of both the Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism expressed in rock-art
and painting. The climb of the first few steps that lead to the actual caves
opens a vast sweep of just one face of the sheer cliff of the Sahyadri
mountain range.

As with most surviving

Indian monuments, which belong to the early/early-medieval periods, Ajanta
caves cannot be dated precisely. However, the generally accepted timeframe
in which these caves were constructed and the artwork done, falls in the
range of 200 BCE–650 CE. During this period, these caves were
continuously inhabited by Buddhist monks, teachers, and scholars. This
makes sense because even as we see it today, we don’t fail to notice
structures designed for the express purpose of allowing monks to engage in
undisturbed silence and meditation for extended periods.
This period also marks the pinnacle of Buddhism in India. History credits the
best of the artwork done in Ajanta caves to the rulers of the Vakataka
dynasty starting mostly with Sarvasena, founder of the Vatsagulma branch
of this dynasty.
However, Harisena who ruled between 475–500 CE was responsible for
giving us some of the finest paintings the walls of these caves display.
Peerless Wall Paintings
Which brings us to one of the topmost reasons to visit Ajanta: the exquisite
wall paintings. Although most of these paintings have withered, are
discoloured, hazy, and disjointed today, they still evoke our astonishment at
an era that made this possible.
It is also amazing when we learn that these paintings were made from colours
extracted from natural (plant) dyes, rocks and minerals and yet managed to
survive the ravages of centuries.
The artists achieved minute, and fine-grained colour variations by mixing and
matching only some basic colours: black, white, blue, brown, yellow, red,
and green. But the effect they produced is truly extraordinary.

The real
accomplishment of these paintings lies in not just a combination of a few
factors— they show a perfect blend of colour, proportion, form, geometry,
and the entire scenery, where all these factors perfectly amalgamate—but the
fact that they faithfully adhere to the ancient Indian treatises, which lay down
exact rules for composing paintings and drawings.
The Ajanta cave paintings are living instances of this perfection. What earns
our greater admiration is the fact that most of these paintings show elaborate
scenes and entire stories: one a day in a King’s court, Buddha preaching to
his disciples, Gautama’s days as a child, and so on. Some of these scenes
cover an entire wall, and some caves have paintings on the ceiling as well.
Indeed, these caves form the perfect setting for travelling back in time as also
putting one in a deeply contemplative mood.

The scenes depicted in these cave paintings contain stories from the Jataka
Tales, an inseparable part of Buddhist lore. In this context, the role of the
Brihat Katha by Gunadhya is worth mentioning although the Jataka tales
were composed in an earlier age. However, the point is that most of Indian
folklore in one way or the other can be traced back to Brihat Katha as the
source of their origin. Brihat Katha is not extant today. The closest we have
today to the Brihat Katha is Somadeva’s “Kathasaritsagara.” However, a
rich repertoire of folk tales existed as early as the Vedic period from which
the Jataka tales derive their inspiration. Gunadhya’s Brihat Katha is arguably
the definitive source, the complete lore comprising as many as 600,000
verses and is a gigantic agglomeration of most Indian folklore.
As history shows, Indian folklore wasn’t a watertight compartment. Any sect
or religious school or local custom freely borrowed from the existing folk
tradition and tailored it to suit their needs. If this wasn’t the case,
the Jataka tales would not narrate stories of the Buddha’s previous avatars as
various animals, a la Vishnu’s avatars as fish, boar, half-lion, and so on.
Sculpture in Ajanta
The Ajanta caves contain their share of artistic and elegant sculptures. But
mere sculptural beauty is not what strikes us. The chief attraction and raison
de etre of visiting Ajanta caves is to savour the elegant paintings. The
sculptures while pretty, are consistently prosaic: cave after cave contains
sculptures of varying sizes of Buddha in different meditative poses.
The Mahaparinirvana and the temptation of Mara (both in Cave 26) are the
finest Buddha-sculptures in Ajanta while the rest are strictly ordinary
compared to the magnificence, variety and grandeur of Ellora.

This is not so much a

comment on the artistry of the sculptures as it is about the monotony they
induce. To be fair, this monotony is consistent with the purpose for which
these caves were constructed: to serve as viharas and chaitya grihas.
However, more fundamentally, the aesthetic appeal and value is significantly
lower in most Buddhist sites across India because Buddhism rests on a
foundation of renouncing the world while the greatest works of art ensue
from embracing the very bosom of life, not relinquishing it.
The caves at Ajanta are serially numbered but the numbering isn’t based on
any well-defined system like chronology, etc. A cave’s number denotes its
proximity to the village where the site of Ajanta is located: thus, cave #1 is
the closest to the village. Also, not all caves are complete with respect to
paintings, sculpture or other artwork. Caves 3, 4 (the largest), 5, 6, 14 and 15
among others are in various stages of completion. Only the door work is
complete in one cave while another has a massive hall with a partially-
finished stone-mound of sorts.
Surprisingly, the Ajanta caves have been amazingly well-maintained. Every
cave carries an appreciable amount of details about its significance, history
and related information. The credit for renovating, restoring and documenting
the history and heritage of Ajanta caves should go to the team led by Dr. S.R.
Rao, the famed archaeologist instrumental in discovering the ancient sites of
Lothal and Dwaraka.
Preserving the Past Continuous
At the beginning of this essay, I mentioned that monuments like Ajanta and
Ellora “represent vibrant showcases of the deep commitment, which a nation
displays in preserving the memory of people and places these nations have
much to be proud of.” In a way, they are the true representatives of the soul
of a civilization. One can’t lament enough that in India, these true
representatives continue to remain in a state of unforgivable neglect.
In the case of Ajanta and Ellora, a few additional layers are also at work as
we shall see. Equally, it’s important to remember that both are UNESCO
World Heritage sites.
What follows is what I call the politics of monuments.
A Tale of Two Caves
Very early in Dr. S L Bhyrappa’s classic Kannada novel Vamsha Vruksha,
we are treated to an elaborate and insightful exposition on the Buddhist art
found in the Ajanta caves. In many ways it is SL Bhyrappa’s literary tribute
to the legendary Ananda K Coomaraswamy’s scholarly tomes on the subject.
This exposition is also beautifully interspersed with the sheer difficulty of
physically visiting Ajanta caves. Vamsha Vruksha was published in 1965 and
the specific scene set in the Ajanta caves is placed in the 1940s decade.
After about ssixty years, when I visited Ajanta I was in for a pleasant shock. I
had anticipated and had braced myself for an arduous trek going by Dr.
Bhyrappa’s description.
The tourism department has converted the entire site and the surrounding
“village” into a model of top class tourism. The actual caves, nay, the face of
the Sahyadri Mountain that couches these caves is not visible when you land
there. A sprawling and nicely-manicured parking lot greets you, followed by
a tasteful pathway that leads to the ticketing counter.
However, to get to the ticketing counter, one needs to pass through a large
canopy, which shelters shops selling beverages, curios, handicrafts, SIM
cards, mobile Internet cards, a browsing centre, various cuisines, fruits, home
decoration items…in short, a self-contained economy with all the urban
creature comforts housed in sparse land.
What is even more surprising is the fact that given the general state of public
hygiene and cleanliness in India, Ajanta is a model of cleanliness.
Once we’re past the ticketing counter, we need to wait for the tourism
department’s bus to take us on for a four-kilometre ride to the actual caves.
Again, the same discipline is followed. Buses aren’t allowed to be
overcrowded. Once the seats are filled, we need to wait for the next bus, a
wait that doesn’t exceed 15 minutes. Private transport isn’t allowed beyond
the parking lot. After the four-kilometre journey, we begin a modest climb of
steps. For those unable to do the climb, the palki (palanquins) facility is
Once we reach the actual caves, another surprise awaits us. Because most
caves contain exquisite paintings now in danger of permanent destruction,
flash photography is strictly prohibited. It is clear that regular maintenance
and preservation work is carried out at all the caves.
One of the caves has a large screen and projector to show an exhaustive video
showcasing the glory Ajanta in great detail. A tourist information bureau sells
books about the place and hires out guides. In short, even a mundane tourist
experience of Ajanta is on the same level as any of the well-maintained
museums and historic sites in the West.
Neglected Ellora
Even as we finish the last leg of the journey after the Daulatabad fort, we
don’t realize that we have actually arrived at the site of Ellora caves. Parking
is chaotic. The parking lot is untarred, uneven, and the ground beneath our
feet is dented and potholed. And Ellora suffers from the same illness that
most historical sites suffer in India. The government staff that gives the
parking ticket is in cahoots with auto rickshaw drivers, “tourist guides,” and
assorted wheeler-dealers.
As magnificent as the Kailasanath temple is, its upkeep and crowd
management is truly appalling unlike Ajanta where only a fixed number of
people are allowed in a cave at a time. On a good day flooded with tourists,
one can witness unchecked bedlam, and people spitting at will inside the
temple complex. To put it bluntly, this is an everyday and live manifestation
of the nationwide cultural amnesia that we suffer from: spitting inside a
temple complex.
A large and orphaned ASI board standing outside each cave declaring it a
UNESCO world heritage site is all that we can learn about Ellora.
Given the three-kilometre expanse of the Ellora caves, we are shocked by the
utter apathy: untarred roads connecting each cave, no guards or guides, no
signboards and no security. Along a few stretches of these caves, one almost
senses an air of pitiful desolation, a wailing plea to save them from total
abandonment and irreversible destruction.
Some Exhibits of the apathy are in the photographs that follow.
Exhibit 1:
Apart from the ticket-tearing guard at the entrance of the Kailasanath
temple, none of the other caves have anybody to even look over them. Notice
the exquisite Nandi sculpture evoking the said sense of abandonment, and

There’s nothing in this

location that prevents lumpen elements from vandalizing it. Except for the
Kailasanath temple, this state of affairs holds true for the rest of the Ellora

Exhibit 2:
These are various representations of the mother Goddess Parvati with her
heads and limbs chopped off. Even a superficial reading of medieval Indian
history tell us that Aurangzeb[32] in 1690 AD ordered destruction of temples
at Ellora, Trimbakeshwar, Narasinghpur, and Pandharpur.
How different is the attitude of the successive governments of Independent
India, which have allowed these priceless cultural treasures to be ruined
through a very simple measure: utter neglect.
Grishneshwar Temple
The same story is repeated in the nearby Grishneshwar temple. An interesting
and familiar facet greets us even as we approach the temple—a mosque that
towers over the Grishneshwar temple akin to Kashi Vishwanath where the
Nandi sculpture faces in the direction of the Gyanavapi mosque. Even to the
untrained eye, this comparison reveals an obvious truth.

The sculptural work and carving right

at the bottom of the picture (labelled “Base Carving”) below is revealing.
The carving in “Bottom Carving” clearly shows a chakra, a shankha and
intricate floral designs, all of them, elements of typical Hindu temple
The second picture is that of a mosque. The chakra and shankha seen in the
picture labelled “Base Carving” are located near the base of the mosque. The
overall architectural style of this mosque clearly shows that apart from the
ubiquitous dome, this mosque is clearly a Hindu structure than an Islamic
one. It is left to our knowledge of history to deduce how this came about.
Concluding Notes
At the end of this rather tedious exercise, some conclusions are inescapable.
It is evident that the reason for the stellar maintenance of Ajanta caves owes a
lot to the worldwide Buddhist lobby, whose power and reach is enormous.
Apart from Ajanta, an even better example is the superb manner in which the
Sanchi stupa is preserved and maintained.
In 2009, Bihar politician Ram Vilas Paswan lobbied to oust Hindus in the
Mahabodhi management and wanted to populate it entirely with Buddhists.[33]
While that seems a reasonable demand, the deeper point is that this move will
permanently sever the centuries-old tradition and civilizational continuum
that characterized how the Mahabodhi was managed.
Equally, the so-called revival of the Nalanda University under the aegis of
Nobel Laurete Amartya Sen was purely a Leftist political ploy wearing the
garb of Buddhism. The project, which guzzled millions of taxpayer money is
in tatters. From its inception, it was dogged by unaccountability, nepotism,
and cronyism (See How the Nalanda University, Page 98). Indeed, the
hypocrisy surrounding the Nalanda University revival more fundamental—
the Amartya Sens of the world will assume their practiced stoic silence over
the industrial scale extermination of Buddhists at the hands of Islamic
invaders. This is also the same stoic silence they employ in whitewashing the
Islamic destruction of Hindu temples. Indeed, this game of one-upmanship is
one of the chief reasons Hindu monuments continue to languish and are
wilfully allowed to decay and disintegrate.
The other and more important reason though, is the near-complete
deracination of Hindus. As I mentioned earlier, Ellora is simply another drop
in the sea of similar Hindu monuments across the country. Take any state,
city, town and village. I will pick two random examples: the splendid
Hoysala temples in the Nagalapura village in Karnataka stand orphaned
except for an ASI signboard that says precious little about the temple. In
terms of aesthetics, the temples at Nagalapura even rival the Chennakeshava
temple at Belur.
It is an ominous sign that today’s devout Hindus throng at a street-corner
temple than give a few moments’ thought on the plight of say the Kailasanath
temple and what they can do to preserve and restore at least a part of its
former glory. Even if that is asking for too much, the least they can do is to
revive active Puja in such temples. This one move will automatically ensure
that the simplest of things will fall in place: like people not wearing footwear
when they enter the Kailasanath temple complex and similar monuments of
antiquity, sanctity and cultural heritage.
The other area which begs urgent attention is the lackadaisical policy of our
successive governments, which treats these monument-temples as tourist
attractions not dissimilar to a zoo or an aquarium. But it appears that these
simple reforms won’t take place in a hurry mainly because of two reasons:
our cultural amnesia is too widespread and deep-rooted and we are
deracinated to the extent that we are unaware that we are deracinated.
2 Reviving the Hindu Temple

How often have we heard this refrain or its variants: I don’t visit temples. I
don’t like visiting temples…I mean, there’s no point…all that noise,
meaningless mantras and rituals… so unhygienic…I don’t believe in God,
I’m not religious but I’m spiritual…after all, Hinduism is a personal religion
and I don’t really need to go to a temple to pray…
And how often have we ourselves uttered this refrain?
Admittedly, there is a grain of truth in some of these utterances. First the
practical, physical aspects: There’s no dearth of temples in India that are dirty
and unhygienic, have unruly crowds, and appear meaningless and chaotic to
everybody except the most devout howsoever much such devotion as a value
in itself is commendable. Not unoften, temple priests are less than honest and
less than learned and less than qualified.
On the other side, most Hindus have tragically reduced temple-going to a
base activity that comprises one or several or all of these elements: bribing
the Deity as a means of expiating individual sins. Sometimes, the most
devout-looking devotees are bribe-seeking bureaucrats who in turn bribe God
to somehow assuage their consciences; others see this activity as a means to
cure ailments, as a quest to get a bride/groom/child. In short, the “activity” of
going to a temple in each of these cases has been reduced to mere
materialism. It is not my case that all of these are objectionable or wrong per
se. The difference in the motives in each case lies merely in the degree. But
the partial list of these motives for temple-going is that they are far inferior to
those people who visit temples as an end in itself. These are few and their
numbers are ever-dwindling.
But what seems incredible is the fact that such criticisms have, far from
diluting the fervour, only given birth to newer and newer temples. Indeed,
Hindus have historically been prolific temple builders. This is an inherited
cultural and civilizational trait that continues unabated till date.
It is no secret that even the most zealous of our secular politicians and
intellectual luminaries have donated money to and/or is a temple trustee, and
highly devout Hindus-in-private.
Which only underscores my note on the said inherited cultural and
civilizational trait upon which centuries of brutal, alien invasions and the
current venom of secularism have failed make a serious dent. In itself, this
trait and the fact that it has been preserved for so long is admirable but it’s
nothing to really celebrate because we have just retained the form, and not the
To put it bluntly, a considerable majority of those who utter such lofty-
sounding nothings—I’m not religious but spiritual, etc—base their criticism
about temple-going on ignorance. This applies in equal measure to those who
are genuinely proud of Hinduism and to what I call the Lamenting Hindus:
those who see their revered Sanatana Dharma in a state of terminal decline
but are unable to do anything to halt the decline.
This also definitely applies to those Hindus who learn their Hinduism from
one or more of these sources:
The Western Curators of Museum Hinduism typically characterized by
the notorious Chicago School of Indology led by the likes of Wendy
Doniger, Paul Courtright and other luminaries.[34] In a line, this variety
of “studying” and “teaching” Hinduism approaches Hinduism from a
standpoint of a victor dissecting the vanquished. Or in the manner of a
scientist studying fossils. This School denies not only agency to
Hindus, their Gods, texts, traditions and practices but refuses to treat
Hinduism as a vibrant, and living philosophy and culture practiced by
over a billion people across the globe.
The New Age Guru variety, which is selective in choosing specific
Hindu symbols, practices and techniques, divorcing them from their
Hindu roots and claiming them as their own, original creations. Some
of these New Age Gurus have gone so far as to patent their “creations”
with a shrewd eye on the Market. Needless, a good number of these
Gurus have successfully built cults around their personalities and
preside over vast, faux spiritual empires.
And so, at the risk of oversimplification, the genuine, Lamenting Hindus are
truly caught between the Devil and the Deep Sea: the former with a covert
and overt agenda to undermine and subvert Hinduism, and the latter with a
purely commercial agenda to exploit their typical target audience—middle
class and wealthy Hindus (and desolate, religionless, rich people) trapped in
an era of rank materialism pursued for its own sake.
Equally, sections of the Lamenting Hindus comprise the selfsame middle
class Hindus who occupy the cultural station best exemplified by the
venerable D.V. Gundappa[35] in this verse:
Dimmed and erased are the old beliefs, bhakti and convictions
Nary a sign of even a flash of new wisdom
Like the leper and the blind bereft of his long-familiar home
Now fallen and decrepit, does the world fidget.
Centuries of colonization and its accompanying, destructive influences have
indeed rendered these Hindus as a sort of cultural pariahs cut off from and
therefore ignorant of their own roots, and therefore incapable of defending
them. While their spirit and genuine concern for Hinduism is commendable,
it is akin to the helpless and vain quest of retrieving the pure river water
which has since merged into the sea. Thus, their notion of Hinduism prohibits
them from partaking in timeless rituals in which there is much to relish and
celebrate, and from immersing themselves in the elevating practice of what
they have internalized as “meaningless idol worship.” Yet, these same
Hindus indulge in confused and futile speculation over the meaning of “I am
not religious but spiritual.”
While it is not the only recommendation, a working model that greatly aids
such Lamenting Hindus is a well-thought out revival of the spirit that
animated India’s Temple Culture. This revival at the level of the spirit will
eventually manifest itself in the revival of the form.
If the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Dharmashastras provided the
philosophical, moral, ethical and societal foundations, and the Epics (Itihasa)
and Puranas, the rich literary framework to sustain this foundation, it was the
Temple Culture that spawned, incubated, nurtured, sustained, and spread
Hinduism’s cultural and social milieu over centuries.
The origins of the Temple Culture date back to the Vedic conception and
practice of Yajna[36]. The word Yajna is incorrectly translated as “sacrifice”
while in both spirit and practice, it was an elaborate ritual of sharing and
prosperity. It was a ritual where all communities and strata of society came
together and offered their material and non-material services for the welfare
of the entire country. Unlike the popular misconception, a Yajna wasn’t a
monolithic ritual that went on for a specified period where some people
“chanted mantras” while the rest were just meant to serve them. Music,
dance, poetry, and the arts were inseparable elements of every Yajna. Indeed,
a Yajna was a ritual to strengthen human, social and national bonds on an
epic scale. A Yajna was how the entire nation renewed its vows to itself.
Indeed, Yajna is at the root of pretty much all forms of pujas and other rituals
that Hindus perform today. The priest who calls upon people to sing towards
the end of say, the Satyanarayana Puja, is simply continuing the same
practice that was followed in Yajnas conducted thousands of years ago.
As the Vedic culture evolved and gave us the concept of Vigraha or Murti
Puja (incorrectly translated as “idol worship”), Yajna gradually found an
organic expression in the form of the Hindu Temple and the entire culture
that flowered and flourished therefrom. A temple in spirit wasn’t just a place
for people to worship and return home: it was simultaneously the center of
education, the hub of the community and the city, an economic exchange, the
home of the performing and literary arts, and the platform for free and fair
social and political discussions and debates[37]. Perhaps Dr. S Srikanta Sastri
has given the most comprehensive description[38] of what a temple culture
…temples occupied a prominent place from the perspective of
education, fine arts, [reflected the] economic condition [of the
kingdom] and social service.
Thus, people had a firm belief and faith in the pious act of donating to
temples. [Donors included] everybody from the monarch to the most
ordinary citizen…temples were governed and maintained by a duly
elected board. They distributed money, food grain, and seeds to
farmers from the Deity’s Treasury…[temples] were also engaged in
moneylending…temples conducted various celebrations like
Pakshotsava [fortnightly utsavas], Maasotsava [monthly utsavas],
Brahmotsava, and oversaw the distribution of the harvest derived from
temple lands.
Theatre and dance halls organized dramas during Utsava days in both
Sanskrit and Desha Bhashas. Music and dance recitals offered as Seva
for the Deity immensely enriched art forms like classical music,
Bharatanatyam, and Vastushilpa [sculpture art]. Moral and spiritual
discourses by learned scholars, Yatis, and such other eminences were
drawn from the Vedic and Puranic lore thereby instilling and
reinforcing Dharma among the pilgrims and others who visited the
There were also lecture halls for imparting higher education in Veda,
Vedanga, Medicine and other subjects by teachers and scholars
employed by the temple. Students were given free scholarship and
boarding and lodging…
Massive temples were secure like fortresses and contained an
abundance of food grain, water and other supplies and provided
shelter to refugees during wartime…Because Hindu kings regarded
temples as sacred spaces, they deferred harming or despoiling them
even slightly even if this caution meant certain defeat in war….
Temples in island nations like Java, Bali, Sumatra, Burma and
Cambodia were built following the ideals, ideals and physical plan of
various Indian temples.
The plan, design, and structure of almost all classical and medieval temples
was well-defined, scientific and followed the rules of Indian architecture laid
down in the Shilpa Shastra and related texts. Contemporary temples too,
more or less follow this model of construction. A visit to any of these still-
surviving temples makes it clear that areas are earmarked for specific
purposes: dormitories for pilgrims, halls for debates and allied activities, a
Yajnashala, a Natyashala, the water tank, platforms for students to take their
lessons, dining halls and so on. Indeed, the actual temple itself forms a small
part of this grand architectural scheme. In a way, Varanasi by itself is one
massive temple that houses hundreds of mini-temples within its precincts.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Temple Culture is in the field of our
classical performing arts. Indian classical music and dance evolved from and
were refined over hundreds of years thanks to the sprawling ecosystems of
thousands of temples all over the sacred geography of India.
It is a truism in the realm of Indian classical performing arts that the
performing art dies when its last practitioner dies without leaving behind a
successor. No amount of notations or theoretical texts will substitute the
Guru-Shishya tradition that alone sustains our classical performing arts. It is
the Temple Culture that sustained this Guru-Shishya tradition by granting the
guru the material means and social respect to perpetuate his or her art for
The Temple Culture also produced superior human resources required to
sustain not just these endeavors but, indirectly, a kingdom itself. It produced
ministers, advisors, strategists, artisans, and teachers. The common label
applied to Madurai, Rameshwaram, Tanjavur, etc merely as “temple towns”
is limiting when examined in this light. It’s therefore unsurprising that almost
all kings gave such large grants to temples and didn’t normally dip into
temple wealth for political uses. These grants, donations and offerings once
made became Devaswa or the property of the Deity over which nobody had
any right—including the donor and the king.
Therefore, when a temple was destroyed, it also simultaneously destroyed
almost every cultural facet of the kingdom that protected and sustained it.
When we observe the fact that today, very little of the classical tradition has
survived in North India the reason is not far to seek. It is the direct
consequence of repeated and large-scale temple destructions by Muslim
invaders and the long spell of Mughal rule, which prevented Hindus from
building new temples and from renovating or restoring existing ones. As far
as the South is concerned, we see this phenomenon most prominently in Goa,
whose original name is Gomantaka. Thanks to extremely barbaric Portuguese
“Inquisition,” very few of the classical temples have survived there and the
classical tradition is almost non-existent when compared to its neighbours.
Post Independence, under the rule of the first Prime Minister Pandit
Jawaharlal Nehru, the Temple Culture was systematically relegated to neglect
with a really simple device—by not reexamining the policy of putting Hindu
temples directly under Government control. This paved way eventually for
more brazen State interference in the affairs of Hindu temples, an interference
which has reached the nadir in Tamil Nadu.[39] While State control of Hindu
temples has not physically destroyed temples, it has ensured the same cultural
outcome that colonization achieved: of discouraging even devout Hindus
from visiting them thanks to shocking maintenance, filth, squalor, and
It’s therefore ironic to hear from these selfsame Hindus who wonder why
classical music concerts and dance performances get no sponsorship. And
also wonder why our native languages and literature are dying out.
3 The Symbolism of Saraswati
A couple of years ago, a reader wrote to me with an experience that he says
vexed him. The relevant portion of his email is excerpted below:
…during a talk with a liberal friend of mine, regarding the MF
Hussain episode…friend talked on the lines of what liberals usually
speak i.e kamasutra khajuraho…But…his explanation that Brahma
marrying his creation (daughter) Saraswati amounted to incest which
according to him means Hinduism sanctifies such relationships…made
me quite uncomfortable and disturbed.
This kind of “explanation” typically stems from the colonial—or more
recently, the Chicago School of Indology—constructs of Hinduism which
ignorantly or intentionally confounds the symbolic with the literal and sees
sex and perversion everywhere in Sanatana Dharma. In this light, we don’t
need to attach any importance to such distorted readings and leave them to
their devices after applying this terse Sanskrit proverb that describes such
mental disturbances: yad bhaavam tad bhavati (you perceive things
according to your mental makeup).
If viewed only literally, Brahma who married his own daughter, Saraswati is
definitely a case of incest. At the risk of oversimplification, one can
reasonably say that the traditional method of interpreting our lore—Vedas,
Itihasas and Puranas—falls under three categories:
1. Adhibhautika—pertaining to the “bhuta” or living beings including
2. Adhidaivika—pertaining to unseen forces, fate, Gods, or simply, the
3. Adhyaatmika—pertaining to the “atma,” or “soul.”
And therefore, to interpret any aspect of the vast corpus of our lore, it
requires years of study and training in numerous auxiliary disciplines—such
as the Vedangas, for example—to recognize to which category a particular
story, allegory, event, God, or even a mantra falls and how its actual meaning
must be arrived at.
Different Puranas have different versions of how Brahma was born but
among these versions, the popular one is this: Brahma was born out of the
lotus that grew from Vishnu’s navel (hence another name for Brahma is,
Nabhija: the word “Nabhi” means “navel.”). After he was born, he created a
female form, Shatarupa, who later came to be known as Saraswati. To cut a
long story short, Brahma essentially fell in love with his own creation and
ended up marrying her.
At a very mundane, everyday level, if we create something from our own
imagination—a painting, a poem, a tune, a sculpture–it becomes ours in the
sense that it is something we gave birth to using our imaginative, mental, and
physical faculties. It does not become ours in the sense that we purchased it
or obtained it in a barter. This is typically why we take for granted the
meaning of these familiar and colourful phrases describing creative output:
“labour of my love,” “my baby,” “breathed life into it,” “manifestation of my
creativity,” and so on.
Equally, we don’t hear anybody expressing a desire to feed their artistic
creations with milk and food. Neither do these creators/artists nurture any
illusions that their painting or novel will crawl after three months and grow
up to be a fine young man or woman.
In other words, when you describe your artistic creation as your baby, it is
implied that you are only talking figuratively, not literally.
This rather simplistic background is essential to understand Brahma’s
supposedly-incestuous marriage to Saraswati.
Brahma is the God of Creation. But is that all there is to it? The answer is yes
if we take the marriage literally—that is, at the Adhibhautika level, or
physically, as in a marriage between a man and a woman. But if it’s nothing
more than a marriage between a man and a woman, why was Brahma so
attracted to his own daughter? Being Creator, how difficult was it to create a
wife for himself?
This question is what prompts us to look beyond the mere Adhibhautika level
and at the symbolism behind the supposedly incestuous marriage.
As Creator, Brahma brought to life Existence itself: both the sentient and the
inert. In other words, he created the physical world that we perceive through
our sense organs and try to understand that world using our mind. And how
does the mind make sense of this physical world?
When we talk about the physical world of shapes and forms, we essentially
need to give it a definition, a name or label. In the Indian tradition, this
process of understanding the world is typically expressed as “the world of
Nama (Name) and Rupa (Form/Shape),” both Nama and Rupa being
inseparable. To put this in plain language, we look at a tree and our mind
won’t rest in peace unless it finds a word (nama) to define it accurately so
that when you say “tree,” you know exactly what it is without having to
actually look at it with your eyes.
It is evident that this process of defining the physical world falls in the realm
of thought. And any thought is expressed through speech, which when heard
once again transforms itself as thought in the mind of the listener. It is for this
reason that most ancient methods of learning placed enormous emphasis on
mastering language.
Thus the shapes and forms that Brahma gave to his thoughts became the
physical world. When he expressed it in language, it became speech. And this
speech is Saraswati, his daughter. This stands to reason when we observe the
fact that the Indian tradition worships Saraswati primarily as the Goddess of
Speech (or vaak), language, and learning.
Indeed, there is no word in any language which is devoid of meaning because
every word is both an idea and its expression—it represents something: a
thought, an object, anything. In other words, a word cannot be divorced from
its meaning. Even in the case of names of people—if we utter the name of a
person, it conjures up an image or some sort of association related to that
person. In this case, this meaning of the word is again represented by
Saraswati, now donning the role of Brahma’s wife.
Perhaps the simplest and best exposition of this relationship between word
and meaning and Brahma and Saraswati has been given by Kalidasa in this
immortal opening verse of his grand Raghuvamsha:
Vaagarthaviva Sampruktau Vaagartha pratipattaye|
Jagatah Pitarau Vande Parvati Parameshwaru||
I bow to parents of the world, Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathi
who are inseparable as speech and its meaning to gain knowledge of speech
and its meaning.
As symbolizing the meaning of the word, Saraswati is Brahma’s wife,
inseparable like the wife who stays with her husband for life, through good
and tough times. This symbolism is pretty much true for example, of Vishnu.
As the wife of Vishnu the Preserver of the world, Lakshmi is the Goddess of
Wealth. One cannot hope to attain peace and order in the world without
prosperity, and vice versa.
This then is the symbolism behind Saraswati as both Brahma’s daughter and
wife. Yet, for millions of Hindus over hundreds of years, Brahma and
Saraswati have continued to remain revered as man and wife, even, purely at
the Adhibhautika level. Indeed, the last thought a practising Hindu will have
about Saraswati is her so-called “incestuous marriage” to Brahma.
There’s a reason that symbols and myths in Hinduism have an enduring
quality about them: they make highly abstract philosophies and concepts
readily accessible to us by making them part of our daily life. It is easier
telling a child about the importance of learning by narrating the importance of
worshipping Saraswati than it is to threaten it to study “or else!” Equally, it is
easier to explain abstract concepts of thought, words and meanings to a
layman using this story than conduct a seminar which essentially is
theorizing. Or to borrow from the venerable Prof. M Hiriyanna[40], the fact of
“word” and “meaning” has been elevated to a value by worshipping
Saraswati as the Goddess of Learning:
In modern philosophy, ever since the time of Descartes and Locke, the
theory of knowledge has usurped the place which is due to values;
and it is only in recent times that, as a consequence of the total
divorce of philosophy from life to which that practice naturally led,
there has been a gradual shifting of interest from it to the problem of
value. One of the distinguishing features of Indian philosophy is that,
throughout its long history, it has consistently given the foremost place
to values. In some early works, this problem receives almost exclusive
attention. For example, the Upanishads speak more often of the final
goal of life, the means to its attainment and the inner peace and joy
which it signifies than of ‘being’ or of ‘knowing’, as such.
However, in this age of absurd insistence on literality and realism-in-
everything (including in fiction) we have become conditioned to look for
literal meanings in places where finding literal meanings is both irrelevant
and misleading without a proper grounding in symbolism. An outlook shaped
by and steeped in literalism and hard realism has indeed led to the near-total
destruction of classics—Greek, Roman and Indian—in both the academia and
popular imagination. It is not wholly inaccurate to say that a great degree of
emotional refinement and retaining a sense of innocence is a prerequisite to
appreciate symbolism.
Equally, we can’t be selective in choosing literal meanings for some, and
symbolic meanings for others. For instance, we can consider the story of the
Trimurtis. Why do those who accept the symbolism—not literalism—of the
Trimurtis as symbols of creation, preservation, and destruction, selectively
take only the literal meaning in the marriage of Brahma and Saraswati?
This selective tendency in a large number of cases is premised on dubious if
not sinister motives, and is one of the main reasons Hindus are upset with the
likes of Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, et al, who read literal meanings
because it fits the conclusion they want to derive.
Reverting to the beginning of this essay, there’s a deeper reason Hindus are
outraged by M.F Hussain’s pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Hindu
art, according to Ananda Coomaraswamy, moves from the impersonal to the
personal. For example, if I draw a painting of a mike and say this picture is
an artistic representation of the triumph of technology to improve the quality
of our lives, it draws absolutely no outrage. On the other hand, if I caption the
same picture with say, “this is the penis of my friend Robert’s father, and
shows the virile nature of the force behind all creation,” what is your guess as
to how Robert will respond?
Given the deeply personal nature of our mythology, Saraswati, Sita et al are
as much (if not more than) our family members as our parents and siblings
are: in other words, they are not merely paintings of just any nude female
form. It is this that upsets Hindus not to mention the way Hussain takes
perverse liberties with Hindu mythological tales. And this is also why Hindus
aren’t upset with Khajuraho sculptures but instead visit the temple and pay
their respects to the Gods there.
4 Facets of the Cultural Unity of
The month of August of every year witnesses the annual celebration of the
Naga Panchami (or Nagara Panchami) festival across India and the world. It
is also celebrated as Bhratru Panchami, an occasion where brothers are
honoured by their sisters. Depending on where one is in India, Bhratru
Panchami is more popularly known as Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi.
All Hindu festivals without exception underscore a key aspect of Hinduism or
Santana Dharma: celebration. Of life, nature, the living and the non-living in
all myriad hues—black, white, and all the shades of grey. The modalities, the
manner, the custom, and the tradition of celebrating any Hindu festival
widely differ depending on which part of the Indian geography one is located
in but the festival is celebrated with the same fervour and devotion.
We can take Makara Sankranti as a representative illustration of this fact.
Makara Sankranti is celebrated across India to both herald the beginning of
longer days, and to reap the harvest of months of backbreaking work in the
fields. But the greater significance of Makara Sankranti like most Hindu
festivals, is to highlight another living instance of the cultural unity of India.
People in Karnataka exchange a mixture comprising sugarcane blocks (called
Kallu Sakkare—literally, “stone made of sugar”)–artistically moulded into
various forms and figures and shapes of Gods, Goddesses, flowers, fruits,
animals–white sesame seeds, jaggery, and a piece of sugarcane.
In Andhra Pradesh, sugarcane is replaced by the jujube fruit (Regi Pandulu),
and sweets and delicacies are prepared and offered to God.
Assamese have on offer at least 10 different varieties of Pitha, a sort of rice
To Gujaratis, Makara Sankrati is the occasion to fly kites, and make Undhiyu
and Chikkis.
Maharashtra feasts on Tilgul (sweetmeat made from sesame) and Gulpolis,
and wish each other peace and prosperity.
Tamil Nadu offers us varieties of pongal–thai pongal, mattu pongal and
kannum pongal—each variety of pongal is a way of offering gratitude to the
Sun, cattle, and friends and relatives for giving a good harvest.
Every state, city, and town—from Bundelkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bengal,
Goa, Kerala, to Odisha–has its own unique way of celebrating Makara
And all of these are connected by an invisible, ancient, and subterranean
thread that binds them with India. The fingers that weave this thread even
today are the same fingers that enabled India to withstand the most barbaric
and sustained attacks in the history of mankind. These fingers are as gentle as
they are incredibly strong.
Among other things, Hindu festivals provide a clue to this strength.
Adaptability and Resurgence
One of the greatest strengths of Sanatana Dharma is its proven power of
adaptability, which has weathered centuries’ worth of destructive storms
hitting it from all directions. It is only Sanatana Dharma that has proven in
myriad ways the truth of the dictum that “change is the only constant.”
Sanatana Dharma responds to change in a manner and with a flexibility that
is both unrivalled and unique. This adaptability as history shows us, is
multipronged, multifaceted, and dynamic. It took varieties of forms in art,
painting, music, epics, literature, religious practices, and social mores. It
discarded practices that were no longer suited to the changed times but
replaced them with suitable modifications and evolved newer ones. The
underlying idea was a resolve that Sanatana Dharma was something worth
preserving—and dying for its preservation if necessary.
The earliest, pre-Islamic threat to Sanatana Dharma arrived in an era when
Buddhism had degenerated. In fact, the degeneration of Buddhism occurred
when it became missionary in nature, received state patronage, and had all
but abandoned the original path laid down by Buddha. More importantly,
with its extreme stress on non-violence it did not build up that warrior spirit
(or Kshaatra) required to sustain, defend kingdoms and culture. Thus, when
the armies of Islam began to make serious inroads into India, they found
hundreds of thousands of Buddhists as sitting ducks waiting to be massacred.
We can glean a small sample of the scale of this destruction of Buddhism
from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar[41]:
There can be no doubt that the fall of Buddhism in India was due to the
invasions of the Musalmans… To the Muslims, they were one and the
same thing. The mission to break the idols thus became the mission to
destroy Buddhism. Islam destroyed Buddhism not only in India but
wherever it went. Before Islam came into being Buddhism was the
religion of Bactria, Parthia, Afghanistan, Gandhar and Chinese
Turkestan, as it was of the whole of Asia... The Musalman invaders
sacked the Buddhist Universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Jagaddala,
Odantapuri to name only a few. They raised to the ground Buddhist
monasteries with which the country was studded. The monks fled away
in thousands to Nepal, Tibet and other places outside India. A very
large number were killed outright by the Muslim commanders. How the
Buddhist priesthood perished by the sword of the Muslim invaders has
been recorded by the Muslim historians themselves....Great quantities
of plunder were obtained, and the slaughter of the 'shaven headed
Brahmans', that is to say the Buddhist monks, was so thoroughly
completed, that when the victor sought for someone capable of
explaining the contents of the books in the libraries of the monasteries,
not a living man could be found who was able to read them.
Such was the slaughter of the Buddhist priesthood perpetrated by the
Islamic invaders. The axe was struck at the very root. For by killing the
Buddhist priesthood, Islam killed Buddhism. This was the greatest
disaster that befell the religion of the Buddha in India...
Needless, the next big threat to Santana Dharma came in the form invading
Arab Muslims motivated by Islam and greed for looting India’s fabled riches.
Islam-inspired grievous and protracted assault on Hinduism and the eight-
hundred-year long Muslim rule over large parts of India sustained because
Hindus failed to realize the true nature of the belief system that motivated
such assaults.
The Bhakti Movement as a Counter and a
Rejuvenating Force
During this protracted period, Sanatana Dharma responded by evolving the
Bhakti movement. A big factor of the Bhakti movement was characterized by
a widespread retelling our epics and Puranas. Indeed, the Bhakti movement
arose precisely due to Islam’s record of cultural homicide marked by an
industrial scale destruction of Hindu temples, disallowing new ones to be
built and existing ones renovated. This fact is best exemplified by the reign of
Aurangzeb. Already suffering as Dhimmis (second class citizens with no
rights whatsoever), Aurangzeb made it impossible for Hindus to even give
expression to their deepest religious needs.
The Bhakti saints exhorted people to preserve their way of life and worship in
whatever form–nothing was taboo. A big component of Bhakti saints
comprised saints, poets, and singers who wandered across India exhorting
Hindus to preserve their time-tested ways of life, tradition and life. They
worshipped Hindu Gods and Goddess in songs composed in simple and/or
rustic lyric in the local language that was easy to memorize and recall, and
could be set to tune. The beauty and spontaneity of the Bhakti movement was
that it transcended geography by being decentralized, it became that much
harder to contain it with violence. As Hari Ravikumar says in an article[42]
dispelling myths and mischaracterizations of the Bhakti movement,
When we see the great bhakti poets - be it Shankar Dev of Assam,
Narsinh Mehta of Gujarat, Meera of Rajasthan, Ravidas of Uttar
Pradesh, Akka Mahadevi of Karnataka, Tukaram of Maharashtra, or
Auvaiyar of Tamil Nadu - we find that they hail from all classes of
society and from varied backgrounds.
Urilingapeddi was a Dalit, Basavanna was a Brahamin. Jnaneshwar
was a Brahmin, Tukaram was a Shudra. Tiruppanalvar was a Dalit,
Kulashekharalvar was a Kshatriya, Nammalvar was a Shudra.
Purandaradasa was a Vaishya, Kanakadasa was a Shudra.
Thus, when the Ramayana or stories from our Puranas could no longer be
recited or performed openly under an oppressive Islamic state, the Bhakti
saints made them immediately accessible, by making Rama one’s neighbor,
while Krishna was just waiting on the other side of the river. These saints
drew parallels, analogies, and illustrations from everyday life, which helped
retain Sanatana Dharma as a living and lived tradition. The Bhakti movement
also simultaneously instilled great psychological courage among the masses
of battered Hindus whose Gods were trampled upon and their murtis
(incorrectly translated as “idols”) mutilated and destroyed.
Centuries of such sustained efforts eventually led to a great pushback: the rise
and rise of the legendary Shivaji who successfully defied Aurangzeb and laid
the foundation for the later expansive and mighty Maratha Empire is a
shining illustration of this fact. The fact that his life and contributions were
inspired by his spiritual Guru, the Bhakti-Philosopher saint Samartha
Ramadas, and Sant Tukaram who received a high place of honour is an
additional testimony to the rejuvenating powers of the Bhakti movement.
The Role of the New Indian Renaissance
After the fall of the Mughal Empire and with the eventual takeover of India
by the East India Company, the 19th Century witnessed the unprovoked attack
by Christianity against Sanatana Dharma. Conversions of Hindus into
Christianity was an accepted organ of the British imperial policy. It was
indeed a renewed attack: as the scholar-historian R.C. Majumdar says, the
British takeover of India was an event during which India merely changed
The attack that Christianity launched against Sanatana Dharma was
sophisticated but equally brutal and far reaching in its consequences. India is
yet to recover from the damage it has wrought. In the early days, when
Christian missionaries failed to persuade Hindus to convert through various
devices and sustained efforts, it re-clothed its message and equated its
Messianic preaching with whatever parallel it found in Sanatana Dharma. In
effect, it claimed that Christianity was no different from Santana Dharma–
only the Gods and saints were different. The story of how the “Roman
Brahmin” (sic) Roberto De Nobili[43] wore a “Christian sacred thread” to
imitate Brahmins as a ploy to convert Hindus is a case study in point. When
all his arduous efforts came to naught, he suddenly turned against Brahmins
and began to vilify them.
Initially, significant numbers of “upper caste” Hindus converted, most
notably in Bengal. However, the gains were insignificant because almost in
no time, the Hindu response was swift. A strong tide of Hindu resurgence led
by the likes of Swami Dayananda Saraswathi and Swami Vivekananda pretty
much scuttled such conversion attempts. The Church then realized that it
could not win converts if it challenged Sanatana Dharma purely on
philosophical grounds. That was when missionaries targeted the poorer
sections of Hindu society, a tactic that remains unchanged till date.
However, the greatest damage that British rule did to India was to carve out
what is now infamously known as the Macaulayite class of Indians. Needless,
majority of this Macaulayite class are upper caste Hindus. Our Marxists,
secularists and liberals are the descendants of the worst of this Macaulayite
class. To their credit, creating this class was perhaps the greatest
accomplishment of the British, something that the eight-hundred-year-long
Islamic rule couldn’t accomplish by force: pitting Hindus against each other
by making them ashamed of their own identity.
It is also well-known that the project of Macaulayizing Hindus began with
the imposition of English education. While at one level, it did open up new
vistas in the areas of science, technology, and Western ideas of freedom,
liberty, democracy, nation and state, the accompanying cultural destruction it
brought about is a blow that India seems unable to recover from.
In the early stages of this project, Swami Vivekananda stood as the foremost
counter by his tireless efforts to reawaken Hindus to their own past glory.
Needless, he continues to remain a great source of inspiration. His efforts
were followed by a whole galaxy of Indian scholars who began investigating
different aspects of their past and publicizing their findings to the world. On
the political front, we had freedom fighters who found inspiration in Sanatana
Dharma’s epics, scriptures, saints, and warriors. Indeed, the timeline roughly
encompassing the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century can be
considered the period of modern Indian Renaissance.
The Nehruvian Assault on Hinduism and
But India’s political leadership that meekly acquiesced to Partition checked
this Renaissance and replaced it with opaque and undefined slogans about
secularism, socialism and the need to completely abandon Hinduism, as we
shall see. Speaking about the character of said political leadership, here is
what R.C. Majumdar[44] says:
The tragedy of Gandhi’s life was that [the] members of his inner
council who followed him for more than twenty years with
unquestioned obedience, took the fatal steps leading to the partition of
India without his knowledge, not to speak of his consent…[Jinnah’s
fight] was…a fight not for the freedom of India…but for the freedom of
the Muslims from the tyrannical yoke of the Hindus, as he put it. He
won the fight; the cult of violence decided the issue. To what extent
Gandhi’s cult of non-violence may claim credit for the freedom of India
is a matter of opinion. But there is no doubt that the creation of
Pakistan was the triumph of violence—in its naked and most brutal
form—and of the leadership of Jinnah. Nobody can be reasonably sure
that India would have surely attained Independence…even without
Gandhi, but it is extremely doubtful whether there would have been a
Pakistan without Jinnah. So, if we are to judge by the result alone, the
events of 1946-7 testify to the superiority of violence to non-violence
in practical politics, and of Jinnah to the leaders of the Congress.
Indeed, post-Independence, not only was this Renaissance scuttled, the
process of scuttling it acquired state patronage under the first Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru. As one of the supreme ironies of life, Nehru who rallied
against colonialism throughout his Prime Ministerial tenure, retained that
most visible symbol of colonialism: the English language. Equally, as a great
champion of democracy, he heralded Dynasty in Indian politics to the extent
that after nearly seventy long years, the sorry fate of his Congress party is the
fact that its supreme commander is a white foreign woman.
Apart from the socialist seeds of India’s economic impoverishment that he
sowed, his coopting of the Communists who systematically set the
intellectual, educational, and cultural agenda proved equally destructive. Dr.
David Frawley provides[45] a glimpse into how this agenda has panned out:
One of the main purposes of history books, as taught in different
countries in the world, is to instill a sense of national pride and honor
—in short, to inculcate a sense of patriotism and nationalism. Whether
it is the United States, Great Britain, Russia, Germany or China, this is
certainly the case today and has been so as long as these countries
have existed as modern nations… However, India is a strange and
unique country in which history books are often anti-national in
nature. India has largely kept intact the British approach to Indian
history devised in the colonial era. Students of such textbooks come
away apologetic or confused about their country and its traditions.
Textbooks in Marxist ruled states of India like West Bengal and Kerala
leave their students with a sense of the greatness of Communism…
History books in India try to ignore the dominant Hindu ethos of the
country and its history before the Islamic period… The real danger in
India is not the arising of a chauvinistic nationalism like that of Nazi
Germany or Fascist Italy…but a lack of national spirit and historical
consciousness that keeps people alienated from their roots and the
country divided.
Indeed, till the late 1980s, this Nehruvian discourse ensured that Hindus were
continually put on the defensive. Thanks to having a near-total stranglehold
over avenues for the dissemination of information, the purveyors of this
discourse also acting as the gatekeepers of information actively suppressed
the airing of contrary or alternative views. Two well-researched books that
illustrate in firsthand detail as to how this was accomplished include Secular
Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy[46] and Perversion of India’s Political
The Renewal of the 1990s and Contemporary
However, as a parallel development, a much-maligned and unpopular section
of activists, academics, scholars, thinkers, and writers worked silently and at
great professional and personal cost. Over a course of nearly forty years, they
achieved two things primarily: they produced well-researched volumes in the
defence of Sanatana Dharma and exposed imperialistic ideologies like Islam,
Christianity, and Communism. This in itself is a story meriting an
independent scholarly study.
In a parallel development, various organizations defended and championed
Hindu causes in the political, social and other spheres. This paved way for yet
another resurgence of Sanatana Dharma in the 1990s. Long-forgotten but
valuable Hindu traditions, texts, and knowledge bodies were revived, and
focused research began in areas like Ayurveda, astronomy, metallurgy,
education, architecture, etc.
Most importantly, the resurgence of Sanatana Dharma that began in the
1990s has given significant international exposure and support for Hindu
causes to the extent that India is now in a truly post-Nehruvian era although
the power centres to disseminate the discourse of this resurgence continue to
be in the thrall of the Reinvented Marxists. This difficulty is compounded by
two other prominent factors.
The first of these has its roots in the mental colonization of Hindus who are
genuinely proud of their traditions and heritage but are on the defensive,
offering kneejerk and emotionally-charged reactions when faced with
intentional provocation about their traditions, arts, practices, traditions,
history, and indeed, their very identity. It will take decades of quiet, sustained
and confident effort to completely cut off this mental colonization.
The other and greater threat is the fact that Sanatana Dharma today, more
than at any other time in history, is being relentlessly assaulted from almost
all quarters: the ongoing global Jihad with India as a prime target, the
worldwide Christian conversion industry, the Reinvented Marxists, the
English media, minority-vote-bank-pandering politicians, compromised
academics, think tanks and NGOs. Unlike the earlier eras where physical
force formed a major arsenal, today, the name of the game is infiltration and
subversion from within. Thus you have for example, the case[48] of a
promising young intern working on a prestigious project at a think tank
located and based in India. This intern would have no idea that the output of
his/her research will be used by said think tank as inputs to manufacture
negative opinion against his/her own country, or even worse to foment
internal disturbances.
This is a new front of a civilizational battle that India is little equipped to
fight as things currently stand. Indeed, the aforementioned nexus of
subversion was successful in denying the US visa[49] to a Constitutionally-
elected Chief Minister and in stoking a riot-like situation to halt[50] the
Kudankulam nuclear power project.
In essence, the undeniable fact that a good number of these attacks originate
from Hindus themselves—either from those who have an agenda to push or
from those who are being used as pawns.
Then, on yet another crucial front, as the eminent demographer, Dr. J.K.
Bajaj notes, the physical space of Hindus has been shrinking continually
under their very noses. Hindus have irretrievably lost large parts of the North
East to Christianity and continue to witness the consequences of a massive,
ongoing conversion drive often with the active support of the Government—
the explosion of conversions in Andhra Pradesh under the Chief Ministership
of Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy is the most glaring example of this fact. Islam
continues to gain ground through the power of sheer numbers and illegal
immigration. West Bengal represents the basket case of this phenomenon:
thanks to a ruthless policy of encouraging illegal immigration over a
protracted period, Hindus there routinely face attacks on their way of life,
their women, places of worship, and institutions from Muslim goons. The
state government is complicit in this assault by taking no action against the
The comparative Hindu response at various levels to these atrocities and
threats falls woefully short to say the least. In terms of sheer numbers, the
best minds that can mount an effective counter to such a multi-pronged
assault have been lost to lucrative careers in engineering, management,
medicine etc.
The intent here is not to sound alarmist but to present the real and
demonstrable challenges that Sanatana Dharma faces currently, and to draw
from history some lessons that enabled it for hundreds of years to survive,
adapt, and bounce back, and how it maybe made capable of reasserting itself
in our own time, and to show the world the value it offers for mankind.
5 The Connoisseurial Climate of
Krishnadevaraya’s Time
That the Vijayanagara Empire, right from its foundations resting on the
amalgamation of the Brahma-Kshatra spirit[51], stood not only as the bulwark
against rampant Muslim invasions from North India, but also swelled to
become one of the greatest empires in the world is well-known. Its
geographical spread apart, almost every trader, traveler and in general
anybody who had any interaction with it testify to its unrivalled material
In this essay, an attempt is made to trace primarily the cultural, artistic,
literary and social life of Krishnadevaraya’s era because that is the period the
Vijayanagara Empire reached its zenith. This essay is largely an adaptation of
(the late) Sri Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma’s 1950s lecture at Penugonda
titled, Rayara Kaalada Rasikate (in Kannada) on the occasion of
Krishnadevaraya’s birthday celebrations.
There is probably no extant work that provides a firsthand account of the day-
to-day life of the society and people during Krishnadevaraya’s regime.
However, three major Telugu literary works, composed in the Champu[52]
style do throw some light on this:
Aamuktamaalyada authored by Krishnadevaraya
Manucharitramu authored by Allasani Peddana
Parijaaatapaharanamu authored by Nandi Timmana
These works are fictional comprising Puranic, epic, supernatural, and
fantastic elements and as such, offer little for those seeking hard realism. Yet,
the authors[53] who wrote them also drew richly from their own contemporary
society and daily life in all its variety. And so, while it is tempting for modern
literary critics to dismiss all of these as creations of fanciful imagination, one
needs to ponder upon a simple fact: the society of the authors who wrote
these works lived, traveled and experienced was real, living. And so, it is
impossible to dismiss everything their work contains as pure fiction and
nothing else.
For the connoisseur of pure art or literature, discussions about whether some
element therein is real or unreal, credible or incredible are futile because
these elements are not items that are tangible, much less available as physical
products. Therefore, viewed objectively, every work of literature will contain
elements that reflect the impulses, attitudes, and behaviors of people, and
societal specifics and mores belonging to the period in which its author lived.
For instance, Kumaravyasa’s Kannada epic, Karnata Bharata Kathamanjari,
has Buddhists and Lingayats attending Draupadi’s swayamvara.
Although the three Telugu works cited earlier are populated by supernatural
or divine beings, the poets who wrote them hail from our own world; and so,
those works reveal ample traces of elements of our world as well. No matter
to what supernatural or otherworldly heights the poet tries to elevate his
work, it cannot be cast to an altitude beyond the earth’s orbit.
The Spirit of a Connoisseur
Given this, it’s not difficult to get a picture of the society, culture and
connoisseurial life of Krishnadevaraya’s period from these three works. In
this essay, the word “connoisseur” is used as a translation for the word
“rasika,” which variously means “epicurean,” “aesthete,” and “enjoyer.”
A connoisseur who takes enjoyment as an end in itself becomes an unbridled
hedonist. For our purposes, we can consider a connoisseur to be one who
takes equal delight in the enjoyment of the senses as well as in non-sensual
aspects like bhakti, sacrifice and renunciation. Enjoyment is a mental and
emotional attitude, and not something that depends on external stimulation or
Thus, any attempt to heighten this mental attitude towards enjoyment is a
defining quality of being a connoisseur. The more refined the connoisseur,
the nobler his spirit. An unrefined connoisseur is akin to a walking corpse.
His love is deception, his enthusiasm phony. When one examines the
epicurean life of Krishnadevaraya’s era, we’ll realize the true extent of our
pretensions at being connoisseurs.
Traditionally, our ancients listed eleven items as epicurean enjoyments:
home, dress, jewelry, sandalwood paste, flowers, tamboola (paan or betel),
bed making, women, food, drink and bath. We can now recount the
perspective our ancients had towards these enjoyments because perspective
determines attainment.
Larger than Life
People of Krishnadevaraya’s time weren’t content with minor and petty
things. Their desires and aspirations in every aspect of life was prodigious,
and they had an absorptive capacity to match. In an age of overflowing
plenty, it was no surprise that they sought and obtained the best in class of
whatever they desired. And once obtained, they enjoyed them to the fullest.
Indeed, when munificence was at their command, they were ignorant of the
existence of little.
Neither was this lavishness limited to the realm of material enjoyments. It
flowed generously and it reflected itself in their world of emotion as well.
A traveler from a different land passing through the kingdom would take
shelter in one of the cities till the torrential rain stopped. The typical subjects
for discussion with other folks would include things like the relative prowess
and strength of say the commander of the elephant force or that of the cavalry
or infantry. As the discussion took on spice, people would quickly take sides,
the argument would escalate, and if it wasn’t amicably resolved, they’d come
to blows. And the moment the rains stopped, they’d depart amicably, as if
nothing had happened, says the Aamuktamaalyada.
In whatever activity they embarked upon—in purchase, in argument, in war,
in manners, and in social life, they didn’t have the lax, sloppy attitude of, “let
things be how they are, how do we care?” They were thorough in and out.
Given this, it’s impossible to conceive that both the aspirations for and
objects of enjoyment that these people pursued were anything but petty or
Epicurean Homes
The scope, scale and expanse of enjoyment of both worldly life and that of
the realm of emotions can be seen in the fabled descriptions, for example, by
foreign travelers to Vijayanagara. Apart from the familiar descriptions of the
bazaars of Hampi which sold precious stones and metals by the heap, we can
turn to some illustrative details about how they constructed their homes.
Even if we ignore the gem-studded walls and diamond-encrusted pillars of
the houses of the period, we still come away with a truly impressive picture
of home constructions built to suit all seasons. A perron, each at the entrance
of the house; carvings on pillars; paintings on walls; storeys at a great height
and openings therein to enjoy the cool moonlight[54]; shrines, and multi-hued
flags atop the house; a large flower-garden with a pond full of red lotuses;
fountains; those who could afford it also had an artificial hillock built next to
it, complete with small caverns bored into it and steps built to reach its
summit. Given how severe summers were in Vijayanagara, there were
separate air-conditioned rooms cooled by water continually splashing on the
outer walls. Parrots, swans, peacocks, pigeons, deer, all formed part of the
family. As a pastime, womenfolk of the house taught parrots how to speak,
and coached peacocks in playing sports.
But of the most astonishing of all was the construction of the “Anger
Chamber.” Any family member who was angry—specifically, if the woman
of the house was angry with her man, she’d lock herself up in that room till
her anger subsided. There’s no historical record to trace the name of the
genius in whom originated this architectural brainwave. But this is a truly
great custom: thanks to this, the rest of the family could carry on their regular
work unimpeded by such temper tantrums. Those who wished to calm down
the angry woman would anyway visit the room and do the required
mollifying. Perhaps this was originally Dasharatha’s brainwave to mollify his
frequently-upset Queen Kaikeyi. Krishnadevaraya and Peddanna had no need
for it but Timmanna was forced to build it for the sake of Satyabhama[55].
The Bathing Ritual
Taking an ornate bath formed a key pre-dressing element of the people of
Krishnadevaraya’s period. When we examine the details of the method and
procedure of bathing, it will become clear why it was regarded so highly.

Very simply, bathing was couched in the term, Abhyanga or inunction[56]. It

appears that inunction was part of their everyday bathing ritual. Indeed, daily
oil massage is consonant with the prescriptions of Ayurveda. A devout
Vaishnava named Vishnu Chitta had organized in his house Abhyanga for
Vaishnava devotees visiting on pilgrimage from different lands. These
devotees would be given the Abhyanga oil served in a bowl made from the
shell of banana flowers. The devotees had their bath in the river. But Vishnu
Chitta was a poor man and thus could afford only this much luxury.
But the standard of the Abhyanga of the wealthy was truly a class apart. First,
fragrant oils like that derived from the Champaka (or Champa) flower would
be massaged on the head. Then someone would gently part the strands of
hairs with their fingernails to ease away any tangles. This process also
included patting the head, sprinkling rosewater and then applying a paste
made of sandalwood and gooseberry. And further, “even as the flood of the
rosewater mixed with the scent of the Javvaji from the Goa country spread
their surfeit of fragrance,” hot water would be poured on the head in a never
ending stream. At the end of this process, someone else would wipe the water
off the body with a fine, soft cloth meant for the purpose.
Ayurveda falls short of words to extol the benefits of Abhyanga. But it’s
clear that these enormous benefits form one of the reasons our elders
prescribed Abhyanga as an essential part of all auspicious occasions like
festivals, weddings, and so on.
Thus, the connoisseurs of Krishnadevaraya’s period who also appreciated the
lasting value of good health, heightened their epicurean experience by adding
fragrant oils to their Abhyanga routine. Besides, both women and men
sported long, thick tresses, a physical attribute highly prized as an ornamental
value. We haven’t still[57] completely forgotten the fact that a woman
endowed with long and luxuriant hair is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
But the perception that long hair on men is not decorative but rather looks
perverse has gained strong currency of late. And, the Crop—that singular
labarum of cultural slavery to Western colonialism, has implanted itself upon
the heads of our men everywhere, thus bolstering this perception. And not
only just our men. Our women too, have fallen prey to this curiosity and have
succumbed to chopping off their hair.
We can count Peddanna as the foremost among those who genuinely
appreciated the beauty and a sense of striking personality that men endowed
with bounteous tresses exude. He ignores the fact that Bhagiratha—grandson
of Emperor Sagara, an ancestor of Lord Rama—who undertook harsh
penance[58] for a thousand years had become completely frail but laments the
fact that his “long and brimming hair” had become badly matted because it
was uncared for.
And Abhyanga was the main aid to the growth of long and thick hair. Which
is why it was highly prized among the people of Krishnadevaraya’s days.
Dress, Jewelry, and Personal Adornment
We can turn to their dressing now. Typically, people of that era clothed
themselves in colourful garments. Although men wore all-white on rare
occasions, women found no use for that colour. Indeed, when Satyabhama
sulked, she did so by wearing all-white! At all other times, she wore, with
great pride, clothes coloured with a reddish or saffron tint. She was especially
fond of clothes that were adorned by a gold border.
Yet others wore clothes made of “three colours.” These clothes were
apparently made of material that was as delicate as the scales of a snake, and
which would “fly away when blown by the force of the wind emitted by
one’s mouth.” Indeed, there was great demand for such gossamer clothing,
which is why it was possible to manufacture such subtle yarns.
Today’s Khadi-wearing warriors think that thicker the Khadi that they wear,
stronger is their display of patriotism and closer they inch towards swarajya
or freedom. This is why despite constant and prolonged effort, it is still
difficult to find fine and delicate Khadi clothes. But we digress.
In the matter of jewelry, it appears that there was little or no difference in
what men and women wore. Although there might’ve been differences in
type, shape, form, and application, both men and women were equal in their
desire for wearing jewelry.
Our Shastras prescribe the wearing of jewelry to women. But
Krishnadevaraya’s state policy prescribed that even men be decked in jewelry
from head to toe. Necklaces, shoulder-braces, finger-rings, jewel-bedecked
waistbelts, bangles on wrists and ankles…these were worn both by women
and men in his time. The differences respectively, seem to be in the crown or
jeweled headgear worn by men and noserings worn by women. Thus, it
appears that a husband and wife, united in equal desire for jewelry, results in
lasting peace in a marriage. Either both could afford and wore jewelry, or
they had no jewelry at all. This additionally eliminated the tension resulting
from a feeling that the husband would work hard to earn all these riches
while the wife simply spent it away on her jewelry.
But when we think about it deeply, it’s strange why men’s interest in wearing
jewelry and decking up has dwindled in our time. We can’t claim that this
ornamental interest has been completely destroyed in the present time but it’s
true that the condition is really pitiable among today’s men. The interest
among the men in Krishnadevaraya’s era for wearing jewel-studded crowns,
necklaces and so on has vanished and has given way to buttons, watch-
chains, and finger rings. The spread of this interest also appears to be tinged
with fear and cringing. The essence of this new phenomenon is clear: we no
longer have the courage to wear ornaments bequeathed to us by our own
culture and tradition, to savour them for our own joy, but we’ve become
mentally and culturally enslaved to such an extent that we wear alien trinkets
to appease foreigners.
And what applies to ornaments applies to dress. We cower to dress up in an
exquisite Salem dhoti—spun with a fine yarn, delicate like a flower—but
show no shame in showing up wearing a Surge Suit. We are ashamed to
drape ourselves in an elegant Kacche[59] and strut around confidently in
public. Instead we march proudly like walking sticks dressed in a suit,
uncomfortable and afraid of spoiling the crease.
Our ancients were free men and women; they were true connoisseurs. They
fearlessly displayed their love for jewelry by wearing it unabashedly; they
decked up for their own joy. Not for them today’s sorry task of putting on a
sheepish grin to appease others.
The Perfumed Empire of Krishnadevaraya
If Krishnadevaraya enjoyed a whole range of exalted honorifics like Sahitya
Sangita Samarangana Sarvabhouma (The Emperor of Literature, Music, and
Battlefield), Mooru Rayara Ganda (Husband of the Three Lords), Hindu
Samrajya Suratrana (The Sultan of the Hindu Kingdom), Kannada Rajya
Ramaa Ramana (One who is like Lord Vishnu to the Kannada Empire), and
Andhra Bhoja (The King Bhoja of the Andhra Country), it was because he
had earned them literally by his blood and sweat—not for him were tears. He
was endowed with manliness in the truest sense of the word and fostered it
throughout his kingdom. He earned enormous wealth on an unprecedented
scale and shared this munificence generously.
Apart from the jewel markets and the opulent home constructions of his
citizens, another prime organ of his state policy was to facilitate the
unimpeded import of perfumes from alien shores. This was for a simple
reason: his citizens demanded a continuous supply of an essential ingredient
of their daily dressing: perfumes and flowers. Krishnadevaraya’s economic
policy was based on the principle of plenty: not for him the Nehruvian policy
of state-enforced scarcity or even worse, the misplaced sense of Gandhian
austerity, which deprived people of the expression of the basic human
impulse for beauty in its full material and outward exuberance.
Krishnadevaraya himself practiced what he decreed as policy. His palace had
a separate building for preparing and storing various kinds of perfumes.
Indeed, if there was any item of human use that could be made fragrant, it
would be scented first and then used. Fragrant fumes from incense sticks
wafted from the windows of the homes of the people of his time. Even the
streets were sprinkled with perfumed water. Krishnadevaraya’s subjects
drenched themselves and drowned in a vast array of redolence like musk,
civet, camphor, saffron (kesari), sandalwood, rose water, and aloe-wood.
As if this wasn’t enough, they innovated the Kadamba perfume, a blend of
two or more of the aforementioned ingredients and put it to a variety of uses.
In that era, the Andhra people had attained global renown for being expert
perfume makers. During the later years of Mohammedan rule, while the
Hindus largely forgot or abandoned the art of perfume-making, the Muslims
took to it with relish and attained similar expertise.
But people of our own time seem to be devoid of any sense of smell. We’ve
lost the capacity to withstand intense perfumes: if we ever come across the
perfume of pure Kasturi (Musk), our noses would bleed. Besides, if we want
perfumes that desperately, there’s always the Western-made arrack-smelling
“scents” available in the market in plenty. And so, on the rare occasions of
marriage, when rosewater or Ittar (or Attar) is offered, our fragile noses
cringe in horror and we are content to sprinkle a few drops on our
handkerchiefs, which we otherwise use to clean nasal mucus.
It’s because Krishnadevaraya’s people profoundly savoured fragrances that
they had a natural and abiding love for flowers. We’ve already noted how
each house had an expansive garden. They grew an astonishing variety of
flowers and floral creepers for the sake of “prosperity.” And by “flowers,”
one doesn’t mean non-fragrant flowers. Indeed, perhaps no other country on
this earth can bestow upon us such a variegated bounty of flowers which are
endearing to both the eyes and the nose. It’s for this reason that our ancients
unequivocally rejected as worthless a “non-fragrant flower and a town
without wise people.”
It’s a fact of nature that there exist non-fragrant flowers which attract us by
their sheer beauty. In our land, the lotus holds that kind of attraction with its
spellbinding loveliness. Which is why innumerable poets have used their
fertile imaginations to extol its nonexistent perfume to gigantic proportions as
a way of satiating themselves. The people of Krishnadevaraya’s era typically
used to love, grow, and cherish the Paadari, Jasmine, Double-Jasmine,
Screwpine (flower), and Champaka in their gardens. Literary works of the
period describe all of these and other varieties of flowers in rich detail,
complete with descriptions of the fragrance that emanated from them.
Specialist flower sellers sold exquisite garlands made of rare and exotic
flowers; even among these, there existed several different genres of garlands,
which were worn around the neck; they stitched flowers together in
innovative knots and wore it on their hair; at dawn and dusk, they sprinkled
loose flowers in the courtyard; they made pretty buntings from flowers and
tied them atop the front door of their homes; they made balls from flowers
and used them in amorous play; they made fans from flowers, and during
summer nights, they would make a bed of flowers and sleep on it.
Food, Drink and Tamboola
And now on to the gastronomic life of those days. Allasani Peddanna’s
Manucharitramu[60] says, “the Gods who have gotten over the everyday
problem of satiating hunger and thirst by drinking Ambrosia, too, need
enormous feasts to satisfy the craving of their taste buds.” If this be the case
with the Gods, what about those connoisseurs endowed with the supreme
luck of being blessed with the pangs of hunger and thirst at least twice a day?
Therefore, fully in keeping with their spirit, the connoisseurs of
Krishnadevaraya’s time had a keen attachment for gastronomical delights.
Their food was tailored to seasons and savoured those seasonal foods and
drinks copiously. In which case, the obvious question arises: wouldn’t such
excesses of gastronomic indulgences result in digestion-related afflictions?
But then, even asking such a question would only mean confessing the truth
about our own frail powers of digestion. The reason is that they would eat
only to satisfy their hunger and not owing to any social graces or to please
someone against their wishes. Indeed, it is we who have obtained the blessing
called indigestion either by over-eating or under-eating, and by eating the
same food in all seasons. And not just in food and drink: the people of that
period had a robustly healthy view towards all aspects of life.
The everyday medicine to combat indigestion back then was Tamboola or
Paan. It is an intoxicant, which the Dharmashastras, with great compassion,
have bestowed upon Hindus. Everyone apart from Brahmacharis and
Sanyasins[61] can and must use it.
Now, when we say Tamboola, we must clarify that it doesn’t merely mean a
mixture of betel leaf, betel nut and lime. To these were also added generous
amounts of camphor, kasturi, cardamom and other scented ingredients. One
of the social customs of those days that signified respect was to offer a
“Cardamom Tamboola” to a guest who visited home. It is for this reason that
this medicine eventually became an indulgence. Daily life was incomplete
without this indulgence. An injunction from the Dharmashastra holds that one
must conduct puja while chewing Tamboola. The same Allasani Peddanna
famously declared that it was impossible to write poetry without having the
“tamboolam served by a tender and pleasing damsel.”
Nowadays, people have foregone the rest of these various scented ingredients
and have replaced them with tobacco. It’s as if the original concoction of the
Tamboola makes the heads of our modern folks spin but smoke from tobacco
stops the said head-spinning.
A Celebration of Amorousness
With the large variety of immense material opulence that the era of
Krishnadevaraya offered to people inhabiting it, it’s only natural that this
sensual opulence also reflected itself in the enjoyment of that other timeless
indulgence: pleasures of the amorous kind.
The poets of that era wrote with a special eye on the mindset of a connoisseur
who waited in the bedroom with anticipation. It was an era that did not frown
upon polygamy but rather celebrated it. The ability of a man to attract more
than one woman was regarded as a hallmark of manliness. Peddanna and
Timmanna held that Krishnadevaraya’s vanquishing of the Bahamani king
Adil Khan and his amorous conquest of women reflected the same
masculinity. Once while camping at Srikakulam on the day of the Ekadashi
(Eleventh Day of the Moon), Sri Krishnadevaraya had a dream in which Lord
Sri Mahavishnu appeared before him. When he narrated this dream, his
courtiers gave their verdict[62] as to what it meant: “You will obtain many
beautiful women as lovers.”
But polygamy is not without problems. One couldn’t simply marry any lady
without crossing the obstacles of varna, status, and other factors. Therefore,
the men of that era—mostly rulers and chieftains—heralded a tradition of
taking lovers. This reached such a fever pitch that they regarded as more
pleasing to have even their most mundane tasks to be performed by pretty
ladies than men. Thus, chieftains and rich businessmen had their head
massaged by beautiful women; women had to bathe them, towel them,
decorate them, and some even had women stand next to them, holding their
But then, as in every era, there was a dearth of pretty girls to provide this sort
of indulgence. Those pretty girls hailing from reputed families would
naturally refuse to accept a rank which was slightly higher than a servant.
Thus, courtesans were employed for the task. It is for this reason that the
women employed for these tasks in the King’s harem as well as in those of
businessmen were courtesans. Eventually, the influence of courtesans grew in
society. Every temple had to have a music and dance recital by these women
—it was an essential part of the Seva or offering to God. This tradition, also
known variously as the Devadasi tradition, was carried on unbroken for
centuries until the colonial British laws cruelly severed it, leaving hundreds
of Devadasis impoverished.
The question then arises as to whether this kind of ample supply of
courtesans was available in any given city or town. So, to mitigate any
shortfall, people like Avachi Tippayya Shetty,[63] the Chief of the Royal
Perfumery came handy. Also in charge of exports and imports, he would
procure the prettiest of women from faraway lands along with importing
gold, precious stones, jewelry, horses, and chariots.
It must be clarified that the word “courtesan” in this essay is used not in the
contemporary sense of a woman merely selling her body for monetary gain.
The Devadasis were well-versed in and endowed with deep scholarship in
classical arts in multiple languages. They were adept at playing the Veena;
they were rigorously trained in classical vocal music; they could perform
classical dance with equal felicity.
The charm and power they wielded over men was truly incredible. As an
example one can cite the skill with which the connoisseurs of
Krishnadevaraya’s time would mollify these women who were perchance
displeased with them. If a woman kicked the head of a man with her left foot,
instead of being furious, the man would gently whisper to her, “did that
lovely foot get hurt?” Not for these sensualists the pointless act of severing
all ties with her in a moment of anger. Lord Krishna, the Lord of Sixteen
Thousand wives employed this pacifying technique upon an enraged
Satyabhama who kicked his head with her left foot, as Timmanna shows in
his Parijaataapaharanamu. The backstory to this is more interesting: this
poem was Timmanna’s way of tutoring his king and patron, Krishnadevaraya
on the fine art of mollifying his queen.
When we compare this seemingly extreme sensual indulgence of that time
with our own present time, it appears that we are far better. Polygamy is all
but dead today. We don’t pursue amorous pleasures with the same zeal. All
this is appreciable indeed. But this is only the partial truth.
A major reason why we no longer zealously pursue fleshly pleasures owes
both to inability and an incurable hangover of Victorian morality. Kama
(used here in the sense of sexual desire), like Dharma (Righteous conduct and
living), Artha (Earning wealth) and Moksha (Spiritual liberation) is also a
value (Purushartha) in itself. Therefore, for that rare, blessed, and courageous
person who truthfully pursues the other three Purusharthas, the pursuit of
Kama too, stands on an equally high pedestal: it’s worthy of taking pride in,
and not regarded as something to be ashamed of. However, this doesn’t mean
an advocacy of a blind quest of hedonism. Nor does it mean that this pursuit
is defect-free. But then which worldly pursuit is totally defect-free?
Everything in the world becomes either a value or a defect depending on the
ability and wisdom of the person pursuing it. Indeed, the fear of whether even
a virtuous act might result in harm and therefore abstaining from it is akin to
forsaking food due to the fear of indigestion.
The Spirit of Krishnadevaraya’s Citizens
Then there’s the question of abstinence. In the present time, are we endowed
with the Sattva Guna (Quality of calmness, wholesomeness, truth tranquility,
etc), or the innate courage to practice abstinence? People of our time need an
external factor to enforce an unwilling abstinence—they are bereft of that
warrior-like spirit to abstain on their own. This despicable weakness of spirit
among the Indian people has characterized pretty much the history of
Independent India.
But the people of Krishnadevaraya’s time were adroit in both: when they no
longer found any taste in worldly indulgences, they instantly discarded them
and displayed that same vibrant connoisseurial spirit in the world of
A fully decked up King Matsyadhwaja was on his way to a courtesan’s house
one night as was his usual habit. En route was a Brahmana’s home. This
Brahmana earlier in the day, had consumed stupendous amounts of a lavish
spread at a feast. Sprawled on his verandah with some guests, he was reciting
some poems to pass time. As he was passing by, Matsyadhwaja heard this
To savour this rainy season, we must suffer for the rest of the eight months |
Thus, for (resting at) night, in the day, thus for old age, in youth, and

Thus to attain the Other World (Liberation) must we suffer in this world ||[64]
That very instant, Matsyadhwaja lamented, “oh how I have been cheated,”
gave up his royal splendor and all the pleasures it afforded him. He became a
Sanyasin with a singular quest for attaining Moksha.
Our modern people argue that this sort of instant change is not natural, that it
is contrived, and fictional. On the contrary, this sort of argument only
exposes the selfsame poverty of Sattva Guna in our nature: what does a man
whose hand is crippled know of the power and ability of a sword in the hands
of a furious warrior?
In essence, it must be said that people of Krishnadevaraya’s period were
neither selfish hedonists nor were they only Yogis who had forsaken
everything. The aforementioned instances of the pursuit of worldly pleasures
and that of renunciation were narrated only to give an idea of the immense
willpower, determination, and unwavering strength to accomplish any
endeavor they set their hearts and minds upon. They fought wars; they won
kingdoms; they ruled and protected; they carved sculpted works of art that we
can’t even dream of; they encouraged and patronized learning and wisdom;
they gave generous gifts without a thought.
In closing, it must be said that they attained the very summit of excellence in
any endeavor they took up. This is the ultimate fruit of a connoisseurial life.
Just as how their epicurean life was expansive, so was their compassion,
valour, generosity, scholarship and renunciation. There was no place for
pettiness in any aspect of their lives. As the connoisseurial spirit grows
among a people, so does a spirit of expansiveness—both good and bad—
Ultimately, a connoisseurial spirit is where civilization reposes; it is the fruit
of vigour; it is both the foundation and the receptacle of progress.
6 Krishnaraja Wodeyar III: The
Cultural Founder of the Modern
Mysore State
Perhaps the Wodeyar (also spelled as Wadiyar) dynasty is the longest and
most continuous empire to ever rule howsoever tiny a part of the erstwhile
Mysore state (now known as Karnataka). Established in 1399 by Yaduraya
Wodeyar this dynasty enjoyed a nearly unbroken reign of 548 years till 1947
when the Mysore state merged with the new Indian Union.
Like any royal lineage, the Wodeyar dynasty too has its share of crests and
troughs but the overall record is quite excellent. In so long a period, it boasts
of an astonishing number of superb statesmen, warriors, administrators, and
patrons of art and culture.
A short list of the Wodeyar dynasty greats would include Raja Wodeyar,
responsible for making Srirangapattana his capital and building its fort. Much
of the Mysore kingdom's expansion occurred during his time. Apart from
him, other luminaires include Chamaraja Wodeyar VI, Narasaraja Wodeyar
(he bore the title Ranadhira Kantheerava or “Lion-like hero of the battle”)
fabled for his strength, ferocity and wrestling skills, Chikka Devaraja
Wodeyar, Narasaraja Wodeyar II, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and IV.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, who was born at Srirangapatna, was the son of
Chamaraja Wodeyar IX and his first wife, Maharani Kempa Nanja Ammani.
He was the longest reigning Wodeyar king ruling for nearly 70 years from 30
June 1799 to 27 March 1868, and laid the foundation on which his
successors, chiefly Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, built, and transformed Mysore
into a modern and model state.
The credit for making Krishnaraja Wodeyar III the king of Mysore under
extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances goes entirely to
Maharani Lakshmi Ammani Devi, his grandmother. He was Lakshmi
Ammani’s adopted grandson, and he was only five when he ascended the
throne of Mysore.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III’s ascendancy is also significant because he was the
first Wodeyar king to resume the rule of Mysore by the Wodeyar dynasty
after a gap of nearly 40 years. In 1761, a freelance mercenary named Hyder
Ali who was promoted as the general of the Mysore army backstabbed the
Wodeyars and usurped the throne of Mysore.
Hyder Ali was followed by his son Tipu Sultan who unleashed a reign of
terror, savagery, and Islamic fanaticism for about seventeen years throughout
South India. Tipu kept the surviving members of the Wodeyar dynasty in a
state of house arrest, depriving them of even a modicum of dignified
It was only the courage, patience and sacrifice of Lakshmi Ammani that kept
the Wodeyar dynasty alive. She bided her time and watched by the sidelines
even as Tipu’s growing excesses peaked until he became enemies with every
king and power in South India including the British. She opened up discreet
communication channels with all enemies of Tipu, and finally concluded a
successful negotiation with the British who promised to restore the Wodeyar
dynasty to the throne of Mysore if Tipu was defeated. The fateful day arrived
on 4 May 1799 when an ordinary British soldier shot Tipu in the head with
his musket.
On their part, the British honoured their promise. On 30 June 1799, the five-
year-old Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was crowned the king of Mysore in a
traditional coronation ceremony that took place in a special pavilion
constructed near the Lakshmiramana Swamy temple in Mysore. The young
boy was led by the Duke of Wellington on his right. Dewan Purnaiah was
selected as the Diwan of Mysore.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III attained the age of sixteen in 1810, then known as
the “age of discretion.” In other words, he was fit to rule independently. After
discussing with the British Resident A. H. Cole, the reins of the state were
transferred from Diwan Purnaiah to the new king.
However, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III lost his grandmother in the same year.
Two years later, he also lost Purnaiah.

Krishnaraja Wodeyar III’s early years as king witnessed amicable relations

with the British. However, they progressively became strained by the 1820s
with A.H. Cole alleging financial impropriety in his letters and reports to the
British Governor at Madras, Thomas Munro. Despite an independent
investigation absolving the king, things did not improve. This reached a
flashpoint when a serious insurrection broke out in 1830-31. The British
administration at Madras then took direct control of Mysore for the next fifty
years appointing Commissioners who administered the state. The most
famous Commissioner was Sir Mark Cubbon in whose honour the Cubbon
Park at Bangalore is named.
In a way, the British decision to directly administer Mysore came as a huge
boon for Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. Freed from the pains and concerns of
administrative matters, he set upon a path that not only transformed Mysore
constructively but bequeathed a legacy that the Karnataka of today continues
to enjoy. Indeed, if the city of Mysore still boasts of being the cultural capital
of Karnataka, majority of the credit goes to Krishnaraja Wodeyar III.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was a polyglot, scholar, an accomplished poet,
writer, artist, composer, and musician. He has to his credit at least fifty
literary works on various subjects.
His Sritattvanidhi(literally: The Illustrious Treasure of Realities) is an
encyclopaedic treatise interspersed liberally with iconography. We can only
imagine the magnitude of the effort to put together this treatise when we
realize the fact that the objective of the work was to collate and combine all
available information about the iconography and iconometry of divine figures
in South India. He assembled scholars and experts in these subjects and then
commenced the writing of the treatise. In parallel, he also assembled famed
miniaturists from his palace and asked them to provide the accompanying
illustrations. The final body of work brings together several forms of Shiva,
Vishnu, Skanda, Ganesha, different goddesses, the nine planets (navagraha),
and the eight protectors (a ṣṭ adikp ā lakas). Sritattvanidhi is in nine parts,
and each part is called a Nidhi ("treasure").
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also authored the illustrated epic prose-romance,
Sougandhikaparinaya. It was a new prose style he devised, breaking away
from the styles handed down until his time. It has a mythological theme
written in the Puranic style infused with Vedic, Puranic, and other epic
characters like the sage Durvasa, and the God Indra. In true classical style,
the work expounds on such diverse topics as philosophy, Yoga, astronomy,
erotics, zoology, botany, music, horse and elephant-lore, horticulture, and
even the digging of wells and lakes. A little-known fact about this richly-
illustrated work is that the pictures in the book are from Krishnaraja
Wodeyar’s lithograph press, which he had installed in the premises of the
Mysore palace. He personally experimented with colour pictures.
Of the most distinctive and unique regional dance forms in India hailing from
Karnataka, Yakshagana (literally, song of the demigods) perhaps occupies the
top spot. Its survival, resurgence and growth owes a huge debt of gratitude to
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. It was during his reign that he patronized Parti
Subba, a renowned Yakshagana writer and performer from South Canara.
This legacy has endured: decades ago, the Karnataka state government
instituted the annual Parti Subba Award for Yakshagana artistes.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was an accomplished player of the Veena and
patronized eminent musicians and composers of his time like Sadashiva Rao,
Vina Venkatasubbayya and Doddaseshanna. Like in other endeavours, it was
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III who created a sprawling cultural ecosystem where
musicians received patronage, honour, and recognition for their talent and
were able to live comfortably. This ecosystem existed even in the previous
century under whose umbrella the legendary Carnatic musician Mysore
Vasudevachar flourished.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also encouraged graphic arts, employing a large
swathe of accomplished artists. Among other things, they were engaged to
paint court life in all its grandeur. Portraiture also developed as a fine art in
Mysore during his rule. He had several portraits of well-known people of the
kingdom painted by the best artists of the time. Along with the paintings of
court life, these form a very valuable resource for researchers because of the
visual clues they provide to the past. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was also
responsible for the creation of the Jaganmohan art gallery of Mysore and
built the original building in 1861. The grandfather of the renowned K.
Venkatappa (after whom the famed Venkatappa art gallery in Bangalore is
named) was Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s personal friend.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III introduced English education in the Mysore state by
starting Maharaja's English School which paved the way for the famous
Maharaja's college and finally, the Mysore University founded later by Sir M.
The seven-decade-long rule of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III witnessed at least
three generations of a galaxy of poets and other literary figures mainly in
Kannada and Sanskrit. These litterateurs have stood the test of time, and their
writings, plays, and poems are still read and recited in the state. Devachandra,
Venkatarama Shastri, Basavappa Shastri, Aliya Lingaraja, Srinivasa
Kavisarvabhouma, Thammaya Kavi, Nanjunda Kavi, Shantaraja Pandita, and
Kempu Narayana are some of the more famous names. Of these, Basavappa
Sastri perhaps stands tallest. He was honoured with the titles of Abhinava
Kalidasa (Modern Kalidasa) and Kannada Nataka Pitamaha (Progenitor of
Kannada drama), and has translated almost all the celebrated works of
Kalidasa. Kempu Narayana wrote Mudra Manjusha (the Kannada version of
Vishakhadatta’s Sanskrit drama, Mudra Rakshasa), the play based on
Chanakya’s life and achievements.
Taken as a whole, these litterateurs also contributed to the development of
modern Kannada prose, which had a style different from the Champu style of
prose which was in vogue till then. Other important literary works that
emerged during Krishanraja Wodeyar’s rule include Kalavati Parinaya by
Yadava and Vachana Kadambari, the Kannada rendering of Banabhatta’s
Sanskrit prose epic Kadambari.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was also an expert player of board games and is
credited to have revived the Ganjifa card game, which originated in Persia.
This game was very popular during the Mughal rule.
Perhaps one significant administrative decisions he took was to transfer the
capital city of the Mysore state from Srirangapattana to Mysore city. The
original Mysore city had been razed to the ground earlier by Tipu Sultan.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III did not distinguish himself as a great administrator
perhaps owing to his dynasty’s debt of obligation towards the British or due
to his position of subservience to them right from childhood or perhaps he
wasn’t cut out for administration by temperament. However, his life and long
rule indicates that it’s possible to attain immortality by showing a humane
side and encouraging a climate of refinement by developing culture, art,
music, dance and literature.
7 A Brief Survey of the Tradition of
Rama and Ramayana in Tamil Nadu
One of the greatest losses of the so-called Dravidian discourse in Tamil Nadu
is the loss of a number of Hindu Devatas or deities in the civilizational
consciousness of the Tamil people. More pointedly, the cultural-heritage-loss
that accompanied this Devata loss has in many cases become irreversible.
To restate the obvious, most ancient and medieval era temples in Tamil Nadu
today have become dens of corruption, squalor, and pettiness at all levels.
This rampant degradation continues unchecked as we speak. The
Government-appointed administrative heads of these temples are not only
ignorant of even something as basic as the temple’s kshetra or sthala puranas
– oral and even written history – but dismiss it with a contempt that has to be
seen to be believed. This is the visible, physical aspect of this deity loss in the
people’s collective cultural consciousness. That which nobody cares about
will be ignored, and this ignorance will lead to stagnation, decay, and
eventual disappearance. Government control of temples is only one of the
causes—the real loss has really occurred at the level of the atman or soul.
Perhaps nowhere is the loss of Hindu deities more visible, greater or more
destructive than in the case of Rama. From the likes of writers who
intentionally named themselves Ravanan all the way up to Karunanidhi[65]
whose coolness quotient derives from questioning the ‘engineering
qualifications’ of Rama, this destruction has traversed a truly bloody path.

Thankfully, for those who still care, there is enormous material available in
the form of books, oral histories and ancient manuscripts that speak for
themselves. This essay is a brief survey that traces the Rama and the
Ramayana tradition and consciousness in Tamil Nadu as it was handed down
from the ancient to the medieval period, and parts of it which still survive.
The Sangam corpus is typically used as a reliable primary source for much of
the historical information about Tamil Nadu. The Sangam era’s historicity
spans roughly from 200 BCE to 200 CE. It is therefore reasonable to start
tracing the Rama tradition in Tamil Nadu from this source. In general,
Sangam literature contains numerous references to Vishnu (for example,
in பாிபாடல◌் ) and his prominent avatars like Narasimha, Rama, and Krishna.
And then றநா ற◌ு , a collection of about 400 poems contains references
to the Ramayana.

Post the Sangam era, the

Alvars were the true pioneers of the Vaishnava bhakti movement in Tamil
Nadu. In a way, they were the spiritual progenitors of Sri Ramanuja, founder
of Srivaishnavism, who held them in great reverence.
The term ‘ ஆ வார◌் (Alvar) means ‘one who is immersed’ (in devotion to
the lord). Between the twelve of them, the Alvars composed what is known
as the Naalaayira Divyaprabandham (literally, ‘the 4,000 divine verses’)
dedicated to all forms of Vishnu. References to Rama are abundant in this
Prabandham literature, most notably in the poetry of Kulashekara Alvar (a
9th century CE king from Kerala) who dedicated his life to worshiping Rama.
What is even more significant, a fact that our history textbooks conceal, is
that in an age where the varna system had reached deplorable levels,
Thiruppaan, an untouchable was hailed as one of the Alvars by the sheer
force of his devotion, and was carried on the shoulders by a Brahmana priest
of the Ranganatha temple at Srirangam. A moving account of Thiruppaan’s
devotion is narrated by the legendary Kannada poet, dramatist, and writer,
Masti Venkatesha Iyengar in his play, Tiruppani.
Then there is Kambar’s இராமாவதாரம◌் , popularly known as the
Kambaramayanam. This is the definitive, and epoch-making work that
helped spread the Rama tradition throughout the Tamil land. Inspired by
Valmiki, Kambar retold the epic in about 10,000 verses in Tamil. This work
contributed not just to classical Tamil literature, but over time, became
inseparable from routine Hindu religious worship. To date, the entire
Ramavataram is recited in the Aadi month of the Tamil calendar, typically
between 15 July to 14 August. Reciting the Ramavataram is also part of the
regular worship, chanted alongside Sanskrit mantras.
In general, the Srivaishnava tradition holds Rama in special reverence. It
spread its wings wide to disseminate the message of Rama in Tamil Nadu and
beyond. A defining concept of Srivaishnavism is sharanagati or complete
surrender to the lord. This in turn has its roots in Vibhishana’s surrender to
Rama. From Ranganatha muni (Nathamuni) to Yaamunacharya to Ramanuja,
every major Srivaishnava saint and philosopher composed an array of
elaborate literature on Rama and helped build Rama and Vishnu temples
across Tamil Nadu and in various parts of South India. Nathamuni remains
immortal for recovering, collecting, organizing, collating, disseminating and
popularizing the Naalaayira Divyaprabandham of the Alvars, which had
been lost.
The next saint-philosopher to significantly propagate the Rama movement
was Sadashiva Brahmendra who lived in Tiruchinapalli in the 18th century.
He initiated the concept of Rama Parabrahma or ‘Rama as Brahman.’ And
the celebrity-follower of Brahmendra was the musician-composer Tyagaraja
whose entire life centered on Rama. His music, lyric, and Rama bhakti have
become immortal. The Thanjavur-Kaveri belt in Tamil Nadu came under the
Rama bhakti spell owing to these influences. This civilizational and cultural
inheritance still reverberates in this region.
Other stalwarts of the Rama bhakti movement include the legendary Vedanta
Deshikar, who wrote a thousand verses on Sri Rama’s पादुक◌ा
(sandals/footwear) known as the Paduka Sahasram; Sridhar Sastry Aiyyaval;
C. Rajagopalachari whose Chakravarthi Thirumagan is an acknowledged
modern classic; the Kanchi Paramacharya; and the Ahobila Jeeyar.
The Rama bhakti movement also manifested itself in several other cultural
facets such as art, music, dance, drama, and folk. To this day, art forms such
as Oothakadu, Sulamangalam, Terukootthu, and Bhaagavata mela (public
festivals or celebrations) focusing on Ramayana-based themes are performed
in various parts of Tamil Nadu. These have an unbroken existence of about a
thousand years. Gopalakrishna Bharati’s Nandanar Charitram, popular even
today, is based on Arunachala Kavi’s Rama Natakam. The Nandanar
Charitram has been adapted, revised, and customized several times over by
eminent artists like Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar, and more recently, in the
twentieth century by Balasaraswathi.
The fact that one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage spots, Rameshwaram, is in
Tamil Nadu speaks volumes. No less than Rama had himself installed two
lingams, which are housed in the magnificent Ramanathaswami temple.
The Rama tradition also finds its expression in the names Tamil people give
their children. Raman, Rameshwaran, Ramaswamy, Ramabhadran,
Ramagopalan, Sitaraman, Sivaraman, Sivaramakrishnan, Ramasubramanian,
and so on.
8 India’s Foreign Policy and the
Dharma of Exigency
If the Mahabharata is an infinite ocean that’ll never dry up, its Upakhyanas
(minor episodes and sub-stories) are truly the pearls and the corals that
reward the patient and the diligent diver who takes the effort to snorkel into
its depths. There’s no subject that these Upakhyanas don’t touch and turn into
gold. These Upakhyanas build on the Vedic and Dharmic lore and exposit
valuable lessons and insights in the form of stories and discourses. The chief
value of these Upakhyanas lies in how they elucidate both the theory and the
application of complex, subjective concepts in the form of stories, anecdotes,
and analogies drawn from both the inanimate and the sentient world. Among
said complex subjects, these Upakhyanas deal with various facets of
statecraft in a highly lucid and practical manner.
For this essay, I’ve selected an extraordinary Upakhyana from the Shanti
Parva. Extraordinary because it delivers such brilliant and timeless insights
into what can loosely be called foreign policy, a key facet of statecraft, using
a very simple story.
The present Upakhayana forms part of the Aapaddharma Parva, a sub-parva
of the Shanti Parva. The fact that an entire sub-Parva has been dedicated to
Aapaddharma (loosely, “dharma to be followed in times of crisis, danger or
extraordinary circumstances”) shows the depth and breadth of the
development of statecraft in ancient India. This learning was then assimilated,
expanded and supplemented with knowledge and original insights by the
likes of Kautilya in his Arthashastra.
To my mind, here is a representative verse from the Aapaddharma Parva that
should give us a foretaste of what will follow:
Nobody is nobody's friend,
nobody is nobody's well-wisher,
people become friends or enemies only from motives of interest.
Our story begins with a terminally-wounded and bleeding Bhishma lying on
the Sharatalpa, the bed of arrows which he asked his favourite warrior and
grandson, Arjuna to construct. Endowed with the rather bizarre boon of
icchamarana (choosing death whenever he wishes), Bhishma waits for the
auspicious Uttarayana [the period between the Makara Sankranti (which
currently occurs around January 14) and Karka Sankranti (which currently
occurs around July 16)], to leave the mortal world.
The cataclysmic Kurukshetra war is over, the Kauravas are annihilated but it
is Yudhishtira who grieves at the enormous loss of lives and total destruction.
Accompanied by his four brothers, he visits Bhishma to seek advice,
guidance and blessings.
This marks the beginning of the Shanti Parva.
We can now directly move to the Aapaddharma Parva (138) where
Yudhishtira asks this question:
I desire, O grandsire, to hear of that superior intelligence aided by which a
king, conversant with the scriptures and well versed with morality and profit,
may not be stupefied even when surrounded by many foes. I desire to hear…
about the manner in which a king should conduct himself when he is assailed
by many foes. When a king falls into distress, a large number of foes,
provoked by his past acts, range themselves against him and seek to vanquish
him. How may a king, weak and alone, succeed in holding up his head when
he is challenged on all sides by many powerful kings leagued together? How
does a king at such times make friends and foes?... With whom should he
make war and with whom should he make peace?
Bhishma answers this with a story that needs to be memorized by all political
science theorists, legislators, and defence and foreign policy experts.
There was a large banyan tree in the midst of an extensive forest, which
provided shelter with its extensive creepers and lush branches to diverse
kinds of birds. It had a large trunk from which numerous branches extended
in all directions. The shade it afforded was very refreshing.
Palita, a mouse of great wisdom, lived at the foot of that tree, having
burrowed a hole there with a hundred outlets. On the branches of the tree
lived a cat named Lomasa, daily devouring a feast of birds.
This happy state of affairs was interrupted when a hunter came into the forest
and built a hut for himself. Every evening after sunset he spread his traps
made of leathern strings and went back to his hut, and returned to the spot at
the dawn of day. All sorts of animals fell into his traps every night.
It so happened that one night, Lomasa the cat, in a moment of heedlessness,
was caught in the hunter’s snare. When Palita spotted this, it got out of his
hole and rambled around the place fearlessly, happy that his natural foe was
trapped. It then spotted a piece of meat near the net where the cat was trapped
and began eating it. A couple of minutes later, it sensed danger and beheld
Harita, a mongoose, all ready and waiting on its haunches to attack Palita.
And then the rat also sensed something else. It looked around and beheld the
owl Chandraka looking down patiently, waiting to swoop down any moment.
Trapped from all directions, Palita thought hard. If it descended down on the
ground, the mongoose would kill it instantly and if it remained in the trap, the
owl would devour it. And so Palita made the choice to befriend Lomasa, the
cat, its natural enemy. Although an enemy, Lomasa was in deep distress, and
the night was fading away fast. Befriending him would grant Palita protection
against the other two foes. And yet as his natural enemy, Lomasa was not to
be trusted.
So, with great caution, Palita addressed Lomasa: “I seek your friendship. I
wish you to live. In the morning, the hunter will retrieve you and surely kill
you. But it is only I who can free you from this trap. You know that both of
us have lived here for long years. And you are very wise. He upon whom
nobody places his trust, and he who never trusts another, are never applauded
by the wise. It is better to have a learned person for an enemy than a fool for
a friend.”
Hearing these words, Lomasa who was equally shrewd took up Palita’s offer.
And so, Palita cautiously crept under Lomasa’s breast and crouched there.
When the owl and the mongoose saw this impossible friendship flowering in
front of their eyes, they were astonished but waited. In the end, they realized
that they couldn’t wean Palita away from Lomasa and left the spot.
Now, it was Palita’s turn to honour his end of the bargain. He began slowly
cutting away the strings, taking his time. Lomasa urged him to hurry up.
However, Palita took his own time, and told Lomasa that he would cut the net
fully only as the hunter approached them in the morning. To which the cat
replied, “'I rescued you from great danger with promptness. I took you as my
friend. Alas! Honest persons never do the business of their friends in this
way. O wise Palita, please expedite your efforts so that it would be mutually
beneficial. Please don’t retain past hostilities in mind. If I have ever,
unconsciously done you any wrong I beg your forgiveness. Be gratified with
To which, Palita replied, “O Wise cat, listen to my words. That friendship in
which there is fear and which cannot be kept up without fear, should be
maintained with great caution like the hand of the snake-charmer from the
snake's fangs. The person who does not protect himself after having made a
covenant with a stronger individual, finds that covenant to be injurious
instead of being beneficial. Nobody is anybody's friend; nobody is anybody's
well-wisher; persons become friends or foes only from motives of interest.”
Their conversation continued in this vein even as the night wore away and
dawn approached. Both Lomasa and Palita then spotted the hunter who was
accompanied by a pack of hunting dogs. Lomasa was almost paralyzed with
fear and in a trembling voice beseeched Palita to save his life. With
astonishing swiftness, the rat cut the last of the strings that held the net
together and freed Lomasa in time even as the hunter neared them. The cat
leapt up the banyan tree and scampered quickly for dear life. It didn’t take too
long for the tiny Palita to return to his hole.
The hunter took his tattered net and left the spot disappointed and frustrated.
After Lomasa was satisfied that there was no danger, he climbed down the
tree and addressed Palita in a sweet voice, “my dear friend, you suddenly ran
away without continuing the conversation. I hope you don’t suspect evil
intent in me. I am very grateful to you for saving my life. You have inspired
trust in me because of which we have become such good friends. Of what use
is it if we don’t celebrate our friendship? I swear by my life that you have
nothing to fear from me. Let’s please celebrate our friendship.”
To which Palita replied, “'I have heard, O Lomasa, all that you told me. Now
please listen to what I have to say. Friends should be well examined. Foes
also should be well studied. In this world, a task like this is regarded by even
the learned as a difficult one, something that requires acute intelligence.
Friends assume the guise of foes, and foes assume the guise of friends. When
compacts of friendship are formed, it is difficult for the parties to understand
whether the other parties are really moved by lust and wrath. There is no such
thing as a foe. There is no such thing as a friend. It is force of circumstances
that creates friends and foes. Both friends and foes arise from considerations
of interest and gain. Self-interest is very powerful. He who reposes blind trust
in friends and always mistrusts foes without paying any regard to
considerations of policy, finds his life to be unsafe.
You are very wise. You will agree when I say that his escape is very difficult
who immediately after he is freed from danger seeks the means of his
enemy's happiness. You came down to this spot in great haste and fell into
the hunter’s trap. You were not careful. You failed to protect yourself. How
can you protect others, including me? You tell me in sweet words that I am
very dear to you. Let me tell you that one becomes dear from an adequate
cause. Equally, one becomes a foe from an adequate cause. Generally, a
person becomes dear for the purpose he serves. The affection between us
arose from a sufficient cause. That cause exists no longer and therefore, that
affection between us has come to an end.
So tell me, dear Lomasa, what is the reason that I have now become dear to
you once again except for you making me your prey? What person
possessing any wisdom will place himself under the power of a foe that is not
distinguished for righteousness, that is in pangs of hunger, and is looking for
prey? I shall never mingle with you, Lomasa, so cease your attempts. If you
really have gratitude for me, don’t harm me when I roam around the forest
heedlessly. That will be enough for me.
A residence near a person possessed of strength and power is never
applauded, even if the danger that existed appears to have passed away. O
cat, if weak people constantly mistrust their foes, the foes, even if strong, will
never succeed in getting them under power. Dear Lomasa, someone like
myself will always guard my life from persons like you. In the same vein,
you too protect your own life from the hunter whose is seething with fury
against you.”
Those interested in foreign and/or defence policy would perhaps find it
instructive to apply the lessons from this story to examine India’s historical
and contemporary record of foreign policy successes and failures.

9 The Story of DA
It is indeed a tragedy of our modern education system—that treats the human
being as no better than a component of economic production—that invaluable
stories contained in our Upanishads have completely vanished from our
school syllabi, supplanted instead by mindless Christian moral education.
We can consider the following celebrated verse extolling the universal appeal
of music:
shishurvetti pashurvetti vetti gAnarasaM phaNih ||
The nectar of music can be experienced by all creatures – from a child to an
animal to a snake||
This is equally applicable to the Upanishads— it has something for everyone
from a child to the most accomplished philosopher or the self-realized soul.
Here’s one such story. For the sake of convenience, I will call it the ‘Story of
This story occurs in the fifth chapter of the second Brahmana of the
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Brihadaranyaka (literally meaning, ‘great-
forest’) is one of the longer Upanishads and forms the basis for several key
philosophical concepts of Hinduism. It also contains the seeds of different
forms of puja and dhyana, and the highly-acclaimed Neti-vada (arriving at the
understanding of the true nature of Brahman or the Nature of the Ultimate
Reality through the process of negation).
The Story of Da is at once philosophical, symbolic, practical, and observable
in human nature. This really simple story, which resonates even with
children, contains profound philosophical truths.
The story deals with three different beings endowed with different faculties
and dispositions:
the Devatas, who are immortal, always in a state of happiness, and
endowed with an unlimited capacity to enjoy sensory pleasures.
the humans who are restless and selfish, and passed through cycles of
pleasure and pain, and birth and death.
the demons who revel in grabbing that which doesn’t belong to them
and in inflicting wanton pain on others.
The Story of Da begins with these three beings in a state of prolonged
discontentment. Unable to find the source for this unexplained unhappiness,
they meditate upon Prajapati, the lord of all creatures,for instruction. By way
of answer, Prajapati utters just the syllable ‘ द ’ (da) to each of the three
beings and asks them to dwell upon its meaning.
Presently, they return to him after having found the answer. As we shall see,
this answer is different for each being because their understanding of the
syllable ‘da’ is in accordance with their respective, unique dispositions.
The Devatas understand द to mean Daamyata (to control, to exercise
restraint), while humans take द to mean Datta (to give away as in charity, to
share), and the asuras interpret द as Dayadhwam (compassion, kindness).
This instruction is truly timeless. At one level, it means that one can interpret
any teaching according to one’s mental makeup, environment, influences,
and other dynamics. At another, it brings out the essential nature of the
different gunas (nature, disposition, trait) of Sattva (patience, serenity), Rajas
(vigour, energy, drive) and Tamas (laziness, stupor, sloth), which have been
beautifully explained in the Bhagavad Gita.
The devatas who are immortal and have constant access to unlimited pleasure
at their disposal soon got tired of the mindless and unending sensual and
material enjoyment for its own sake, akin to “too much of a good thing.” This
has an echo in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay, Compensation: “every
excess causes a defect; every defect an excess.” One can also see a parallel in
the Kathopanishad where Nachiketa keeps refusing the bounties of material
and sensual allurement that Yama, the God of Death and Justice offers him,
and replies courageously that he would prefer to choose the good over the
pleasing. This is why the devatas understand Da as the need for exercising
restraint in enjoyment.
Humans, who by nature are given to selfishness and hoarding understand Da
as letting go of one’s possessions in the sense of charity and magnanimity. In
a larger and more profound sense, this understanding translates as reducing
the extent of one’s ego. The Indian conception of Daana (loosely translated
as ‘charity’) rests on this foundation of ego-reduction, and has given rise to
several beautiful expressions in literature, folklore, etc. Indeed, the celebrated
Hindi proverb Neki kar aur dariya mein daal (do good and throw it in the
river) is a reflection of this principle.
The asuras, similarly, realized that their discontentment was the consequence
of having a violent and destructive nature, and therefore found value in
understanding Da to mean compassion. The antidote to a cruel and violent
disposition is the conscious cultivation of compassion.
The story of Da can also be said to be mystical in the limited sense of the
vehicle that Prajapati uses to impart the teaching. He does not reveal himself
in a physical form but instead utters “Da” as a thunder-sound.
The story of Da was influential in late nineteenth and early twentieth century
Western literature. Without going into much detail, one can only look at this
passage from T.S. Eliot, the last of the poets who retained respect for
classical studies. This excerpt is from the final part of his acclaimed Waste
Then spoke the thunder
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus

Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me

I sat upon the shore

Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.

Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih
10 Lessons in Statecraft from the
Mahabharata’s Kanika Episode
In my earlier essay on Aapaddharma from the Upakhyanas of the
Mahabharata, I had drawn from an Upakhyana belonging to the Shanti Parva.
This essay draws from an Upakhyana belonging to the Adi Parva.
The present Upakhyana does not appear in the Critical Edition (Pune Edition)
of the Mahabharata but in the Gorakhpur Edition, and offers valuable insights
into the nature of statecraft in the form of a simple tale that even children will
relate to and relish.
To put this essay in context, we need to narrate the precursor to this
Upakhyana, which forms the impetus, the determination, the decision and the
actual and deadly implementation of the evil plot of the Lakshagriha (House
of Lacquer) by the cabal of Duryodhana to finish off the young Pandavas
together with their widowed mother, the elderly Kunti.
As Duryodhana’s jealousy proportionally escalates with the success, fame
and goodwill that Pandavas garner by the dint of their own hard work and
merit, he decides that murder is the only water to douse the fire of his
jealousy. His earlier attempt to poison Bhima’s food, tie him up and throw
him in the river had boomeranged because Bhima had not only returned alive
but returned with renewed strength.
This time, Duryodhana assembles his evil caucus to mull over the best means
of finishing off his cousins.
This is where our essay begins.
Backdrop to the Plot
The plot of burning the Pandavas alive is hatched at the expert advise of
Duryodhana’s uncle, Shakuni who introduces him to a person named Kanika
or Kalinga. Shakuni profiles Kanika as an advisor and strategist who holds
the solutions to Duryodhana’s vexations against the Pandavas.
Kanika then narrates this story to Duryodhana.
The Story of Kanika
There lived a slick fox in a forest full of cruel beasts, a fox which had
mastered the art of making others do its work by tricking them through deceit
and enjoying the fruits its unearned labour.
This fox was friends with four other animals: the Tiger, the Wolf, the
Mongoose and the Rat.
On one occasion, the fox spotted a juicy deer and began to crave its meat. It
lay in wait and spent all its time and energy trying to capture it but the deer
was alert and swift and managed to evade the fox time and time again.
Besides, as an inhabitant of the same forest, the deer knew the company the
fox kept.
And so, the fox instead of getting frustrated, contemplated as to the best way
by which it could eat the deer and at long last, it decided to put to use its
feigned friendship with its four friends. That in mind, the fox assembled its
friends and addressed them, “My dear friends! Behold, I spotted this lovely
deer! It is well-grown, full of health and energy and agility and endowed with
sumptuous flesh and meat. Merely imagining the taste of its meat rekindles
my hunger although my stomach is full. But then, none of us here can match
the deer’s speed. Try as hard as we might, it will escape us...” the fox paused
knowing fully well that it had caught the attention of its friends. Then it
resumed, “therefore, I think the only way to kill it is by stealth, and then
together, all of us dear friends, can feast on its meat!”
The fox’s words found their target unerringly. Four unanimous voices spoke
in one voice at once: “Dearest Friend! Please give us the idea how we can
accomplish this.”
The fox sauntered off a bit, giving an impression to the others who were
watching it, now in eager anticipation, of deep thought, then returned and
addressed them: “Ah! So listen carefully and give me your opinion about my
plan,” it paused, and then, “We can’t capture the deer when it is alert and
active and on its guard. We must keep a close watch to find out when it will
be in sound sleep with fatigue and exhaustion. And then without making any
sound, the rat must crawl up to it and nibble off its legs, and before the deer is
even aware of the pain, the tiger must jump on it and bite into its neck. Then
we will surely achieve our objective and partake of a delicious feast
The fox’s friends were delighted and praised its strategic wisdom. So, for
days, they kept a constant watch on the deer and observed its routine and
sleep timings. Fortuitously, one fine day, after the deer grazed to its heart’s
content, drank the river water, and the exertions of the day and the bountiful
food it had eaten, lulled it to blissful sleep.
The fox decided that the opportune time had arrived at last. It signalled to the
rat which quietly scurried up to the deer and began to nibble its feet. The
slumbering deer suddenly felt something amiss and quickly tried to get on its
feet by which time the tiger sprang upon it, dug its claws into the deer’s neck,
and killed it effortlessly. It was all over within minutes.
The friends clapped and cheered and celebrated and got ready to feast on the
Suddenly the fox said, “My dearest friends! The fruit of our hard labour and
patience is before us, and it’s only proper that we enjoy this feast together.
But look at all of us! Our bodies are covered in dust and dirt. I think it will be
in order if all of us clean ourselves and enjoy this bounty at leisure. So I
humbly suggest that all of us must go to that river by the valley, bathe, and
come back. I will guard our feast till you return and I will have my bath
The fox’s friends thought this was sensible advice and headed for the river.
The tiger returned first only to find the fox weeping. Worried, it asked, “Dear
friend, what happened? Why are you crying?” The fox replied, tears
streaming down, “How can I tell you my good friend? I don’t wish to cause
any pain to your heart.” The tiger said impatiently, “No, tell me!” So the fox
said, “Ok my dear friend, I will tell you. But don’t misunderstand me. When
you all left, the rat stayed back for a bit and told me, ‘What is the use of the
tiger although it is so big and so powerful? It was powerless, unable to do
anything until I chewed at the deer’s feet. So you must agree that the deer
was actually killed by my agility. And now, it wants to eat the meat. How
shameless!’ Now tell me my friend, how can I not weep at this insult to
The tiger was furious and let out a deafening roar and said to the fox, “My
dear friend, good you told me this! Also, dear friend, let me tell you this: the
rat has actually taught me wisdom. From now onwards, I shall earn my own
food,” and left the place without waiting for the fox’s response.
Unaware of any of this, the rat arrived next, eager to eat the deer’s flesh. The
fox held up its hand and said, “Wait a bit my dear friend. Before you eat, let
me tell you that the tiger was here a while ago and bit into the deer and went
away. It might be back any time. Next the mongoose was here and when it
heard that the tiger had bit into the deer, it was enraged and said that the deer
was poisoned by the tiger’s bite. It was also hungry like all of us are. The
mongoose said it can’t eat the poisoned deer, so it will eat you instead.” The
mortified rat ran away and hid deep in its hole.
Presently, the wolf arrived at the spot. To the wolf, the fox said, “Listen
carefully my friend, this is for your own safety. The tiger was here just a
while ago and it ate some of the deer’s flesh and will return shortly. It has
entrusted me to guard this feast. If it finds out that you have tasted the deer, it
will surely kill you. That is why I’m just guarding the deer but I haven’t even
gone near it let alone eat it.” The wolf, like the rat ran away.
Finally, it was the turn of the mongoose. As the mongoose approached the
dead deer, the fox threw down a challenge, “you have come here to eat this
delicious feast. The other three were here long before you. I killed them all
and am lording over this deer. It is entirely mine now. I challenge you to a
duel. If you win, the deer is all yours.”
The mongoose knew it was no match for the fox and quietly retreated and
departed from the spot.
Happy that its well-thought out plan had succeeded so well, the fox feasted
happily on the deer for several days.
Kanika concludes this tale with a closing address, “Oh King! This is the path,
this is the wisdom of trickery which fructifies all our work.”
Kanika Neeti
Kanika also launches into quite an elaborate exposition of how deceit, guile
and treachery are indispensable—even inevitable—tools of statecraft. In
Kanika’s book, nobody is spared. He advocates the use of spies disguised as
respected classes of people in those days—Brahmins, Sanyasins, actors, etc
—to achieve the objectives of statecraft. Although Kautilya in his
Arthashastra doesn’t mention Kanika’s prescriptions, his keen perception and
grasp of statecraft can be gauged from the fact that the Arthashastra advises
the King to keep a strict watch on such “respectable” people because they
could pose as potential sources of threat.
This story which Kanika narrates has since come to be known as Kanika
Neeti or Kalinga Neeti. This story also has parallels in the Mitrabheda
(Division and Dissension among Friends), the First Book of the Panchatantra.
Equally, Kanika Neeti is also a good illustration of the classic Indian
Statecraft principles of Sama (Conciliation, Alliance), Dana (Gifts,
Compensation, Material Allurements), Bheda (Sowing Doubt and
Dissension) and Danda (War, Aggression) except that Kanika advocates their
use for accomplishing Evil. Indeed, Kanika’s tale was so compelling that
when Duryodhana outlined the Lakshagriha plot to his father Dhritarashtra,
the latter revealed the full extent of his latent evil by signaling his assent for
his own son’s plot to murder Dhritarashtra’s own younger brother’s five sons
in these words: “do it but do it in such a way that it doesn’t become public
Kanika Neeti in Our Time
In our own times, the definition of Kanika Neeti has been summed up best by
Arun Shourie on the hypocritical free-speech narrative surrounding the late
painter M.F. Hussain in his “Weak to the strong, Strong to the weak”:
It is not the freedom of expression these worthies are committed to.
They are committed to their having freedom alone : can you recall a
single liberal protesting against the ban on Ram Swarup's
“Understanding Islam Through Hadis” -- a book so scrupulously
academic that it was but a paraphrase of the Sahih Muslim, one of the
canonical compilations of hadis -- to say nothing of any one of them
deigning to put in a word against gundas -- claiming to represent the
Muslims -- who tried to get at me in Hyderabad or the gundas --
claiming to speak for the other lot these worthies champion, the
"Dalits" -- who did get at me in Pune ? Not one deigned to do so. They
are not the champions and practitioners of free speech, they are the
practitioners of a very special brand of the dialectic: Strong to the
weak, Weak to the strong. And that is what the Hindus are noticing:
neither the gallery nor the [India Today] magazine spared a thought
for the religious sentiments it might offend till the "goons" marched
into the gallery, but they had but to march in and the painting was
immediately taken down; Hussein was all defiance one day, but the
moment some paintings of his were burnt, he was suddenly sorry....
[Emphasis added]
This is not too different from what Duryodhana did. He never won a single
military battle against the Pandavas but took recourse to gambling to “defeat”
Lessons from Kanika Neeti
If one studies Kanika Neeti carefully, it is evident that this is precisely what
the prosperous and powerful Western democracies have been practising vis a
vis India and other so-called Third World countries.
What kind of foreign or other policy is it that gives billions of dollars in aid
to the terrorist state of Pakistan, terms it the most preferred ally against terror
and in the same breath, preaches religious tolerance to India, which is a
victim of Pakistan’s ceaseless terror attacks? It is equally futile to blame the
US for this because India’s leadership hasn’t seemed to recognize the fact
that the US has elevated Kanika Neeti to an art form. Anybody who has
observed the various stances of the United States with respect to “weak”
nations for any amount of time will discern the fact that its foreign policy rule
is to have no rules.
But even when we focus on domestics, it’s equally not hard to spot the failure
to recognize the unfolding of Kanika Neeti within. To which I must allude to
a tangential story from the same Mahabharata.
Sparing Jayadratha
After losing everything in the Game of Dice, we get to witness the sorry state
of the humiliated Pandavas, now exiled to the forests. The King of the Sindhu
Country, Jayadhrata on a visit to the forest savours the hospitality of the
Pandavas. Not content, he lusts after their wife, Draupadi, and when she fails
to acquiesce, abducts her with the intent to ravish her against her will.
And then, when Bhima and Arjuna hunt him down and rescue Draupadi, and
when they proclaim justly that Jayadratha must be killed, the eldest Pandava,
Yudhishtira stops them with these words: “We must not kill him for he is the
husband of our sister, Dusshala, the sister of Duryodhana, daughter of our
father-like figure, Dhritarashtra.”
But the ultimate consequence of Yudhishtira’s Gandhian forgiveness is not
immediately apparent. That consequence of sparing Jayadratha’s life is
suffered more than a decade later by the same obedient Arjuna. And the
selfsame Jayadratha was instrumental in the cowardly murder of the sixteen-
year-old Abhimanyu, the warrior son of Arjuna at the hands of six seasoned
warriors who butcher him by abandoning every known tenet of warfare.
How qualitatively different is this from Gandhi’s Yudhishtirian forgiveness
beginning with his excessive indulgence of the Ali Brothers, then Jinnah,and
further to the ₹ 55 Crores he blackmailed India into giving to Pakistan, which
used the same money to launch its first aggression in Kashmir?
11 The Mackenzie Manuscripts: A
Neglected National Treasure
It could be argued that early in the colonial period, there was genuine interest
to study India, and the West did produce some rigorous work in the area in
the form of travelogues, comparative religion, military accounts and India-
specific formal academic scholarship. Among others, Jean-Baptiste
Tavernier, Niccolao Manucci, Eliot and Dawson, Robert Sewell, and James
Todd have left behind invaluable treasures after years of observation,
experience, study, travel and other painstaking labors aimed at uncovering
our past. Later scholars, thinkers and writers have continued to build upon
their edifice.
Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first Surveyor General of India easily,
deservedly belongs to this galaxy of eminence. Prof. T V Mahalingam’s
compelling introduction to Col Mackenzie is a good place to begin:
…it is necessary to recall the contemporary climate of [Mackenzie’s]
times. To the Occident, the Orient was a dark continent inhabited by
semi savages with no civilization or culture. A study of Orientology
was the hobby of the eccentric. What was accepted as normal was to
join the East India Company, make easy money by means fair or foul
and return home to live in comfort or participate in politics on the
security of the fortune made in India. That a few of the Company’s
servants did not tread this golden path to fortune, but chose on their
own, prompted by the love of learning, ‘to discover the east’ for the
benefit of…the east itself was a lucky accident of great historical value.
Indeed, for the true seeker, India has since antiquity, offered something for
everybody according to his or her disposition and ambition. Even for
Katherine Mayo, the “gutter inspector” according to Gandhi, and for her
intellectual descendants of today who dominate the Western academia and
The story of Col Colin Mackenzie—a highlander born in 1754 in Stornoway
on the Island of Lewis, Scotland—begins when he was enlisted to assist in
preparing the biography of John Napier, the inventor of logarithms.
Testifying before a Select Committee of the House of Commons on the
Affairs of the East India Company, Sir Alexander Johnston says that Colin
Mackenzie was:
…much patronized, on account of his mathematical knowledge, by the
late Lord Seaforth and my late grandfather, Francis, the fifth Lord
Napier of Merchistoun. He was for some time employed by the latter,
who was about to write a life of his ancestor John Napier, of
Merchistoun, the inventor of logarithms, to collect for him…
[information] from all the different works relative to India, an account
of the knowledge which the Hindoos possessed on mathematics, and of
the nature and use of logarithms. Mr Mackenzie, after the death of
Lord Napier, became very desirous of prosecuting his Oriental
researches in India. Lord Seaforth, therefore, at his request, got him
appointed to the engineers on the Madras establishment.
And so, Colin Mackenzie landed in Madras on 2 September 1783 when
Warren Hastings was the Governor General of India. And remained in India
till his death on 8 May 1821. He was buried at South Park Street Cemetery,
And left behind a vast treasure of original manuscripts, inscriptions, coins,
translations, maps, drawings, and literary works in all South Indian languages
and Sanskrit. To get an idea of what Mackenzie had accomplished over
thirty-eight years, we can turn to David M Blake:
One of the most wide ranging collections ever to reach the Library of
the East India Company is formed by the manuscripts, translations,
plans, and drawings of Colin Mackenzie, an officer of the Madras
Engineers and, at the time of his death in 1821, Surveyor-General of
India. Mackenzie spent a lifetime forming his collection which is
exceptional, not only for its size, but also for the fact that materials
from it are to be found in almost every section of the India Office
Collections including Oriental Languages, European Manuscripts,
Prints and Drawings, and Maps. Including manuscripts in South
Indian languages held in the Government Oriental Manuscripts
Library in Madras…. According to Mackenzie’s own estimate, no
fewer than fifteen Oriental languages written in twenty-one different
characters…according to a statement drawn up in August 1822 by the
well known orientalist Horace Hayman Wilson who, after Mackenzie’s
death, volunteered to undertake the cataloguing of the collection, there
were 1,568 literary manuscripts, a further 2,070 Local tracts, 8,076
inscriptions, and 2,159 translations, plus seventy-nine plans, 2,630
drawings, 6,218 coins, and 146 images and other antiquities.
This entire corpus has since been known as the Mackenzie Manuscripts or the
Mackenzie Collection.
Surveyor Par Excellence
Col Colin Mackenzie made his mark in the Anglo-Mysore wars, and his
contribution and role especially in the final Anglo-Mysore war forms a
substantial basis for Col Marks Wilks’ definitive work Historical Sketches of
the South of India in an attempt to trace the History of Mysore.
Marks Wilks cites Mackenzie’s two-volume, Sketch of the war with Tippoo
Sultan, which is a detailed record of his experiences in the war in a threefold
capacity as a surveyor, strategist and a participant. However, Prof
Mahalingam notes that Mackenzie’s book “has apparently disappeared
But as both Lord Cornwallis and later, Lord Wellesley and other superiors
engaged in the Anglo-Mysore wars glowingly testify, the extraordinary
military successes of the British in South India owed significantly to
Mackenzie’s labours: most notably, for ushering in the ultimate destruction of
Tipu Sultan in 1799 and the submission of the Nizam of Hyderabad to the
British in 1798 as we shall see.
Discovering his Life’s Purpose
Soon after his arrival in Madras, Col Mackenzie was called to visit Madurai
where Samuel Johnston and his wife Hester, who was studying Hindu
logarithms as part of her contribution to John Napier’s biography. Mrs.
Johnston introduced him to the Madurai Brahmins “who were supplying her
with information on the Hindus’ knowledge of mathematics.”
The more he interacted with these Brahmins, the greater his astonishment and
admiration for their expansive learning, which “fired his interest in Indian
antiquities.” This became the basis of his lifelong mission, and “the favourite
object of his pursuit for 38 years of his life.”
In Madurai, he drew up a plan of making a collection of these antiquities,
which later became the “most extensive and the most valuable collection of
historical documents relative to India that ever was made by any individual in
Europe or in Asia.”
But this plan would have to wait for a few years before being put in motion.
In the interim, official duty beckoned.
Between 1790-92, Mackenzie was commissioned to “methodize and embody
the geography of the Deccan.” He received this commission because of the
splendid results he had shown in 1788 in surveying the entire region from
Nellore to Ongole and as far as Chintapalli across the river Krishna in today’s
Andhra Pradesh.
Recognizing his abilities as an expert geographer and surveyor, Lord
Cornwallis tasked Mackenzie with significant responsibilities in the Third
Anglo-Mysore War. Mackenzie successfully wrested the Palghat, Bangalore,
Nandidurga (Nandi Hills today) and Savanadurga forts earning military
Post the war, he began an extensive survey of regions as vast and diverse as
Kadapa, Kurnool, Nallamalla (mountain ranges), Zeramulla, Krishna, and
Pennar rivers. After three years of ardous work, in 1796, he submitted for the
first time, “a general map of the [Hyderabad] Nizam’s dominions.”
Thus, in no small measure, it was this intimate knowledge of the geography
of South India that won the British their military successes among other
Meeting the Cavelly Brothers
It was during this period of surveys that Colin Mackenzie’s plan came to life
and took shape. The major headway occurred in 1795-96 in the form of one
Cavelly Venkata Boriah, “a young Brahmin who proved to possess a ‘happy
genius’ for gathering information from Indians of all castes and tribes, and
for organizing Mackenzie’s team of Indian helpers to do likewise.”
Boriah was a “prodigy” proficient in Sanskrit poetry at the age of ten and had
mastered Telugu, Persian and Hindustani grammar. Mackenzie appointed
him as a research assistant. Boriah traversed “dreary woods and lofty
mountains” and “collected various ancient coins, and made facsimiles of
inscriptions in different obsolete characters. When he deciphered the Hala
[Old] Kannada characters inscribed on a tablet found at Dodare, which is
now…in the museum of the Asiatic Society,” Mackenzie was “highly
gratified and put his name on it.”
However, tragedy struck when Boriah suddenly died of apoplexy at the
young age of twenty-six. So moved was Mackenzie that he ordered a
monument to be erected in his memory with a suitable tribute etched on it.
Boriah was succeeded by his younger brother Cavelly Venkata Letchmayya
[or Lakshmayya] as the Head Interpreter of Mackenzie. Other prominent
members of his team included Abdul Aziz, Baskariah, Moba Row,
Ramaswami and Sivaramaiah for their prowess in Tamil, Telugu and
Survey of the Mysore Region
After the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, and with the Nizam ceding some of his
districts to the British in 1800, the British undertook a massive survey of the
entire region. Mackenzie headed the effort described as a “complete survey of
Mysore in all its aspects including its geography, history and antiquities.”
The survey was finally completed in 1807 and its report, submitted in
February 1808, was truly exemplary and one of its kind. However,
recognition let alone appreciation was not forthcoming until 1810 when the
Evangelist MP, Charles Grant, then Chairman of the East India Company
lavished praise on Mackenzie. The Company added in its note that
Mackenzie had supplied the “real history and chronology” of India as well as
the “genius of [Indian] past government” and unearthed possible evidences of
“remote eras and events…monuments, inscriptions and grants preserved
either on metals or on paper.”
But Mackenzie was unstoppable. Even as his Mysore Survey was tabled, he
had persuaded the Madras Presidency to complete the survey of the
remaining Ceded Districts [by the Nizam]. And by the time he wrote to
Johnston in 1817, he had finished surveying 70,000 square miles of territory
in all of South India.
Stint in Java
In July 1811, Mackenzie was ordered to go to the Dutch colony Java, which
was now in French hands thanks to Napoleon annexing Holland. After a hard
battle, the British wrested Java.
Mackenzie now embarked on an extensive survey of Java. While he was
camped at Surakarta, he “seized the opportunity of gratifying his antiquarian
tastes” by visiting Prambanam and wrote an extensive, scholarly essay in the
“Transactions of the Literary and Scientific Society of Java.”
He also commissioned an intensive excavation of the Buddhist shrine in
Borobodur, discovered the nearby, ancient temple of Tjandi Mendut and
Tjandi Kalasan, another ancient Hindu temple. And while still in Java, he
married a Dutch lady named Petronella Jacomina Bartels in Batavia, which
corresponds to today’s Jakarta. Mackenzie was approaching sixty at the time.
He finally returned to India in July 1813, showing the world exactly how
much one could accomplish in just two years.
First Surveyor General of India
In India, he went to Calcutta and applied for a nine-month leave during which
time he travelled first to Benares and then Lucknow, Agra and Delhi and the
Himalayan ranges that divide India and Tibet. As was his habit, he made
copious notes, collected ancient coins, manuscripts, inscriptions and
In 1815, the East India Company abolished the offices of independent
Surveyor Generals in various Presidencies and created the post of Surveyor
General of India. Colin Mackenzie became its first head, now operating from
Madras. In 1816, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society and
promoted to the rank of Colonel. However, his health steadily worsened even
as he made another trip with his wife to Calcutta in 1817. His numerous
letters to Johnston mention this fact as also his fear that he wouldn’t live to
realize his dream, “in this last stage, preparatory to my return to Europe” of
giving a “condensed view of the whole collection and a catalogue raisonne
of the native manuscripts and books, etc.”
But his return to Europe was not to be. As a promotion of sorts, he secured
pensions for all his longtime and devoted assistants in Madras. Cavelly
Venkata Letchmayya secured an additional land grant for his services and
was also earmarked a sum in Mackenzie’s personal will.
Death and Legacy
Col. Mackenzie became bedridden in November 1820 and despite several
efforts that stretched for more than a year, failed to make progress. On 4 May
1820, he was “urged to go to the coast” for treatment and recovery. However,
on 8 May 1820, he breathed his last at his residence in Chowringhee.
Colin Mackenzie’s legacy is mixed. He was undoubtedly a product of,
contributed to and furthered British imperialism in India. Specific criticism
about how Mackenzie acquired some parts of his collection is also worth
mentioning. For example, Robert W. Wink who talks about the “Jesuit policy
of Theft, Confiscation and Purchase” of Indian Books, the particular case of
Mackenzie becomes “the most impressive orientalist explorations [that] were
collaborative, unofficial and voluntary. Among these, none matched the
enormous privately funded venture by Colonel Colin Mackenzie. His teams
of Maratha Brahmin scholars begged, bought or borrowed, and copied, from
village heads, virtually every manuscript of value they could finally acquired.
Collections so acquired, reflecting the civilization of South India,
manuscripts in every language, became a lasting legacy – something still
being explored.”
While the Western-colonial theft of valuable knowledge in medicine and
other sciences is well-documented, it would be unfair to level a blanket
charge of this nature on Mackenzie’s collection as we shall see. But the actual
content of his massive and invaluable collection shows him as a genuine
student and aficionado of Indian antiquity in its various hues, facets and
And thus the question remains: do we thank him or despise him? Prof
Mahalingam’s assessment of Mackenzie’s work throws some light:
Mackenzie was a pioneer in his field. There was no precedent for his
special field of research into the antiquities of India…he stood alone.
The results of his work were a topographical survey of over 40,000
square miles, a general map of India and many provincial maps, a
valuable memoir in seven volumes containing a narrative of the
survey…of historical and antiquarian interest.
And equally, Blake does too, in his assessment that
Mackenzie and his agents certainly collected a wide range of
materials. Not the least of their contributions was to set down in
writing a large body of oral tradition which might otherwise have been
To estimate the value of the Mackenzie Manuscripts, it’s sufficient to say that
they offer us the primary sources for the study of the political, economic, and
administrative history of South India post 1600 CE with a high degree of
historical accuracy. They contain such minute details as information
maintained in village registers, land grants to temples, pilgrimage centres
located across remote towns and cities across South India. A careful study of
these primary sources might help reconstruct and reveal hitherto unknown
facts of South Indian history.
And I agree with Prof. Mahalingam that the best tribute to Colin Mackenzie
is his own words:
All great and low, have their troubles, and we little men should not
complain if we have our share. The only remedy is to move on in
tranquility, guided by truth and integrity to the best of our judgement
and avoiding all intrigue and chicanery.
After Colin Mackenzie’s death, his wife offered his collections to the Bengal
Government for a sum of ₹20,000. Eventually, the Bengal Government paid
her ₹1,00,000 after getting them evaluated by the British law firm Palmer &
The seven volumes of Mackenzie’s memoirs that Prof. Mahalingam mentions
have been lost forever.
Quantity is also a Quality
The chief value of the Mackenzie Manuscripts is the sheer lavishness of their
abundance, making true the dictum that sometimes, quantity is also quality.
When we consider that we have an overwhelming total of 1,568 literary
manuscripts, 2,070 Local tracts, 8,076 inscriptions, and 2,159 translations, 79
plans, 2,630 drawings, 6,218 coins, and 146 images of primary historical
sources, we can only begin to fathom the extent of and the scope for study
that this treasure affords us.
After Colin Mackenzie’s death in 1821 and the subsequent acquisition of the
manuscripts from his wife Petronella, Horace Hayman Wilson, Secretary to
the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal was the first to volunteer to catalog them
in 1838. His work in two volumes was so meticulous and thorough that
almost immediately upon its publication, copies ran out and the consequent
enormous demand created a situation where used copies fetched handsome
prices at book auctions. Eventually, a one-volume copy was published at
affordable prices.
Wilson’s efforts were later supplemented by F.W. Thomas, Bladgen, H.N.
Randle and others. Given the sheer magnitude of the Manuscripts and the
daunting effort required to lend them order, structure, and coherence,
Wilson’s work quite obviously contained imperfections. After years of
patient study, Rev. William Taylor tried to correct them in his Catalogue
Raisonne of Oriental Manuscripts in three volumes, in the Government
Library, Madras in 1862. Working alongside him was Brown, who tackled
the Telugu Manuscripts and restored a significant number of Local Records
totaling up to sixty-four volumes. Five other volumes were also restored but
the originals, regrettably, were lost. A part of the collection is now in the
India Office Library, London.
Other notable Indian scholars and historians who’ve studied these
Manuscripts include the South Indian history scholars, K.A. Nilakanta Sastri,
S.K. Aiyangar, T.V. Mahalingam, and others. The Madras University
Mackenzie Manuscripts summaries, under T.V. Mahalingam’s editorship,
mainly relate to South India’s history. They number 224 in total including
Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam, with Telugu being the highest
(40%), Kannada (25%) and the remaining in Tamil and Malayalam.
Assessing their Value
To begin an assessment of the value of the Mackenzie Collections, we can
cite the almost unanimous opinion of all these scholars and catalogers who
aver that the “most important part of the collection relating to inscriptions” is
the three-volume “South Indian Temple Inscriptions” published by the
Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras. These contain the “texts
of the eyecopies of inscriptions” made by Mackenzie’s team that visited
various parts of Tamil Nadu, Malabar, Cochin, Andhra Pradesh and Mysore
First, among the literary collections, we have the Kaifiyats (Local Tracts),
local histories, biographies, Puranic legends, accounts of men, and places.
More importantly, and perhaps a little known fact today is that these
manuscripts offer us rich primary sources in the form of Jain literature
comprising plays, stories, poems, and technical subjects like philosophy, the
monastic order, astronomy and astrology.
For the purposes of this essay, we can categorize the information contained in
the Mackenzie Manuscripts as describing the following aspects of South
Indian history:
Political conditions
Administrative systems
Social structures
Religious life and conditions
A common, twofold difficulty that all researchers and scholars of these
manuscripts describe relates to the lengthy period they encompass and evince
some skepticism regarding their historical value. However, they equally agree
that despite this shortcoming, these manuscripts have their “own place in…
historical research in India…and maybe used as circumstantial evidence…
to…supplement the results arrived at from other sources and furnish further
details on the subject.”
As Mahalingam and T.N. Subramanian (one of the critical editors of these
texts) say, “a comparative analysis of the inscriptional eyecopies and
independent researches unearthed by the Epigraphy Department bears
testimony to this fact, and that but for Colin Mackenzie, these inscriptions,
land records, and Local Tracts would’ve been lost forever, making the
reconstruction of history almost impossible.”
Political History of South India
The Manuscripts cover both a long and wide period relating to the history of
South India from very early times. They deal with the histories of the Chera,
Chola and Pandya dynasties from the primigenial period in a stray fashion, to
put it loosely. After the end of the Pandya dynasty, they give perhaps the
most definitive, first-hand accounts of the entire period starting with the
Vijayanagara period, of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, all the way
up to slightly before Colin Mackenzie’s own time.
Perhaps one reason for the aforementioned skepticism on the part of the
Manuscripts scholars is due to the abundance of local legends tracing the
origins of these royal dynasties to the Mahabharata heroes like Janamejaya
and as such, were not considered as dependable and authentic historical
accounts to be relied upon for accurate chronology.
However, as we noted earlier in this essay, “from the 16th century onwards,
the manuscripts are of greater value” to decipher and reconstruct the history
of south India. The reason is the Vijayanagara Empire, which in the words of
Prof. Mahalingam,
The glory that was Vijayanagar, the disastrous battle of Talikota…
which ended that memorable epoch in Hindu India…and the confusion
that followed in the wake of its eclipse were still fresh in popular mind.
It is but natural that the manuscripts should dwell at length on this
purple patch of Indian history…as the languages patronized most by
the Vijayanagar dynasty were Telugu and Kannada, the majority of the
manuscripts are in these two languages…as the manuscripts…indicate,
there were successive migrations of people from the north to the south,
a recurring phenomenon in Indian history, following the conquest of
the Tamil areas…a very large number of manuscripts relate to such
migrations and the incidental origin of various principalities called
Palaiyams with their heads, the Palaiyakkarar (Poligar).
Indeed, the Professor’s note on migrations is more significant than we realize.
From the earliest waves of alien Muslim invasions and for much of the
inveterate Muslim rule, the history of India is the history of chequered
migrations of Hindus from and to various parts of its geography. As such, this
topic by itself merits a detailed, scholarly and rigorous study, which will also
offer valuable insights into the reinterpretation and reconstruction of Indian
Administrative History
On the point of historical reinterpretation and reconstruction, a pervasive
narrative both in the scholarly and popular realms holds that but for the
British, India wouldn’t have had a robust administrative machinery. Some
even go to the extent of claiming that viceroys like Curzon introduced these
systems for the first time ever in India’s long history.
However, the Mackenzie Manuscripts—among other historical records—
show exactly the opposite. As a representative sample, we can briefly
examine the awe-inspiring Palaiyam system of administration. Indeed, these
Manuscripts can be regarded as the most definitive primary sources for
tracing the origin of the Palaiyam system, something that endures in many
ways, even today.
The Palaiyam system arose on account of several factors: as a reward for
services rendered to the Southern Pandya rulers; in some cases when the
Reddi zamindars of Nellore rendered similar services to the Raja of Madurai,
and for offering military assistance to the Vijayanagara kings against their
Muslim enemies.
A Palaiyam or Paliyapattu can be thought of variously as a tiny principality
comprising numerous villages and towns headed usually by a commander or
a military leader assigned the title of a Poligar or Palaiyakkarar or in
Kannada, Palegara. One of the most powerful Palegara dynasties in
Karnataka was the Palegaras of Chitradurga. Eventually, all of the Palaiyams
came under British control who ruthlessly disposed of the Poligars after their
utility had ceased.
As Prof. Mahalingam observes, these Manuscripts are “useful for a study of
administrative institutions in the region” for the 16th to 19th century period,
and needs to be quoted at length:
The Tamil Kaifiyat[s]…throws welcome light on the institution of the
Palaiyam system in the Tamil country. It makes a clear distinction
between ownership villages and Kavali villages…[and] gives the
difference between Jagir and Poligarship. Others…give an account of
the origin of a number of Palaiyams in…the 16th and 17th centuries
and enable us to form an idea of the general character of the Palaiyam
system [which was] …feudal and military in character [in which]…the
Poligar [had to maintain a standing army and pay annual tribute to the
King]…the Kaval system…was a…police organization where a few
persons in a locality were…responsible for the maintenance of peace…
and protection of the people…for which they were assigned Kaval
lands…the [other] institution of Kumaravargam…[accorded the status
of Princes to a few ministers]…This reminds us of a [similar practice]
…in earlier periods…under the rulers of the Chalukya, Hoysala and
Vijayanagar dynasties.
A similar administrative system existed in the Telugu country in the form of
Dandakaviles or just Kaviles, which were village registers recording
information about the “political, religious, social and economic conditions of
the village. They were in…the custody of the village Karnam [broadly,
accountant] who would record…them…and pass them on to his successor.”
Mackenzie Manuscript No. 160, Section 10 mentions the encyclopedic work
Athavana Vyavaharatantra, which Prof. Mahalingam claims is
“indispensable for a study of the administrative institutions of South India
from about the 17th century.”
The foregoing discussion on the Palaiyam, Kaval and other administrative
systems shows the sturdy, flexible, enduring, and resilient systems that
India’s age-old political and administrative acumen dating back to Kautilya,
had birthed and whose memory was preserved for centuries in both theory
and application. At once, it’s also a splendid tale of the unity and integrity of
both administrative systems and their linguistics no matter the region of
Administrative and Linguistic Unity and
It’s also no coincidence that today’s Reddys are largely renowned as
landowners and business people given their centuries’ long role as rulers,
warriors, chieftains, and administrators.
Equally, this unity and integrity shows most clearly when we consider an
instance of etymology. The Tamil term “Palaiyam” becomes “Palayam” in
Telugu and “Palaya” (or Palya) in Kannada. This etymology can be traced
back to the Sanskrit roots of the word, “Paala” (a masculine vocative singular
stem) used in the sense of a “guard, keeper, protector” and so on.
Indeed, when we notice the names of localities of places in south India today,
it reveals an astonishing tale of cultural, linguistic and historical unity and
continuity. For example, in Bangalore there are localities named “Bovipalya,”
“Sultanpalya,” “Srigandha Kavalu,” and so on. The same etymological fact
applies to regions elsewhere in South India.
Prof. Mahalingam also refers to this unity when he notes that “[A]n
interesting feature of the manuscripts is that they are in the different
languages of South India, but do not in all cases conform to the language of
the region whose history they record.”
The Mackenzie Manuscripts clearly show how the aforementioned
migrations “contributed to the admixture” of north and south Indians and
“explains the presence” even today of a “large number of Telugu and
Maratha speaking population in rural Tamil Nadu. And more importantly,
how there was “no friction between the indigenous Tamil…people and the
camp followers of the new rulers speaking Telugu or some other language.”
This absence of linguistic animosity (compare today, the unfortunate,
linguistic rancor that has plagued much of post Independence politics,
dragging down development, inflaming linguistic and other divisive passions
with Tamil Nadu as the greatest and most tragic example) merits a separate,
in-depth study if only to understand the calamity of independent India’s
decision to create language-based states.
Primary Sources of Social Life
Intertwined with the wealth of firsthand descriptions of administrative
systems are the vivid details of the social life of the period especially between
the 16th and 18th Centuries.
Indeed, for an understanding of the social life of the period, these
Manuscripts are the invaluable and authentic primary sources—more
pointedly, they offer scenic details of the routine life of numerous village
communities in all of south India. These details underscore, yet again, the
underlying cultural unity of India, varying only in local customs and
Prof. Mahalingam observes how, although the so-called caste system was
rigid, “there [is] no evidence of caste or communal hatred and jealousy.” He
also notes that the “outstanding feature that emerges from…these
manuscripts is that while the caste system (sic) continued to be rigid, the
repeated movements of people from the north which followed in the wake of
[Muslim] conquests and the reverse process-exodus of the followers of the
vanquished rulers created forces where were disrupting the caste system.”
As an example, we can turn to Mackenzie Manuscript Number 53, which
describes the Tamil work Jatinul Kaviyurai (literally, “Commentary on a
metrical work named Jatinul,” authored by a certain Ulakanathan). This work
can be taken up for independent study on its own.
Jatinul Kaviyurai offers an extraordinarily detailed listing of the so-called
castes and occupations of each “caste” in Tamil Nadu. “He claims that the
subject matter is based on the works of Veda Vyasa, Vaikhanasa Aagama,
Suta Samhita andSuprabhedagama.” He also mentions the millennia-old
scheme of division of society, social customs and traditions—for example,
the Anuloma, Pratiloma and Vratyaoffspring—the different Saivas, and gives
an account of seventy-nine castes.
The Maravar Jati Kaifiyat in Manuscript Number 55 enumerates the seven
subdivisions of the Marava tribe, their gotras, and social customs like Sati
and widow remarriage. Their marriage rituals are also described in great
detail. Some of these rituals and specifics of celebrations continue to this day
among their descendants. The Maravars take on the honorific, “Thevar,” and
are descended from a long lineage of warriors (Maravar variously means
“warrior” or “bravery”).
Similarly, the Malayalam Manuscripts give an exhaustive account of the
complex and picturesque social order in Kerala including the customs and
manners of the “wild tribe” of the Kunnuvar, as also that of mountain tribes,
hunters, robbers, fishermen, weavers, and merchants.
Of interest is Manuscript Number 77 (Section 5) which gives a firsthand
account of the “origin of the early settlements of Muslims and later of the
moplahs on the Malabar coast.” [xv]
In passing, we see, even here, a linguistic and/or terminological unity when
for example, the merchant tribe of “Komati” is described. There is also a
“caste” known as “Komati” among the Telugu and Kannada speaking people.
Places of Pilgrimage, Temples, and Saints
For hundreds of years, temples were the vibrant centers of cultural and
religious life all over India, and continue to be so even today in smaller towns
and villages, and retain some superficial vestiges in cities.
Needless, the temple culture was inextricably braided with polity, economy
and society. And as Prof Mahalingam notes, “the Mackenzie Manuscripts
narrate the history of several important temples in South India…which still
prove useful.”
In fact, the Mackenzie Manuscripts reveal the continuation of the time-
honoured tradition of kings and rulers patronzing temples even those of sects
different from theirs. The usefulness of these Manuscripts will be clear when
we study the enormous firsthand information they provide about important
centres of pilgrimage like Ahobilam, Srisailam, Kanchipuram,
Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Palani, and Kanyakumari among others.
For instance, these Manuscripts vividly narrate the history of the Dikshitars
of the Chidambaram temple, which continues to be valid and relevant for our
own times when we recall the 2014 Supreme Court’s judgment on this
important temple. Indeed, the very first Mackenzie Manuscript titled
“Account of the temple of Cidambaram in the Cola Country” begins thus:
The Hemasabhanatha Mahatmya in twelve chapters deals with Siva’s
appearing as a mendicant in Darukavana, testing the mind of the
sages, the arrival of Patanjali from Kailasa to Cidambaram…The God
curbed the pride of…the sages…and danced a mystic dance in
We can also glean the pervasive, pious and lasting influence of the
Chidambaram temple that animated scores of saints, poets and commentators
throughout the ages. Notably, in the previous century, Ananda K
Coomaraswamy’s classic essay “The Dance of Shiva” is a brilliant exposition
of Chidambaram’s Lord Nataraja performing his cosmic Tillai, or dance.
The descriptive details of temples are also accompanied by the portrayal of
the political and social life of the period. For example, the en masse
depopulation of Hindus in and around Srisailam after Kurnool was occupied
by Muslim nawabs.
Source of Jain History
The Mackenzie Collections are important primary sources for the study of
Jainism in South India including Jain centres of pilgrimage and learning in
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
They contain valuable material about prominent Jain centres in Tamil Nadu
including Koliyanur, Tirunarungondai, Tondur, Perumandur, Tirumalai (in
Polur Taluk today), and Konakondla, Silpagiri, and Danavulapadu, and
Chittamuru in Andhra Pradesh.
Interestingly, Manuscript Number 12 gives a fascinating account of
Padmanathapuram or ancient Mylapore—later, a part of Madras—where a
Digambara Jain ascetic prophesies that the “city would be engulfed by the sea
in three days.”
Manuscript 68 gives an exhaustive list of Jain literary works in Sanskrit,
Prakrit and Tamil on such varied subjects as philosophy, poetry, prosody,
grammar, ethics, mythology and “also on rules…for the monastic orders and
lay followers.”
Closing Notes
A couple of decades ago, the venerable Nani Palkhivala wrote thus:
It has been my long-standing conviction that India is like a donkey
carrying a sack of gold — the donkey does not know what it is carrying
but is content to go along with the load on its back. The load of gold is
a fantastic treasure — in arts, literature, culture and some sciences like
ayurvedic medicine — which we have inherited from the days of the
splendour that was India. Adi Sankaracharya called it the accumulated
treasure of spiritual truths discovered by the rishis.
As noted in a few essays earlier in this volume, barring a few notable
exceptions, not much has changed since Nani Palkhivala wrote this. Indeed,
they are notable simply because they’re not the norm. It’s also a profound
sign of the times that, forget lay people, our cultural bodies, universities,
think tanks, and well-endowed academies of higher learning have continued
to take a serious disinterest in reviving such vital treasures as the Mackenzie
This is the sorry situation even when titans like Dharampal used these
Manuscripts for their own researches; and just about sixty or seventy years
ago, these Manuscripts were quoted extensively in say, the Asiatic Journal,
the Madras Journal of Literature and Science, Journal of the Royal Asiatic
Society, and so on.
At the very least, we’d be doing a monumental national service if we study
these Manuscripts and make them accessible to children in the form of
comics, and in popular narratives like say historical fiction, a series in
mainstream publications, television, digital outlets, and so on.
They lie in wait in England at the British Museum and the Oriental and India
Office Collections of the British Library.
1. Mackenzie Manuscripts, Volume 1: University of Madras, 2011: Edited
by Prof T V Mahalingam
EXTRAORDINARY, British Library
3. Evidence to Commons Select Committee, 1832: Alexander Johnston
4. Robert W. Wink (Ed.), Historiography, Vol. V of ‘Oxford History of the
British Empire’, 1999, USA
5. Preface to The Mackenzie Collection. A Descriptive Catalogue of the
Oriental Manuscripts: The Late H.H. Wilson, Esq, Calcutta 1882
6. Mackenzie Manuscript No. 160, Section 10
7. Mackenzie Manuscript No. 53
8. Mackenzie Manuscript No. 1: Section 1
India Under Secularism
One of the best ways to gauge the importance and vitality of the awe-
inspiring heritage of an India before secularism is to observe what continues
to be attacked the most in an India under secularism. In no particular order,
the Vedas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata continue to face the severest brunt.
The temple tradition (and everything associated with it) is dismissed as a
conspiracy of the upper “castes.” Sanskrit literature is derided as outdated,
elitist, oppressive and useless. In the case of classical dance, it was
appropriated and continues to be used as a tool for Christian conversion[66]
and as a vehicle for propagating political agendas. In the last decade or so,
Carnatic Classical Music has been chosen as the latest target by one of its
own: T.M. Krishna[67].
And all of these remain specific targets for such sustained, multi-pronged,
and fierce attacks precisely because they are what are keeping the Indian
ethos alive among the masses.
The purpose behind these essays isn’t a superficial or blind glorification of a
grand past of India untainted by secularism. While there is much to celebrate
and genuinely take pride in this past, there is also much to learn as to how
and why all this glory came crashing down and how despite earnest efforts
spread over several decades, we seem to be mired in a deep well, oil smeared
on its walls. From this perspective, this book is not a call for the
contemporary recreation of a glorious past. Just as the blind and blanket
repudiation of the past is dangerous so is blind revivalism. Or in the words of
P.V. Kane:
In these days of growing popular education, when the myth becomes
exposed, the men who once believed it not only give up that myth but
also might give up everything contained in ancient works as
unbelievable...Values, aims and institutions that were once accepted
by…all people are now challenged and new patterns are…being
moulded. The chief catalytic agent are modern science and Western
thought and literature. The old structures of believes is tottering and
laxity in morals has made great headway. But whatever happens, we
must so regulate society that the family as a social unit is preserved
and safeguarded…[68]
Therefore, these essays stem from an informed and honest study and
appreciation of why India as a civilization and culture was able to attain these
heights in the realms that these essays delineate. And why it has been unable
to reach even a minuscule of that height despite being a free nation for
seventy years. A rather simplistic answer would be this: because the politics
and society of a civilization like India should not be guided by political
ideology but by its native spiritual core that has sustained this country for so
long and indeed delivered freedom from alien rule.

Again, Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri shows[69] the way:

Only the spiritually evolved and people who are truly free (in the sense
of being undisturbed both by external and personal biases and
influence) can gauge the exact value of the various facets of Indian
culture including the unique fruits of its geography, the message of the
Vedas, its economic system, social structure, political traditions,
languages, literature, science, art, and the flowering and the extent of
the spread of its culture.
12 Krishnadevaraya as a Metaphor
for Downplaying Hindu History
An unfortunate outcome of the contemporary fashion of thinking–shaped by
the view that all values are equal–is the fact that over the years, it has
contributed to the reduction in the capacity of a society to produce heroes.
Today’s heroes derive from the entertainment, fashion, business and sports
streams. Equally, the (primarily Marxist) widespread notion that all people–
no matter what their genuine achievements are–are “subjects” to be
“analysed,” has also contributed greatly to this reduction. Thus, when you
have no one towering person or hero to look up to, your value system will
emanate from corporate and fashion-of-the-moment slogans and maxims that
pass off as “values” and so on.
In our own time, the never ending dissemination of all manner of
information–views, perspectives, ideologies, etc–has resulted in an explosion
of confusion. When you have an avalanche of information overload, you no
longer can get at the truth on any issue–there’s always another smart guy at
the next bend armed with his or her own bundle of “views.”
Ananda Coomaraswamy’s Prophecy and
Macaulay’s Vision Fulfilled
In India, it’s worse. The average urban, English-educated Indian Hindu since
Independence is a stranger in his own land and has today brought to fruition
Ananda Coomaraswamy’s prophetic warning[70] that this Hindu is “a
nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots, a sort of intellectual
pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future.”
This urban Hindu also continues to take pride in repaying his or her debt to
Macaulay who wrote to his father in a letter dated 12 October 1836 gloating
that “Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully… The effect of this
education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an
English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion… It is my
firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a
single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence…”
A measure of the success of his putrid vision can be seen today even in those
who mistakenly assume they “know” Hinduism and write rather uninformed
tomes on Hinduism deriding “ritual” and “idol-worship.”
Macaulay was also accurate when he identified Bengal as the prime target for
said English education: apart from this state being one of the foundational
British military conquests in India, it also had rich and vibrant traditions and
practices of Hinduism in the intellectual, scholarly and philosophical realms,
which the British could never really break despite establishing their military
and political control. But this was eventually broken by the Bengali Hindus
themselves when sections of their elite began embracing British education,
social mores and outlook. Even a Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and
others in their mould couldn’t prevent the eventual decline and decay of this
hoary, holy karma bhumi into a wasteland thanks to its deadly embrace of
Communism. And sure enough, the only thing that grows there today is
unchecked Jihadism.
Indeed, for all the Leftist claims of breaking away from British colonialism in
Independent India, they were actually responsible for fine-tuning it in a
manner and on a scale that even the British couldn’t envision. They sought to
supplant British imperialism in India with the Soviet (and to an extent
Chinese) variety, most notably in the educational realm and met with
remarkable success in the endeavour.
In fact, marked characteristic of the Leftist ransack of Indian history is the
systematic manner in which they have succeeded in brainwashing at least
three generations of Indians to be ashamed of taking pride in timeless,
unbroken cultural and local traditions and accomplishments to the extent that
both lay readers and students are repelled at and therefore disown them. This
perversion also extends to our heroes, saints, poets, philosophers and the rest.
India’s Valuable Heritage has Hindu Roots
Unsurprisingly this long heritage which we have every reason to be proud of
happens to be Hindu. Perhaps in no other country has self-hatred succeeded
and touched its pinnacle as it has in India.
Consider a sample of the kinds of things Indians take pride in: almost every
tiny hamlet, village, boulder, hill, cave, tree, lake, and river in the remotest
corner of India has what you call a sthala purana or local legend or tale. To
the inhabitants of that place, it is a living truth in the present continuous: it
provides them the heroes they need, and gives them the values and ideals that
guide their lives. To that extent, these legends, heroes, and artifacts are
worship-worthy. You might with the might of your scholarship, prove that it
is a mere legend and a fiction but you cannot negate the real experience that’s
wedded to and guides the lives of the inhabitants of the place.
However, as we have seen, if your scholarship has ideological and/or political
backing coupled with lung power, you’ll succeed not just in showing how
amazing your scholarship is but, tragically, in destroying a generations-old
value system that made people better people. It’s a different matter that this
sort of scholarship has only the power to destroy these lived values but
doesn’t provide an equivalent alternative forget offering a better replacement.
Reducing Krishnadevaraya to a Footnote of
There is no better illustration of this phenomenon than the classic case of
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, it has become a haven for
drug addicts, paedophiles, rampant prostitution, and wholesale land
encroachment. Dargahs and mosques continue to obtrude on the landscape
around the site of Hampi and successive Governments have obstinately
chosen to ignore the travesty while the locals suffer from the same cultural
amnesia described in the first essay of this volume.
Equally, the government-sponsored history of the Vijayanagara Empire that
made Hampi one of the greatest and grandest cities of the world in its time is
yet another proof of the Leftist incursions into Indian history.

In my time in school, all that I

learnt about the Vijayanagara Empire and its most famous ruler,
Krishnadevaraya was just this: it was a great empire, and Krishandevaraya
was a powerful king who achieved magnificent victories, occupied other
kingdoms, planted trees, strengthened the economy, and patronized the arts.
But the details were missing as to how he achieved all of this. Put another
way, this is a beautiful academic tactic to reduce this great king to a mere
Today, it’s even worse. The Hampi University’s multi-volume history of
Karnataka under the chief editorship of Prof. Sheik Ali dedicates a paltry few
pages to Krishnadevaraya and completely downplays the role of Sage
Vidyaranya, the spiritual inspiration for and founder of the Vijayanagara
Empire. However, an entire volume is dedicated to glorifying Tipu Sultan,
the tyrant of Mysore. That this academic pantomime occurred under the Vice
Chancellorship of the valiant Kannada champion, Prof. Chandrashekhara
Kambara is pertinent to mention.
The underlying foundation of this coloured history of the Vijayanagar Empire
can be couched in a line: The Vijayanagara Empire was just another powerful
empire founded as a “rebellion” against the Delhi Sultanate.
To understand how else this plays out, we can briefly examine what the late
Prof. M M Kalburgi said in 2010.
Krishna Deva Raya did “nothing” to promote Kannada language. “I
would not hesitate to call him anti-Kannadiga. He suppressed our
language by patronising Telugu poets in his court.” …Plus, he
encouraged Tamils too. Today if you find large pockets of Tamilians
living in Bangalore, it is because of Krishna Deva Raya.[71]
Prof. Kalburgi has taken a folio directly out of the book of aggressive
Dravidianism premised on the primacy, separateness, antiquity and
supremacy of the Tamil language. But historical facts speak otherwise. It
appears that Prof. Kalburgi forgets that there was no individual or separate
state named Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu in
Krishnadevarya’s period. If anything, the vast collections of both inscriptions
and literary works[72] by contemporary poets describe Krishnadevaraya
variously as Kannada Rajya Ramaa Ramana (Lord Vishnu Kannada
Kingdom), Muru Rayara Ganda (The King of Three Kings) and
Kannadaraya (The King of Kannada). Almost every other inscription of the
time refers to the Vijayanagara Empire as Karnata Samrajya (Karnataka
Krishnadevaraya also patronized several well-known Kannada poets
including Chatuvittalanatha, and Gubbi Mallanna who in turn praised his
patron’s generosity and his spirit of inclusiveness. Krishnadevaraya is one of
the very rare kings who became the ideal hero and role model for two states
(as the meaning of the word “state” is understood today) simultaneously–
people of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh till date remember him with
inspiration, fondness, respect, and gratitude. Indeed, if we go by Prof
Kalburgi’s reasoning, the Kannada blockbuster historical movie, Sri
Krishnadevaraya wouldn’t have been made.
Krishnadevaraya also held in great esteem Swami Vyasaraya (or
Vyasatirtha), one of the greatest exponents of Madhvacharya’s Dvaita
philosophy, and made him the Raja Guru (official guru of the king). It was
Vyasaraya who propagated the Haridasa movement in a far-reaching manner
in large parts of South India. Vyasaraya was also the guru of the celebrated
Purandaradasa (regarded as the father of Carnatic classical music), and
Kanakadasa (another celebrated Haridasa poet, singer, and saint). It’s a sign
of times that contemporary casteist politicians spearheaded by current
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have tried to appropriate
Kanakadasa’s legacy because he hailed from the Kuruba varna.
These saints are still widely revered in Karnataka, their songs are still sung in
classical concerts and recited as poems in daily life. And all of them
flourished under Krishnadevaraya’s rule. Thus the credit for their Haridasa
tradition which has remained unbroken is also due in equal measure to
Besides, in Krishnadevaraya’s time, Telugu literature had reached its peak as
compared to its Kannada counterpart. Should one fault Krishnadevaraya
because Kannada didn’t produce dazzling litterateurs as the Telugu language
did at the time? Every language throughout its history does have cycles of
prosperity and drought. It’s just the way it is. If the learned Prof Kalburgi
blames this known phenomenon of linguistic history on Krishnadevaraya, the
least we can do is to point him in the direction of common sense.
Equally, being a genuine connoisseur of fine arts and accommodative of all
religious, sects and philosophies and languages, Krishnadevarya not only had
a number of Tamil poets in his court but patronized scholars from faraway
Suffice to say that Krishnadevaraya indeed remains the greatest ruler of the
Vijayanagara empire. His military success was unmatched both by his
predecessors or successors. Under him, the Vijayanagara Empire held sway
over the largest swathe of geography than under any of his predecessors or
successors. He maintained law and order, delivered justice and security to his
subjects, took economic prosperity and cultural grandeur[73] to the highest
The West hankered to do trade with him and wrote glowing accounts of the
economic prosperity of Vijayanagara under his rule. He was well-versed in
music, played musical instruments, and composed wrote fine poetry and
other forms of literature. His epic poem Amuktamalyada remains one of the
masterpieces of Telugu literature.
Indeed, a comprehensive work exploring Krishnadevaraya’s life, times and
achievements is waiting to be written in English.
When we contrast this with the uncountable tomes glorifying tyrants and
barbarians like Ala-ud-din Khalji, Muhammad bin Tughluq, Babar and
Aurangzeb, we return to where we began.
The standard modus operandi of the Marxist “historians” seems to be to extol
Muslim despots and paint Hindu rulers as rebels. Fortunately, numerous
Hindu dynasties have left behind records of their reign and accomplishments.
In such cases, because ignoring them is impossible, the Marxist tactic has
been to completely downplay them. Thus, the Guptas, Palas, Senas,
Chalukyas, and the Vijayanagara Empires are reduced to mere footnotes.
It is a fact that the academic establishment is well beyond repair and efforts at
reform are hampered by bureaucratic and other obstacles. In the last seventy
years, there have been really few instances where serious and valuable work
has been done, and whatever little has been done hasn’t reached the so-called
But in a counter development of sorts over the last forty years, some truly
exemplary and original work on the history and culture of India has emanated
from outside the formal academic establishment. A good majority of these
works have been written not by professional historians and scholars but by
people who genuinely care about depicting the truth of our past and shorn of
ideological or political blinkers.
13 Distorted History Celebrates False
That history writing in India has been the subject of fierce controversy is now
an article of faith, especially following Arun Shourie’s seminal expose of the
Indian history establishment in his Eminent Historians, a classic in its own
right. Arun Shourie among other things, exposed in detail how in both
official and dominant history textbooks and narratives at all levels—from
school to university to general/popular history—do several mischievous
things simultaneously as we shall see.
Eminent Historians
This narrative typically begins by endorsing the discredited Aryan Invasion
(or Migration) Theory as a historical fact and exhibits its distinctive character
when it deals with the protracted Muslim rule of India during the medieval
period. In turn, this character demonstrates several key features.
In no specific order, it includes a demonization of Brahmins as the root cause
of everything wrong with India—from the ancient past to the present. And
then there is the whitewashing of the long and voluminous record of Muslim
atrocities against Hindus—genocides, forced conversions, industrial scale
temple destructions and the economic emasculation of Hindus by imposing
the Jiyza tax and the Dhimmi status upon them. This narrative simultaneously
also downplays the cultural, civilizational, and economic excellence attained
by India under great Hindu dynasties like the Mauryas, Sungas, Guptas,
Satavahanas, Cholas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar Empire to
name just a few.

Needless to say, none of these historical

deceptions is possible without wilful, calculated, and wholesale distortion of
historical truths, a fact that has been debunked and rebutted extensively and
spread across numerous scholarly volumes by stalwarts like Sita Ram Goel,
Ram Swarup, Harsh Narain, Arun Shourie, Koenraad Elst, Meenakshi Jain
and others (see notes at the end of this essay).
The other facet of whitewashing the historical record of Muslim atrocities in
India is donning cruel despots and tyrants as benevolent and progressive
rulers. The classic example is Aurangzeb, the bigoted tyrant par excellence.
Even if one doesn’t have the time or wherewithal to read through Jadunath
Sarkar’s five-volume, definitive History of Aurangzib, the shorter India of
Aurangzib or even the primary source, the authorized biography of
Aurangzeb, the Masir-i-Alamgiri has ample evidences to show for his
fanaticism and hatred against Hindus rooted in his fanatical zeal in Islam.
Yet, our school and university and other books of popular history paint him
in nearly the opposite light.
Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore
In a perverse application of the proverb of what’s sauce for goose is sauce for
gander, a similar application of historical distortion has been carried out with
regard to Tipu Sultan, who in many ways is the Aurangzeb of the South. As
the author of a book on Tipu Sultan (Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore, Rare
Publications, Chennai), I am both amused and amazed at the continuing
efforts to paint him as a hero, patriot, and freedom fighter.
To be sure, the Tipu myth gained currency after Bhagvan S. Gidwani’s
distorted novel titled The Sword of Tipu Sultan, where Tipu is hailed as the
“tiger of Mysore,” and bestowed with similar epithets.
It is instructive to examine the assessment of Gidwani’s novel by the
historian and scholar I.M. Muthanna in his comprehensive Tipu Sultan X-
Rayed published in 1980:
Gidwani’s Tipu has a political value today, especially after the
Congress Government in 1974, perhaps to oblige the Muslim voters,
released a commemoration stamp on Tipu, an described him as a
‘freedom fighter.’…Releasing a 50-Paisa postage stamp
commemorating Tipu in July 1974, a minister of Karnataka said that
Tipu was ‘a hero’ of Karnataka, ‘the defender of freedom,’ and so on.
The chariman of the stamp releasing committee…wanted the writers to
‘present a true and faithful account’ of Tipu. Well…Gidwani has
obliged him, rather sneakily, and in the form of a novel.
Muthanna was both perceptive and prophetic given how the Tipu myth was
since used in the service of vote bank politics. But a review of Gidwani’s
novel predating Muthanna’s book by four years was published on 19
December 1976 in the daily Hindustan Times by M.C. Gabriel:
The author’s effort throughout is to rebuild the past closer to his
heart’s desire. But anyone will grant that such consideration is extra-
historical….it is a pity that…he could not put his material to better
purpose than giving us just his private views…To say that Tipu was
‘the first nationalist,’ ‘a believer in communal harmony’ and an
‘apostle of non-violence’….is quite uncalled for. [Emphasis added]
This detailed look at the Sword of Tipu Sultan was essential because much of
the material for the Tipu mythmaking is derived from this novel. In our own
times, Girish Karnad’s Kannada play, Tipuvina Kanasugalu (The dreams of
Tipu Sultan) borrows approvingly from Gidwani’s book.
But what is astonishing is the manner in which this myth has persisted despite
the availability of copious amounts of primary sources regarding Tipu Sultan
which prove the exact opposite of what Tipu mythmakers claim. These
include and are not limited to the letters he wrote to various officials in his
administration and military, letters he wrote to himself (in his journal/diary),
eyewitness accounts by his contemporaries (Indian, French and British), land
and other administrative records. Indeed, we can construct an accurate picture
of the life, times, character and legacy of Tipu Sultan using these primary
sources even if we don’t want to rely on any history textbook about him—
both that glorify him or otherwise. And that accurate picture is not pretty.
The most charitable assessment of Tipu Sultan after a survey of these sources
is to call him the tyrant of Mysore. His seventeen-year long regime was
primarily a tenure of military and economic terror as far as Hindus were
concerned. He razed entire cities literally to the ground and depopulated
Raids in Kodagu and Malabar
As representative samples, we can examine his raids in Kodagu (Coorg) and
the Malabar for the extent and scale of sheer barbarism and large scale
In 1788, Tipu marched into Kodagu and burnt down entire towns and
villages. Mir Hussein Kirmani, Tipu’s courtier-cum-biographer describes
how the raid resulted in the torching of villages in Kushalapura (today’s
Kushalnagar), Talakaveri, Madikeri, and other places. Additionally, Tipu in a
letter to the Nawab of Kurnool, Runmust Khan, describes how he took 40000
Kodavas (inhabitants of Kodagu) as prisoners and forcibly converted them to
Islam and “incorporated them with our Ahmadi corps.” Already a thinly-
populated country, Tipu’s brutal raid followed by large-scale prisoner-taking
depopulated Kodagu of its original inhabitants to a severe extent. To Islamize
Kodagu, he transported about 7000 Muslim families belonging to the Shaikh
and Sayyid sects to Kodagu from elsewhere.
The intensity of Tipu’s raid was so terrifying that hundreds of temple priests
fled to Mangalore along with their families. Worship came to a permanent
halt in several temples. Some temples were covered with leaves in order to
conceal their presence. The Maletirike Bhagavati temple at Virajpet is a good
example of this. Equally, the renowned Omkareshwara temple in Madikeri
was about to meet the same fate—the then ruler at Madikeri panicked at the
approach of Tipu, removed its tower and replaced it with a dome so that it
resembled a mosque from afar. The temple continues to retain this
appearance till date. In his raid of Napoklu near Madikeri, Tipu destroyed the
temples in the surrounding villages of Betu and Kolakeri.
Remnants of Tipu Sultan’s savage raid of Kodagu survive even today: the
forcibly converted Kodavas are today known as Kodava Mapilas (Kodagu
Muslims) whose family names are still Hindu—representative examples are
surnames like Kuvalera, Italtanda, Mitaltanda, Kuppodanda, Kappanjeera,
Kalera, Chekkera, Charmakaranda, Maniyanda, Balasojikaranda, and

To the Kodavas, Tipu’s fanatical

dance of death in their homeland remains a wound that will never heal.
When we turn to the Malabar, the record is equal, if not gorier. Indeed,
Tipu’s incursions into the Malabar can form the subject of an independent
book. Like in Kodagu, remnants of Tipu’s disastrous campaigns in the
Malabar can be seen even today in the region. The city that bore the brunt of
his excesses in the Malabar is Kozhikode (Calicut). William Logan’s
Malabar Manual, the Malabar Gazetter, the Portuguese missionary Fr.
Bartholomew’s Voyage to East Indies, the German missionary Guntest and
accounts by various contemporary British military officers contain first-hand
accounts of how Tipu razed the city to the ground. An excerpt from
Bartholomew provides us a representative glimpse:
First a corps of 30,000 barbarians who butchered everybody on the
way… followed by the field-gun unit… Tipu was riding on an elephant
behind which another army of 30,000 soldiers followed. Most of the
men and women were hanged in Calicut, first mothers were hanged
with their children tied to necks of mothers. That barbarian Tipu Sultan
tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made
the elephants to move around till the bodies of the helpless victims
were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned
down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were
forced to marry Mohammadans and similarly their men were forced to
marry Mohammadan women.1 Those Christians who refused to be
honoured with Islam, were ordered to be killed by hanging
immediately. These atrocities were told to me by the victims of Tipu
Sultan who escaped from the clutches of his army and reached
Varappuzha, which is the centre of Carmichael Christian Mission. I
myself helped many victims to cross the Varappuzha River by boats.
The devastation in Kozhikode was so comprehensive that it changed the
character of the place forever. Kozhikode was home to more than seven
thousand Brahmin families. Thanks to Tipu, more than 2000 of these were
wiped out, and the remaining fled to the jungle. In the words of the German
missionary Guntest, “[A]ccompanied by an army of 60,000, Tipu Sultan
came to Kozhikode [Calicut] in 1788 and razed it to the ground. It is not
possible even to describe the brutalities committed by that Islamic barbarian
from Mysore.”
If this was not enough, we have testimony from the horse’s mouth. Tipu
Sultan in letters to Syed Abdul Dulai and his officer Budruz Zaman Khan
respectively, gloats thus:
With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in
Calicut are converted to Islam. Only on the borders of Cochin State a
few are still not converted. I am determined to convert them also very
soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.
Your two letters, with the enclosed memorandums of the Naimar (or
Nair) captives, have been received. You did right in ordering a
hundred and thirty-five of them to be circumcised, and in putting eleven
of the youngest of these into the Usud Ilhye band (or class) and the
remaining ninety-four into the Ahmedy Troop…
I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh
Hindus were converted to Islam. I am now determined to march
against the cursed Raman Nair.
It is also pertinent to mention an extract from Life of Tipu Sultan published
by the Pakistan Administrative Staff College, Lahore in 1964:
Tipu imprisoned and forcibly converted more than a lakh Hindus and
over 70,000 Christians in the Malabar region (they were forcibly
circumcised and made to eat beef). Although these conversions were
unethical and disgraceful, they served Tipu’s purpose. Once all these
people had been cut off from their original faith, they were left with no
option but to accept the very faith to which their ravager belonged, and
they began to educate their children in Islam. They were later enlisted
in the army and received good positions. Most of them morphed into
religious zealots, and enhanced the ranks of the Faithful in Tipu’s
kingdom. Tipu’s zeal for conversion was not limited only to the
Malabar region. He had spread it all the way up to Coimbatore.
In passing, it must also be said that the consequences of his invasion were all-
encompassing. Until his destructive raid, the Malabar region was a
flourishing hub of pepper and spice trade throughout the world. However,
when Tipu burnt and destroyed several cities and towns in one disastrous
sweep, this trade was killed almost overnight. Pepper cultivation was
completely stopped.
Even today, the Malabar people retain the deadly memory of his invasion in
the form of just one Malayalam word: padayottam.
Religious Zealot Par Excellence
Much is made by Tipu apologists of how he was kind towards Hindus and
how he gave gifts to the Sringeri Mutt. One swallow indeed does not a
summer make. Chapter 11 of my book debunks this myth in detail but here’s
the short version.
William Logan’s Malabar Manual gives a detailed list of all the temples Tipu
had destroyed in Kerala, and Lewis Rice in his Mysore Gazetter holds that
“in the vast empire of Tipu Sultan on the eve of his death, there were only
two Hindu temples having daily pujas,” and further estimates that he had
destroyed eight thousand temples in South India, a number which Colonel
R.D. Palsokar also confirms in his study on Tipu Sultan.
The gifts to Sringeri Mutt was more on the lines of realpolitik: Tipu had been
badly beaten and weakened in the Third Anglo Mysore war of 1791. He was
also smarting from a recent raid by the Marathas who had then become all-
powerful. It was to placate the Hindus in his dominion that Tipu gave the said
The source of much of his cruelty and sprees of savagery owes to his
religious fanaticism. Tipu Sultan regarded himself as the protector of Islam
and went to extreme lengths to make the world aware of this fact.
Consider these: One of the major things Tipu did after taking over the
Mysore throne in 1782 was to rename cities and towns with Hindu names to
Muslim ones. He also changed weights and measures to be consistent with
the tenets of Islam. So, he changed the kos (unit of measuring distance) from
two miles as “consisting of so many yards of twice twenty-four thumb-
breadths, because the creed (Kalmah) contains twenty-four letters,” to quote
Lewin B Bowring. If this was not enough, Tipu also changed the
measurement of Time. To quote Bowring again, “Tipu founded a new
calendar…giving . fantastic names to the years, and equally strange ones to
the lunar months. The year, according to his arrangement, only contained 354
days, and each month was called by some name in alphabetical order.” Tipu’s
calendar began with the year of the birth of Prophet Mohammad, and even
gave names to years as Ahand, Ab, Jha, Baab, and so on.
Indeed, Tipu made no secret of his hatred for infidels—both Hindu and
Christian. After his death in 1799 in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore war and the
fall of his capital Srirangapattana to the British, Colonel William Kirkpatrick
discovered more than two thousand letters in his palace written in Farsi in
Tipu’s own handwriting. In these letters, Tipu refers to Hindus as “kaffirs and
infidels” and to the British as “Christians” who needed to be “cleansed (or
converted) if the rule of Islam is to be firmly established in India.”
Until Tipu took over, official administrative records were written in Kannada
and translated to Marathi. Tipu did away with both these languages and
enforced Farsi as the administrative language of the Mysore state. The
vestiges of this change are visible in the administrative language used by the
present day Karnataka Government: “Khata,” “Khirdi,” “Pahani,”
“Khanisumari,” “Gudasta,” “Takhte,” “Tari,” “Khushki,” “Bagaaytu,”
“Banjaru,” “Jamabandi,” “Ahalvalu,” “Khavand,” “Amaldaar,” and
“Shirastedaar” and so on.
Tipu also appointed only Muslim officers to key posts in both the military
and administration irrespective of merit or competence. M.H. Gopal in his
Tipu Sultan’s Mysore: an Economic History avers thus:
Mussulmans were exempted from paying the housetax and taxes on
grain and other goods meant for their personal use and not for trade.
Christians were seized and deported to the capital, and their property
confiscated. Converts to Islam were given concessions such as
exemption from taxes…[Tipu] removed Hindus from all administrative
posts and replaced them with Mussulmans with the exception of Diwan
This has an echo in William McLeod who was appointed by the East India
Company Government as the Superintendent of the Land Revenue
department after Tipu’s death. McLeod discovered that “the list of the chiefs
of every province or district contained only Muslim names like Sheikh Ali,
Sher Khan, Muhammad Syed, Meer Hussain, Syed Peer, Abdul Karim, and
so on. There was nary a…non-Muslim name.”
The Myth of Tipu as a Freedom Fighter
Finally, we can examine the greatest myth about Tipu Sultan: that he was a
brave freedom fighter and patriot who sought to liberate India from British
rule. The easiest way to deflate this myth is to look at the timeline of both
Tipu Sultan and world history. The notion of nation states and the rhetoric of
patriotism became prominent mostly in the latter half of the 19th Century in
Until the British Crown took over India as one of its colonies and introduced
European concepts such as nation states, nationalism, patriotism, democracy
and so on, and indeed, the concept of the whole of India as a nation-state was
alien to the Indian experience. Until then, India was conceived variously as
Jambudvipa, Bharatavarsha and so on, and was united by a common cultural
strand rooted in the Vedic civilization and its various offshoots and streams.
It was only in 1858 that India became a nation in the sense of a colony ruled
by Great Britain.
And so if we examine Tipu Sultan’s timeline beginning with his birth in 1753
up to his death in 1799, it becomes clear that the British East India Company,
a business enterprise, was fighting for the economic and military supremacy
of India. The French were the only other major contender. The Marathas
posed the most powerful threat to the British during Tipu’s rule. More
importantly, the whole of India was not united politically as a single nation
under any ruler. And like the Marathas, Tipu Sultan too was engaged in
constant battle to expand his empire in order to bring the “infidel land under
the sword of Islam.” Therefore, to claim that Tipu fought against the British
for India’s freedom ignores historical truths and defies logic. If we accept this
claim to be true, we also need to accept the fact that Siraj-ud-Daula, Tipu’s
senior contemporary in Bengal, was a freedom fighter. Or for that matter, the
fact that the Marathas too, were freedom fighters.
In fact, the opposite is true. Tipu’s various correspondences with the French,
preserved at the India Office in London indicate how he conspired with them
to drive out the British and divide India between them. If this was not
enough, Tipu also invited the Afghan ruler, Zaman Shah to invade India and
help the cause of Islam.
This then is the near-comprehensive history and legacy of Tipu Sultan which
leaves no doubt as to the kind of ruler he was or the nature and extent of his
religion-inspired barbarism.
Since 2015, the Congress Government led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in
Karnataka has begun to celebrate an annual Tipu Jayanti to commemorate
this benevolent ruler, great patriot, and freedom fighter using taxpayer
money. These celebrations have led to communal disturbance resulting in the
deaths of several Hindus. My parting observation on this move is something I
read somewhere: naming a road in Aurangzeb’s honour in Delhi is akin to
naming a road in Hitler’s honour in Israel. And so it is with Karnataka. And
Kerala. And all other places where Tipu wreaked havoc.
1. Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud. Arun
2. Bibliography on historical distortions:
3. Hindu Temples: What happened to them (Volumes 1 and 2), Sitaram
4. Indian Muslims: Who are they, K.S. Lal
5. Nationalism and Distortions of Indian history, Dr. N.S. Rajaram
6. Negationism in India - Concealing the Record of Islam, Dr. Koenraad
7. Perversion of India's Political Parlance, Sitaram Goel
8. The Rigveda - A Historical Analysis, Shrikant Talageri
9. Select letters of Tippoo Sultan, Colonel William Kirkpatrick
10. Life of Tipu Sultan—Pakistan Administrative Staff College, Lahore,
translated by Bernard Wycliffe
11. Tipu Sultan: Villain or Hero? Compiled by Sitaram Goel
12. Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore, Sandeep Balakrishna
12. Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, Lewin B Bowring
13. It is impossible to build a strong nation on the foundation of
falsehoods, Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa 24 September, 2006.
14. Tipu Sultan X-rayed, Dr. I.M. Muthanna
15. Bharatiya Samskruti (in Kannada), Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri.
Paraphrased and translated by the author.
16. VHP activist dies in clash over Tipu Sultan anniversary in Karnataka:
The Indian Express, 11 November, 2015
14 The Rise and Fall of History
Research in India
At the outset, here is a quote from Kulapati K.M. Munshi’s Foreword to the
majestic History and Culture of the Indian People in eleven volumes, which
has remained an enduring classic.
I had long felt the inadequacy of our so called Indian histories…for
many years, I was planning an elaborate history of India in order…
that the world might catch a glimpse of her soul as Indians see it.
After seventy years of independence, we notice that Munshi’s remark
regarding the so-called Indian histories remains valid. The fact that we still
debate about the “true history” of India, and how this field is still highly
politicized, bitter, and filled with distortions should be the surest proof that
Munshi’s vision and Sankalpa has largely remained unfulfilled.
Of course, there exist excellent and accurate Indian histories: The History and
Culture of the Indian People, Cultural Heritage of India, and several
standalone works by scholars can be cited as outstanding examples. But these
works are far and few between and are mostly forgotten by or lost in the
mainstream narrative, which has been heavily lopsided and some are openly
hostile to the cultural and civilizational ethos of India. This sort of self-
alienation and hatred towards one’s own identity is unparalleled anywhere in
the world. In fact, there’s a perverse parallel of sorts. Pakistan’s official
history books[74] disavow its Hindu past, propagate hatred towards Hindus
and India, and seek to forge an “independent” Pakistani identity that has no
basis in history. The Indian history establishment for the last seven decades
has done the same thing by shaming, blaming, and trying to disown its Hindu
roots. And it is here, in these roots that we must seek an answer to forge what
we can call an indigenous narrative of India’s history.
In this backdrop, we can examine the following aspects with regard to Indian
The indigenous conception of history
Indian historical scholarship in the mid-19th and mid-20th century
Decline and politicization of Indian history
Concluding observations
The Indigenous Conception of History
We can examine a few distinctive characteristics of the indigenous
conception of history, i.e., how Indians regarded the notion of history
whether they expressed it explicitly or no. Any history of India divorced from
these characteristics will quickly degenerate into what has been a glaring
deficiency of post-independence Hindu revivalism: loss or self-confidence
and and an approach from a position of defensiveness.
One of the distinctive characteristics of an indigenous perspective of Indian
history lies in the Vedantic outlook of India’s founding ethos. This is the all-
encompassing nature of and the philosophical unity underlying all facets and
expressions of Hinduism—art, sculpture, literature, music, dance, statecraft,
and history.
Therefore, any honest history of India must necessarily take into account this
all-encompassing nature as well as the philosophical unity of Hinduism.
Equally, those scholars who look at specific instances of Indian history from
this framework must also have a firm grounding in such diverse topics as
Vedas, Dharmashastras, Itihasa, Purana, Sanskrit, and so on. This is therefore
a fundamental requirement and today, it has become an uphill challenge to
find scholars who are endowed with this sort of knowledge.
Therefore, one of the first questions we need to ask is what people of K M
Munshi’s generation asked: how do Hindus view their own history? Do they
view it as merely a series of dynasties and empires that rose, flourished and
died? Do they view it as a series of wars and the establishment of different
political institutions at various points in time?
Understanding the Conception of India
We can quickly survey a few themes here.
The first is widely known: that the traditional name given to India is
Bharatavarsha, a term that is used with reverence. Perhaps India is the only
country whose name signifies both Space and Time. The word “varsha” at
once means a “geographical territory” (as in Bharatavarsha) and a “season”
(as in varsha rtu). This conception is also reflected in how Indians perceive
their country—as sacred. Perhaps no other culture has sanctified and
worships its physical geography as India does. This is a direct continuation of
the ancient conception of the Indian landmass. Our ancients elevated physical
geography to the spiritual and philosophical realms.
Let’s consider a few examples. If we conceive the Indian geography as the
Mother Goddess, we have the 51 Shakti Peethas; if we conceive it as Shiva,
we have the 12 Jyotir Lingas; if we conceive it as the human body, we have
the four granthis (that correspond to Kanyakumari, Vindhyas, Himalayas and
the Kailas Manasa Sarovar); if we conceive it as water, we can realize any
one of the Seven Sacred Rivers in a drop of water in the palm of our hand. If
we conceive it as a tree, the image of the Akshaya Vata Vriksha at Gaya
comes to mind; if we conceive it as a mountain, we have the Himalayas and
the Vindhyas or the Meru.
Behind all these extraordinary conceptions is the idea of providing a spiritual
dimension to the geographical features of a mere landmass called
Bharatavarsha. The unbroken and living continuity of this conception will
also become evident when we note that all of these places—with their unique
significance—are covered in the Panchangam or the Hindu almanac. It also
shows an underlying philosophical unity and deep interconnectedness in all
facets of Hindu life, traditions, practices, and so on.
To give another example of this, we can turn to music. To fully understand
and appreciate the beauty of say, a Tyagaraja Kriti, one essentially needs to
know our epics, puranas, the lives of our saints, places of pilgrimage, and so
on. The same thing applies equally in the case of understanding Hindu
temples, art, dance, and sculpture.
Do Hindus have a sense of History?
Even today in some scholarly circles, a very prominent (colonial) cliché is
that Hindus didn’t have a sense of history. However, this gives rise to this
question: a sense of history from what perspective? One answer could be as
follows: "Hindus have always preserved their history through the oral
tradition, legends, etc.” But this answer is neither sufficient nor fully
convincing in light of numerous discoveries and innovations in methodology,
tools and technology which have directly and indirectly contributed to and
enriched the study of history.
The native word for history is the Sanskrit term, Itihasa. While it is an
accurate translation, it doesn't bring out the complete meaning. Itihasa can be
split as Iti+ha+aasa which means "thus it happened”or“it literally happened
as is narrated in this work.” In the Hindu tradition, Ramayana and
Mahabharata, and to an extent, the Puranas are called Itihasa. It is thus clear
that this Itihasa is not exactly the same as the English word, “history”
although the Ramayana and Mahabharata do contain significant historical
data .
The larger point is that this kind terminological difference in meaning is one
of the challenges we need to take into consideration in developing an
indigenous approach to history.
This brings us to a more fundamental point: how do Hindus and the
Westerners view Time? The Hindu view of time is cyclic (as in Yuga Chakra,
Kaala Chakra, etc) whereas the Western view is linear.
To illustrate this, we can turn back to the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the
Puranas. These works are itihasa and contemporary at the same time. Thus,
Hindus can celebrate the marriage of Sita and Rama, and Parvati and Shiva
anywhere in the world on any given day. It is for this reason that almost
every remote village has some stone or temple or tree or river where Deities
or characters from our epics resided or bathed or meditated, according to the
locals. Thus there are any number of Bhim ka vaada, Dakshina Kashi,
Bhartruhari ka gufa, etc across India.
In other words, to the Hindu mind, these Itihasas are not a thing of the past
but constant companions and guides of a living tradition and an inherited
cultural consciousness.
Thus, one of the considerations we should take into account is that of
approaching Indian history not as merely an examination of the past but as a
study of a living culture and civilization which has passed through the
vicissitudes of time. Put another way, history as Hindus know it, is
consciously being lived by Hindus even today.
History from the Indian perspective involves examining and narrating the
grand life of a great or noble person or investigating an ordinary event and
using it to uphold values that are relevant and required for all times. In the
Indian notion, Itihasa transforms itself into a Darshana, a philosophy. Thus,
we find elements of Itihasa in the Purana and vice versa. The writer of an
Itihasa has a duty to enmesh Darshana as an inseparable part of writing
Itihasa. But in the Western conception, history doesn’t need to be a
philosophy. Even a mere reportage of events constitutes history in their
This is indeed a huge challenge given that the current crop of Indian history
taught in schools and universities has succeeded in cutting off India's timeless
civilizational continuity from its own people. It looks at India’s history as a
post mortem examination of India’s past, and not as one which continues to
retain its civilizational continuity. In this continuity, India’s physical life is a
mere expression of a deeper and perennial spirit.
Also, it is not merely enough to record, preserve and analyze facts and events
of the past. One must seek to understand and assess the nature and direction
of forces and elements that are unique only to Hindus—forces which are
working through the "national life" of Hindus, and which find expression in
numerous ways and mediums.
This indigenous approach also needs to make a comparative analysis of world
events at epochal points in history viewed from the Indian perspective. For
example, what was happening in say, Egypt or Mesopotamia during the Rg
Vedic period? In my limited studies, I haven’t come across any such research
or study. This sort of study would enable Hindus to accurately trace the
relative changes, upheavals and achievements vis a vis the rest of the world.
It would also help us understand for example, why ancient India which had
such a flourishing maritime culture underwent such a drastic change in later
centuries to the extent that foreign travel was forbidden.
Sources, Perspective
There is an enormous corpus of primary sources in both Sanskrit and
Bharatiya Bhasha, which will act as invaluable aids in undertaking this kind
of study. These works speak of an entirely different historical reality than
what is circulating in current academic and popular narratives.
Next, the role of alien invasions has been exaggerated and given undue
prominence in our official history textbooks since Independence. A new
perspective would need to place the impact and importance of such events in
the appropriate context and proportions. For example, Mahmud Ghazni’s
incursions are at best shaping influences of Islam’s early encounters with
India, and how the Hindu society responded to it. So is the protracted Mughal
rule, which for all its might, failed to stem the Hindu revival both politically
and otherwise. This is also the reason that this history of this era contains
perhaps the maximum quantum of distortions and misinterpretations. It
should not be forgotten that India had a history of at least three thousand
years before the Muslim invasions. And it was the solid foundations of this
histor y that enabled us to throw away Muslim and later, British imperialism
for good.
So a few pointers in this direction would be worth surveying.
First, a focus on the unique contribution of India to world civilization should
be of higher value than a narrative involving merely political, military, and
social upheavals. Else it would read similar to the history of any other nation.
At the minimum, the unique contributions of India include the Vedantic
philosophy and worldview, the concepts of Dharma and Purusharthas, and
lastly, a capacity for self-correction and renewal even in the face of
catastrophic events.
Second, a positive, constructive, and confident approach and not a defensive
approach would help. Rebuttals to distortions are welcome and necessary
exercises but there’s already a vast body of such rebuttals and they’re of high
quality. It must be remembered that a rebuttal is always a reaction, and
therefore a weak approach.
Third, one needs to eschew the tendency (which is quite prevalent) to claim
that everything that exists in the modern world—airplanes, nuclear
technology, etc—was already present in the Vedas or some other ancient text.
There have been well-meaning but misguided attempts to show for example,
that one can generate electricity from Purushasukta. Such tendencies stem
from a sense of inferiority complex.

Once again, K M Munshi has brilliantly articulated[75] this indigenous

approach more than sixty years ago.
The history of India is not the story of how she underwent foreign
invasions, but how she resisted them and eventually triumphed over
them…. To be a history in the true sense…the work must be the story of
the people inhabiting a country. It must be a record of their life from
age to age presented through the life and achievements of men whose
exploits become the beacon lights of tradition…the central purpose of a
history must…be to investigate and unfold the values which age after
age have inspired the inhabitants of a country to develop their
collective will…such a history of India is still to be written.
Indian historical scholarship in the mid-19th and mid-
20th century
In this backdrop, it’s instructive to examine the state and nature of
scholarship that flourished roughly in the period encompassing the mid-19th
and mid-20th centuries. This was truly the era of Bharatavarsha’s Modern
Renaissance populated by a galaxy of stalwarts in almost all fields of human
endeavor and spanning the length and breadth of this country. Needless, the
world of scholarship was no different. If time is a soil, it was at its fertile best
in this era, supplying to India and the world such luminaries as Pandurang
Vaman Kane, Mysore Hiriyanna, Jadunath Sarkar, Bankim Chandra
Chattopadhyaya, Parashuram Krishna Gode, Ramesh Chandra Majumdar,
Ananda Coomaraswamy, Shama Shastri, Devudu Narasimha Sastry,
Ganganath Jha, Govind Chandra Pande, S. Srikanta Sastri, Moti Chandra,
Acharya Chatursen Sastri, Radha Kumud Mukherji, Kashi Prasad Jayaswal…
the list is breathtaking both in number and attainment.
While each of these scholars distinguished himself in seminal, exhaustive,
and penetrating research in one area—P V Kane is most notable for his
definitive work, the multi-volume History of the Dharmashastras, Jadunath
Sarkar for his volumes on Aurangzeb, Surendranath Dasgupta for his five-
volume History of Indian Philosophy, and others in a similar vein—they also
distinguished themselves for their solid multidisciplinary grasp. They had
attained enormous proficiency in multiple languages (both Indian and
foreign), could decipher epigraphic sources, literary texts, numismatics,
sculptural nuances, and so on. This is a truly dazzling accomplishment by any
standard. Small wonder that all of them contributed to learned and scholarly
journals and publications like the various Gazetteers, Indian Antiquary,
Epigraphia Indica, Bombay Asiatic Society, and numerous other independent
journals and magazines. S Srikanta Sastri could contribute to these scholarly
journals and to a popular Kannada newsmagazine like Prajamata with equal
These scholars were household names in their own time. Yet barring very
few people in this age lorded over by the Internet regime where most
information is freely, easily and instantly accessible, how many educated
Indians are even aware that such scholars a ctually existed in flesh and blood
just fifty years ago?
We can examine the contribution and legacy of Jadunath Sarkar as an
example. In his excellent The Calling of History, Prof Dipesh Chakrabarty
introduces[76] him as follows:
Jadunath Sarkar was once a name every educated Indian knew…he
was easily the most highly-regarded Indian historian and had a very
strong public presence in late colonial India.
Prof Chakrabarty writes that Jadunath Sarkar, like other (history) scholars of
his time, thought deeply and passionately argued about questions like the
What does it mean to do research in history?
How would one weigh historical evidence?
What would be a defining distinction between facts and the raw
materials of history like numismatics, grants, inscriptions, literary
fragments, epigraphic material, and so on?
How should one go about collecting sources for writing history when
no effective public archives are available?
How would one explain the historical absence of public archives in
India and how would one build them?
From such fundamental questions, the world of historical scholarship
declined to a contemporary definition of history as merely a “clash of
perspectives.”[77] When history becomes a mere clash of perspectives, the
first casualty is truth because anybody whose perspective has the support of
brute force or political power will become the truth. For example, the fierce
debates that began in the mid-to-late 1960s over the actual impact of colonial
rule quickly give birth to the umbrella subject of Subaltern studies. These

subaltern narratives eventually

reduced history to nothing more than a handmaiden of sociology.
Indeed, scholars like Jadunath Sarkar spent an entire lifetime pursuing an
ideal, a life dedicated to the quest for historical truth. A brief example will
suffice to show how Jadunath Sarkar worked. According to the Prof
Chakraborthy, scholars of Jadunath Sarkar’s time did most of their research
and writing before historical research was introduced as a subject in Indian
universities. More importantly, there were only seventeen universities in
India in 1947. Today there are more than 600 universities. Yet, how many of
them have managed to produce even one-tenth the caliber of a scholar like
Jadunath Sarkar?
Decline and Politicization of Indian history
We can now trace the trajectory of the calculated downfall of the
aforementioned scholarship. At a very high level, this trajectory passed
through the following stages:
First, at the zenith of Bharatavarsha’s Modern Renaissance, scholarship of
the highest degree was not only actively sought after but was passionately
nurtured and passed on to successive generations in keeping with the true
traditions of the Indian learning heritage.
Second, this same level of scholarship was sustained for at least seven
decades in almost all universities, and institutions of higher learning.
Third, a systematic attempt was put in place to dismiss such standard of
scholarship by couching it in terms such as “this knowledge is archaic and
useless for the modern time,” “all this is a conspiracy,” “this does not earn a
livelihood,” etc.
Fourth, flows from the third. This resulted in the marginalization of the still-
surviving scholars of this Renaissance era, which in turn, resulted in the
shutting down of various departments in our universities. This loss has since
become irretrievable.
Finally, an era of actively discouraging this sort of scholarship. In retrospect,
if we lament at the state of historical scholarship in the last fifty or so years,
it’s clear that the reason can be found here, in this trajectory. Needless,
without this active sabotage, the Marxist and similar ideological distortions
that have become commonplace in Indian history wouldn’t have been
possible in the first place.
The story of this trajectory needs to be told in a fair bit of detail. As
representative samples, I’ve used the stories of Jadunath Sarkar and R C
The Downfall of Sir Jadunath Sarkar
Jadunath Sarkar’s devotion to historical research was not merely informed by
patriotism or rooted in his love for scholarship. It was rooted in the values of
Sanatana Dharma, deeply embedded in him. It was rooted in his personal
character marked by a high degree of integrity and an uncompromising
attitude towards truth. We can turn to Prof Dipesh Chakrabarty[78] again.
Historians (of Jadunath Sarkar’s time) who criticized Sarkar’s
emphasis on “character” never stopped to ask why someone of
Sarkar’s erudition, intelligence and sense of engagement with the
politics of his time would be so obsessed with the role of character in
political history.”
Jadunath Sarkar had a near-fanatical zeal for a positive quest for fact, and a
spiritual pursuit of truth in history. This is because the ancient Indian ethos of
history as a value, as a Darshana was deeply ingrained in his DNA. We can
note how this ties in with the Indian conception of history described earlier in
this essay.
Therefore, when one surveys Sarkar’s life and work as a historical scholar,
one cannot miss the connection between his “insistence on the cultivation of
a certain truthfulness on the part of the historian—the demand that the
historian make a sincere attempt to rise above his or her own times and
interests—and his ideas about historical truth.”[79] This also includes “a
certain cultivation of self-denying ethics in the personhood of the historian, a
practice of a sense of ascesis, was therefore essential, for without that, the
historican could not receive the truths the facts told.”[80]
Historical research and writing, for Jadunath Sarkar, was “a way of preparing
oneself for a truth that was beyond partisan interests.” This was “a self-
denying quality he willingly imposed on himself…It was an inextricable part
of his historical method; the man was the method.”[81]
Naturally, Jadunath Sarkar began to earn the ire of his contemporary
academics at a time when the field of historical research was slowly
beginning to acquire ideological tinges. Thus, this ire, in the hands of such
ideological scholars turned into vicious enmity and single-minded witch hunt.
Perhaps the definitive reason for this was Sarkar’s no-holds-barred expose of
Aurangzeb in his majestic, History of Aurangzib in five volumes.
In the 1920s, Muhammad Habib began a “secular and left-leaning” tradition
of historical research in the Aligarh Muslim University. Around the same
period, Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan, the Head of Department of History in the
Allahabad University, an early apologist for Aurangzeb was a sworn
adversary of Sarkar. Shafaat Khan was succeeded by Prof R P Tripathi, who
in turn, was an ardent disciple of the Communist scholar Harold Laski.
In a way of speaking, Tripathi joined forces with Shafaat Khan and mounted
a systematic campaign against Jadunath Sarkar’s work on Aurangzeb. In the
manner of cowards, they never put their criticisms against Sarkar in print but
began to discourage their students from reading and following Sarkar’s
The subsequent generations of historians and scholars—trained under them—
carried forward this slander. Among other big names, this calumnious
campaign was led by Irfan Habib, son of the same Muhammad Habib. In his
scholarly work titled Agrarian System of Mughal India, Irfan Habib wrote
about this subject without any reference to Sarkar’s work as if Sarkar’s
volumes did not exist. Irfan Habib calculatedly chose only such themes which
allowed him to reject Sarkar’s sources. The result was that he succeeded in
breaking Sarkar’s image as a towering historical scholar. Which is consistent
with Habib’s credentials as an avowed Marxist as we shall see. With this
move, Habib killed two birds with one stone: he deflected attention away
from Aurangzeb’s legendary cruelty and Islamic bigotry by presenting the
fall of Mughals as rooted in a mere “revenue crisis of the Empire!”
Satish Chandra was another compatriot of Irfan Habib in the project of
demonizing Jadunath Sarkar. In the words of the late British history scholar, J
F Richards, Jadunath Sarkar[82] “set the narrative frame for the late Mughal
period virtually single-handed.” Prof Chakraborty describes this project of
demonizing Sarkar as follows: [83]
A group of younger scholars at Allahabad, Aligarh and Oxford were
conducting research that would ensure that by the time someone like
me came into the world of South Asian history as a young novice in
Calcutta in the early 1970s, the name of Jadunath Sarkar would be
all but forgotten among the prominent historians of India.
Our teachers did not teach about emperors, battles and the character
of kings anymore. They did not believe in the role of heroes of history.
Heroes had been replaced by “causes.” Cause was a code word for
institutional analysis.
Indeed, the marginalization of Jadunath Sarkar achieved outstanding success.
After the disgusting efforts of Habib and Satish Chandra, it became easy to
simply label Jadunath Sarkar as a communal and fascist historian.
The last years of Jadunath Sarkar were tragic. Indian politics after 1947 and
the ascent of Marxism and its overpowering political and institutional
dominance ensured that he was unceremoniously removed from the very
institution he built, the Indian Historical Records Commission[84]. But the
greater tragedy is the ungrateful and wretched manner in which the memory
and towering legacy of Jadunath Sarkar was defaced even after his death by
this gang of ideological and academic mercenaries.
The Hounding of R C Majumdar
Next, we can consider the hounding of Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, another
accomplished historian, scholar, editor, and institution-builder. Here is a
quote from him.
… It is an ominous sign of the time that Indian history is being
viewed in official circles in the perspective of recent politics. The
official history of the freedom movement starts with the premise that
India lost independence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an
experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries.
Real history, on the other hand, teaches us that the major part of
India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely
changed masters in the eighteenth century.” [85] [Emphases added]
This appears in the Preface to the First Volume of the three-volume, History
of the Freedom movement in India published in 1962. This majestic work
treated the epochal episode of India’s freedom struggle independently and
gave us a work of history that remains unsurpassed even today. It is a natural
classic. And the fact that it is the work of just one man is a lesson of life in its
own right.
The story of how it came to be written deserves multiple retellings not in the
least because it was deliberately and shamefully suppressed and buried till the
sun set upon the Socialist-Marxist-Nehruvian decades of post Independence
India. But most importantly, this story needs to be told as a warning for
Two Tales of the Same Project
The fact that our Marxists have subverted our history is largely well-known.
However, if we thought that they were the pioneers of this nation-wrecking
project, we would only be slightly mistaken.
The roots of this rot had already begun to sink in deep and were taking shape
In 1948, R.C. Majumdar submitted a proposal to the Government to write an
official history of the freedom struggle, a fact that he records in detail in the
Appendix of Volume One of the History of the Freedom Movement in India.
This first-ever proposal on this much-needed endeavour was accepted by the

What happened next is best narrated by Dr. B.N. Pandey in his review[86] of
the said Volume One.
In 1952 the Ministry of Education appointed a Board of Editors for the
compilation of the history. Professor Majumdar was appointed by the
Board as the Director and entrusted with the work of sifting and
collecting materials and preparing the draft of the history.
However, the Board as consisting of politicians and scholars, was least
likely to function harmoniously. Perhaps this was the reason why it was
dissolved at the end of 1955.
If anything, this gives away the fact that political interference began on Day
One to the obvious detriment of scholarship, which must essentially rest on
truth. And Dr. Pandey’s moderate language merely throws a hint of what
exactly had happened. His language is also a reflection of an era where
restraint in public life and in utterances was highly valued.
But this is not the full story. The reason why the Board was dissolved lies
elsewhere. Dr. Pandey continues,
In [the first] volume the distinguished author has shown ample
courage and sound scholarship in approaching some very
controversial and delicate questions. On the question of Hindu-
Muslim relationship in pre-British India he refutes the commonly
held view that the Hindus and Muslims lived in harmony before the
advent of the British and that the Hindu-Muslim tension was the
outcome of the British policy to divide and rule. These two
communities, the author holds, lived as "two separate communities
with distinct cultures and different mental, and moral characteristics"
(p. 33). He argues that the Hindu leaders, including Gandhi and
Nehru, deliberately ignored the fundamental differences between the
Hindus and Muslims and made no serious efforts "to tackle the real
problem that faced India, namely how to make it possible for two such
distinct units to live together as members of one State[87] [Emphasis
However, it was merely the Governmental board that was dissolved. The
project was still alive. As Dr. Pandey notes, it remained “in balance for a
year” after which the Government entrusted it to a single scholar named Tara
Chand, a Congress-friendly ex-bureaucrat in the Education ministry who was
India’s ambassador to Teheran from 1951-56. Published in 1967 by the
Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this,
tragically, remains the official history of the freedom struggle (the title is the
same as that of R.C. Majumdar’s volumes) till date.
But then, R.C. Majumdar was made of the stuff of Bharatavarasha’s Modern
Renaissance. He was undeterred in his quest to author the most authentic
history of the freedom struggle of his own countrymen: to keep their hopes,
pains, sacrifices, spirit, struggles and tears ever-fresh, and to preserve the vast
woodland of their heroic memories watered and evergreen. For this proud son
of Bengal, this noble endeavor was not merely a project: it was akin to
working towards the same goal with the same spirit that fuelled our freedom
struggle: Majumdar had after all, lived during that entire era. It was National
Service in the truest sense of the word.

And so, with meagre resources, he worked

alone and completed the majestic three-volume work in just seven years. It
still remains the most comprehensive, authoritative and unchallenged work
on India’s freedom struggle. This point has an immense bearing on what will
Three crucial observations emerge from this saga.
First, the seeds for the politicization of the history establishment were sown
when politicians were appointed to a scholarly/academic Board, a place they
had no business to be in.
Second, the precedent for sacrificing historical truths was set because
Majumdar would critically examine the roles played by Mohandas Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru in the Independence struggle. This was a taboo which
would certainly infuriate the first Prime Minister. In the words[88] of Dr. N.S.
Rajaram, “What was Majumdar’s crime? He refused to bend history to suit
the interest of the Congress.”
Thus, the stage was set for rampant and wholesale historical distortions at the
hands of Marxist propagandists for the next fifty-odd years at all levels: from
the primary school to the university. The distortions remain even as we
The third concerns the timeline. On the one hand, we have a project that
begins at the dissolution of the Board in 1955 to restarting the same project in
1956-57, and then to its eventual publication by the Government in 1967. It’s
crucial to recall that this project had the complete backing of the Government
and could muster any resource on demand. On the other, we have the
distinguished example of a committed scholar working alone and eventually
publishing the exemplary three-volumes five years before the “official”
version was published.
The Education Minister back when the project’s proposal was submitted by
R.C. Majumdar was Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Man Friday,
Maulana Azad. He was succeeded by three equally Nehru dynasty-friendly
Education Ministers. It was during the tenure of the ultra-loyal dynasty
sycophant, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed that Tara Chand’s sanitized bundle was
finally published. The same Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed later signed Indira
Gandhi’s Emergency proclamation as President of India.
Thus came about the systematic marginalization and banishment of a grand
historian, scholar and true patriot which went hand in hand with the
construction of a Marxist Grand Narrative of Indian history that was elevated
to disgusting levels and has come to be the mainstay of not just our history
but our public discourse.
It is also the reason for Dr. R.C. Majumdar’s anguished lament recounted
earlier in this essay.
Enter ICHR
But Majumdar’s banishment was only the foundation but an incredibly firm
foundation. One of the first structures to be built on top it was the Indian
Council for Historical Research (ICHR).
The distinguished archaeologist and scholar Dr. D.K. Chakrabarti provides an
explanation of this episode:
I find [Romila] Thapar’s emphasis on ‘freedom of expression’ very
intriguing. The historical group of which Thapar is an eminent member
came into being in the early 1970s “to give a national direction to an
objective and scientific writing of history and to have rational
presentation and interpretation of history”, as the [then] web-site of
the Indian Council of Historical Research declared. To argue that
there was no “objective and scientific writing of history” till this group
moved into government-sponsored power to control the funding and
job-opportunities of historical research in India was distinctly
reminiscent of a dictatorial streak in itself.
By then historical research in the country had flourished for about a
century and to argue that the previous historians were unaware of
‘objective and scientific writing of history’ was a vicious piece of self-
aggrandisement on the part of this group. In fact, since the coming of
this group to power, the world of Indian historical studies has been
largely criminalised. When Thapar preaches in favour of historical
tolerance, one does feel amused.[89] [Emphasis added]
That year was 1972. The year the Indian Council for Historical Research
(ICHR) was formed under the encouraging patronage of then Education
Minister Nurul Hasan. For most of its existence ever since, it has become a
sprawling den of all sorts of Communists actively engaged in the subversion
of India’s history, plagiarism, and embezzlement of taxpayer money, among
other crimes. The perpetrators have gotten away with it thanks to the
protection afforded by their political masters.
In 1976-77, (late) Dr. Paramatma Saran, a specialist and expert in Indian
medieval history and a scholar of the Persian language submitted the
manuscript of his English translation of the Tarikh-i-Akbari by Muhammad
Arif Qandhari to the ICHR.
The manuscript seemingly evaporated.
Some years later, as a result of Dr. Saran’s son-in-law’s dogged inquiries, an
official probe was ordered. The result of the probe was declared by the then
Deputy Director of the Medieval Unit of ICHR Tasneem Ahmad: the
manuscript was “submitted but not traceable.”
About twenty-five years later, the same manuscript—word to word—
resurfaced in the form of a PhD thesis submitted by the selfsame Tasneem
Ahmad. The foreword showered praises on the thesis thus:
“What it [Tarikh-i-Akbari] needed was a full-scale English translation.
This has been provided by Dr. Tasneem Ahmad in a very competent
manner, aiming at faithful accuracy and at a critical assessment of the
information here received by comparing it with that offered by other
sources…[it is a] notable contribution to the national celebration of
the 450th Anniversary of Akbar’s birth. I feel confident that it would
reinforce the interest in Akbar’s age widespread among those who
have a care for the long process of the creation of a composite culture
and a unity that together constitute what is India.”
The author of the foreword: Prof Irfan Habib, one of the torchbearers of the
project of demonizing Sir Jadunath Sarkar. The same Irfan Habib who, in
2015, equated[90] the RSS with the ISIS. What also needs to be revealed is the
fact that Prof Habib was twice Chairman of the ICHR and five times its
member. And Tasneem Ahmad, in his official capacity as the Deputy
Director of the Medieval Unit of ICHR declared Dr. Saran’s manuscript as
However, the ugly truth remains: Dr. Tasneem Ahmad was awarded a PhD
for a work he had stolen. To my knowledge, it doesn’t appear that he has
been punished for it by the law. And Dr. Paramatma Saran is dead.
A Black Hole of National Waste
It’s now time to recall that I had mentioned two important points “that have a
huge bearing” in my recounting of the R.C. Majumdar saga.
First, his record-time publication of the volumes on the history of Indian
freedom struggle, and second, the timeline of the publication of the same
project entrusted by the Government to Tara Chand.
In 1972, the year ICHR was established, the Government funded “Towards
Freedom,” an ambitious project to (sic) document—yet again—the Indian
freedom struggle in nine volumes. This project is as old as ICHR itself and
remains unfinished even after forty-six years. Perhaps an Unfinished Golden
Jubilee is in order to honour this odious non-achievement.
Some excerpts from the excellent and detailed 17 July 2015 Mail Today
report[91] will suffice to convey the extent of venality and loot of public
Have you ever heard of any government spending almost 40 lakh on a
book? Or a book project going on for 43 years, and counting, with
crores of rupees spent on it?
All this and more has been happening at the Indian Council of
Historical Research (ICHR), an autonomous academic body funded by
the Government of India. It spends liberally to produce books in the
name of 'Special Research Projects'.
And these special research projects, which should be wrapped up
within a few years for only a few lakhs of rupees, drag on for decades
and bleed taxpayers of crores. Among the defaulting historians are the
late Bipan Chandra, Irfan Habib and KM Shrimali. Prof Chandra, a
formidable scholar of modern Indian history, is the sole reason why the
'Towards Freedom' project, which started in 1972, is still continuing.
The ICHR's oldest, costliest and the most controversial project
continues to bleed the public exchequer. It provoked Arun Shourie to
write Eminent Historians in 1998, and he accused ICHR of spending
1.70 crore on the project.
As for [Irfan] Habib and Shrimali, they have not submitted a single
manuscript for the 'Dictionary of Social, Economic and
Administrative Terms in Indian/South Asian Inscriptions' project,
which was started in 1989..this project has so far soaked up more
than 42 lakh.
Shrimali has not produced a single volume to date. All he has to show
for all these years is a few thousand computerised cards compiled by
hired assistants who get paid by ICHR… Habib's record is worse. If
the annual reports are to be believed, he has been promising to
submit his manuscript since 2006-07… When MAIL TODAY enquired
about the stage of Prof Habib's work, ICHR informed that "Habib saab
has excused himself from this project". [Emphases added]
The sheer magnitude of the self-righteousness of Irfan Habib is paroxysmal:
instead of being accountable, the lofty professor has chosen to “excuse
himself,” reminiscent of the rape-accused former editor of Tehelka, Tarun
Tejpal[92] “recusing” himself, a euphemism for saying he’s above the law.
Towards Freedom appears to be that mammoth ICHR udder that has
provided a seemingly unending supply of the milk of political patronage,
pelf, and wealth to the Communist ICHR worthies. As the Mail Today report
indicates, no one in the ICHR seems to have the remotest idea of exactly how
much this project has guzzled. The project is truly a Black Hole of national
Swindling Taxpayer Money
Indeed, everything mentioned herein about the ICHR’s sordid record owes
entirely to one expose by Arun Shourie, the classic Eminent Historians: Their
Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud published in 1998. To quote from Dr.
N.S. Rajaram’s review: [93]
Eminent Historians makes for depressing reading. It leaves one
wondering as to what must be stirring in the minds and souls of these
‘eminent historians’, to make them sink to such depths of intellectual
and moral degradation as would place them in the company of Lysenko
and Goebbels… their disloyalty to the nation and the culture that has
sustained and nourished them, and without which they would be
nothing. Unlike Indian scientists and technologists who are recognized
everywhere, in the world of humanities, these ‘eminent historians’ are
utter nonentities, little more than crooked reflections of colonial
When Arun Shourie exposed the entire spectrum of skullduggery in the
Towards Freedom project in detail, this was the estimate[94] of the money it
had sucked up.
…a project which was to have been completed in five years and a few
lakhs has been dragged for twenty-seven years, a crore and seventy-
odd lakhs have been gobbled up in its name — and the volumes are still
said to be on their way. This is gross dereliction — independent of
what the volumes will contain, and what they would have left out.
One can only calculate the further wastage for the balance period from 1998
to the present, given that it has still remained incomplete. And then there’s
the minor matter of the pilferage of taxpayer money. Again, we can turn to
Shourie for just one representative sample in the person of Bipan Chandra.
This eminent historian was sanctioned ₹75,000 for the year 1987-88 for the
assignment entitled A History of the Indian National Congress. By 1989, he
had been given ₹57,500 with the balance (₹17,500) to be paid after the
completed manuscript was submitted. He did not receive the balance due
because he never cared to submit any manuscript. Upon inquiry, Shourie was
told by the ICHR that the balance is yet to be received because a “formal
manuscript in this regard is yet to be received.”

However, the saga doesn’t end here. Writes[95] Shourie,

Later I learnt that the ₹75,000/- which had been allotted to this
“eminent historian” for this project — “the Oral History Project” —
had been but a part, a small part of the total take. Bipan Chandra was
given in addition to ₹ two lakhs by the ICSSR and ₹ four lakhs through
the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Neither institution received any
manuscript from him.
This is but a tiny fraction of the taxpayer money guzzled by just one historian
on a project separate from “Towards Freedom,” of which Bipan Chandra too,
was part.
Concluding Remarks
By today’s abysmal standards, if one were to overlook these financial crimes
going by the “small” sums they swindled, the all-round damage these
eminent historians have inflicted on the national psyche is unforgivable.
In several ways, they have been directly responsible for heightening
communal tensions most notably during the Ayodhya period, a turning point
in India’s history. To get a whiff of the nature of said damage, we can
consider this quote by Dr. Koenraad Elst:
In my study of the Ayodhya controversy, I noticed that the frequent
attempts to conceal or deny inconvenient evidence were an integral
part of a larger effort to rewrite India’s history and to whitewash
Islam. It struck me that this effort to deny the unpleasant facts of
Islam’s destructive role in Indian history is similar to the attempts by
some European writers to deny the Nazi Holocaust. Its goal and
methods are similar, even though its social position is very different: in
Europe, Holocaust negationists are a fringe group shunned by
respectable people, but in India the jihad negationists are in control
of the academic establishment and of the press. [96] [Emphasis added]
Dr. Elst’s note on jihad negationism has a perfect echo in R C Majumdar’s
accurate observation about how “the Hindu leaders, including Gandhi and
Nehru, deliberately ignored the fundamental differences between the Hindus
and Muslims...” in their quest to attain an artificial harmony between the two
communities based not on lived and historical realities but on wishful
thinking. It is this lazy, timid and short-sighted ignoring that eventually led to
wholesale distortion, suppression, and even inventing historical “facts” by the
The story of these realities must be told, at least now, to build a nation based
on accepting and digesting even the harshest of historical truths. Needless,
that takes courage but is preferable in the long term than pretending that these
truths don’t exist. As with people so with problems: at some point, the
makeup will peel away. As a recent example, had our history been told
truthfully right from childhood, nobody would’ve even conceived naming a
road in the honour of Aurangzeb.
The same—if not greater—damage that the Nehruvian state inflicted in the
economic space has been inflicted by more than six decades of writing,
teaching and propagating Nehruvian history. Only, its toll has been
incalculable: with each passing decade, the wanton campaign against India’s
accommodative diversity rooted in Hinduism has steadily morphed into
irreconcilable religious and social schisms to the extent that influential
sections of Indians now see nothing wrong in inviting foreign powers to
intervene[97] in India’s sovereign affairs.
Indeed, it’s best if we learn of it directly from the horse’s mouth. Here’s Dr.
Dilip K Chakrabarti recounting Romila Thapar’s “vision” of India at the end
of the 21st Century:
In the case of India Thapar, in an interview to the French paper Le
Monde, foresaw (cf. M. Danino in Dialogue, April-June 2006/vol. 7,
no. 4) that by the end of the 21st century India would break down into a
series of small states federated within a more viable single economic
space on the scale of the subcontinent.
And these eminences have taught history and written history textbooks
prescribed for our school and college children.
Our Eminent Historians would have correctly remained in the fringes—like
the Holocaust deniers in Europe—had honest scholars like R.C. Majumdar
not been hounded out solely because they didn’t dance to a specific person’s
tune. It reveals a lot about the character of Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana
Azad if they felt threatened by a dispassionate assessment of one of the most
important episodes of India’s long history. And Majumdar was just one of the
hundreds of such Himalayan scholars of the period, victimized by an insecure
It is also true that powerful counters were offered against this all-round
assault against Indian history by pioneers like Sitaram Goel and Ram
Swarup. However, when oppressive regimes become helpless in the face of
irrefutable facts, they resort to strangling by silence. Our Eminent Historians
silenced the voices of Sitaram Goel et al with a very simple device: they
completely ignored them. They refused to acknowledge that such people even
In the end, India had to wait till 1998 for Arun Shourie’s Eminent Historians
to be published. This book uncovered in detail after ghastly detail, this multi-
layered assault on the national psyche that has disfigured the minds of at least
three generations regarding the vital truths of their own nation.
And thanks to this seminal contribution, “Eminent Historian” has fittingly
become a swearword in the Indian public discourse.
15 How the Nalanda University was
Revived by Draining Taxpayer Money
The Nalanda University was established as a university of eminence in Bihar
during the period when both Sanatana Dharma and Buddhism were at their
peak. It provided free accommodation and feeless education to all those
interested in pursuing knowledge.
Apart from the various corners of India, students from Tibet, China, Japan,
Sri Lanka, Java, Sumatra, Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, and Greece had
enrolled there. Chief among the subjects taught there included Grammar
(Vyakarana), Logic (Tarkam), Astronomy, Astrology, Medicine,
Mathematics, Vedas (including all the Vedangas, or “limbs of the Veda”),
Yoga and Philosophy.
Because the influence and power of Christianity had escalated hugely in
Europe, the pursuit of knowledge retrogressed in proportion to this
escalation. The burning down of the world class, mammoth library at
Alexandria, the public humiliation and murder of the world-famous scholar,
Hypatia is now common knowledge. Thanks to this Christianity-induced
blind fanaticism, Europe was immersed in darkness for several centuries
where knowledge and learning was concerned.
A Golden Era
However, from the perspective of scholarship and development of
knowledge, this period was the Golden Era in India. Great centres of learning
flourished across the vast spectrum of Bharata: Nalanda, Vikramashila, and
Odantapuri in Bihar; Jagddala and Somapura in Bengal; Pushpagiri in
Odisha; Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh; Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh;
Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu; Manyakheta in Karnataka; Valabhi in Gujarat;
Sharada in Kashmir; Takshashila (now in Pakistan).
The crown of such awe-inspiring centres of learning was undoubtedly the
vast university complex established in the 5th Century at Nalanda, about 95
Kilometres to the Southeast of Patna. Since then, for about 600 years, it
flourished in peak form.
Nalanda has a rich, glorious and elaborate history. There are stray evidences
that tell us that it existed even before the time of Mahavira and Buddha.
Mahavira had stayed there during the monsoon season for fourteen times.
Even the Buddha, during the course of his mendicant-wandering (Parivraja),
had stayed back there on several occasions. One of Buddha’s prominent
disciples named Sariputra was born in a village called Nala, near Rajagriha
(today’s Rajgir).
Some people hold the view that the name “Nalanda” was also known as
“Nala” and “Nalaka.” The sprawling and expansive Nalanda Vihara was built
by Ashoka in the Third Century BCE. In later years, the progenitor of the
Mahayana School, Nagarjuna (2nd Century), the proponent of Madhyamika
Prasthana, Aryadeva (4th Century), Vasubandhu (5thCentury) and other
towering Buddhists had made Nalanda their home for long periods.
In 1197, this grand educational complex became one of the most high-profile
victims of the destructive Islamic iconoclast, Bhaktiyar Khilji who
mercilessly razed it to the ground.
In its pristine days, the Nalanda University, which towered over the world of
scholarship, was characterized by these features:
Accommodation for 10000 students and 3000 teachers at a time
Numerous conference halls, study rooms, eight sprawling gardens, and
10 massive temples
Boasted of having the most prestigious library in the whole world
A nine-storied library named Dharma Ganga contained a repository of lakhs
of books on almost every conceivable branch of knowledge including
specialist literature. It is now a fact of history that when Bhakhtiyar Khilji set
fire to it, it burnt over several months.
That only the brightest would be admitted can be adduced by the fact that the
university’s gatekeepers would test an aspirant’s knowledge of basic Sanskrit
Equally, Vikramashila and Odantapuri universities also imparted knowledge
to about four thousand students. Both these universities too, were destroyed
by Muslim invaders.
Today, the entire notoriety for reducing this magnificent, ancient centre of
learning to an object of derisive ridicule lies squarely at the door of the
infamous Amartya Sen who headed its so-called revival.
Disillusionment Meets Expectation
The announcement of the project to revive the Nalanda University—which
had once symbolized Indian culture as well as the world’s best traditions of
excellence in learning—as a global centre of educational excellence naturally
received enthusiastic response across the country.
Before it was destroyed at the end of the 12th Century, the fact that it
attracted the best talent in droves from nations like China, Korea, and Japan
is recorded by the Chinese traveler, Huien Tsang whose praise of Nalanda’s
greatness is widely known.
The revival project was well-received by Australia, Japan, and Vietnam
among other nations. However, it is tragic that this lofty and prestigious
initiative was mired in controversies right from its inception.
The heart of the ancient Nalanda University lay in the study and the
imparting of traditional learning in various subjects. Therefore, it caused
immense public disappointment when the economist Amartya Sen, who has
absolutely no knowledge of these traditional disciplines, was appointed to
head the revival project.
The fact that Amartya Sen, throughout his long career, has heaped scorn on
everything that is rooted in the Indian tradition, is self-evident. In this
background, the widespread allegation that he has used the Nalanda revival
project to further his own agenda is not baseless.
Amartya Sen has justified the inherent, barbaric violence and iconoclasm of
Muslim invaders as “but this nature is in their blood.” In the same vein,
Amartya Sen’s wisdom-laden thesis denies Hindus the right to avenge this
unprovoked violence. Indeed, Amartya Sen grants only Muslims the right to
take pride in this “nature is in their blood.”
In a letter dated 4 July 2011 to the then External Affairs Minister S.M.
Krishna, former Indian President (late) Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam recommended
that important positions like Chancellor and Vice Chancellors should be
awarded to scholars who are renowned throughout the nation for their
learning and scholarship. We can estimate the disappointment felt by Dr.
Abdul Kalam over Amartya Sen’s antics from this letter. Indeed, the seed for
reviving the Nalanda University was sown by Dr. Kalam in 2006. He had
criticized the decision to appoint an economist like Amartya Sen who has no
background in traditional scholarship as the Vice Chancellor despite the
availability of several distinguished scholars who were definitely more
qualified and suitable for the position.
Wanton Flouting of Rules
As early as May 2010, the Government had issued a set of guidelines and
rules governing the university. This received the President’s seal of approval
on 21st September of the same year. Given this, can anybody justify the fact
of Amartya Sen (or anybody) flouting these rules and guidelines?
The UPA government constituted an 11-member Committee, which included
Amartya Sen, to study the feasibility and do the groundwork for the Nalanda
University revival project. However, even after the Nalanda University was
officially inaugurated, Amartya Sen continued to use his position as the
member of the said Committee to decide on the new University’s syllabus
and other programmes. This became controversial. He also ignored the rules
governing the University, which the Government had by then issued.
Amartya Sen who was mandated to submit a detailed Project Report on the
progress of the Nalanda University project within nine months failed to do so
even after three years. Despite this, it’s pretty strange that his own Committee
elevated him to the position of Chancellor of the University in 2011.
After this momentous appointment, a chain of rule-violations ensued. Gopa
Sabharwal who was appointed as Vice Chancellor was unfit for the post on
all counts. She was merely a Reader in Sociology in the Delhi-based Lady
Shriram College and had no knowledge about the history or the details of the
project to revive the Nalanda University. Neither did she possess any
qualifications mandated by the UGC for those aspiring to become Vice
Chancellors. Her salary at the Nalanda University was ₹ 5.6 Lakhs, twice that
of the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University.
It didn’t stop there.
Gopa Sabharwal then appointed her counterpart at Delhi University,
Associate Professor Anjana Sharma as Officer on Special Duty at Nalanda at
a princely salary of ₹ 3.3 Lakhs, a sum that no central university anywhere in
India offers to an Associate Professor.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of evidence to show the flagrant violations that
occurred in appointments and proceedings at Nalanda.
Amartya Sen inducted the then Prime Minister’s daughter Upinder Singh in
his pet Advisory Committee. Her colleague Nayanajyoti Lahiri was awarded
the title of “Expert.” Neither of these are renowned as experts in any
Even after the new university came into existence officially, Amartya Sen
remotely continued his Nalandadurbar from Delhi.
Lack of Direction
The Manmohan Singh Government branded Nalanda as an International
University in order to insure it from potential financial irregularities, by
keeping finance-related rules out of its direct purview. However, in practice,
the Government treated it as merely a national university. Its expenses, which
exceeded ₹ 1000 crores were entirely borne by Indian taxpayers.
From the early days of Nalanda’s conception, the widely held expectation
was this: as far as possible, it must revive, retain, preserve and perpetuate the
vision, ideal, and framework of the original Nalanda (i.e. up to the 12th
Century), which placed the greatest emphasis on Buddhist studies. In this
backdrop, establishing a School of Information Technology only clarifies the
directionlessness of Amartya Sen’s gang.
Amartya Sen’s brazen flouting of rules counts as an act of unparalleled
shamelessness with the result that the revival project has completely lost
track from the original, noble vision with which it was conceived. After his
term expired in July 2015, when the Government didn’t express any interest
in his continuance at the University, he took to the media to shamelessly
claim “political interference in education” (for e.g. Indian Expressarticle
dated 20 May 2015).
One can spot the irony here: when the Manmohan Singh Government
appointed Amartya Sen as the head of the revival project despite his being
totally unqualified for the task, why didn’t it occur to this eminence that there
was “political interference in education?”
Ideally, Amartya Sen should have been independent. However, by opting to
become both the handmaiden and beneficiary of the UPA Government’s
largesse, he has openly advertised his pettiness. He would frequently talk
about “my friend, Manmohan Singh.” Ever the one to find some or the other
fault, Amartya Sen never managed to find a single fault throughout the
UPA’s decade-long tenure.
Indeed, it is open knowledge that the sole qualification of Amartya Sen to
head the Nalanda University was his proximity with Manmohan Singh and
Sonia Gandhi.
What compels Amartya Sen who has crossed 81 years in age to still insist on
doling out guidance?
In the end, it is a profound tragedy of our times that a lofty project like the
revival of the ancient Nalanda University continues to suffer under the foot of
Translated adaptation of the original essay by Dr. S.R. Ramaswamy that
appeared in the September 2015 issue of the Kannada monthly, “Utthana.”

16 Decoding M F Hussain’s Art

The first and the most common refrain in defence of the perverse paintings of
Hindu Gods, Goddesses, symbols and icons of the late barefoot painter M.F.
Hussain is how sex and nudity were “very much a part of medieval Indian
art.” This refrain is then followed up with numerous citations of nude
sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Hindu temples, and in erotic
Sanskrit prose and poetry. The much-cited example of Khajuraho is also
brandished for good measure.
And then this defence concludes by saying that the contemporary opponents
of Hussain’s art are regressive, communal, and right-wing Hindu fascists.
Fortunately, over the years, this narrative has been debunked[98] and stands
discredited as it should be.
However, a slightly deeper exploration of the underlying theme behind the
said nudity and sexuality in medieval Indian sculpture and the Arts will also
clarify the matter at a more fundamental level. In other words, to try and
understand the role and place of sex in the Hindu Arts in the context of
contemporary public discourse.
This requires an honest, dispassionate, and detached examination of our own
attitudes towards sex. Although this attitude is quite broad and candid in the
last twenty or so years, it’s not inaccurate to say that it’s largely shaped by
the Christian orientation towards sex as sin, and therefore filthy and dirty.

One can see this reflected everywhere: from no-holds-barred pornography to

the mainstream publications, which routinely adopts sexual messaging in
more “positive” (read: enticing) verbiage: language like “carnal craving,”
“dirty delight,” “sinful sensuality,” and so on. It can also be argued that we
don’t interpret this verbiage literally but what subconsciously propels us to
associate the act of sex with those words?
In this backdrop, it’s useful to trace the rough timeline when Khajuraho
attained global renown as an erotic-art (sic), tourist destination. A safe
estimate would be around the time that the West became “sexually liberated.”
In other words, when Western women vociferously asserted their sexuality
and sexual taboos were eliminated.
As has been the case with India since Independence, India followed suit a
few years later with the introduction and growth of the feminist discourse,
and suddenly rediscovered the abundant sensuality lying in its own backyard:
from Kamasutra to Khajuraho. A significant number of scholars from all over
the world embarked on a vigorous pursuit of digging into the Hindu past to
mine the treasures of eroticism in prose, verse, music, mythology, drama,
painting, and folk.
Which brings us to the question: why was sex so ubiquitous in Hindu art?
And why do large numbers of Hindus find sexuality as depicted by the likes
of M.F. Hussain offensive? Two other questions also come to mind: why
have no artists comparable to the unnamed and unknown medieval geniuses
emerged out of post-Independence India in significant numbers? And why
don’t we have temple-architecture and sculpture even bordering on the scale
and eminence of India’s past in our present time?
In his definitive essay, Aims and methods of Indian Art, Ananda
Coomaraswamy says:
By many students, the sex symbolism of some Indian religious art is
misconceived: but to those who comprehend the true spirit of Indian
thought, this symbolism drawn from the deepest emotional experiences
is proof of the power and truth alike of the religion and the art. India
draws no distinction between sacred and profane love. All love is a
divine mystery; it is the recognition of Unity. Indeed, the whole
distinction of sacred and profane is for India meaningless… [Emphasis
This is the answer why millions of Indians are offended by M.F. Hussain’s
perverse paintings, but regard as sacred the nudity and eroticism depicted in
medieval Hindu temples. But popular consensus in contemporary public
discourse claims that it is the nudity that offends these puritan Hindu fascists
whose minds have been hijacked by the “pathology of Hindutva[99],” which in
turn has hijacked the true Hinduism which celebrated sexual openness. But
Monier Williams, quoted by Coomaraswamy[100], more or less accurately
understood how sex is regarded in Indian thought:
…in India, the relationship between the sexes is regarded as a sacred
mystery, and is never held to be suggestive of improper or indecent
Monier Williams echoes what was mentioned earlier: that before India’s
cultural consciousness was dominated first by the impact of Islamic rule and
later Victorianized, the association of sex with sin was alien to this culture
which celebrated all facets of life as sacred. In the same essay, Ananda
Coomaraswamy contrasts this with the attitudes in Europe[101].
…the possibility of such symbolism lies…in the acceptance of all life as
[sacred], no part as profane. In such an idealisation of life itself lies
the strength of Hinduism, and in its absence the weakness of modern
Christianity. The latter is puritanical; it has no concern with art or
agriculture, craft or sex or science. The natural result is that these are
secularised, and that men concerned with these vital sides of life must
either preserve their life and . religion apart in separate water-tight
compartments, or let religion go. The Church cannot . complain of the
indifference of men to religion when she herself has cut off from
religion, and delimited as ‘profane’, the physical and mental activities
and delights of life itself.
As experience testifies, life is a unified whole broken into parts only by the
mind. Indian thought assigns only a secondary significance to Mind. A
common refrain of Indian philosophy is the stress it lays on tempering and
transcending mental impulses. This could perhaps be one reason why the
abstract and impersonal philosophy of the Vedanta—and not psychology—
has left lasting roots in India. Ananda Coomaraswamy then evaluates
Western art in his own time.
Passing through the great galleries of modern art, nothing is more
impressive than the fact that none of it is religious. I do not merely
mean that there are no Madonnas and no crucifixes; but that there is
no evidence of any union of artistic with the religious sense… Such art
appears therefore, let us not say childish, for children are wiser, but
empty, because of its lack of a true metaphysic. Of this the cries of
realism and ‘art for art’s sake’ are evidence enough. A too confident
appeal to the so-called facts of nature is to the Indian mind
conclusive evidence of superficiality of thought. For the artist above
all must be true, for the first essential of true art is not imitation, but
imagination.[102] [Emphasis added]
Indeed, this imagination animates all great works of Hindu art as the
magnificent sculptures and temple art at Konark, Khajuraho and other sites
show. But Coomaraswamy’s insights will emanate from a mind that has
understood both the essence and the impulse that animates such art by living
the tradition that has facilitated its creation. This then is the reason why
Hindus are offended by M.F. Hussain’s paintings because he misuses the
selfsame openness afforded by the Hindu tradition in the name of upholding
One can illustrate this with an extraordinary scene from the 1997 Telugu
film, Annamayya based on the life of the fifteenth century saint-poet-
musician, Annamacharya. In this scene, Annamacharya is shown to be an
ardent sensualist in his early youth. And so, to temper his overt sensuality,
the God Vishnu descends to the earth in human form and takes him to a
temple whereupon, Annamacharya points to him an array of erotic sculptures
on its walls, and asks Vishnu what he feels about them. To which, Vishnu
replies: “in those sculptures I behold the unseen parents of the entire inert and
sentient Cosmos engaged in the Yagna of creation.”
17 New Age Gurus are Distorting Yoga
and Chopping off its Hindu Roots
An unfortunate but widespread phenomenon today with regard to several
fundamental aspects of Hinduism is that we now need to produce elaborate
evidence for things accepted as evident truths, handed down by India’s
timeless philosophical and cultural heritage. These evident truths were largely
accepted as such just thirty or forty years ago in the academic space, popular
imagination, and in the general Hindu civilizational consciousness.
However, with the recurring onslaught of numerous distortions—both in
India and from abroad—these truths now need to be restated, repackaged, and
distortions about them, rebutted constantly. In other words, writing defenses
instead of doing original, constructive work.[103]
Apart from being a waste of precious national time and energy, this state of
affairs also regrettably shows the fact that Hindus have been less than
vigilant, even lax about the unending barrage of attacks on the fundamental
aspects of their philosophy, culture, thought, traditions and institutions.
A prominent method of such attacks involves distorting, and the severance of
traditions, ideas, and practices from their Vedic roots. These attacks are
understandable (though not justifiable) when they emanate from known and
declared opponents of Hinduism. But disturbingly, of late, numerous
"Indology" scholars and self-declared "new-age" Hindu gurus—who don’t
declare themselves as Hindus—too, seem to have internalized these
distortions, and have begun speaking about Hindu traditions and practices in
borrowed tongues. But it’s hard to believe that such gurus aren’t aware of
said distortions and severance, which makes it even worse because it shows
them as spineless human beings.
The repeat target of the aforementioned attacks and distortions is Yoga,
which has lamentably become a multi-billion-dollar health industry, whereas
it should have remained what it originally is: a quiet and lifelong inner quest
for individual spiritual elevation culminating in Moksha or self-realisation.
Consider Jaggi Vasudev, a prominent "new-age" guru who went so far as to
declare[104] that if "Yoga is Hindu, then gravity is Christian," and how he
wants to remove "cultural frills" (whatever that means) from the Yogic
But to those who have closely followed the developments in Indology during
the same period, it is clear that howsoever well-intentioned, the consequence
of Jaggi Vasudev’s claim and aim—like numerous Chicago School-garden
variety of "Indology" scholars—will chop off the inseparable Hindu roots of
In popular perception and practice, Yoga today is almost universally equated
to asana (posture) with pranayama (breathing techniques) coming a close
second. Dhyana is typically taught separately as meditation. However, Yoga
in the sense of an independent and complete system of Darshana (the term
for “Philosophy” in India) with well-defined tenets, guidelines, methods and
practices, and having a tradition harking back to timeless antiquity is very
rarely, if never, taught.
This divorce among other factors is at the base of and sustains the glittering
empires of most of our contemporary five-star "guru cool" Yoga gurus.
Yoga is rooted in the Vedas
Like everything in Hinduism, Yoga has its roots in the Vedas. A cursory
reading of the Vedic lore including the principal Upanishads shows the
widespread usage of the term “Yoga” therein. The term is used in different
contexts, and conveys different meanings, and it is not used in the sense of a
one-size-fits-all meaning as contemporary distortionists claim it is.
In no particular order, the word “Yoga” appears in substantial instances
throughout the Rig, Yajur and Atharva Vedas, and the Aitareya, Katha,
Mundaka, Mandukya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, and the Mahanarayana
These apart, there are about fifty Yogopanishads or Upanishads dedicated to
expounding various aspects of Yoga like the Amritananda, Amritabindu,
Yogatattva, Yogasikha, Pasupatabrahma, Hamsa, and Varaha
In the Vedas, the term “Yoga” is used in the sense of tapas (literally, "to
burn" but used in the sense of "intense penance").
The Mahanarayana Upanishad, which has a separate section dedicated to
Tapah Prashamsa (the praise of penance) delineates Tapas variously as Rta
(the cosmic order), Satya (truth), Shama (serenity of the mind), and Dama
(self-restraint), and upholds the importance and glory of Sanyasa Yoga or the
Yoga of renunciation.
Other prime Upanishads refer to Yoga in terms of Shravana (concentrated
listening), Manana (revision, reflection), and Nidhidhyasana (intense
contemplation on that which is learnt), all essential qualities that an aspirant
and practitioner of Vedanta should possess.
Then, in the celebrated Katha Upanishad, Yama, the Lord of Death (and
Dharma) expounds the nature and aim of the Atman (Soul) in this elevating
Atmaanam rathinam viddhi shareeram rathameva tu |
Buddhim tu saarathim viddhi manah pragrahameva ca ||
The soul/Self is the charioteer, the body the chariot, the intellect the
driver, the mind the reins, and the senses are the horses.
This verse emphasizes the need to rein in the mind through sustained and
rigorous practices which include but are not limited to Yogasanas, Pranayama
and so on.
The Mandukya, a short and terse Upanishad of just twelve verses, elucidates
the meaning and nature of the primordial sound, Om. It describes the states of
Jagrat (wakeful), Swapna(dream), Sushupti (deep sleep), and Turiya (the
fourth state beyond deep sleep or the state of pure consciousness where only
non-duality exists). The focus of this Upanishad on contemplating upon Om
obliquely, forms some of the roots of Yoga Darshana.
Similarly, we find a reference to Nadis (variously: nerves, blood vessels,
arteries, pulse) in the Chandogya Upanishad, which says:
A hundred and one are the arteries of the heart, one of them leads up to the
crown of the head. Going upward through that, one becomes immortal.[106]

The "crown of the head" mentioned here is the precursor to the more famous
conception of the Sahasrara Chakra (the thousand-petalled chakra located at
the crown of the head) in Kundalini Yoga.
The Brihadaranyaka (literally: Great Forest) Upanishad, as symbolized by its
name, is perhaps the greatest exposition of the Moksha Yoga or the Yoga of
The Aitareya Brahmana too, mentions the Brahmarandhra (literally: gateway
of bliss) located at the center of the skull, which again has a parallel in the
Sahasrara Chakra found in Kundalini Yoga.
Yoga in the Wider Hindu Lore
Another definitive source that helps us trace the Vedic foundations of Yoga is
the mammoth work Yoga Vasishta (The Yogic treatise of sage Vasishta)
attributed to Sage Valmiki, author of the Ramayana. The Yoga Vasishta,
which predates the Ramayana, is a conversation between Rama and Sage
Vasishta and is considered as one of the main pillars of Hindu philosophical
Needless, we don’t need a text other than the Bhagavad Gita to look for
ample references to Yoga. Celebrated verses about Yoga in the Bhagavad
Gita include the following:
Yogastah kurukarmani sangamtyaktva Dhananjaya… Perform your
duty being steadfast in Yoga without getting attached to your actions,
Yogah karmasukaushalam…Yoga is the adeptness in doing one’s own
Samatwam Yoga uchyate…Being balanced in both success and failure
is Yoga
Also, the chapter on Dhyana Yoga (Yoga of meditation) is a guide on the
aims, method, and goals of Yoga. As numerous traditional and modern
scholars aver, the entire Bhagavad Gita is a treatise on Yoga.
Tracing the Roots
The cataloguing exercise undertaken so far was necessary to underscore a
fundamental point: that this vast corpus of literature that include meditations
and treatises on Yoga in thousands of verses spread over several centuries
occurred before Patanjali systematized Yoga as an independent school of
Hindu philosophy.
In any case, the discussion so far shows beyond doubt that Yoga does possess
this aforementioned distinctive Vedic roots and imprint. More importantly,
Patanjali Yoga doesn’t contain what modern-day Yoga teachers and new age
gurus say it does: Patanjali’s Yoga sutras do not contain instructions on
performing various Asanas and Pranayamas as we shall see.
There is an even more direct evidence as to the undeniable and inextricable
Vedic roots of Yoga. Sage Patanjali is worshipped as an avatar of Adishesha,
the thousand-headed serpent upon whom Lord Vishnu reclines.
Representations of Patanjali in pictures, sculptures, etc show his lower body
coiled like a snake. (But given how the trajectory of the academic and lay
discourse on Hinduism has proceeded in the period under consideration, it’s
not inconceivable that there might emerge a "school" of Indology arguing
that Adishesha is not connected with Hinduism. After all, there’s no dearth of
scholarship that equates Jesus and Krishna, and claims that Jesus was an
avatar of Vishnu.)
Later scholars, philosophers, and saints of Hinduism interpreted Yoga Sutras
in the light of Vedanta. Bhoja, Vignanabhikshu, Adi Shankara, Sadashiva
Brahmendra and Ramana Maharshi are prominent examples in this regard.
Yoga Entrepreneurs, not Gurus
A significant chunk of the pervasive, global clutch of countless Yoga
"studios", free radicals (i.e., independent teachers of Asanas, Pranayama, etc),
and more worryingly, "new age" Gurus, to put it bluntly, are Yoga
entrepreneurs, not gurus by any stretch of imagination. These entrepreneurs
teach Yoga at the grossest level: the physical body.
A scholar friend alluded to this unfortunate state of affairs observing thus:
This whole Yoga business as is being carried out is a big fraud. You
see, a typical westerner will go to a Yoga “studio,” do his/her 30
minutes of asanas, and then go to a steakhouse and chomp on a big
steak. Our Yoga so-called gurus have failed to convey that
Pratyaaahara is one of the eight components of Yoga sadhana. Why do
not [these Gurus] teach the full discipline of Yoga as it should be
taught instead of cherry picking?
There’s just no other way to say this: today’s Yoga entrepreneurs, instead of
being grateful to the tradition, culture, and land that enabled them to build
their sprawling empires actually propagate the dissociation of Yoga from its
Hindu roots.
Indeed, a genuine teacher or Guru of Yoga would first emphasize on and
facilitate the imparting and practice of these basic requirements imposed
upon a student and practitioner of Yoga: the five Yamas and five Niyamas[107]
Several Yoga teachers that I’ve interacted with routinely pull out stock
phrases like "vibrations," "cosmic energy," "quantum," and "super
consciousness." All of these sound esoteric but really contribute to nothing
that helps one realize spirituality in practical life.
Yoga as a philosophical system is far removed from such new age nothings,
and learning it properly, systematically requires an entirely different spirit. In
a way, one doesn’t really "learn" Yoga. One realizes it.
Like most other disciplines in Hinduism, if one sets out on the path to this
realization, one has to essentially fall back on tradition, which is kept alive by
generations of Gurus. There are strict injunctions in almost all Hindu
philosophical traditions including Yoga regarding the qualifications a person
requires to possess in order to be called a Guru.
And one of the basic qualities that such a guru possesses is Aparigraha (non-
possession), which is also one of the five Yamas (abstinences) identified by
Additionally, every Guru always recites the name of his tradition and his own
Guru as a way of showing reverence and gratitude to the tradition and all the
people who enabled him to become a Yogi. This is his way of repaying a debt
or rna.
This, in short, is a typical outline of how Yoga (in the accurate sense of the
word) and other Hindu systems are taught and learnt traditionally.
In this light, we need to take a count of the number of Yoga entrepreneurs
who practice Aparigraha or possess these qualifications. Worse, several of
these Yoga entrepreneurs have applied for patenting their "own school" of
Yoga. To put it candidly, their guru-hood, and what they hawk as Yoga
violates every known precept, tenet, and guideline laid down by the Sanatana
(Eternal) tradition. This ancient Sanskrit proverb encapsulates such acts of
violation: KrthaGHnasya na Nishkrutih (There is no atonement for the
18 Jaipur Literary Festival as the
Harbinger of Political Correctness
There’s nothing literary about the Jaipur Literature Festival founded back in
2006, a year which saw only about hundred attendees some of who "appeared
to be tourists who had simply got lost,” in the words of its co-founder and
director, William Dalrymple.[108]
The Jaipur Literature Festival is as political as political is. The list of the
who’s who that makes up its firmament year after year reads like the Forbes
List of Liberal Fundamentalists. Perhaps “Dalrymple’s List of Liberal
Fundamentalists” is a more accurate phrase. What “literature” have Shobaa
De, Manil Suri, Pankaj Mishra, Ashis Nandy, Sonia Falerio, Suketu Mehta,
Annie Zaidi, Anurag Mathur, and Tarun Tejpal written? Here’s a sample of
the kind of “literary” discussions you get at that “festival:” political trash,
milking the victimhood mammary, identity issues with a manifest political
hue, gender nonsense, and the rest.
And it isn’t surprising because what has been bandied about as literature
beginning roughly after a couple of decades after World War Two is usually
this: sob stories of oppressed/colonized people, shrill and vacuous feminism,
and increasingly, micro-sub-specialization of the Oppression/Victimhood
tearjerkers. While we’re at it, here’s a free-of-charge idea that will make your
next novel a roaring “literary” success: The Utterly Agonizing (or Utterly
Heroic) Story of a Black (oh wait, make that “African American”) Muslim
American Woman, the child of a single dad, who struggles against all odds to
become a pilot in an international airline. For added drama, have this pilot-
lady go in search of her mother who had left the family when this pilot-lady
was a baby. During the course of her flying to various international
destinations, bring her to India where she discovers that her mother was a
Dalit nurse who had briefly stayed in the US, had fallen in love with this
pilot-lady’s African American Muslim father and that’s how she was born.
The reason her parents were separated: the oppressive capitalist corporate
State of the US and the Hindu nationalist supremacist fascist State of India.
This is typically the specimen of “literature” served at vulgar political
charades like the Jaipur Literary Festival. In fact, you don’t even need to read
such books in full: just the title and a few words in the blurb are enough to
give you a fair idea of the variety of the manure within.
If you look at it, the Jaipur Literature Festival is a political food chain of
sorts. It was founded by a person who’s described with aplomb by Harstosh
Singh Bal[109] as follows.
…what is of interest in this context is not Dalrymple the man, but
Dalrymple the phenomenon. How did a White man, young, irreverent
and likeable in his first and by far most readable India book, The City
of Djinns, become the pompous arbiter of literary merit in India?
“Pompous arbiter of literary merit in India” accurately sums up William
Dalrymple who seems to have deftly understood the extent, impulse, and
aspirations of the mentally colonized English-speaking Indian elite and that
of those lower in the food chain who yearn to emulate this elite.
And as Hartosh Bal’s essay says, Dalrymple has mastered the art of
exploiting the Macaulayite Indian English writer’s insatiable lust primarily
for the recognition that getting published by the UK literary establishment
brings. In the mid-1990s, an Arundhati Roy had to go undergo a considerably
painstaking process to get the attention of the British literary world. Once that
obstacle-riddled goal was reached, the consequent goodies followed on their
own. But today, Dalrymple offers a shortcut: Home Delivery, year after year.
All that you need is to possess average wordsmithy skills and follow the
White Mughal’s script.

As a garnishing of sorts, they’ll invite a Kapil Sibal[110] to ruminate

meaningfully on The Truth of Poetry and the Truth of Politics despite the fact
that Dalrymple and company know the exact nature of the “truth” of Sibal’s
politics of Zero-loss.[111] Sibal, the man who sought to choke voices on the
Internet which were critical of his Government and the Congress party[112],
was invited to the same Jaipur jamboree to which a writer, who continues to
live under the sword of a fatwa issued by Islamic fanatics was also invited.
The irony of this was perhaps lost on Dalrymple; perhaps not.
Enter Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie’s prose is mellow and he crafts it with a finesse that’s hard
to attain. But that’s pretty much all there is to his novels. Without exception,
all his books are a dreadful bore to read. That includes his dream-run
Midnight’s Children. But Rushdie is not a mere Booker Prize winner.
Rushdie is an experience and an episode. But few can equal the delicious
exactitude of Richard Crasta[113] who captures the Rushdie phenomenon so
Indian writers, both the true originals and the … hopeful…have to
revert to their old condition of neglect and poverty…unless they are
sanctified by inclusion in Il Papa Rushdie’s anthologies of Indian
writing—Salman Rushdie in his benighted old age and pashahood
being Her Majesty’s new Gurkha or gatekeeper or headmistress of
Indian writing…keeping out the bad boys and admitting only the well-
Rushdie continues to remain a huge crowd puller for precisely the same
reason: he was the first Indian writer in English to make it spectacularly big
in the land of the English language, extolled by them, thus setting a template
for other hopefuls to emulate.
In a perverse way, the great success of Midnight’s Children in the Western
world proved that Churchill was right when he said that Indians were fit to be
governed only by others. The history of Independent India in a way is a sorry
tale of her political, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual impoverishment
at the hands of just one dynasty. And so that section of the British
establishment which wanted to feel good about having done a service to India
by oppressing it was enthralled when it read Midnight’s Children: nice brown
man writing in flawless English about what an awful place India has become
after we left! As were those Empire-nostalgic racists who wrote reviews[114]
like “The literary map of India is about to be redrawn...”
Let’s look at what has happened ever since: every wannabe Rushdie began to
ruthlessly mine the Indian society to unearth its “inherent” evils—which
usually meant this or that variant of poverty and the “evil caste system”—and
reinforced the Western stereotype about India as a poor, backward, and
primitive nation. Pick any random novel by the likes of say, Rohinton Mistry.
You find stuff like (paraphrased) “…and the Brahmin lifted his buttock and
farted loudly in the face of the poor low-caste labourer working on the farm
who hid his disgust and continued to stand there reverentially with folded
hands,” fantasizing all the while, “One day, I will become Salman Rushdie!
Or Vikram Seth. Or Arundhati Roy. Or Kiran Desai.”
And it is precisely this ambition that Dalrymple and co have made as his
capital investment to found the Jaipur Literature Festival. We can return to
Hartosh Singh Bal[115] who tells us how this works:
Since the original article was published, the Dalrymple bio at the
Jaipur Lit Fest website has been amended. The additions in the few
days since I wrote my piece are telling. They include the Crossword
Prize for Non-Fiction for The Last Mughal, the first Asia House Prize
for Asian Literature for Nine Lives and the French Prix D’Astrolable
for The Age of Kali. These additions only serve as a tacit admission of
the truth of what I had written: ‘This director of an Indian literary
festival does not consider it important to mention an Indian prize he
may have received or an Indian publication he may have written for.
His eyes are trained on the recognition that Britain’s literary world
offers (even if there is the hint that commercial success in India has
started mattering), and in that recognition lies his strength.’
Not bad. One can only remark that Dalrymple’s remarkable flexibility makes
the necessary twists to suit the occasion. Be that as it may, he gives desi
wannabe Rushdies an opening of sorts right on home ground. In return, they
mine deeper to extract newer and newer muck from their own society, culture
and past. The politics of the last seventy years have actively encouraged
“social justice” of this sort and it makes for good copy for Western readers
wanting to “know” India from a “native” perspective.
Which makes us revert to the same question: what business does an Oprah
Winfrey have in this ostentatious festival of “literature?” A 23 January 2012
news report in DNA on the Jaipur Literature Festival says:
…Oprah’s underprivileged beginnings and how she has focussed her
energies on helping not just abused women (Oprah was abused
growing up)…
So there. That again fits the template for who is an authority on literary
matters: the right skin color, the right gender, the right kind and amount of
beatings and abuse you’ve received…actually no. What actually counts is
that how effectively you encash your sob story. Not too long ago, it was
considered beneath dignity for a person to publicly recount his or her painful
past much less use it as an instrument for financial and career success. Oprah
Winfrey has made Abuse-and-Sob-Story TV a hugely successful,
multimillion dollar commercial venture. And that says a lot about the stars
and stalwarts at the Jaipur Literary Festival who erupted in spasms of rapture
at her mere presence there. Or for that matter, a person like Tarun Tejpal[116]
whose paper Tehelka, used extortion-like methods to get what it wanted. But
I’ll admit it’s a tad uncharitable to blame Oprah: she came here because she
was invited.
So let’s just call the Jaipur Literature Festival by its proper name: it is the
Festival of Political Correctness driven and enforced by the Left-Liberal
ideology and sustained in India by Indians hankering for recognition by the
Forget literature, most of the luminaires that dot this charade care nothing
about free expression, and their support for Salman Rushdie is as fake as the
fame of some of the literary geniuses who annually preen there. It is a march
of self-aggrandizing and brazen careerists who sway according to the
changing wind. They make the right noises as long as it’s safe for them to do
so and abandon the very ideal they claim to hold dear at the first hint of
Let’s start with the head honcho, the White Mughal himself. Hartosh Singh
Bal’s searing essay (The Literary Raj) elicited the predictable accusation[117]
of racism from the stung Mughal. In response, Bal called Dalrymple’s bluff
(Does Dalrymple know what racism really is?) telling him he doesn’t know
what racism really means. Dalrymple then slunk away muttering a “regret.”
Schoolboy lessons work: a bully will never bother you again if you hit back
with equal or greater force.
Let’s pick another name. Girish Karnad. The man who famously led a tribe of
followers to “protest” against the “saffronization/communalization” of Datta
Peeta or Bababudangiri about fifteen years ago in Karnataka. But this genteel
activist instantly abandoned his pet cause, dumped his trusting minions and
fled to Bangalore at the precise moment he learnt that the police planned to
put him in jail as a preventive measure.
Let’s pick yet another name: Salman Rushdie. To put things in perspective,
his Satanic Verses is famous only for inviting the fatwa. Yet we need to be
thankful to Rushdie for writing it because it was the resounding slap that
awoke the comfortably-numb Western world to the dangers of creeping
Jihadism, still relatively dormant then. Satanic Verses became an
international issue, even a “civilizational fault line (sic)” because of
Rushdie’s fame as a tremendously successful English writer of global
renown. Had he been a little-known, obscure Indian writing in English, one
of these things would have happened: the novel would’ve never been
published or if it was published, would’ve been banned or worse, an Islamic
fanatic would’ve murdered him like say, Theo Van Gogh.
Years ago, Rushdie proclaimed: “What is freedom of expression? Without
the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” And living with the sword of the
fatwa continuously hanging over his head, he claimed, a few years later that
profoundly regret[ted] the distress the publication [“The Satanic
Verses”] has occasioned to the sincere followers of Islam. Living as we
do in a world of many faiths, this experience has served to remind us
that we must all be conscious of the sensibilities of others.[118]
And he’s also the same man who removed a sentence in Midnight’s Children
as part of an out-of-the-court settlement because an offended Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi had sued him.
All this from a man who gave us that well-worded definition of free speech.
And it is this precise trait that ties him with all the other champions of
political correctness: they seem to think that they’re unaccountable for their
utterances. Had Rushdie practiced what he himself preached about free
speech, he would’ve fought Indira Gandhi in court, and would’ve
courageously stuck to his stand instead of issuing an apology to those
perpetually offended Islamic clerics. Rushdie’s apology indeed, was his way
of doing a Girish Karnad—abandoning values for personal purposes. This
sort of incongruence takes away one’s moral authority to fight for any cause.
This is self-deception of epic proportions.
Did you say literature festival?
19 Has Tolerance Become an Albatross
Haunting Hindus?
Remember the controversy over actor Aamir Khan’s 2014 movie, PK? The
object here is not to analyze the movie critically but to ask this question: why
can’t Aamir Khan be adventurous enough to make a movie that makes fun of
Islam and its Prophet Muhammad? Of course, it goes without saying that had
Aamir made such a movie, he wouldn’t even be alive to listen either to the
criticism or praise of such a movie. But in this case, the “secular” media and
(mostly) Sunni Muslims threw their full weight behind Aamir Khan’s
cinematic impudence.
Forget Muhammad. The Malayalam movie Pitavinum Putranum has been
stuck with the Censor Board for over two years because its subject involves
the story of two nuns, and therefore might offend the delicate sensibilities of
Has tolerance become a curse for Hinduism? The nature of this kind of
tolerance has been described by some thinkers as the perversion of being nice
at any cost.
The now-familiar secularist discourse proceeds in this fashion: caste is bad, it
claims. Lower castes were oppressed for thousands of years, it claims. Yet,
when a person like Mata Amritanandamayi hailing from a “lower caste” stuns
the world with her achievement in various fields, they don’t have a single
syllable of praise. Instead, they wait in stealth hoping to find something to tar
We need to investigate the roots of this state of affairs.
Long History of Demonizing Hinduism
The project of distorting, demonizing, and demeaning Hinduism has a long
The one solid obstacle that the British encountered in their endeavour to
enslave India not only politically but culturally (racially) was the soft power
known as Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism. Indeed, the biggest challenge
before the British was the resolute resilience of Sanatana Dharma which had
withstood and digested not only the savage Islamic attacks but also the
protracted Muslim rule, and had emerged stronger.
It was in this backdrop that the campaign to distort, and demonize every
institution, belief, practice, tradition, and heritage of the Hindus was launched
and carried on with relentless vigour by the British starting from Macaulay
up to Curzon and aided by missionaries and bureaucrats.
This tradition of cultural vandalism is alive and thriving even today. A
representative instance of this is the fact that the Bhagavad Gita, the
universal, eternal guidebook has now become anathema to these cultural
It is really pointless to criticize such motivated opponents. In the present
time, Hindus have no option but to strengthen themselves intellectually and
The picture of India’s culture that emerged from the enormous amount of
scholarship produced on India by 18th Century Europe had stunned the
British to such an extent that they instituted an army of researchers and
scholars who worked for decades to produce a narrative about India that
would aid Empire. A child of this project is the Aryan Invasion Theory.
Thanks to this scholarship about Indian culture, the Germans discovered that
it was far more useful to trace their origins to India than to the Semitic roots,
and they began calling themselves as Aryans. The story of how this
culminated in Hitler’s Nazism with all the attendant consequences is only
well-known to bear repetition.
Equally, one of the strongest edifices that helped Western Europe’s influence
to reach various corners of the world was the distortion of the history of
ancient cultures.
This might sound ridiculous and funny now. However, in the colonial period,
Western Europeans clung to and operated from an important article of faith
derived from the Bible: the whole world was their inheritance from their
ancestors. It was on this foundation that they wrote or sponsored the writing
of history.
However, the consequence of this perverted history was not limited merely to
the intellectual domain—it spread to the realm of political power and was
directly responsible for the genocide of millions of innocent people from
Australia to Latin America.
Several significant chapters of Indian history have been erased from our
memories. It suffices to name only two. The first is the fact that the loot from
the Battle of Plassey directly contributed to England’s industrialization.
Secondly, the modernization of the British army was achieved only after
looting the Marathas. The fact that not one textbook on Indian history
mentions these substantial events and their impact on India and Indians is
nothing short of amazing.
Neither is this phenomenon restricted to India. It is the standard template of
every country that has been colonized: their true histories have been distorted
and suppressed.
Even today there are at least fifty nations in the world that are struggling to
overcome mental colonization. And there are ongoing efforts and struggles in
those countries to rediscover and rekindle their native spirit, culture and
traditions in their respective national narratives—or what is known as the
asmita bhaava (A feeling of oneness). This being the case worldwide, the
continuing attempts of Indians to rediscover their own true history—without
the aid of colonial narratives—should not be regarded as attempts by
unintelligent and under informed people.
Eminent European scholars who predated Max Mueller by eighty or ninety
years had realized the towering place that India held in the world both
economically and culturally. However, like I said earlier, this fact too, has
been carefully suppressed in the present time as a consequence of the efforts
of the selfsame Max Mueller and other scholars of his hue. However, today’s
scholars with intellectual integrity are aware of this fact but they are in a
minority and their voices are mostly unheard. There is thus an urgent need to
widely disseminate such hidden facts at the level of the general public or the
common man, so to say.
Friedrich Schlegel, the German scholar who lived prior to 1829 was one the
most powerful voices who after meticulous research showed the world the
fact that India was the inspiration behind several aspects of Europe’s
modernization. And he was not alone. A slew of such voices spoke about
India’s lasting gifts to and as a source of inspiration for Europe (and other
parts of the world). However, today, a majority of the people we consider as
literate and educated haven’t even heard of these scholars.
The sole motive, indeed, the basis of concocting the Aryan Invasion Theory
was to deny, refute, and despise the antiquity of Santana Bharata’s ancient
culture and civilization.
Vandalizing Indian History
The following are the two main threads that permeate the Aryan Invasion
Theory and have been parroted in different ways and under various guises for
about 150 years:
Aryans and Dravidians were two separate races
The behaviour of the upper-caste descendants of these Aryans is
responsible for all of contemporary India’s societal ills
This “theory” was initially used by the British to retain colonial control over
India but eventually became an important cornerstone of Tamil Nadu politics.
This mythical invasion theory was also used a device to foment separatism
amongst different groups of people in India.
A measure of the extent to which this went became evident when most of
India’s sacred literature—for example Ramayana, the epic that the entire
country revered— came to be painted in a different hue.
However, the following are the main reasons why this baseless theory was
propagated almost unhindered for years:
1. Its propagation was backed by political support.
2. Any theory or policy or movement that contains strands of enmity,
malice or spite will garner support quickly.
3. Any attempt that is aimed at splintering the society will be backed by
the enemies—caste and religious groups—of that society.
An important stepping stone in this “Dravidian Campaign” is a person named
Bishop Robert Caldwell who floated a groundless theory of linguistic
differences, as well as an equally spurious theory racial theory to support his
linguistic theory. The Christian missionary apparatus put Caldwell’s
formulations almost immediately to their advantage. A whole new history
was woven. Balloons like “the Shaiva Siddhanta was not a part of Sanatana
Dharma but had its roots in Christianity” were floated. The Ramayana was
turned on his head with Ravana as its hero. In 1960, “Ravana Kaaviyam,” a
Tamil poem, was officially patronized and widely disseminated by the then
DMK Government, and thanks to the popularity of such twisted work,
societal tensions escalated. Then, in the post-Independence period, an
adharmic force named secularism greatly contributed to further intensify
social disharmony.

Atrocity literature[119], which had formed an important backbone of the

colonial administration as well as Evangelism, now became even more
widespread. At the root of atrocity literature lies a simple formula: there has
existed one class/group of people who have attacked and oppressed another
class/group throughout history. Post-independent India’s society-breaking
enthusiasts contributed generously to this atrocity literature—and continue to
do so.
A colossal nexus supported by establishment intellectuals, media, and
political power almost ensured that the voice of truth would be suppressed
forever. However, it took a significantly long time to mount a strong counter
to this nexus.
In fact, the general public cannot even fathom the true extent of this long-
drawn cultural assault and vandalism against native Hindu traditions.
We can cite Kamil Zvelebil, a Czechoslovakian scholar of Tamil and
“Dravidian” linguistics. Apart from following the usual template of trying to
splinter Indian society into Aryan and Dravidian, Kamil has taunted the entire
Bhakti Pantha (movement). To understand the significance of Kamil’s
vicious writing, one needs to remember that it was the Bhakti Pantha that
acted as the solid protective shield against the incessant medieval Islamic
assaults against Hindu society, institutions, temples, and traditions. If that
wasn’t enough, Kamil attempted to create confusion among and divide South
Indians by floating yet another counterfeit theory in which he claims that
Subrahmanya or Muruga was originally a Christian God. Even worse, such
“scholarly” formulations from Kamil’s pen were patronized by such
prestigious institutions as the Institute of Asian Studies!
The latest in this long, unending chain of cultural assault is the de-
Hinduisation and perversion of Chennai’s iconic Kalakshetra under the
Christian bigot Leela Samson, who was eventually asked to leave in
It is indeed a tragic irony that we have now largely forgotten people like
Subrahmanya Bharati, Rajagopalachari, and Kavyakantha Ganapathimuni
(the preeminent disciple of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi) who fought against
such blatant White racism and Church-sponsored mischief in the Hindu
society. Or, more accurately, this distortion and vandalism of the true history
of India is precisely why we have forgotten such saints, scholars, and savants.
A Campaign for the Search of Truth
It’s not as if the common populace is unaware of the intent behind the
relentless efforts of certain groups to cleave the Hindu society from within.
However, there is an urgent necessity to provide a comprehensive picture that
shows the roots, branches, and mutual relationships between these divisive
This task is not only incredibly tough but—especially in the post-
Independence period—is like swimming against the tide. At the bare
minimum, those who undertake this task will face determined opposition
from the Government, bureaucracy, academia, and the mainstream media.
Therefore, the basic qualities required for a person to tread on this path by
ignoring such opposition include insurmountable courage, intellectual
brilliance, and an investigative and research-minded outlook.
Fortunately, over the last four decades, there has emerged an encouraging
number of such people who realized the urgency and significance of
undertaking this tough task. They took it upon themselves to read, research,
and publish the truth about ancient India, and they have remained ceaseless
and steadfast in their campaign to establish the truth. In this difficult effort,
the contributions of the founders of Voice of India, Sitaram Goel and Ram
Swarup, Arun Shourie, Dr. N.S. Rajaram, David Frawley and others have
been truly monumental. As far as Karnataka is concerned, the names that
come to mind include Dr. Chidananda Murthy, Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa,
Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh, and Dr. K.S. Narayanacharya. These first rate
scholars and intellectuals have effectively countered such motivated
scholarship and writings in the fields of history, anthropology, and sociology
through the dint of sheer hard work and honest scholarship and continue to
act as guides for the society. They have earned the goodwill of contemporary
Indeed, it is a heartening sign that voices of honest inquiry which had grown
feeble have not only grown in intensity but more voices have joined together.
The consequence of this clarity of purpose focused only on the truth about
ancient India will become evident in the coming days.
Indian Textbooks as a Basket Case of History
Since Independence, most governments until now have played both a pivotal
and substantial role in indoctrinating the minds of our school and college
children with a distorted version of Bharata’s past in textbooks in order to
serve a perverse definition of secularism. In no particular order, our textbooks
are characterized by these distortions:
Continuing to assert that the Aryan Invasion Theory is true
Glorifying medieval Muslim tyrants as benevolent rulers
Muting or ignoring the contributions and achievements of Hindus
The truly dazzling and multi-faceted accomplishments of Hindus have either
been ignored or have been subject to wilful, perverse interpretations. Looters
have been glorified. When one examines closely, the period before the British
rule is a basket case of history writing. As we noted earlier in this essay,
European scholars themselves admitted that India was at the pinnacle among
all of world’s civilizations during the medieval period.
However, as the adage goes that history is written by the victor, the British
colonial administration and missionaries wrote, propagated, and popularized
the exact opposite of what they themselves had written about India before
India became their colony. As a consequence, truth, and successive
generations of Indians paid the price. The colonial British had the excuse of
preserving Empire to justify this vandalism. What excuse did successive
governments of Independent India have to perpetuate the same vandalism?
The priority task of any Indian government should have been to quell the
forces that are active in tearing India asunder—Jihadis, Maoists,
Missionaries, terrorists and self-declared intellectuals. However, these forces
today have grown to nearly unmanageable proportions both in strength and
number. Yasin Bhatkal, the terrorist who was responsible for bomb blasts
blasts in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and other places was finally
apprehended on the Indo-Nepal border. This is but a small pointer to the
extent of the Islamic terror network. Although it’s well-known that certain
Church-affiliated organizations surreptitiously sponsor terror (mainly to the
Maoists), this fact is not reported anywhere in the media. It is not an accident
that fifteen years ago, the Lahore-bound Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was
hijacked after it took off from the Tribhuvan International Airport,
Over the last two decades, the National Council of Churches has been very
active in Nepal. So far, not much has emanated by way of news about it.
However, the fact that it is active there gives cause for deeper investigation to
find out the exact truth about its activities there. Pretending to merely see but
not notice the problem cannot be a solution.
The Conglomeration of Anti-India Forces
On the global stage, those forces which are historically opposed to each other
have come together to make common cause in India to break it. If one notices
carefully, even as societal tensions in India have escalated, terror continues to
be exported massively into India. Sadly, the kind of courageous response that
this state of affairs merits is yet to be forthcoming.
To get a glimpse of the kind of networks—and internal enemies—that have
formed to break India, one can cite the findings of Professor Pradip Ninian
Thomas who has exposed the nexus between the disgruntled local groups in
Purvanchal and the American support that backs them.
Earlier, the missionary activity that had peaked in Purvanchal has spread to
Odisha in recent years. Ravi Zacharias, an Indian-born Canadian-American
Christian evangelical fundamentalist has been instrumental in forging an
alliance with the Maoists in Odisha.
The list is nearly endless. So, we can stop here and ponder about the
implication of the cozy relationship between World Vision and the CIA.
Another carefully concealed fact is that the ownership of more than fifty per
cent of mainstream Indian newspapers with large circulations is in the hands
of Church-related organizations.
“Everybody must take up arms if the poor must get justice,” and similar
refrains almost exclusively and always emanate from well-known self-
proclaimed secularists. Such refrains are typically heard from the Pune,
Mumbai, and Surat regions. The role of secularists in campaigning for the
release of imprisoned and convicted terrorists is also no secret. It is relatively
easy to spot these Indian secularists who work indirectly to destabilize India
through their writing, speeches, or activism. However, it is pretty tough to
identify Indian “dummies” or agents of external enemies and nations which
are actively engaged in strategies and projects to subvert and break India.
The ultimate remedy for these horrific problems is the writing, propagation
and popularization of Indian history, which is rooted in truth and not
propaganda. If this sounds farfetched, consider the fact that today, every
discourse about India (whether here or abroad) uses foreign idioms and
terminology. There’s yet another significant frontier that continues to be used
to attack India. The use of Dalit discourse is a front to lull, mislead and subtly
browbeat even thinking Indians into acquiescence but what is actually
happening is a sophisticated, no-holds-barred assault against Hindu society,
an attack which will have far-reaching repercussions. A sampling of
attractive and noble-sounding phraseology illustrates the said sophisticated
assault: empowerment of the oppressed and the downtrodden, human rights,
equal rights for women, service of underprivileged children, and so on.
In the end, it’s futile to blame other religions or hostile nations. It’s our
responsibility to safeguard our home. Weeds grow only in fields that are
(This is an adapted translation of the original essay by Dr. S.R. Ramaswamy
that appeared in the Kannada monthly, “Utthana.”)

20 Using Atrocity Literature to Disarm

Hindus and Christianize India
That the Christian Church has been one of the foreign policy arms of Western
powers since the colonial era is a given. As we witness geopolitical
developments around the world today, we notice that this selfsame policy has
remained unchanged. From denying the US visa to the then Gujarat Chief
Minister Narendra Modi to triggering protests against developmental and
nuclear energy projects in India, the global Christian network continues to
wreak havoc across the world from Africa to Asia.
Including India.
With almost unlimited funds at its disposal and both covert and overt support
of powerful Western Governments, the global Evangelical industry uses
every trick in the book to subvert regimes and cause irreparable damage to
societies. And it is this last point that needs urgent attention as far as India is
As we observe, over the last six decades, perfectly harmonious social
equations have been violently disrupted the moment missionaries have
succeeded in weaning away enough numbers into the Christian fold. The
Rwandan genocide is the best example of this in recent times. The present
condition of almost the entire North East (in India) is another classic case.
Odisha continues to boil under Church-sponsored and engineered social
disruptions. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu seem all set to follow Odisha’s
Introduction to Atrocity or Outrage Literature
One of the more effective techniques that the global Evangelical nexus adopts
to push its agenda both on the global and local stages is to generate what is
known as Atrocity or Outrage Literature.
Atrocity or Outrage Literature can be defined as material (written, audio, and
video) produced by the global Christian network that highlights and
exaggerates historical, social, political, ideological and other fault lines in
non-Christian societies with the deliberate goal of showing how:
These societies are backward, regressive, and in a state of
perpetual internal conflict.
Only Christianity has the message, means, and equipment to end
these conflicts and rescue these societies.
There is a need for political intervention from powerful White-
Christian Western countries to aid the work of these
The first and only aim of Atrocity or Outrage literature is to completely
Christianize non-Christian nations. Both missionary activities on the ground
and the generation of atrocity literature go hand in hand. In a way, atrocity
literature is both a subset of and a companion to hard core evangelical
History of Atrocity Literature
To be sure, Atrocity or Outrage Literature isn’t a new phenomenon. It has a
history of nearly four hundred years in India and elsewhere as we shall see.
The first Evangelists who set foot in India undertook a painstaking process of
studying every single aspect of the Hindu society and identified practices,
traditions, heritage, heroes, languages, grammar, laws, epics, prose, poetry,
puppetry, sculpture, art, painting, dance, and drama that glued it together.
And then they developed elaborate strategies to unglue the Hindu society
using precisely these elements. These strategies were multi-pronged, ranging
from outright abuse of Hindu gods and goddesses, modes of worship,
practices etc, to showing that their “roots” actually lay in Christianity. As we
see today, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Today, the average Hindu is woefully ill-informed, confused, and largely
ignorant about almost every aspect of his or her own religion and there is no
dearth of well-meaning Hindus who subscribe to the “all religions are equal”
Nehruvianism as a Destructive Force
Worse, the post-Independence political and economic policies of India have
opened up the entire Hindu society as a vast and fertile field for Christian
conversions. The blame for this singularly lies at the doorstep of the body
blow that Jawaharlal Nehru dealt to Hindu society: both his politics and
policy were designed to place Hindus at a disadvantage in religious, legal,
and social domains given his advertised disdain for Hinduism. His economic
policies impoverished millions of Hindus who, faced with a hunger crisis,
converted to Christianity which was open about bribing destitute Hindus with
money, education, and healthcare in exchange. Thus, Swami Vivekananda’s
words that “you cannot preach philosophy to an empty stomach” strikes us as
extraordinarily clairvoyant when we recall them now. The same clairvoyance
was also reflected in his brutally honest assessment that:
“[Hindus] shall otherwise decrease in numbers. When the
Mohammedans first came, we are said — I think on the authority of
Ferishta, the oldest Mohammedan historian — to have been six
hundred millions of Hindus. Now we are about two hundred millions.
And then every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less,
but an enemy the more.” [Prabhuddha Bharata April 1899]
Colonial Discourse about India has been an
Enduring Success
One of the earliest and enduring successes of atrocity literature remains in the
domain of caste. It has now become an article of faith to blame almost every
negative aspect and problem of Hindu society on caste, specifically on
For instance, the All India Christian Council (AICC), which often allies itself
with Dalit Freedom Network (DFN)—an organization run by White
Evangelical Christians—produces a distorted version of India’s so-called
caste system and exaggerates caste atrocities. A measure of the extent of
penetration of these groups can gauged by the pitched battle being fought in
England to pass a legislation[120] “that calls for caste to be recognized among
other forms of discrimination.” And this demand is derived directly from the
same colonial narrative on caste. A key member of the AICC is John Dayal
who has a history of working against India.
The other domain that the Evangelical machinery has successfully exploited
happens to be the status of Hindu women. The early days of colonialism
witnessed narratives about how the socio-religious practices of the natives
like “idol-worship,” and “animist worship” were identified with Satanism
which victimised women and children. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy’s
powerful rebuttals—most notably, in his essay, Status of Indian women and
Indian images with many arms—highlight the dangerous mischiefs in this
Church-inspired narrative. Also, Veena Oldenberg’s book “Dowry Murder”
gives detailed instances of British officials encouraging Indians to narrate
dowry cases in an exaggerated fashion in order to pin the blame on the native
culture. Today’s aggressive feminist literature and laws unjustly favouring
women are direct holdovers of this narrative.
Some Common Characteristics
More fundamentally, the Church-inspired atrocity literature against non-
Christian cultures in the world from the early days of colonialism share a few
common characteristics:
In the early days of colonialism, around the 17th and 18th Century, the
European settlers portrayed the natives of the Americas, Africa and
Asia as primitive savages who needed to be civilized by God-fearing
All conflicts between colonizers and natives were presented as clashes
between native barbarism and civilized Christians. This narrative
justified the brutalities inflicted upon the colonized natives.
These narratives eventually went mainstream and justified racist
theories like the Aryan Invasion Theory and the White Man’s Burden.
These theories were therefore taken as the justification for their own
colonialism because they were “saving” the oppressed Dravidians from
the Aryans.
While the oppressed natives were shown as barbaric, the Western
colonizers saw their own ills like racism, misogyny, and slavery as
incongruities that can be corrected.
Much later, when the mirror was shown to the justifiers of colonialism, they
mounted their defence in the form of whitewashing colonial brutalities—
racism, misogyny and slavery—as mere “incongruities that can be corrected”
while continuing to uphold the Church-inspired discourse on Dalits and
Dalit Discourse Christianized
The selfsame DFN and AICC in many instances, use the Aryan-Dravidian
clash to paint a gruesome picture of Dalits being brutalized in India by the
descendants of the Aryans. One of the leading proponents of this variety is
Kancha Ilaiah who believes that India is a fascist state which tortures its Dalit
constituents. Other proponents include Angana Chaterji, Gail Omvedt, V.T.
Rajashekhar and Vijay Prashad. Such is the pervasive influence of this
poisonous discourse that based on the DFN’s propaganda, US Congressman
Edolphus Towns[121] identified India as a theocratic tyranny.
Indeed, over at least four hundred years, atrocity literature has found its way
even to fiction, plays and films. The theme of academic theories such as the
White Man’s burden have been portrayed in these genres as showing that
colonized countries were grateful to the colonizers for civilizing them.
Atrocity literature is One-sided
Atrocity literature is one-sided without exception in all cases. In every single
case, it ignores missionary conversion attempts which lead to conflict when
they are met with resistance from the local Hindu population but only acts of
Hindu resistance are reported across international media and other forums as
acts of Hindu fascism, and state-sponsored violence against helpless
Perhaps the best (or worst) representative example of this sub-genre of
atrocity literature which was disseminated widely across the globe is in the
aftermath of the 80-year old Swami Lakshmananda’s brutal murder in
Kandhamal, Odisha. He was gunned down by Maoists at the behest of
Evangelicals but Hindus were blamed both in the Indian and international
media as committing atrocities against Christians in Odisha.
Today, a mini-sub-genre of the same atrocity literature is emerging in the
form of denunciations against ghar wapsi (homecoming) initiated by many
Hindu groups engaged in reconversion attempts of their Hindu brethren who
were converted to Christianity or Islam by force or fraud or both.
The Gujarat Riots Cottage Industry as a
National Security Threat
If the Kandhamal discourse is representative of one type of atrocity literature,
there’s yet another and bigger representative: the discourse on the 2002
Gujarat riots.
This discourse gave birth to a phenomenon for which the noted columnist
Rajeev Srinivasan coined a new term: the Gujarat Riots Cottage Industry[122].
Indeed, there were any number of columnists, academicians, analysts,
authors, media outlets, filmmakers, playwrights, psychoanalysts, poets,
activists, NGOs, Mullahs and Evangelists who profited handsomely from this
cottage industry.
To be sure, this industry was centred exclusively on demonising exactly one
man: Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India. The international
seminar and lecture circuit was deluged by precisely these Indian suppliers of
atrocity literature to the West. Among other things, such concerted efforts
resulted in getting the US to deny a visa[123] to Narendra Modi, then the Chief
Minister of Gujarat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
During that period, the French scholar Christophe Jafferlot was instrumental
in providing significant amounts of atrocity literature about the 2002 Gujarat
riots, which then flooded the Western media. Even worse, some prominent
members from the Indian Christian lobby and its affiliates—Indian citizens,
to be sure—testified against a constitutionally elected Chief Minister on
foreign soil, before the USCIRF[124]. Members of this lobby include—but are
not limited to—John Dayal, Father Cedric Prakash, Teesta Setalvad, Kamal
Mitra Chenoy, and John Prabhudoss. If this was not enough, in 2013, sixty-
five members of the Indian Parliament wrote[125] to Barack Obama to
maintain status quo on Narendra Modi’s visa to the US. Indeed, the 2002
Gujarat riots discourse demonstrated frighteningly, the casual disregard for
Indian sovereignty, the power of and the threat the Christian lobby poses for
national security.
Indian Vendors of Atrocity Literature
This then brings us to yet another dangerous aspect of atrocity literature in
the present day—Indian Christian (and other) groups who regularly supply
material for atrocity literature to their sponsors in the West.
Again, the AICC acts as the Indian arm of the said global Evangelical
network. Even more worrying is the fact that US-based mainstream think-
tanks with enormous political clout use these inputs from India to fashion the
US government’s India policy. Among others, these are the notable right-
wing think-tanks: The Policy Institute for Religion and State (PIFRAS),
Federation of Indian Christians of North America (FIACONA), Freedom
House, Asia Society (New York), RAND Corporation (which characterizes
the RSS as the Hindu equivalent of Al Qaeda), and The Ethics and Public
Policy Center (EPPC).
And so the deadly and tragic history of atrocity literature which when it
began, was produced exclusively by the missionaries (and used effectively by
the colonial British administration), stands transformed in our own time as
It is produced in copious amounts by foreigners directly and indirectly
working for or on behalf of the worldwide Evangelical machinery.
It is produced equally in copious amounts by Indian Christians—both
neo-converts and otherwise—who are Indian citizens living in India
and abroad, some even working in Government and government-
funded institutions, and some working actively in the pay of
Evangelical organizations and NGOs of various hues.
It is produced by Hindus—even by well-meaning Hindus—who are
working in NGOs, educational institutions and other charitable/service
organizations which are fronts for Evangelical work.
It is also disseminated by Hindu organizations and media outlets which
make apologies for and whitewash even genuine instances of Church
brutalities and the widespread phenomenon of child abuse in the
Church—all for the sake of career prospects, money, fame, influence
and similar considerations.
In the end, we need to call out atrocity literature for what it really is: a
determined, focused, and premeditated atrocity against India’s civilizational
ethos, which is Hindu first and last. As history is witness, attempts to paint
atrocity literature otherwise or to fail to clearly discern sophisticated attempts
at deception have only resulted in greater erosion of the Hindu civilizational
Swami Vivekananda was extraordinarily clairvoyant.
21 The Unaccountable Communist
Republic of Jawaharlal Nehru
Perhaps in no other country would you witness university students
sloganeering for the destruction of their own nation and for clamours
promising to fulfill a terrorist’s “wish”. And perhaps in no other country
would you witness top media personalities, intellectuals, writers, academics,
and even former judges justifying this brazenness as “freedom of speech.”
This assorted crew then takes the justification forward and hails these rabid
sloganeers as heroes and martyrs.
A short explanation is in order.
There is India and then there is the Unaccountable Communist Republic of
JNU, which merely happens to inhabit the geography of India but is covertly
and overtly funded and supported by powerful interests in India hailing from
the political class, bureaucracy, academia, media, and the rest.

The emergence of Kanhaiya Kumar[126] and his motely band of terrorist-

supporters in early 2016 is but the natural blooming of the seeds that founded
the Jawaharlal Nehru University. For those that have followed not merely the
history of the JNU but that of the root ideology that inspires and guides it in
India, Kanhaiya, Umar Khalid and company’s flagrant antics aren’t
At a point on another timeline not too distant from the present, the JNU
slogan of “Hindustan ko tukde tukde kar denge” (We will chop India into
pieces) was given overwhelming support at the party, policy, and on the
ground by the progenitors of the JNU. The result: Partition of India in 1947.
Very briefly, the seeds were germinated in what is known as the “Adhikari
Thesis,” which was a position paper authored by Gangadhar Adhikari, who
was briefly Secretary of the (undivided) Communist Party of India (CPI).
The “position paper” titled “Pakistan and National Unity”, in reality was
simply two things: an endorsement of the Muslim League’s demand for
Pakistan and the willingness of the CPI to fully back it. The CPI passed a
resolution to the effect based on this paper.
But the premise of G Adhikari in the paper is what is interesting: one, he
holds that India was never a united country “from Kashmir to Kanyakumari”
and that the idea of “one nation, one people, one language” never existed at
any point in India’s long history. Two, he characterizes the various regions of
India as “different individual nationalities.”
It is highly instructive to read the entire paper in full.
This premise enables him for example, to pen this:
“The Lingayat peasantry of Karnatak… wakes up to anti-imperialist
consciousness and develops a natural yearning for a free Karnatak...
So it is with the Andhra, Tamils and with the Sindhis, Punjabis and the
Pathans.” [127]
And soon enough, this:
“… as soon as we grasp that behind the demand for Pakistan is the
justified desire of the people of Muslim nationalities such as Sindhis,
Baluchis, Punjabis (Muslims), Pathans to build their free national
life…there is a very simple solution to the communal problem in its
new phase.”[128]
But more decisively:
“… nationalities such as Sindhis, Baluchis, Pathans and Punjabi
Muslims have the right to secede if they so desire…wherever people of
Muslim faith living together in a territorial unit, form a nationality…
they certainly have the right to autonomous state existence…”[129]
How different is this from Kanhaiya and gang’s “Hindustan ke tukde tukde”
current clamour? If anything, Adhikari’s work provides the ideological basis
and justification upon whose strength these “martyrs” enact their drama
unimpeded on a sprawling campus created, sustained, and subsidised by the
Indian taxpayer who’s only recently becoming aware of the exact sort of
national danger this institution poses.
The communists’ support to the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan —
not to mention the orgy of bloodshed they unleashed in Telangana in 1946 in
support of yet another vivisection of India — eventually tarnished their image
But as luck would have it, in Nehru they found a Prime Minister who was
thoroughly seduced by the USSR, their Holy Fatherland. It was during his
long tenure of seventeen years that they slowly began taking control of
institutions that shaped public discourse — chiefly, education. However, this
period was one where they had merely laid the foundations and were placing
the initial bricks. The actual fortification began when Indira Gandhi sought
their support in 1969 to provide stability to her Government, which she had
formed after splitting the original Indian National Congress. It’s well-known
that in return, they demanded the establishment of JNU, a massive mini-
township spread over more than a thousand acres of prime land in Delhi.
Mrs Gandhi’s education minister Nurul Hasan, a true-blue communist,
eventually packed the JNU with handpicked party people, communist
academics, and committed ideologues to key positions. The JNU grew
meteorically. As now so then: academic faculty were a little more than
indoctrinators imparting ideology instead of learning. Even worse, some
worthies were on the payroll of the USSR.
Yuri Bezmenov, a (deceased) KGB defector to the West narrates how when
he was working at the Russian embassy in India, academics from various
universities including Delhi University and JNU would be exported to and
trained in the USSR in techniques of indoctrinating their students in
A friend and veteran JNU alumnus I recently met narrated some telling
experiences of life on campus in the early 1980s.
Almost all academics—faculty and visiting—were card-carrying communists
who drove student activism. Violent, breaking-India-type groups like the
PSO and RSO too enjoyed relative freedom to carry out their on-campus
Students who didn’t toe the line were mercilessly victimized. As a high
profile example, my friend narrated how a former president of the JNUSU
(JNU Student Union) committed the cardinal sin of not adhering to the party
line. He was rusticated and his PhD was delayed by eight years. He later went
on to become the Patna resident editor of a prominent newspaper.
However, the most revealing and vivid anecdote from my JNU friend was
that of Arun Shourie being invited in 1984 or 85 for an informal, post-dinner
address to students at the mess. The topic was “Media as the megaphone of
the government,” and the context was twofold.
The first: around that period, as a laboratory experiment, Mrs Gandhi had
gotten the Jagannath Mishra Government in Bihar to introduce the Press Bill
to squelch press freedom but had to back down in face of severe opposition.
The second: in 1984, the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India carried a
four-part series entitled The Great Betrayal authored by Arun Shourie. That
series had exposed the treacherous role the communists had played in
sabotaging the Quit India Movement. It was later enlarged into a
comprehensive book on the same topic, titled The Only Fatherland.
The invitation to Shourie was primarily aimed at cornering him on their own
turf — the JNU — during the Q&A session. My JNU friend described how
Shourie came armed with cartons of primary evidence, photocopies, and
boxfuls of papers, and systematically showed how the USSR had painted
Second World War as a “People’s War” thanks to brilliant propaganda,
which our comrades back then had dutifully swallowed.
In contrast, the only rebuttal to Shourie’s speech came from an AISF (All
India Students’ Federation) member in the form of a question: “how much
has the CIA paid you?” The ensuing exchange, as my friend recounted
(paraphrased), is telling:
Arun Shourie (AS): Are you a student or a teacher?
Student: I am a student.
AS: For how long?
Student: 10 years.
AS: I asked this question because I wanted to ensure whether you are
contaminated or the one doing the contaminating.
Indeed, not much has changed since then at JNU. When cornered, shift the
goalpost, outshout, denounce loudly, or accuse the questioner of being an
agent of this or the other foreign force.
Thus, in our TV debates, the standard refrain of the invited sloganeers is to
constantly mischaracterize the issue of their anti-India activism as one of
“freedom of speech” and “debate over death penalty”.
And all of this in the service of what Arun Shourie calls “a master theory, a
revelation,” and “if your answer does not accord with their line, they come
down on you as an avalanche — of denunciation, of vicious abuse, of their
sudden discoveries about your motives.”[130]
Even the CPI(M) and other assorted communist parties no longer talk about
grand revolutions and people’s war, and so on. However, the roots they have
spread in our institutions and in public discourse have permeated a sense of
permanent confusion.
When the average reader is bombarded in today’s age with an information
overload on every issue, he loses a sense of being able to distinguish between
the true and the false, and fact and perception. The Kanhaiya Kumar episode
illustrates this very well: why is there even a debate over the actions of
Kanhaiya and his niggardly group instead of instant and fierce punishment?
Thankfully, there was an instant national backlash against his disgraceful
sloganeering. The fact that it was the media, the intellectual and the academic
elite that defended his treason and attempted to paint him as a victim and
martyr is a highly accurate reflection of what they stand for.
What can be Done
There’s a reason JNU has become notorious as the Kremlin on the Yamuna,
the Mecca of Indian Marxists etc. Given the Kanhaiya Kumar episode,
parents need to be wary if their wards choose to study at JNU. And this is not
even counting the rapes and not-infrequent reports of sexual harassment both
at the faculty and student levels.
It would be highly revealing if ever a research was conducted on the exact
sort of achievements and positive contribution that JNU has made to both
India and the Indian taxpayers who have been subsidizing the nearly fifty
years of its existence.
Indeed, this applies equally to every Left-controlled educational institution
(for example, the FTII), which share several common, unsavoury
characteristics: “students” staying there almost indefinitely without
completing a single course, on-campus alcohol and drug abuse, undisguised
anti-India activism, divisive indoctrination, bullying hapless students who
don’t subscribe to their ideology, Kashmiri separatism, Islamic radicalization,
and virulent anti-Hinduism among others.
Why should taxpayers fund this?
More crucially, the selection criteria for admitting students also need to be
thoroughly reexamined and overhauled. Even the actual questions for
entrance test papers for various humanities courses need a similar overhaul.
As of now, loaded questions are asked to filter out “undesirable” (read:
ideologically opposed or neutral) potential candidates.
The faculty also need to be made accountable for their projects and
affiliations with motivated foreign organizations —for example, tie-ups with
say, the Ford Foundation, sponsored visits abroad and so on. The case of
Kamal Mitra Chenoy is a representative sample. He was one of the JNU
luminaries that deposed against an Indian chief minister on foreign soil
before the USCIRF, a body created by the US federal government.
Some have argued for shutting JNU down. A more realistic and immediate
move would be to first free it of its ideological moorings and replace it with
policies where academic rigour and merit would be the only factors that
22 Amnesty International as a
Representative Sample of National
Security Threat
In hindsight, Indira Gandhi was perhaps justified in repeatedly harping about
the hazards of the ubiquitous “foreign hand.” Only, it was ironical given the
fact that more than forty MPs in her government were on the payroll of the
CIA or the KGB or both, as the Mitrokhin Archives reveal.
But her harping ensured keeping intact something that is non-negotiable for
any independent, sovereign nation: external and internal security and freedom
from alien—especially Western—interference, no matter how benign the
Let’s now examine the 1984 National Day speech by Indira Gandhi’s
contemporary, Lee Kuan Yew who recalls his early, uphill struggles to build
….the stench, the filth…what did [build Singapore] it? Human rights?
Are they bankable? The [Western nations] … should underwrite…
admit two million people to Australia or UK or US [in case something
goes wrong] and I’ll follow what you tell me…when you don’t have
jobs, will you queue up outside the ILO?...when you’re hungry, will you
go to the FAO?....This is the only bank you have…the Singapore
government…I tell this…class of intelligentsia, those who read all
these magazines and newspapers: who wrote it? What is his stake and
interest in your future before you believe him? ... But you know,
Amnesty International and all these human rights guys say, hanging is
It might be very hard for the post-colonial generations in former colonized
nations to understand what they see as paranoia about allowing Western
intervention on their soil in the name of human rights, aid, etc. But both
Indira Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew belonged to a generation that had lived the
horrors of Western colonialism, and were justifiably wary.
Put another way, it must never be forgotten that the freedom struggle was
fundamentally fought to achieve two ends: to drive out the oppressive, alien
occupier and to unite India as one nation, a unity that should remain non-
negotiable, Jammu and Kashmir included.
And unless this fundamental, integral premise is not forgotten, it will become
clear that the protracted violence and sloganeering that continues in the name
of the so-called Azaadi for Kashmiri Muslims is not a “debate” much less “a
point of view.”
And this is precisely what vast sections of our academia, media, intelligentsia
and policy wonks want us to forget when they cynically throw around
diversionary labels like “human rights,” “hypernationalism,” and so on.
This then is the context in which we need to examine the fracas that Amnesty
International India instigated in August 2016 in Bangalore[131] under the garb
of providing a platform to Kashmiri Muslim victims of human rights abuses
by the Indian army. But this fracas is merely the latest manifestation of a rot
whose roots go much farther back in time.
Suffice to ask a few questions to Amnesty: Why hasn’t it interviewed even
one Kashmiri Pandit over more than two decades, after lakhs of them were
forced out of the Valley by the selfsame Azadi torchbearers? And why hasn’t
Amnesty shown the sorry plight of the families of the slain Indian soldiers
fighting to protect our borders?
More importantly, why hasn’t it interviewed the perpetrators of the worst
human rights abuses—the Jihadi groups and their enablers who violently
execute this noble task of “Azadi”? And what was the crying need for
Amnesty to organize an event of such a nature—knowing well that it would
lead to controversy—in the first place? Equally, the timing of the event also
arouses a doubt: is it to keep the flames of sympathy for the slain terrorist
Burhan Wani[132] still burning?
The answers will become evident when we hold the mirror to Amnesty
International specifically, and to the global Human Rights corporation funded
by the West and the Church.
Human Rights as an Interventionist Model
The Western Human Rights industry follows the historical colonial model of
saving souls and the white man’s burden repackaged to fit contemporary
times. Its core doctrine is dictated by interference in the affairs of
independent nations using whatever tools are deemed fit: think tanks,
bureaucracy, local advocacy groups, universities and the media. We can turn
to Lee Kuan Yew again:
…nail your colours to the mast, defend it and say, “This is my flag, this
is what I believe in. I believe in open debate, arguments, persuasion, I
hope to win by votes.” But start manipulating innocent professional
groups, cultural groups and make them support political causes,
whether it is freedom of the foreign press or whatever, then I say you
are looking for unpleasant linkages with what has happened in the
past.” [Emphasis added]
And more crucially,
“We allow American journalists in Singapore in order to report
Singapore to their fellow countrymen…But we cannot allow them to
assume a role in Singapore that the American media play in America,
that is, that of invigilator, adversary and inquisitor of the
administration.” [Emphasis added]
Now apply this to the Indian situation and notice how dangerously true this
has turned out. From Amnesty International to the clutch of foreign media
houses who have a single-minded agenda of demonizing and pressuring the
Narendra Modi government on mostly phony grounds, and causing mini-
conflicts at regular intervals.
It’s a beautiful model though: first, identify a target country for intervention
and concoct a random narrative of human rights abuses there, and when that
country’s government protests, portray such protest as proof of the poor
human rights record of the country.
It is nobody’s claim that there are no human rights abuses in India or
anywhere else the world. The point is that every country has its own ways of
dealing with it, and no external agency should be accorded permission to
interfere in the internal affairs of independent nations. Would the US or UK
allow say, a desi version of Amnesty International to pry into its racism,
police brutality, illegal detentions and spying on private citizens in the name
of homeland security?
Amnesty International India is thus precisely a case in point. The slogan
shouters, its volunteers, its donors, and supporters are all mostly Indian
citizens participating in alien agendas that include abusing and demoralizing
the Indian armed forces, and escalating social and gender tensions among
other things.
Revisiting Amnesty International in India
It might come as a surprise but Amnesty International was allowed to open
shop in India only as late as in 2012. However, a short trip to the past reveals
the interventionist agenda it has always had for Kashmir and Punjab, to begin
We can examine excerpts from just three Congressional records to begin
1. The Congressional House Record of June 10, 1991: Placed by Rep
Dan Burton, here’s how it reads: “…the President shall report to the Congress
whether the Government of India is implementing a policy which prevents
representatives of Amnesty International…from visiting India in order to
monitor human rights conditions…” And if India still disallowed entry to
Amnesty, “all development assistance for India shall be terminated.” And on
Kashmir, “the Congress…demands that the Government of India open the
borders of…Jammu and Kashmir to Amnesty International…to permit an
accurate assessment of of the human rights situation…” This is the same Dan
Burton who later was part of the team of US politicians who participated in
denying the Visa to Narendra Modi.
2. The Congressional (House) Record of May 10, 2000 (Extensions of
Remarks): tabled by Rep Edolphus Towns cities an Amnesty International
report that falsely blamed the then NDA government as responsible for the
killing of 36 Sikhs at Chithi Singhpora. More tellingly, Towns says America
“should also support…plebiscites in Kashmir, in Christian Nagaland and
throughout India. This is the way to bring real freedom, peace, prosperity and
stability to South Asia.”
3. The Congressional (House) Record of June 1, 2004 (Extensions of
Remarks): tabled yet again by Rep Edolphus Towns makes Punjab a part of
“Khalistan.” It’s instructive to read this record at some length: “Mr. Speaker,
on May 12, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness conducted a
hearing into human-rights violations in Kashmir and in Punjab, Khalistan…
Witnesses travelled from Kashmir…to testify. Those testifying included…
Mr. T. Kumar, Advocacy Director—Asia, Amnesty International…Dr.
Ghulam Nabi Fai… India claims to be democratic, but it is really a brutal
tyranny… Amnesty International hasnot been allowed into Punjab since
What does this tell India about Amnesty’s alarming reach in the highest tiers
of the US government? Given this, it’s hard not to appreciate the
farsightedness of past Indian governments, which had accurately assessed its
true character and kept it out of India.
The role of Amnesty in India can also be examined in tandem in light of its
aggressive campaign against denying the US visa to Narendra Modi and its
nexus with the global Human Rights Award industry with the generous
backing of Evangelists of all hues.
We can now turn to the meticulously researched work, NGOs, Activists and
Foreign Funds by Vigil, Chennai, first published in 2006.
No Indian government will allow Amnesty International …to set foot
inside this country… Amnesty International …will ask neither the
Indian government for the truth, facts and figures…[but] will ask the
likes of Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander and Kathy Sreedhar… (Page
The book informs us how in the year 2000, a certain Martin Macwan, a
Christian from Gujarat received these awards: the Magsaysay and the Robert
F Kennedy Human Rights Award. And one William Schulz, former
Executive Director of Amnesty International, Smita Narula of Human Rights
Watch and Kathy Sreedhar of the Holdeen India Fund recommended
Macwan’s name to the judges. Now, Schulz is an ordained Unitarian
Universalist minister, and served as president of the Unitarian Universalist
And Amnesty’s deep links with the Evangelicals show up more distinctively
in its campaign to deny Modi the US visa. Here’s Zahir Janmohamed[133],
former Amnesty employee describing how
In March 2005, the United States denied a visa to Gujarat’s chief
minister, Narendra Modi…it came about from a highly unusual
coalition made up of Indian-born activists, evangelical Christians,
Jewish leaders and Republican members of Congress…I had a front-
row seat to these events as they unfolded. I worked in Washington.
D.C., from 2003 to 2011, mostly at Amnesty International and in the
United States Congress, and I was a part of the campaign to deny Mr.
Modi a visa…

And how Amnesty bullied talk show host Chris Mathews[134] by writing a
letter “to American Express asking it to withdraw its sponsorship of the
conference” with Narendra Modi. Of course, the conference never happened
because Modi’s visa was denied.
Funding Sources, Conflicts of Interest
Indeed, if Amnesty International operates with impunity on this scale, it is
also because of its funding and its labyrinthine web of relationships which
continue to cause controversy.
Founded in 1961 by the Catholic lawyer Peter Beneson, Amnesty
International was infiltrated early on by the UK Intelligence. The book “Like
Water on Stone: The Story of Amnesty International” says,
Beneson’s suspicious about Amnesty’s collusion with the [UK] Foreign
Office continued to fester in his mind…the Labour Party
[Government’s] obvious embarrassment over the Aden issue deepened
his suspicions that someone was working to keep the matter quiet. And
top of his list of suspects was Robert Swann…[who] had worked for the
British Foreign Office in Bangkok…Beneson began to suspect that
Swann and…his colleagues were part of a British Intelligence
conspiracy to subvert Amnesty… He contacted Sean MacBride
[founding member of Amnesty and former Chief of Staff of the Irish
Republican Army]… another bombshell exploded. An American source
disclosed that CIA money was going to a US organization of jurists
which in turn contributed funds to the International Commission of
Jurists, of which Sean MacBride was secretary…Beneson became
convinced that MacBride was tied up in a CIA network.[135]
This cofounder of Amnesty International, Sean MacBride went on to win the
Nobel Peace Prize. Subsequently, a Sean MacBride Peace Prize was
instituted in his honour.
In 2000, the Communist journalist and author Praful Bidwai, and Delhi
University Professor Achin Vanaik were awarded the MacBride Peace Prize.
The NGO watchdog website, “NGO Monitor” has this to say about
Amnesty’s funding:
Although AI claims that it does not “accept any funds for human rights
research from governments or political parties from governments or
political parties,” it has received governmental funding, including from
the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the
European Commission, the Netherlands, the United States, and
NGO Monitor has also published a monograph titled “Amnesty International:
Failed Methodology, Corruption, and Anti-Israel Bias,” in which it details out
the various irregularities committed by Amnesty. As corroboration, we can
also look at the International Business Times, which published a report on
Amnesty’s funding anomalies:
…the messy and somewhat mysterious departure of Shetty’s
predecessor, Irene Khan, cast a harsh glare on Amnesty’s internal
strife and financial issues.
Khan, who had led the organization since 2001, was given a severance
pay package of more than £533,000 ($760,000 in 2012 currency),
while her deputy Kate Gilmore received a hefty £325,244 ($493,000)
payout… An Australian blogger thundered: “I am not sure about an
international organization that collects donations and then pays the
leaving secretary- general £533,103 or 4 times her yearly wage... That
is a lot of money and I am sure [it] could have been used much better
to champion fight for human rights that Amnesty International go on
about.”… in 2007, the Catholic Church, a long-time supporter of
Amnesty, withdrew donations owing to the group's pro-abortion
stance…. NGO-Monitor noted, in 2008, the campaigners received a
four-year grant from the British government's Department for
International Development (DFID in excess £3 million, including more
than £840,000 in 2011 alone… Amnesty has also received funds from
the European Commission, as well as from the government of
Netherlands, the U.S., and Norway. In 2009, NGO-Monitor cites,
Amnesty received €2.5 million (approximately 1 percent of its
donations) from government entities. The British government was the
third largest donor (at €800,000). Amnesty also received government
funding in 2008 (€1million), 2007 (€1 million), and 2006 (€2 million).
The report also mentions the name of Amnesty International’s Secretary-
General, Salil Shetty who “earns nearly £200,000 ($305,000) a year.” Salil
Shetty is the son of the Bangalore-based V.T. Rajashekhar, publisher of the
notorious journal, “Dalit Voice,” which Arun Shourie characterized as a
“venomous rag.”
And that brings us to the question of conflicts of interests, which are
bountiful and the nexus, deadly to say the least. Here’re a few names:
1. Aakar Patel, currently India head of Amnesty International has a
lengthy record of baiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in racist
language and generally building a casteist narrative of the Hindu
society. His wife, Tushita Aakar Patel is/was the political secretary of
the disgraced and fugitive business tycoon, Vijay Mallya whose foray
in the media business is shown by his connection to NDTV.
2. Salil Shetty was previously Chief Executive of ActionAid and
Director, United Nations Millennium Campaign. Sonia Gandhi’s
confidant, Harsh Mander had earlier been the head of ActionAid.
3. Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA,
was drawn directly from the US State Department, again, utterly
contradicting Amnesty's claims of being "independent" of governments
and corporate interests.
4. George Macfarlane, formerly with Greenpeace International and
5. Minar Pimple, Senior Director of Global Operations at Amnesty
International was Regional Director of the United Nations Millennium
Campaign, and Oxfam India.
6. Divya Iyer, now Research Manager at Amnesty International, India
was previously with NDTV, AajTak and CNN-IBN.
7. Carolyn Hardy, now a co-opted member of Amnesty, was with the
United Nations and UNICEF.
8. Anantapadmanabhan, now Executive Director at Amnesty
International India, was formerly Executive Director, Greenpeace
I’m sure that one can uncover numerous such relationships in this complex
web of the NGO-Human Rights-Foreign Governments-Church universe but
the worrying aspect is their former and present connections to international
bodies like the UN and the US State Department.
And so, is it any surprise that when the Modi government slammed the door
on the face of Greenpeace India, one of the first and most vocal critics was
Friends with Jihadis
Even if we grant that Amnesty International is focused on noble tasks in the
Human Rights sphere, we need to ask a fundamental question: what is its
record in adhering to the Indian national interest?
The evident answer: terrible.
Amnesty International has consistently deepened fissures in the Indian
society by escalating internal fault lines using various devices, one of which
is manufacturing and disseminating atrocity literature.

About a year ago, Amnesty published a scurrilous petition[137] about the rape
of two Dalit girls in Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat region, which was supposedly
ordered by the village’s Khap panchayat. The petition generated more than
500000 signatures but the truth was revealed a few days later by a Reuters
…members of the village council in the Baghpat region of northern
India have told Reuters they passed no such order. Family members of
the two sisters also told Reuters they are unsure if the ruling was made.
And local police deny any such directive was given.[138]
But then Amnesty’s purpose had been served: the phony petition will be yet
another page in Amnesty’s volumes of atrocity literature against India.
Not to be left behind, Amnesty too, had a hand in supporting the anti-
Kudankulam[139] protests, which had the covert backing of the then US
President-hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Now, sample this “overview” to India on Amnesty International’s India web
Authorities clamped down on civil society organizations critical of
official policies, and increased restrictions on foreign funding.
Religious tensions intensified, and gender- and caste-based
discrimination and violence remained pervasive. Censorship and
attacks on freedom of expression by hardline Hindu groups grew.
Scores of artists, writers and scientists returned national honours in
protest against what they said was a climate of growing intolerance…
The criminal justice system remained flawed, violating fair trial rights
and failing to ensure justice for abuses. Extrajudicial executions and
torture and other ill-treatment persisted.[140]
Undoubtedly, this gives the picture of India as a dreadful tyranny, right? And
the instances it gives to back up all these claims are supplied precisely by the
local “award wapsi” brigade, the leaders and cohorts of the intolerance
bogey, and kindred fellow-travellers.
Never mind the fact that India allows Amnesty International the freedom
enough to actually write all this. Had Amnesty’s claims been true, it
would’ve received the treatment that Lee Kuan Yew gave it in the past in
Indeed, is it narratives like this that prompts US politicians like Towns to
label India as a “brutal tyranny” on the floor of the House.
If this is on the one side, the other side is more worrying.
We can begin with the name of Gita Sahgal, whose statement slamming
Amnesty was reported by the online portal, Firstpost[141]. This former
Amnesty International employee was suspended in 2010 by the organization.
Christopher Hitchens, in Slate narrates what had transpired back then:
Amnesty International has just suspended one of its senior officers, a
woman named Gita Sahgal who until recently headed the
organization's "gender unit." It's fairly easy to summarize her concern
in her own words. "To be appearing on platforms with Britain's most
famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights
defender," she wrote, "is a gross error of judgment." One might think
that to be an uncontroversial statement, but it led to her immediate
The most famous supporter of the Taliban was Moazzem Begg who was
detained at Guantanamo Bay in the wake of 9/11. He is friends with militant
groups like Hizb-ut Tahrir, and extremists like Abu Hamza. And Amnesty
International lends its support to him. Sample this 2014 Wall Street Journal
article on Amnesty:
Is "jihad in self-defense . . . antithetical to human rights? Our answer
is no." That was how Claudio Cordone, then Amnesty International's
interim secretary-general, responded in February 2010 to criticism
after the human-rights group made ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam
Begg its poster child… Nor was Amnesty bothered that, alongside his
"human-rights" work, Mr. Begg was conducting fawning interviews
with al Qaeda propagandists such as the late terrorist imam Anwar al-
Awlaki… The world needs morally credible human-rights
organizations. Amnesty too often isn't one of them. [143]
In fact, given the pattern of Amnesty’s interventions over the years, it seems
to be on the side of radical jihadists—early on, from supporting violent
extremists in Kashmir and Punjab to Taliban now.
But there’s more.
NGO Monitor’s numerous reports also show how Amnesty International has
taken to supporting Palestinian terrorists and has consistently painted the
state of Israel as the villain.
One of the reports [144]as much as calls it “Amnesty’s war on Israel.” Indeed,
it is worth perusing NGO Monitor’s collection of reports on Amnesty’s
damning record of supporting pro-Jihadis both in the Middle East and
In the words of Nobel Laureate David Trimble,
“One of the great curses of this world is the human rights industry.
They justify terrorist acts and end up being complicit in the murder of
innocent victims.” His words drew an angry reaction from Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch, two of the world’s biggest
human rights groups, with more than a million members worldwide.

And why would it invite said angry reaction when Trimble hadn’t named
anybody? Guilty conscience much?
India Slept while Amnesty Invested
As far as India is concerned, Amnesty International’s “human rights” work
has been selective to say the least. Apart from completely ignoring the plight
of Kashmiri Pandits, Amnesty has been mum about the ongoing ethnic
cleansing of Hindus in West Bengal at the hands of both illegal Bangladeshi
Muslim infiltrators and local Muslim extremists. It appears as though
Amnesty is wilfully blind to this despite the meticulous, detailed and
heartrending documentation of this massacre on the Hindu Samhati Global
Media website[146].
This equally applies to Hindu workers and RSS members murdered with
alarming regularity in Kerala either at the hands of Communists or Muslims
or both. Apparently some lives deserve to be violently extinguished.
Given this historical pattern, it goes without saying that today, Kashmir’s
“azadi” might be Amnesty’s focus area, and tomorrow, it could be West
Bengal: perhaps all that’s required is for that one spark of separatism to be lit.
So the question that needs to be asked is this: how did we even get here?
As we’ve seen earlier, Amnesty International has invested in India for nearly
four decades: recall the US House Representative’s claim that Amnesty was
disallowed in Punjab in 1978. What does that tell us? What does it say about
our capabilities, even our self-worth, that we allow this kind of (alien)
Congressional hearings about our internal matters?
There’s just no other way of saying this: we slept, our political class fought
with one other, our governments became alphabet soups of warring political
factions even as the likes of Amnesty International made slow, steady but
sure inroads. In Arun Shourie’s words, the Indian state steadily “hollowed
And it finally gave in during Sonia Gandhi’s decade-long NGO regime where
the likes of Greenpeace and Amnesty flourished, the cancer eating India’s
vitals. And now, when the Government itself tries to mitigate the situation, it
has to face internal and international resistance and hostility on an epic scale.
Indeed, it appears that we’ve remained in a civilizational inertia of meekly
allowing the West to lecture us about “human rights” given how the sponsors
of these human-rights-advocates continue to bomb entire countries out of
existence and are on a spree of plundering the planet.
And so, the fundamental question remains: given what these human rights
worthies have done and continue to do, is something like Amnesty
International even required in India?
If the answer is yes, then we might as well concede defeat and throw up our
hands in helplessness at being unable to guarantee our own internal and
external security and national integrity.

The original plan was to publish this book on the 15th of August 2017 to
coincide with the Indian Independence Day. In retrospect, the draft that was
ready on that day wasn’t entirely satisfactory. After passing through multiple
revisions and hawk-eyed reviews and feedback from friends and well-
wishers, it has taken the present form.
And so I will be failing in my duty if I don’t express my gratitude to the
people who made this book a reality. In no particular order, here goes.
To my friend and partner in numerous crimes, the talented Hari Ravikumar
who has also designed the wonderful cover page and reviewed the
To the other friend, companion, and connoisseur, Ramananda Sengupta.
Our countless discussions on numerous topics have provided valuable inputs
for several essays in this book.
To my longstanding Guru and friend Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh for
patiently wading through the manuscript and suggesting numerous
corrections and supplying several source materials for the essays on Yoga
and the Rama tradition in Tamil Nadu. Indebted as always.
To the venerable scholar and an early inspiration, David Frawley (Pandit
Vamadeva Shastry) for writing that generous Foreword. For believing in
and adhering to the innate values of Dharma, Karma, and Darshana.
Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No. 2, Volume VII: 4 November 1948—8 January
1949: Lok Sabha Secretariat, 1999
Parliamentary Debates, House of the People’, Official Report – Volume 1, No. 18, 6
March 1953, Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi
Nehru: The Invention of India: Shashi Tharoor, Pg 233
Ibid, Pg 234
Nehru, a Political Biography, Chapter 18: Michael Edwardes, Praeger Publishers, 1971
To be fair, some of the men and women of this top leadership are still correctly regarded
as the heroes of the freedom struggle
For a thorough study on this, see: Gandhi and His Freedom Struggle: Radha Rajan, New
Age Publishers, 2009
History of the Freedom Movement in India: Preface to Volume 3: R.C. Majumdar,
Firma K.L Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta
For a detailed treatment of the autocratic manner of and the underhanded tactics that
Gandhi employed in first isolating and then forcing Subash Bose out of the Congress, see
pp 125—128, Nehru: A Political Biography: Michael Edwardes, Praeger Publishers, 1971.
1940 Ra Taruvayada Mysooru (Post 1940 Mysore): Jnapaka Chitrashaale Vol 4, DVG
Kruti Shreni: Kannada and Culture Department, Government of Karnataka, 2013, Pg 200
ibid, Pg 202
Upasamhaara” (Epilogue): Jnapaka Chitrashaale Vol 4, DVG Kruti Shreni: Kannada
and Culture Department, Government of Karnataka, 2013, Pg 207
1940 Ra Taruvayada Mysooru (Post 1940 Mysore): Jnapaka Chitrashaale Vol 4, DVG
Kruti Shreni: Kannada and Culture Department, Government of Karnataka, 2013, Pg 203
Upasamhaara” (Epilogue): Jnapaka Chitrashaale Vol 4, DVG Kruti Shreni: Kannada
and Culture Department, Government of Karnataka, 2013, Pg 205
Page 208, ibid.
Foreword: Genesis and Growth of Nehruism: Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, 1993
Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse: Nirad C Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press,
1997. Emphasis added.
Upasamhaara (Epilogue): Jnapaka Chitrashaale: Vol 4, DVG Kruti Shreni: Kannada
and Culture Department, Government of Karnataka, 2013, Pg 210
Warefare in Ancient India: Uma Prasad Thapliyal, Manohar, 2010, Page 20
Samskruti Mattu Nagarikate: Bharateeya Samskruti: Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri,
Kamadhenu Pustaka Bhavana, 2015. The quoted portion is translated from the original
Kannada by Sandeep Balakrishna. Emphasis added.
Vishweshwara represents the sacred city of Kashi or Varanasi
History of Dharmashastra: Volume V, Part II: P.V. Kane, BORI, Pune, 2007, Page
Page 1701-02, ibid
Page 1708-09, ibid
See for instance: and The India Pride Project--
Some noteworthy efforts include the Temple Worshippers Society
( and the Indic Collective Trust
Complete text of the Brihatkatha has been lost. It survives in the form of adaptations
like the Kathasaritsagara.
World Heritage Series, Ellora: Archaeological Survey of India
Lonely Planet: Entry on the Kailasanath Temple
Artsśilpaṁ hāsminnadhigamyat ya evaṁ veda | yadeva śilpānī |
ātmasanskṛtirvāva śilpāni cchandomayaṁ vā etairyajamāna ātmānaṁ sanskurute ||
“Shilpāni, works of art of man, is the imitation of divine forms. By employing their
rhythms, the artisans metrically reconstitute, and interpret the limitless knowledge of the
sacred hymns, from the limits of human ability.”

About Ajanta Caves 01 to 29: Archeological Survey of India
The India They Saw (Vol 3): Meenakshi Jain
Buddhists should be majority in Mahabodhi panel: Paswan: The Hindu, December 28,
The scholarship and work of Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock, et al has been
thoroughly and convincingly examined and rebutted by scholars like Navaratna S.
Rajaram, Koenraad Elst, Michel Danino, Shrikant Talageri, S.N. Balagangadhara, Jakob
De Roover, Rajiv Malhotra, and others.
Mankutimmana Kagga, a collection of verses in Kannada: D.V. Gundappa.
Devalaya Tattva: Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh
See, for example, A Study Of Endowments to the Tirumala Tirupati temples reflections
from 1503 Ad To 1570 AD: D. Maddilety: Sri Venkateshwara University, Tirupati, 2015
and The Tirupati Temple: An Economic Study of a Medieval South Indian Temple: Burton
Stein, University of Chicago, 1958
Bharateeya Samskruti: Dr. S Srikanta Sastri, Kamadhenu Publishers (Reprint) 2015,
Bangalore, Pg 171
Freeing temples from state control: Subramanian Swamy, The Hindu, 20 January 2014
Indian Conception of Values: M Hiriyanna: Kavyalaya Publications, Mysore, 1975.
Emphasis added.
Complete works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: Volume V: Ministry of External Affairs, Govt
of India
Mint article on bhakti movement reeks of ignorance about Indian culture: Hari
Ravikumar, DailyO, 14 November 2016
Chapter 3: The Patron Saint of Indigenisation: Catholic Ashrams: Sita Ram Goel,
Voice of India, 1994
Preface to the History of the Freedom Movement in India: Volume III: R.C. Majumdar.
Emphasis added.
Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations: Dr. David Frawley, Voice of India, 2001
Edited by Sitaram Goel: Voice of India, 1998
Authored by Sitaram Goel: Voice of India, 1984
See for examples:
1. NGOs Activists and Foreign Funds: Radha Rajan, et al. VIGIL, 2006, Chennai
2. Breaking India: Aravindan Neelakandan and Rajiv Malhotra, Amaryllis, 2011
3. So, you feel for Amnesty International: Wipe away those tears and sample some
of its vitriol: Sandeep Balakrishna, Firstpost, 18 August 2016

U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa Ban: Zahir
Janmohammed, India Ink, 5 December 2013
Obama quietly reverses Hillary’s ‘get Modi’ policy: Sunday Guardian, Madhav
Nalapat, 19 April 2014
The Brahma-Kshatra spirit is a conception since Vedic India, which is based on the
principle that every kingdom or political system should be based upon and guided by
spirituality. The word “Kshatra” signifies a spirit of valour both in feeling and practice.
This Kshatra should be tempered and guided by spirituality because unchecked Kshatra
will eventually descend into wanton cruelty and barbarism with no sense of the just, right
and wrong.
The Champu style is a work composed using both prose and poetry.
Both Allasani Peddana and Nandi Thimmana were court poets of Krishnadevaraya.
Known as a Chandrashaale
An allusion to an episode in Timmanna’s poem Paarijataapaharanamu where he
recounts the quarrel between Sri Krishna and his wife, Satyabhama. This was his indirect
way of showing Krishnadevaraya how one should mollify one’s angry wife.
Literally, Abhyanga means an oil massage.
Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma’s lecture was delivered more than sixty years ago.
The renowned tale of Bhagiratha, an ancestor of Rama, undertook a thousand-year long
penance to bring down river Ganga from the heavens so that her waters could expiate the
sins of his deceased ancestors.
A dhoti wrapped around both legs in a fashion that forms a neat partition between the
legs, almost like a trouser.
Manucharitramu: 2.11
A Brahmachari is a student who must remain celibate until marriage. All worldly and
material indulgences are forbidden to him. A Sanyasin is a renunciate or monk who has
given up all worldly bonds, desires, and comforts. All material indulgences are forbidden to
Itodhika bahu preyasiipraapti: Amuktamalyada
One of the greatest Telugu poets, “Mahakavi” Srinatha dedicated his Haravilasa to
Tippayyashetty who lived in the 15th Century as a vassal of the Reddi kingdom.
Where is proof Ram built bridge, asks Karunanidhi: Indian Express, 16 September
For instance, the Tamil dance form, Therukoottu appropriated as Krista (Christ)
Koottu, a “Christian” Bharatanatyam, etc.
Examples: [1] When Magsaysay winner TM Krishna brought classical music to slums:
29 July 2016, Economic Times [2] T M Krishna: The Cacophonous Posterboy of the
Radical Left: 4 December 2017, Sandeep Balakrishna
History of Dharmashastra: Vol V, Part 2: P V Kane, BORI Pune, 2007, Page 1710,
Preface to Bharateeya Samskruti: Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri, Kamadhenu Pustaka Bhavana,
2015. Quoted portions translated from the original Kannada by Sandeep Balakrishna.
Education in India: Essays in national idealism: Ananda K Coomaraswamy, 1910
Who’s the Charioteer? 7 February 2010, The New Indian Express
See for example: Sources of Vijayangar History: S Krishnaswami Aiyangar, University
of Madras, 1919
See the essay, The Connoisseurial Climate of Krishnadevarya’s Period in this volume.
See for examples: [1] The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in
Pakistan: A. H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2003.
[2] Partition of History in Textbooks in Pakistan: Implications of Selective Memory and
Forgetting: Ashok K. Behuria and Mohammad Shehzad, 2013
The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 1, The Vedic Age: Foreword, K
M Munshi, pp 8, 12
The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth: Dipesh
Chakrabarty, Pg 1, Permanent Black, 2015
Ibid, Pg 3
Ibid, Pg 26
Ibid, Pg 32
Ibid, Pg 33
Ibid, Pg 33, Italics in original
Ibid, Pg 24
Ibid, pp 17-18, emphasis added
Now known as The Indian Historical Records Committee
History of the Freedom movement in India: Vol. I: The Vedic Age: R.C.Majumdar, pp

The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 1/2: [Apr
1966]: B.N. Pandey, pp 86-87
Ibid, Page xix
ICHR: Are they ‘eminent historians’ or ordinary criminals in scholars’ robes?:Dr. N.S. Rajaram,
FOLKS Mag, June 2012

Romila Thapar and the Study of Ancient India: History as propaganda: Dr. D.K.
Chakrabarti, FOLKS Mag, June 2012. Edited by Dr. N.S. Rajaram
Eminent historian Irfan Habib equates RSS with ISIS: 2 November 2015, OneIndia

ICHR turns white elephant with its projects guzzling up crores: Utpal Kumar, Mail
Today, 17 July 2015
The complete email trail of the Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case: 28 November 2013,
Eminent historians or criminals in scholars’ robes? Dr. NS Rajaram, FOLKS
Magazine, 14 June 2012
Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud: Arun Shourie, ASA
Publications, 1998
Negationism in India, Concealing the Record of Islam: Dr. Koenraad Elst,
Voice of India, 1993 pp. 1-2

Why Modi must form an Indian Commission on International Religious Freedom:
Sandeep Balakrishna: DailyO, 5 May 2015
Weak to the strong, strong to the weak: Arun Shourie, The Indian Express, October
See for example, Hinduism Versus Hindutva: Ashis Nandy, 18 February 1991, Times of
Aims and methods of Indian Art: Ananda K Coomaraswamy, Essex House Press,
See also: The Rise and Fall of History Research in India earlier in this volume
If Yoga Is Hindu, Then Gravity Is Christian: Interview with Jaggi Vasudev by Satish
Padmanabhan, 15 June 2015, Outlook Magazine
Katha Upanishad: 3:3-4
Chandoyga Upanishad: 8.6.6
The five Yamas are a set of restraints that guide righteous living and include: non-
violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity, and non-avarice. The five Niyamas are a set
of positive attributes that one must possess, and include: purity, contentment, tapas, self-
reflection, and contemplation of God.
Literary festival draws big stars: 1 February 2010, The Brunei Times
The Literary Raj: Hartosh Singh Bal, 1 January 2011: Open Magazine
Kapil Sibal Waxes Poetic: Margherita Stancati, 21 Jan 2012, The Wall Street Journal
As Telecom Minister in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government, Kapil Sibal
claimed in 2011 that there was “zero loss” to the Indian exchequer caused by the mammoth
2G scam.
Sibal's Law: 'Grossly offensive' and of 'menacing character': Shivam Vij, 1 November
Impressing the Whites: The New International Slavery: Richard Crasta, Invisible Man
Books, 2000
A Novel of India's coming of age: Clark Blaise, 19 April 1981, New York Times
Does Dalrymple know what racism really is?: Hartosh Singh Bal, 15
January 2011, Open Magazine

Tarun Tejpal was arrested in December 2013 on charges of allegedly raping his much
junior female employee.
The piece you ran is blatantly racist: William Dalrymple, 15 January 2011, Open
Rushdie Expresses Regret to Muslims for Book's Effect: 19 February 1989, New York
See also: Atrocity Literature as a tool to Christianize India in this volume.
British MPs reject controversial amendment to anti-caste legislation: 18 April 2013,
India Today
Congressional Record, V. 148, PT. 16, November 12, 2002 to November 14, 2002:
Edolphus Towns in the House of Representatives
See for example, Why Modi scares the usual suspects: Rajeev Srinivasan, 1 March
U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa Ban: Zahir
Janmohammed, 5 December 2013, India Ink: The New York Times
See for example, the full testimony of Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy at:
65 MPs write to Barack Obama: Don't give visa to Narendra Modi: 23 July 2013,
Times of India
Why an Indian student has been arrested for sedition: Sanjoy Majumder, 15 February
2016, BBC News
Pakistan and National Unity: Edited by G Adhikari, Pg 4, People’s Publishing House,
Bombay, 1942
Page 5, Ibid
Page 8: Ibid
The Only Fatherland: Arun Shourie, Voice of India, 1991
Amnesty faces sedition case for ‘anti-India’ slogan at event: 16 August 2016, Indian
Burhan Wani, Hizbul poster boy, killed in encounter: Peerzada Aashiq, 8 July 2016,
The Hindu
U.S. Evangelicals, Indian Expats Teamed Up to Push Through Modi Visa Ban: Zahir
Janmohammed, 5 December 2013, India Ink: The New York Times
No Entry for Modi: Vijay Prashad, March 12 2005, Frontline
Pages 127-128
India is muzzling its critics and harassing its NGOs: will Cameron speak out?: Natalie
Smith, 12 November 2015, Amnesty International UK:
Amnesty petition over India revenge rape: 1 September 2015, BBC News
Village council denies ordering rape of sisters: 3 September 2015, Reuters
Foreign-funded NGOs stalling development: IB report: 12 June 2012, Times of India
Suspension of Conscience: Christopher Hitchens, 15 February 2010, Slate
Amnesty International's Jihad Problem: 27 Feb 2014, The Wall Street

̧on Israel: Accusations of "Unlawful Killings" without Evidence:
: 28 October 2015, NGO Monitor
Human Rights' Other Face: 10
March 2004,