The Unity of India
(Image courtesy: www.indianweekender.co.nz)
India, even after seventy-five years of independence, remains in the grip of dangerous and divisive narratives. It is unfortunate that our academia, legal luminaries, and politicians could not set many narratives right which the colonials initiated. The most dangerous has to be the Aryan Invasion Theory. The hegemonical western academia does not allow any resistance to the idea of invading Aryans coming from Russia/Central Asia to India around 1500 BCE and driving away the indigenous inhabitants of the land.
Archaeology, linguistics, textual sources, and genetic studies get involved in this theory. The first completely rejects the Aryan invasion (or migration) and the others equally plausibly conclude, even more, a reverse migration from India to different parts of Europe. However, despite all evidence to the contrary, Indians seem to have simply internalised this story and even built a huge edifice of conclusions based on the Aryan Invasion/Migration assumption. It is irrelevant to us whether Aryans existed or not according to some scholars. That may be true, but it is a fact that most of the divisions propagated in the country depend to some extent on the mysterious Aryans.
The indigenous people of India driven South became the Dravidians. Those pushed into forests became the tribals, and the people who stayed back became subjugated as the lowest in the hierarchy of the caste system (Shudras, and especially the “untouchables”). Today, most “Breaking India” narratives take the help of these three identities — Dravidians, tribals, and the Dalits (Scheduled Castes or ex-untouchables) in a most focused manner. In this narrative, these groups are in opposition to the majority dominant, upper caste, “Hindus”; the latter always trying to exploit and subsume the former into a Vedic-Sanskritic-Brahmanical culture.
Hinduism stands in opposition to the non-Vedic cultures just as Sanskrit, a language of the oppressive Brahmins, is in opposition to the Dravidian languages. Into this colourful and vibrant narrative enters the story of Buddhism rebelling against the oppressive practices of Hinduism. In a Martin Luther-like Protestant attack on the Catholic Church, Buddha attacks the Brahmanical practices of a decadent Hinduism. As a final conclusion comes the statement that India was in fact “never a nation” and it was simply the British who united us. A similar explanation of a “disunited India ruled by a bunch of warring kings” allows for the success of Islamic rulers too. These scholars grossly ignore the fact that, despite having such a decentralised polity and no unity in the modern definition of a nation-state, we were far advanced in the fields of economics, art, literature, architecture, engineering, sciences, medicine, philosophy, and spirituality, to name a few. Did it not occur to them that we never needed to invade countries around us but did attract a huge number of plunderers from Europe and the Middle East across centuries who needed us for their survival?
Why did our intellectuals, academia, and politicians fail? Are all these misrepresentations indicative of a deeper phenomenon at an intellectual level thanks to the invasions? Colonial consciousness may explain this phenomenon.
ARYANS, DRAVIDIANS, TAMILIANS, AND THE REST
The Dravidian movement, initiated by EV Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar), has strong views about the ancient history of Tamil Nadu. The Aryan Invasion Theory turns most North Indians and Brahmins into descendants of the invading Aryans and Tamils as the indigenous Dravidians. The other claims are that Tamil being older to its deadly rival Sanskrit (always trying to subjugate the local culture) and the “Dravidian culture” wholly separate from the so-called “Aryan” culture.
Archaeology, epigraphy (study of inscriptions), numismatics (study of coins), literature (the Sangam literature) disproves all the above theories. Archaeology has so far fixed the emergence of urban civilization in Tamil Nadu two and a half millennia after the appearance of Indus cities. Inscriptions and coins dating back to the second and third centuries BCE confirm the names of cities, kings (Chola, Pandya, and Chera dynasties), and chieftains mentioned in the Sangam literature. The present evidence from all sources suggests that the earliest Tamil kingdoms were established around the fourth century BCE and urban developments were a century or two later.
The material evidence in the excavations clearly shows that culturally the people of the South shared many beliefs and practices with builders elsewhere in the subcontinent. It attached great importance to the cult of the dead and ancestors which parallels that in Vedic culture. The Pandya era coins show extensive evidence of Vedic sacrifices and Vedic-Puranic symbols related to Vishnu and Shiva both.
The rich Sangam literature (300 BCE to 300 CE), in texts like Tolkappiyam, Kural, and Purananaru, show not only extensive references to Vedic sacrifices but a complete absence of any mention of a great clash between Aryans and Dravidians. Scholars have shown by innumerable examples that knowledge of Sanskrit literature from the Vedic period to the Classical period is essential to appreciate Tamil literature. Vedic and Puranic themes inextricably weave into the most ancient culture of the Tamil land known to us. Sangam literature shows evidence of the four-fold varna system too. Today, Tamil language has assimilated and uses between 20-40% of the commonly used vocabulary from Sanskrit.
Surprisingly, there are no references to the word “Dravida” in Tolkappiyam –– the oldest surviving work on Tamil grammar, literature, and linguistics. The first use in Tamil is by the sage Tayumanvar in the 18th century. In the Vedic-Puranic-Itihaasic literature, “Arya” denoted a noble person and “Dravida” was in a purely geographical sense. As one scholar shows, “Dravida” is not of Tamil origin at all because Tamil grammar neither provides for a word beginning with a sonant (hence cannot begin with d) nor with a half-syllable. The word has most likely Prakrit or Sanskrit roots.
The historical period of the great Pallava, Chola, and Pandya temples and overflowing devotional literature by the Alwars, the Nayanmars, and other seekers show a clear integration of Vedic- Sanskritic elements into Tamil. Without conflict, there was every sign of a deep cultural interaction between North and South. In reverse, the genius of Tamil land has contributed extensively by way of temple architecture, music, dance, and literature to the North and other South Asian countries too. “Dravidian” has a meaning either in the old geographical sense or in the modern linguistic sense; racial and cultural meanings are unscientific and irrational and are simply a manifestation of a colonial mindset. As Michel Danino says, every region of India has developed according to its own genius, creating its own bent, but while remaining faithful to the central Indian spirit.
DALITS AND UNTOUCHABLES
The distinction between “Caste Hindus” and “Untouchables” was never an age-old division within Hindu society. The Commissioner for the 1901 Census in India sent to every Census Commissioner, as a part of his standard scheme, four Sanskrit-named “Shudra” categories, of which the last was “Asprishya Shudra,“ explained as “castes whose touch is so impure as to pollute even Ganges water”. This system failed. Basically, the census research revealed that the structure of Indian society did not correspond to the conception of the caste hierarchy it had started out with. In the process, officials and scholars could neither provide a coherent hierarchical classification of castes nor identify the “Untouchables” or “exterior” castes in any consistent way. The colonials divided society into “Caste Hindus“ and “Depressed Classes“. Later, the Government of India Scheduled Castes Order of 1936 ordered the division of the people of India into Scheduled Castes and others, and we continue to follow the legacy by caste legislation to this day.
In 1950, the Constitution passed a Scheduled Castes order to include a set of groups for special benefits. Today, the government has transformed more than one thousand two hundred communities (jatis) and 64.5 million people at the last census into a single category of Scheduled Castes. In view of the many provisions given to them, the Supreme Court insists on guidelines for “intelligible differentiae” distinguishing the persons inside and outside the groupings. Surprisingly, the decisive factors are not social or economic backwardness, age, income, or disability but a single tenuous characteristic of “untouchability”. With a wide range of practices, never uniform but variable in different parts of the country, the list was never exhaustive and other practices were added to it.
The Constituent Assembly never clearly defined “untouchability” despite its decisive role in formulating caste legislation. The Committee for caste legislation of contemporary India took what they called two “generally accepted tests of untouchability” from the previous 1911 Census Superintendents: “Those who are denied access to the interior of ordinary Hindu temples” and “cause pollution, (a) by touch, (b) within a certain distance”. This was confusing, filled with circular logic, and begging questions right at the beginning. Many of the “exterior” castes considered polluting by “interior Hindus” also had strong caste organizations and included numerous individuals of substance and education. Many jatis in both the “interior” and “exterior” groups practised many forms of untouchability internally amongst themselves too.
Basically, the claim is that if one human being refrains from touching or approaching another human being, this becomes caste-based untouchability when the former belongs to the Caste Hindus, while the latter belongs to the Untouchable Caste. And how can one recognize these Untouchable Castes? Well, they are the ones who are subject to caste-based untouchability. This route leads us into a vicious circle. Members of the Assembly in 1949 conceded that the term “Scheduled Castes” may be a fiction and that it was impossible to give a cut-and-dry definition of untouchability.
This evolved into a common indication of “an internal feeling of odium” expressed in a variety of practices and which denies political rights to certain groups. This also become vague and subjective as inward feelings of odium, aversion, and contempt exist among all kinds of people towards all kinds of other people. There are basic cognitive problems confronting the currently dominant account of Indian society with no intelligible differentia that distinguish all the persons grouped together as SCs from others excluded from that group. Indeed, the class of Scheduled Castes exists, but only in the Indian legal and political system.
TRIBALS VERSUS THE REST
The continuing debate on the status of tribals of India and how they connect to “mainstream” Hinduism has a single purpose of breaking India. The neologism Adivasi (adi, original; vasi, inhabitant) of the 19th century, a Sanskrit word and hardly a self-description of the tribals, became the most successful disinformation campaign of modern times by the colonials, Christian missionaries, and Indian secularists. In settler colonies (America, New Zealand, Australia), “aboriginal” made sense to distinguish the European settler from the natives. However, in non-settler colonies like India, the term “aboriginal” became a pure colonial construct.
A strong narrative now pits the majority dominant Hinduism (as the original foreign invaders) against the “original” inhabitants, and now minorities (Dravidians, non-Hindu tribals, lower castes, and the Hindu untouchables). This imaginary division of Indians as “natives” and “invaders” is a permanent colonial legacy. As one scholar says, “This colonial categorization as ‘tribal’ is at best, out of place, and, at worst, ahistorical and sociologically groundless”. Interestingly, many tribes of Jharkhand and North-East India migrated much later from the surrounding countries after the indigenous non-tribal peasant population. Hence, the historical data do not support the division of India’s population into “aboriginal tribals” and “non-tribal” invaders.
In the post-colonial era, other international forces (like the International Labour Organization) strengthened the distinction between “dominant national communities” and “indigenous/tribal peoples” introducing an internal coloniality and a permanent faultline where the “minority tribal communities” become racially and culturally distinct from the “majority national communities”. The majority, by implication, are simply the pre-European colonizers of the tribal minorities. The now distinctly separate people become the focus of intense evangelical activity. Such conversions in certain communities have disrupted severely the social and cultural fabric of coherent societies. Such disruption has never happened in the interaction between the “mainstream” and the “minor” traditions as is usual in a traditional pagan land.
The impossibility in defining and the broad usage has relegated the concepts of race and tribe in the dustbin of social sciences academia. Scholars feel that “tribe” is a key but obsolete concept from anthropology’s early history that usually served colonial, administrative, and ideological purposes to mainly paint the local groups as “primitive” or “backward”. The ancientness of the Hindu religion itself to the pre-Aryan times makes it as “aboriginal” as the tribal populations. The similarities between Hindu traditions and the tribal traditions in their fundamental polytheistic nature and a paganism (deifying the feminine, nature, and animals) show them clearly distinct from the prophetic-monotheistic religions.
The tribals and other “mainstream” Vedic-Sanskritic traditions have many elements in common: partly by distant common roots; partly by the integration of tribal elements in the Sanskritic civilization; and partly by the adoption of elements from the Vedic-Puranic Tradition into the tribal traditions. Strangely, anthropologists spent decades to get rid of a pernicious and incoherent concept like “tribe” only to see it sneak back in, via Indology and other social sciences, into the Indian Constitution, Indian legislation, and its administration.
BUDDHISM VERSUS HINDUISM
A disruptive narrative that spread about in India, starting with the colonials, and continuing in post-independent India, is the story of Buddhism and its supposed antagonism with Hinduism. Thus, Buddha at some point in his life broke away, rebelling especially against Hinduism, the “caste-system,” and the Vedas to form his own religion. Prince Gautama (563 BCE-486 BCE), a Kshatriya of the Ikshvaku dynasty following his enlightenment, became the Buddha, who himself described Rama as his previous incarnation. His liberal use of Upanishadic terminology shows no break or rebellion against an existing system.
There are only a few differences in the philosophies of Advaita and Buddhism. The concepts of Ignorance, Reincarnation, Karma, Moksha or Nirvana, the lower knowledge related to the world, and the higher transcendental knowledge show a remarkable similarity in both Advaita and Buddhism. The final state of enlightenment is merging in the Brahman for Advaita, whereas Buddhism speaks of Sunyata, silence, and nothingness. Hardly a reason for violent or unpleasant encounters with the background of Indian traditions.
Orientalists had started treating Buddhism as a separate religion because they discovered it outside India, without any conspicuous link with its original home, India. When its origins became clearer, writers made Buddha a Martin Luther and Buddhism a Protestant-like attack; they also successfully converted a branch of an Indian traditional tree into a religion called Buddhism. It now supposedly rebelled against another branch called Hinduism. European authors and their Indian followers imaginatively superimposed the medieval European religious wars on the supposed Hindu-Buddhist encounters. An exclusive belief in Buddha to the complete rejection of any other god or saint is quite simply an unbelievable proposition in traditional cultures like India. Buddhist buildings, temples, rituals, and mantras follow established Hindu Vedic patterns and Vastu Shastra. Buddhist monks to China and Japan took the Vedic gods like the twelve Adityas and Saraswati (River Goddess Benzaiten) with them.
Buddhist texts reveal that Buddha, contrary to popular narratives, never rejected the varnas. Buddha accepted the Varna Vyavastha; he, in fact, put the Kshatriyas at the top of the hierarchy. Everyone in their position in the Varna could follow the eight-fold path in their quest for enlightenment. The conversion of Dr. Ambedkar along with thousands of his followers in 1956 strengthened the anti-Hindu program of Buddha in a retrospective manner. Conversion, implying a rejection of all previous beliefs, is a typical religious concept prevalent in Christianity and Islam. In traditional cultures devoid of such demands, one can embrace another tradition keeping the old view perfectly intact. The twenty-two pledges of Ambedkar and his Neo-Buddhism are almost a polemic against all the Hindu Gods, Brahmins, and Hindu rituals further radicalizing the Buddhist religion.
Buddhism was just another tradition in the Hindu land where new traditions, sects, and gurus evolve all the time showing many paths to the final enlightenment. Buddha was showing another path, and he was simply a beneficiary of an established Hindu pluralistic tradition. Koenraad Elst says simply, “Buddha was every inch a Hindu”.
MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS, AND SANATANA DHARMA
SN Balagangadhara’s thesis holds the solution for religious harmony in the country. His claim about religions at the most basic level goes like this: India is a land of traditions and not religions. If Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are religions in their true definition (consisting of A Book, A God, A Doctrine, A Temple), then there are no indigenous religions in India. As a corollary, if what we have are religions, then Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are not religions. The standard understanding has only given us wars, strife, conversions, and inquisitions even as the biggest problem across all ideologies is the continuous understanding of traditions as religions.
Prof. Balagangadhara shows that both “metaphysically” and “sociologically” it is an impossibility that indigenous phenomena (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism) in the country are religions. “Hinduism” was an experiential entity of the colonials. They united the different practices and narratives into a meta-narrative — a broad framework of explanation — a single entity called “Hinduism”. Their own cultural background rooted in religion (specifically Christianity), which could not comprehend that cultures could exist without religion, guided this exercise.
“Traditio,” as the Ancient Romans used it, referred to ancestral practices transmitted over generations to posterity. India is a land of traditions. Calling oneself a “Hindu” for the sake of convenience is a continuation of ancestral traditions. The notion of “practice” is wide: from stories through visits to temples to performing rituals. Balagangadhara attributes two important properties to traditions: (a) the enormous flexibility in belonging to a tradition and the sharpness with which the boundaries are drawn between traditions; (b) the possibility that any element could be absent from a tradition and yet it could maintain identity and distinction.
How do we then understand Christianity and Islam in India? Balagangadhara says that the simple answer is that when these religions entered India, they met with an already formed culture. These religions adapted to the existing culture to survive. They held their beliefs and practices by adapting to Indian uses of the resources of socialization. Thus, Indian Christianity and Indian Islam remain Indian irrespective of their religious beliefs and practices which had a space to flourish as one of the many diversities present in Indian culture. In this process, these religions undergo modifications in how the believers live their daily life which does not affect the content of their beliefs or their places of worship. It is exactly this kind of adoption and adaptation to Indian culture that many madrassa schools and evangelical Christians militate against.
Traditions, when they become religions, lose their flexibility and absorptive power. Traditions with rituals at their foundation unite people; religion with My One True God against Your False Many Gods disrupts societies. India’s practical solution was to traditionalize the religions so that they lost focus on proselytization and made some genuine attempts at cultural syncretism. In reverse, our thinkers are trying hard to convert our traditions into religions with a resultant and not surprising rise in intolerance and fundamentalism.
NATIONHOOD OF INDIA
Ill-informed Indians follow post-colonial scholars using the modern definition of a nation-state and declaring that India was somehow a creation of the west and we were “never a nation”. Standard western theories, mainly Marxist-influenced, trace the origins of nations in institutional, economic, and technological transformations. Apparently, the democratic state and its elite “create” nations through a cultural homogenization by invoking symbols and “inventing” traditions like a national anthem or a national language.
Marxist models tend to look upon India’s history as a history of invasions and invaders ignoring largely the military, social, and cultural ways in which India resisted the invasions to preserve her original genius. Thus, Marxist scholars at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) believe that India is incoherent, fragmented, and marked by foundational differences. Other dangerous indigenous narratives include Kerala as not “really” belonging to India; and “Tamil nationalism” as resting on linguistic pride and official antipathy for Hinduism (though 88% of Tamil Nadu called themselves Hindus in the 2011 census); and so on.
India’s greatest feat is her cultural integration through a long organic interaction between Vedic culture and local traditions resulting in Hinduism as we know it. “Nation” does not do justice to India’s expression of oneness. India, as a civilizational entity, is an ancient “felt community” for thousands of years because it does not emerge through deliberate systematization. It functions and forms through a sense of belonging to the land disseminated through symbols. This process manifests itself as “culture” autonomous of the state. Thus, people could belong to the same set of meanings and land, despite differences in languages, by perceiving the same symbols (swastika, the lotus, the temples, the pilgrimages, Sanskrit language, and so on) as a great unity.
Bharatvarsha exists in the oldest scriptures as the land south of the Himalayas and north of the oceans. India was Sapta Sindhu, the land of seven rivers in olden times. The Greeks called the land India or Indika which also derives from the word Sindhu. The Mahabharata, Ramayana, and the Vishnu Purana describe “Bharata” Varsha with clarity in the various travels of its characters across the land. Ramayana and Mahabharata in fact became the major tools for integration. The references to the great epics are all over the country and even in places like Indonesia where local traditions link in some way to the two great epics.
A united India based on multiple traditions, rituals, mythology, and customs existed for thousands of years. A dense network of holy places and temples created a “sacred geography” of the country and a strong tradition of pilgrimages in the country. The 12 Jyotirlingas, the 52 Shakti Mahapithas, and the 26 Upapithas spread over the Indian sub-continent became the defining point to draw the boundaries of the country. There was perhaps no political unity in the European definition of nation though there was early political unity like the Mauryan Empire. However, a united geo-cultural India existed for thousands of years making India a continuously surviving civilizational state despite constant attacks.
COLONIALISM AND COLONIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
We can best understand the many intellectual discourses today in the framework of “colonial consciousness” provided in great detail by Dr. Balagangadhara. As he says, “Colonization was not merely a process of occupying lands and extracting revenues. It was not a question of us aping Western people and trying to be like them. It was not even about colonizing the imagination of a people by making them ‘dream’ that they, too, would become ‘modern’, developed, and sophisticated. It goes deeper than any of these. It is about denying peoples and cultures their own experiences; of rendering them aliens to themselves; of actively preventing any description of their own experiences except in terms defined by the colonizers”.
Colonial consciousness works not only at the time of colonization but continues to make its impact much after the colonials have left by permanently altering the intellectual frameworks of the previously colonized. It makes us think and act by simply assuming the truth of whatever the colonials said about us. We fail to develop indigenous narratives about ourselves and view both ourselves and the West too with the lenses (the social sciences) provided by the latter.
Where does this colonial consciousness work? The Aryan story; the conversion of Indian traditions into religions and then accepting secularism as the best solution for harmony; the superimposition of caste, a western idea, into the varna and jatis of India, a different phenomenon altogether; solidifying politically and legally a rigid hierarchical “caste-system” at divergence from the socio-cultural practices; our disdainful view of traditional medicine despite its great contributions; the blanking out of Indian philosophy from all learning in schools by calling it “religion”; the need of English language to prosper and also as a national language; a historical reading of our texts and scriptures which was never an indigenous idea; accepting the idea of one dharmashastra (Manu) as prescriptive and authoritative for all eternity to come; making the western clash between “science and religion” our own; understanding our practices and rituals from a scientific perspective and making them superstitious and irrational; our singularly linear narratives of freedom struggle obliterating the more uncomfortable dissenting voices like Sri Aurobindo or Subash Bose; accepting the political ideologies of the left-right-center; the story of revolt of Buddhism; the disbelief in a golden period of India which attracted plunderers from across the world; the story that we were never a nation and the British united us; the discourse on corruption which makes most of Indians immoral because of a faulty religion, ad infinitum.
The colonials and missionaries provided a narrative that Hinduism equals the caste system which in turn equals untouchability. The solution for untouchability and the caste system thus remained disbanding Hinduism altogether and adopting another religion. For the colonials it was Christianity, and for Dr. Ambedkar, with exactly the same understanding, it was Buddhism. Today, every single topic of discussion like caste, religion, ecology, feminism, political administration, nationalism, law, and the judiciary has heavy doses of western cultural superimpositions leading to distortions. The examples exist everywhere and it is easy to see that past and present Indian intellectuals do not transcend the terms of any debate making the colonial view and criticisms their own.
As Dr. Balagangadhara says, this perception is from the rhetorical force of a statement that colonization is an expression of strength. The strengths of the West are obvious: the scientific, technological, and military might. This implicit consensus about colonialism is omnipresent in contemporary times too. Today, the problems regarding India and the language tools remain remarkably the same for both Western and Indian intellectuals. The final result is of course a detachment of the Indian citizen from his or her own cultural roots and sometimes even becoming a staunch critic. There is thus an urgent need to decolonize the social sciences — the unchanged methodology of the post-colonials and simply reflections of colonialism and Orientalism.
CONCLUDING REMARKS: ACADEMIC, POLITICAL, AND LEGAL IMPOSITIONS OF DISHARMONY
Sanatana (Eternal) Dharma defines and permeates the land of India. The words Hindu and Hinduism remain undefined in unambiguous terms even today giving rise to many controversies. However, “Hinduism” has the strongest correlation with Sanatana Dharma. Whether Hinduism is synonymous with or is a subset of Sanatana Dharma, the only understanding of India can come from within the framework of this Dharmic philosophy. Only Sanatana Dharma, a huge conglomerate of traditions, has the immense capacity to absorb alien ideas and religions if they go on the path of becoming traditions. The key to harmony in a traditional world comes from its fundamental philosophy of an indifference to differences which far transcends the classical paradigms of tolerance, acceptance, and mutual respect.
The only social reality of India are its jatis; varna is perhaps an ideal. Untouchability was a weed and we have rightly taken steps to remove it from society. But to make it a permanent legacy and an ex-untouchability status as a political and legal reality spilling onto the socio-cultural life is repeating the same mistakes of the preceding centuries filled with such condemnable practices. By retaining the term “caste,” we are continuing the colonial legacy and the baggage of the improper understanding of our varnas and jatis. How wonderful it would be if the jatis and the varnas become equal categories with no institutionalized segmenting of society based on hierarchical gradings? Successive governments, by creating hierarchies are instilling false notions of superiority, inferiority, guilt, anger, and shame in various proportions while paradoxically wanting to create an equal society. One of the most important aspects of our ancient, medieval, and contemporary times is that jatis belonging to the Shudra varna were the most powerful in the social, political, and economic sense.
There is never a denial of discrimination of all kinds in Indian society. Discrimination exists in all societies and India is no exception. But to conceive a “system” where it becomes almost morally obligatory to become immoral is an extremely poor understanding of India. Unfortunately, any attempt to resist or correct becomes examples of “Brahmanism” by a host of intellectuals. For example, Jalki and Pathan elegantly show that the data for Dalit exploitation is methodologically faulty, has plenty of cherry-picking, and is riddled with selective interpretations. Yet, the intellectual dishonesty regarding the figures and the generalisation of prominent anecdotal reports do manage to give a massive negative image of India on national and international platforms.
The various groups across the country, the diverse jatis, and traditions with all kinds of practices are an array of flowers in the same garden of India. Indian culture and traditions are an unbroken continuity for thousands of years, a melting pot of all three purported human groupings (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid); six language families (Indo-European, Dravidian, Austric, Sino-Tibetan, Burushaski, and Andamanese); many traditions (Vedic and non-Vedic interacting in a syncretic mode); and many religions configuring in the traditional mould.
We are one people and one land. Every one of this land is a part and inheritor of this great culture irrespective of what faith they may be following, what jati they may belong to, and what language they are speaking. As Sri Aurobindo insisted, a true understanding of our traditional past is not only important for India’s future but for the future of entire humanity. He says, “The greatness of the ideals of the past is a promise of greater ideals for the future. A continual expansion of what stood behind past endeavour and capacity is the one abiding justification of a living culture”. The solutions for multiculturalism and harmony can only come from India. We absorbed and assimilated every culture from across the world for thousands of years, and yet we are in the dock for the “ugly caste-system” and “Hindu fundamentalism”. The anger is only increasing, and the fissures are deepening for all the wrong reasons. We need to urgently dissipate the anger and show hope to the world.
SELECTED REFERENCES AND FURTHER READINGS
Introduction and The Section on Tamils
- Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan
- https://www.academia.edu/29567478/The_Problem_of_Indian_History by Michel Danino
- The Lost River: On the Trail of The Sarasvati by Michel Danino
- Genetics and the Aryan debate: “Early Indians” Tony Joseph’s Latest Assault by Shrikant G. Talageri
- Still No Trace of an Aryan Invasion: A Collection on Indo-European Origins by Koenraad Elst
- The Aryans and the Ancient System of Caste by Marianne Keppens (in Western Foundations of the Caste System, edited by Martin Fárek, Dunkin Jalki, Suﬁya Pathan, Prakash Shah)
- https://www.academia.edu/1573411/Vedic_Roots_of_Early_Tamil_Culture: Vedic Roots of Early Tamil Culture by Michel Danino
- Land of Dharma: Proceedings from the Swadeshi Indology Conference series edited by Shrinivas Tilak and Sharda Narayan
- Dravidianism with Language Equaling Race — The Third Wheel in Tamil-Sanskrit Interactions by Ravi Joshi and Yamuna Harshavardhana (In Land of Dharma: Proceedings from the Swadeshi Indology Series)
The Section on Untouchables and Dalits
- Scheduled Castes vs. Caste Hindus: About a Colonial Distinction and Its Legal Impact by Jakob De Roover. https://www.academia.edu/36806822/Scheduled_Castes_vs._Caste_Hindus_About_a_Colonial_Distinction_and_Its_Legal_Impact
The Section on Tribals
- ‘Are Tribals Hindus?’ (In Who is a Hindu? Hindu Revivalist Views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Other Offshoots of Hinduism) by Dr. Koenraad Elst.
- Decolonizing the Hindu Mind: Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism by Dr. Koenraad Elst.
- India that is Bharat: Coloniality, Civilisation, Constitution by J Sai Deepak
The Section on Buddhism
- https://pragyata.com/how-buddha-was-turned-anti-hindu/ by Koenraad Elst
- Were Shramana and Bhakti Movements Against the Caste System? by Martin Fárek (In Western Foundations of the Caste System, edited by Sufiya Pathan and Prakash Shah, Martin Farek, Dunkin Jalki)
- Fundamentals of Indian Philosophy by Ramakrishna Puligandla
- Presuppositions of India’s Philosophies by Karl H. Potter
The Section on Christianity and Islam in Indian Traditions
- The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion by S. N. Balagangadhara.
- https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240585568 — How to Speak for the Indian Traditions: An Agenda for the Future by S. N. Balagangadhara
- Cultures Differ Differently: Selected Essays of S.N. Balagangadhara. Editors: Jakob De Roover and Sarika Rao.
The Section on Nationhood of India
- Narrativizing Bhāratvarṣa & Other Essays by Saumya Dey
The Section on Colonial Consciousness
- Reconceptualizing India Studies by Dr. S N Balagangadhara
- hipkapi.com. A one-stop site that gives access to many of the key ideas of Dr. Balagangadhara. It is a storehouse of articles and covers many important points about the widest variety of subjects comparing cultures in his almost four decades of extraordinary work at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
- Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism by Jakob de Roover.
- Are There Caste Atrocities in India? What the Data Can and Cannot Tell Us by Dunkin Jalki and Sufiya Pathan (In Western Foundations of the Caste System edited by Martin Fárek, Dunkin Jalki, Suﬁya Pathan, Prakash Shah)
- https://incarnateword.in/sabcl/14/is-india-civilised-i (Sri Aurobindo’s three-part essay in The Foundations of Indian Culture and the Renaissance in India)
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