Category Archives: History

Why Is The Year Of Alexander’s Death Important To Indian History?

The major problem with the events in ancient Indian History is not so much as their historicity but as their chronology. That is the reason that the dates of the Mahabharata war, the date of Nirvana of the Buddha or of Mahavira or even of Sankara are still matters of debate, study and research.

Although the ancient Indians were great calculators of time, they, somehow, did not standardize the dates of important events in a uniform manner. That might have been because  the ancient India, except for the two relatively brief imperial periods of the Mauryas and the Guptas, 321 BCE  to 185 BCE  and 320 AD to 467 AD , for  rest of the period  was largely politically and culturally fragmented into regional segments. There were  also numerous ancient Indian calendars, each with its own commencement year, which were used by different dynasties or religious communities or regions.

The chronology, which we now refer to, was put in place during the later years of the 18th century (around the year 1793) largely due to the efforts of Sir William Jones. It was built around two factors: One, the date of the death of the Alexander the Great; and two, the identification of Sandrocottus mentioned in the Greek accounts with Chandragupta Maurya.

Of the two, the former, that is, the date of the death of Alexander the Great is verifiable from other sources. However, it is the identity of Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya that is still a matter of debate.

Thus the chronology of Indian History, as we now follow, is supported on one leg by a fact and on the other by an assumption.


This was, broadly, how the chronology was worked out.

The first fixed point in this chronology was the year 326 BCE, when according to the Greek writers Plutarch and Justin a young Indian prince Sandrocottus met Alexander then camping at Taxila. After the death of Alexander in 323 BCE, his empire broke up and Sandrocottus of Palibothra established himself and ruled over a large region.

Now, the Indian scholars of 18th century identified Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya and Palibothra with Pataliputra (in the region of present day Patna), because of the phonetic similarities.

That was how the death of Alexander and equating Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya became the sheet anchor of the ancient Indian chronology.

The working of the dates of the Buddha, Asoka and others was attempted along the following lines.

1. Alexander the Great died in the year 323 BCE (taken as an undisputed date).

2. Sandrocottus equated with Chandra Gupta Maurya began his reign in the year of Alexander’s death (323 BC).

3. According to the list of Kings given in the Puranas, Chandragupta Maurya ruled for 24 years, so did his successor Bindusara (323 -24-24 =275 BCE)

4. Asoka came to the throne some years after the death of his father Bindusara because of the succession wars (275 -6 = 269 BCE), Asoka ruled for 36 years (269-36 = 233 BCE).

5. According to the Sinhalese chronicles, Asoka’s coronation took place 218 years after the death of the Buddha. Therefore, the Buddha’s Nirvana might have taken place in the year 487 BCE (269 + 218).

6. The Buddha lived for about 80 years. He therefore might have been born around 567 BCE. His date might therefore be between 487 BCE and 567 BCE.


Another method was also employed. The king Bimbisara (Vidhisara) was a contemporary of the Buddha. Bimbisara sent his personal physician Jivaka to attend on the Buddha. His son Ajathashatru of the Sisunaga dynasty of Magadha succeeded Bimbisara. When Ajathashatru came to the throne, the Buddha was 72 years of age. The Buddha died 8 years later. All generally accept these events.

According to these events and with reference to the Puranic records the time of Bimbisara is reckoned as 580 – 552 BCE and that of Ajathashatru as 552 – 527 BCE.

Since the Buddha died 8 years after Ajathashatru came to throne, the year of the Buddha’s death is taken as 544 BCE. And, the life of the Buddha is therefore taken as between 644 and 544 BCE.


The dates of the Buddha’s birth and death are still uncertain .The most commonly used dates are between 644 BCE to 544 BCE. Yet, all dates within 20 years of either side are also acceptable.

In any case, the Buddha’s period is in the sixth century BCE.


Identifying Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya, though looks rather convenient, has given rise to a number of unanswered questions. It sometimes looks as though Sandracottus might not have been Chandragupta Maurya afterall.

1. According to the Greek accounts, Sandrokottus deposed Xandrammes and Sandrocyptus was the son of Sandrokottus. In the case of Chandragupta Maurya, he had opposed Dhanananda of the Nanda dynasty and the name of his son was Bindusara. Both these names, Dhanananda and Bindusara, have no phonetic similarity with the names Xandrammes and Sandrocyptus of the Greek accounts.

1. a. Some scholars surmise that Sandracuttos mentioned by the Greek writers might actually refer to Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty. The kings before and after Chandragupta Gupta were Chandramas and Samudragupta. The phonetic similarity is quite apparent for Chandragupta Gupta and not Maurya.

Chandragupta of Guptas is now placed in fourth century AD. In case he is indentified with Sandracottos, then the entire chronology will shift back by about eight hundred years .Then the Buddha might as well have been in the 14th century BCE.

2. The Greek accounts cover the period from 4th century BC to 2nd century AD. None of them has mentioned the names of Kautilya or Asoka. It was with Kautilya’s assistance that Chandragupta had come to the throne. Asoka’s empire was bigger than that of Chandragupta and he had sent missionaries to the Yavana countries. However, both of them are not mentioned. The Greek writers did not say anything about the Buddhist Bhikkus though that was the flourishing religion of that time with the royal patronage of Asoka. The Indian scholars wonder why the Greek accounts are silent on Asoka and Buddhism.

The ancestry of Chandragupta is still shrouded in mystery and not known for certain. There are divergent views regarding the origin, and each view has its own set of adherents. Please check the following site for further discussions on the issue. Please also visit Talk: Ancestry of Chandragupta Maurya

Please check the following for the other side of the issue: Chandragupta, the Sandrocottus


The another reference point that is often relied upon is the work of the famous astronomer Aryabhatta who wrote his definitive mathematical work in 499 AD. Aryabhatta through his astronomical calculations,  claimed that the year of completion of his work (499 AD) also marked 3,600 years of the Kali Yuga. It , indirectly,  meant, that Kali Yuga commenced in or around 3101 BC.

The other method was calculating the dates from the start-year of the Islamic lunar calendar (622 AD). According to that reckoning, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked India in 1000 AD.

But again, the modern European system of dating is not entirely accurate either.  That is because,   Christ was born at least four years before what we consider to be its start-year of 1 AD , supposedly the year of his birth. Apart from that ,  there have also been both slippages of days and days added artificially by the Church  at different times in European history.

Nevertheless, the present dating system is commonly accepted; and, is compared with many Indian calendars.  Of course, one needs to be constantly reminded that all dates of ancient Indian history are somewhat fluid; and,  in the dating of some events one has to accommodate  a certain ‘give and take’ of a few decades or even a couple of centuries , at times .


Talking of chronology in Indian History, Shri Niraj Mohanka (not a professional historian) has produced a remarkable set of spreadsheets – 23 columns wide, 350 rows deep and over 8,000 cells in MS Excel – basically on the chronology of Indian history. The like of which I had not come across. As the chronology in Indian History is always a matter of debate, one may quarrel a bit with the dates indicated by Shri Mohanka, this way or that. But that does not, in any manner, take away the sheen from the dedication and the amount of scholarship and work that has gone into producing the document.

Please check :

In the webpage, the following link opens up a Microsoft Excel file that contains four spreadsheets (see the four lower Tabs when you open up the Excel file):

1) Royal Chronology of India (Columns K through P on the right-hand side describe other civilizations – Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Iran and China).  On Page 21 of this file is a Population Chart of India from 8000 B.C.E. to 2200 C.E.  On Page 42 is a list of assumptions and sources used to build the timeline.

2) The History of World Religion- major religions [Eastern AND Western] have roots in the Vedas

3) Comparison of All Religions

4) Festivals of India

In the webpage please click on the above picture


Posted by on September 7, 2012 in General Interest, History


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Though Hinduism has now virtually been rooted out of Kashmir , the region was , at onetime ,  a renowned center of learning . And,  its erudite and enlightened scholars such as Abhinavagupta (10th century), Augusta (8th century), Somananda (9th century), Utpaladeva (9th century), Anandavardhana (9th century) and others made immense contribution to the development of Indian Philosophies, literature and art.

The most outstanding of them was Abhinavagupta Acharya (c. 950 to c. 1020 C.E) a great philosopher, intellectual and a spiritual descendant of Somananda the founder of the Pratyabhijna, the “recognition” metaphysics school of Kashmiri Saivite monism. Abhinavagupta was a many sided genius and a prolific writer on Shaivism, Tantra, aesthetics, Natya, music and a variety of other subjects. Among his most notable philosophic works are the Isvara-pratyabhijña-vimarshini and the more detailed Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both commentaries on Isvara-pratyabhijña (Recognition of God) by Utpaladeva , an earlier philosopher of the pratyabhijna school .

Abhinavagupta’s  works on poetry , drama, and dance, include the Lochana a commentary on the Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana; and, the Abhinavabharati a detailed commentary on Bharata Muni’s Natyasastra covering almost every important aspect of Indian aesthetic and poetics . His theory of Rasa is a land mark in Sanskrit art and literature.

Abhinavagupta was born in Kashmir, probably around 950 A.D. The tradition has it that after his 70th year Abhinavagupta entered the Bhairava cave near the village Bhiruva, along with his 1200 disciples;  and , was never seen again.

What little is known of him comes from his works , in his own words. At the end of Ishwar Pratyabhijna Vimarshini, a commentary on Kashmir Shaivism text ascribed to  Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta states that his remote ancestor Attrigupta, a great Shaiva teacher, who lived in Antarvedi – a tract of land lying between the Ganga and the Yamuna – migrated to Kashmir at the invitation of the King Lalitaditya (700-736 A.D) . He was followed, many generations later, by  Varahagupta another great scholar of Shaiva philosophy. His son, Narasimha Gupta, a great Shaiva teacher , was the father of Abhinavagupta. And Vimla or Vimalkala was the mother of Abhinavagupta (vimalakalāśray ābhinavasṛṣṭi mahā janan. His father’s maternal grandfather, Yashoraja, was a man of great learning and wrote a commentary on Paratrinshika . a dialogue between Bhairava (Shiva) and Bhairavi (Shakti) .

abhinavagupta parent


Abhinavagupta always described himself as kashmirika, as one hailing  from the land of Kashmira.

It is believed that Abhinava was a Yoginibhu, i.e. born of a Siddha and  Yogini. The Kaula system believes that a progeny of parents who are sincere devotees of Lord Shiva is endowed with exceptional spiritual and intellectual prowess; and ,will be a depository of knowledge.

Abhinava might not have been his real name, but one assigned to him by his teachers , because of his brilliance. He describes his work Tantraloka (1.20) : ‘This is the work written by Abhinavagupta, who was so named by his Gurus”- abhinavaguptasya kṛtiḥ seyaṃ yasyoditā gurubhirākhyā. The name Abhinava suggests the virtue of being “ever-new and ever creative, progressively innovating oneself”.And, it also suggests competence and authoritativeness. Abhinavagupta was, in fact, all these and more.

He was also referred to as Abhinavagupta-pada. The suffix pada signifies a reverential form of address (say, just as in Sri Shankara Bhagavat-pada) .  There is also a clever explanation of the term “gupta_pada” which translates to “one with hidden limbs” , a poetic  synonym for snake. Thus, Abhinava was also regarded as an incarnation of Sesha , the legendary serpent.

Abhinava lost his mother Vimalakala when he was just two years of age. The pain of separation and the longing for his mother haunted him all his life. He, later in his works, frequently referred to his mother with love and reverence. The relation between the mother and the child, he said, is the closest that nature can forge. The bond of love and friendship between the mother and the child is the strongest ; and, is the most enduring bond in the world.

His father Narasimha gupta (aka. Cukhulaka), after the death of his wife Vimalakala, assumed an ascetic way of life; and yet continued to bring up his three children (two sons : Abhinava, Manorata and the daughter Amba). He became more focused on his spiritual endeavor. He was Abhinava’s first teacher. Abhinava, later, recalled with gratitude the training he received from his father in grammar (pitra sa sabda-gahane-krta-sampravesah ), logic, literature and music (geya vidya).

Abhinava was a diligent pupil ; and, put his heart and soul in to his studies. By one account, Abhinava had as many as fifteen teachers; Narasimha Gupta, his father being his first teacher.  His other teachers were said to be : Vamanatha; Bhutiraja; Bhutiraja-tanaya; Laksmanagupta; Induraja; and Bhatta-Tota. These teachers taught the boy Abhinavagupta  varied subjects , such as : Tantras; Brahmavidya; monistic Saivism; Krama ; Trika; Dhvani; and Dramaturgy 

Among his teachers.  Lakshmana Gupta was a direct disciple of Somananda, in the lineage of TryambakaHe taught Abhinavagupta the monastic subjects:  Krama,  Trika  and  Pratyabhijna   (except Kula).

The most prominent of his teachers was , of course, Shambhu Natha of Jalandhara (in the present-day Punjab). Guru Shambhu Natha who preached monistic shaivism, initiated Abhinava in to Ardha_thrayambaka , a doctrine of Kaula school of Tantric tradition. It is said that Shambhu Natha asked his wife to act as a conduit (dauti) for transmitting the initiation through Kaula process (having sexual connotations). It was at the instance of Shambhu Natha that Abhinava authored his monumental Tantraloka, in which he compared Shambhu Natha to the sun in his power to dispel the darkness of ignorance; and to the moon shining over the ocean of Trika knowledge.

śrī śambhunātha bhāskara caraṇa nipāta prabhā pagata saṃkocam abhinavagupta hṛdambuja metad vicinuta maheśa pūjana hetoḥ //1. 21

As regards his immediate family, it is said, Abhinava had a younger brother Manoratha and an elder sister Amba. Manoratha was one among Abhinava’s earlier batch of disciples. And, one of his fellow students was Karna married Amba. Karna and Amba had a son Yogeshwardatta , who was precociously talented in Yoga. After the death of her husband, Amba too devoted herself entirely to Yoga and to the worship of Shiva. Later, Amba’s in-laws too became devote followers of Abhinava.

A cousin of Abhinava was Kshema who later became renowned as his illustrious disciple Kshemaraja. Mandra, the cousin and childhood friend of Karna, too became Abhinava’s disciple. Vatasika, Mandra’s aunt, took exceptional care of Abhinava and offered him support to carry on his life’s work. It was while staying in her suburban house at Pravapura (present-day Srinagar) that Abhinava wrote and completed his Tantraloka, in which he recorded his gratitude towards Vatasika for her concern, dedication and support. Abhinavagupta also mentioned his disciple Rāmadeva as being  faithfully devoted to scriptural studies and for serving his master.

Abhinava did not become a wandering monk nor did he take on Brahmanical persuasions. He did not marry ;  followed an ascetic way of life; and yet, he lived in his ancestral home surrounded by the members of his family, loving friends and disciples. He lived the life of a scholar, a teacher and a Yogi immersed in Shiva. Referring to the atmosphere in his family, Abhinava said,” All the members of the family regarded material wealth as a straw and they set their hearts on the contemplation of Shiva”.

He lived in a nurturing and a caring environment. An epoch pen-painting depicts him  seated in Virasana, surrounded by devoted disciples and family, performing on Veena while dictating verses of  Tantrāloka to one of his attendees, as  two dauti (women yogi) wait on him. He was ever surrounded by his friends and disciples.

No wonder that about 1,200 of his friends and disciples faithfully followed Abhinavagupta, as he marched in to the Bhairava cave, reciting loudly his Bhairara_stava, never to be seen again.


A prolific writer on a wide ranging subjects , Abhinava  authored more than about 40 works, some of which survive to the present day.

Abhinavagupta’s works are sometimes classified according the branches of his triad (trika) will (icchā) – knowledge (jnana) – action (kriya).

But according to another classification, Abhinavagupta’s works fall into four broad groups.

The first group of his works deals with Tantra. His monumental encyclopedic work the Tantraloka or Light on the Tantras is an authoritative text. It explores doctrine and the inner meaning of rituals in the Shaiva and Shakta Agamas . The text enumerates the Tantrik Agamas and the three methods of realizing the Ultimate Reality: SambhavopayaSaktopaya and Anovapaya. The Tantraloka , apart from being a philosophical work, is also a practical guide to the arnent students of Tantra-vidya.

iti samadhikamenam trimsatam yah sada budhah / ahnikanam samabhyasyetsa saksadbhairavo bhavet

Tantrasara is a summarized version of Tantraloka. The Tantrasara containing twenty-two Ahnikas deals with a variety of topics which have a  bearing on varied spiritual disciplines. It gives prominence to the various modes of spiritual disciplines prescribed for different classes of spiritual aspirants. It also explains the ancillary topics such as the concept of Divine Grace; different kinds of initiatory rites (Diksha); and, the modes of Shaiva worship etc. Besides, it also discusses the abstract aspects of   Trika School of philosophy. The entire text is replete with mystic symbols and description of esoteric practices.

Tantra-Vata-Dhanika is a small work in verse form, which aims to teach the principles of Shaiva Tantras in a nutshell.  Basically, this text is a brief summary of Tantraloka. It is like a seed, dhanika of the huge banyan tree, vata of Tantra ideology.

Paramartha-sara is text containing 105 karikas. It is called   Paramartha-sara,  because it encapsulates the essence (Sara) or the hidden (ati-gudham) principles of the Trika Philosophy, as explained by Abhinavagupta – aryasatena  tadidam samksiptam  sastra-saram-atigudham. This text is said to be an adaptation of the Adhara-karikas of the revered sage Sesha Muni, who is also referred to as Adhara  Bhagavan. The Paramartha-sara of Abhinavagupta, mainly, deals with subjects such as: metaphysical reality; ontology of Shaiva Siddantha; theories concerning creation; manifestation of thirty-six Tattvas; causes for human bondage;  and, the ways leading towards liberation etc. Yogaraja,one of  the  disciples  of Ksemaraja wrote a detailed  commentary on Paramartha-sara.

The other important work of this group is Malini-Vijaya Vivrti , a commentary. It is a voluminous work, composed in simple Sanskrit verse on the philosophic principles and doctrines of practice of Kashmir Shaiva Siddantha The alternate title of this text is Sripurva-shastra. It was, initially, addressed to two of his pupils: Karna and Mandra – sacchisya-karna-mandrabhyam codito‘ham punah.


The second group consists few small treatises like Bodh-Punch Dashika;  and  Stotras  or hymns in praise of deities such as Bhairava. The text is made of sixteen Sanskrit verses. It is called Bodha-panca-dasika, because,  in fifteen verses, it teaches  the basic principles of monistic Shaiva doctrine . It speaks of the Shaiva conception of Shiva and Shakthi; their relation; and, the consequent emanation of the universe etc .The last  and the sixteenth verse ,briefly  states  the object of the composition- sukumara-matin sisyan-prabodhay-itumanjasa / ime Abhinava-guptena slokah pancadasoditah// 

The Bhagavadgitartha-sangraha is a short commentary on Bhagavad-Gita, where Abhinavagupta gives the traditional interpretation from the Shaiva point of view.


A third group includes his works on art of the theater and art of writing plays; poetics; aesthetics and the rhetoric. The great scholar Prof. P.V. Kane remarked “his two works, i.e. Lochana and Abhinavabharati are monuments of learning, critical insight, literary grace and style.” Lochana, his commentary on  Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana is a highly regarded work in aesthetics. Abhinavabharati is an extensive commentary on Natyasastra of Bharata Muni. His analysis of Rasa is very appealing and distinguishable from other interpretations. For example, Bharata talks about eight types of Rasa, while distinguishing it from sthaayibhaava. The Abhinavabharati and Lochana suggest that bhoga (pleasure) is produced not only by the senses but also by the removal of moha (ignorance). They also suggest that art and literature are not mere vinoda (entertainment) but are outpourings of the ananda arising of knowledge.

The Abhinavabharati is the earliest available, the most famous and celebrated commentary on the Natyashastra of Bharata, expounding , among other things , on the theory Rasa.


Abhinavagupta emphasized that intuition (prathibha), inner experience was the lifeblood of good poetry. He said , creativity (karaka) was the hallmark of poetry as it brings into the world a new art experience. Poetry need not aim to remind (jnapaka) what is already present; that , he said , was the function of sastras. A poet need not seek justification or approval of scriptural authority. He is the lord of his domain. He is the creator. Abhinava  recommend, the poet need not allow himself to be bound by logic, propriety and such other restrictions.

Abhinavagupta , in his Lochana, says prathibha the intuition might be essential for creation of good poetry . But , that flash of enlightenment alone is not sufficient . He explains , what sustains that vision is the “unmeelana_shakthi” which is something that charges the mind, opens up or awakens the potent faculties. Abhinavagupta clarifies that prathibha is inspirational in nature and it does not, by itself , transform automatically, into a work of art or poetry. It needs a medium to  harness it, bring it forth through lively , delightful or forceful expression . And , that medium has to be cultivated, honed and refined diligently over a period to produce a work of class.

In this context, Abhinavagupta mentions three essentials that a poet has to keep in view. They are Rasa (rasa_vesha), Vaishadya and Soundarya. The rasa concept is well known ; and,  ls expounded by Bharata muni. The second one refers to clarity in thought, lucidity in expression and comfortable communication with the reader. The third is the sense of poetic beauty . A good poetry can manifest, according to him, only when the delightful combination of these three essentials are charged or supported by prathibha.

He cites Valmiki and kalidasa as classic examples; and, states it is the wonderful combination of those poetic virtues and prathibha that sets them apart from the rest of the tribe.

[Abhinavagupta , it appears had a special regard for Kalidasa. In his Locana, while commenting on Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka, Uddyota-1 – DhvK_1.6and speaking of pratibhā-viśeṣam , the creative genius,  Abhinavagupta  ponders :

In this wonderful   stream of literature,  flowing  since the time immemorial, there have been varied types and class of poets . And, there have been some gifted  poets in each generation . But, tell me ; how may of those can even be compared to the matchless , Sovereign (prabhṛtayo) Kalidasa. You might be able to name a very few , say, two , three or , at best, five; but, surely never  more than that.

pratibhā-viśeṣaṃ pari-sphurantam abhivyanakti /
yenāsminnati vicitra kavi paramparā vāhini saṃsāre kālidāsa prabhṛtayo dvitrāḥ pañcaṣā vā mahākavaya iti gaṇyante / ]


The fulfillment of poetry is Ananda, joy. It therefore needs a good reader (Sah_hrudaya) who can understand, appreciate, empathize and enjoy the beauty of the poetry. He is an integral part of poetic experience.

Subash kak remarks “Abhinava emphasized the fact that all human creativity reveals aspects of the seed consciousness. This explains his interest in drama, poetry, and aesthetics.”

Nineplanets Navagraha 2

The last group constitutes his work on the Pratyabhijnyasastra, the monistic philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. In this group , we have his matchless contributions to this system. Among his most notable works in this category are the Isvara-pratyabhijña-vimarsini and the concise Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both commentaries on Isvarapratyabhijna (“Recognition of God”) by Utpaladeva, an earlier philosopher of the pratyabhijna school.

The Para-trisika-vivarana on the Trika system of yoga is very profound text detailing minute ideas regarding the esoteric principles and doctrines of the Trika system of Shaiva-yoga in its highest aspect. The text deals with Ultimate Reality, Para Tattva;  and the path to its realization, centered above on  the theory and practice of  mantra Yoga.

Abhinavagupta was a devotee of Lord Shiva ; and, he led a celibate life. He is considered the greatest exponent of the Kashmiri Saivite monism. This school viewed Shiva (the manifestation of ultimate reality), the individual soul, and the universe as essentially one. The philosophy of pratyabhijna refers to the way of realizing this identity.

Kashmir Shaivism is intensely monistic. It is not much concerned with worshiping a personal god ; its emphasis is upon meditation , reflection and guidance by a guru. It aims at attaining the transcendental state of Shiva consciousness.

It explains the creation as Shiva’s abhasa, shining forth of himself in his dynamic aspect of Shakti. Abhasavada is therefore another name of the system . Shiva the Supreme Self is immanent and transcendent; and performs , through Shakthi , the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. During this process , Shiva as the Universe Vishwanatha, on his own will creates , expands, flourishes , retracts in to a most minute form till the next cycle of creation and expansion.

Kashmir Shaivism is called Trika philosophy because all its interpretations are three fold. Trika stands for threefold science of the individual, the energy and the universal consciousness. It also represents three modes of knowledge of Reality, viz. non-dual (abheda), nondual-cum-dual (bhedabheda), and dual (bheda). The Trika School also argued that reality is represented by three categories : transcendental (para), material (apara), and a combination of these two (para_apara) . This three-fold division is again reflected in the principles of  Shiva, Shakti, anu or pashu. The Trika is also known as Svatantrya vadaSvatantrya and Spanda expressing the same concepts.

The purpose of Trika is to show how an individual rises to the state of universal consciousness through Shakthi. Shiva represents pure consciousness, Shakti its energy, and anu the material world. Pashu is the individual who acts according to his conditioning, almost like an animal; pashas are the bonds that tie him to his behavior; and pathi or pashupathi (Lord of the Flock) is Shiva personified whose knowledge liberates the pashu and makes it possible for him to reach his potential.

Abhinavagupta classified Trika philosophy into four systems : Krama  system,  Spanda  system,  Kula system and Pratyabhijna  system.

The mind is viewed as a hierarchical (krama) collection of agents (kula) that perceives its true self spontaneously (pratyabhijna) with a creative power that is vibrating  or pulsating (spanda)

Explaining the Spanda system, Abhinavagupta says whatever that appears to be moving is actually established in the unmoved point. Although everything seems to be moving , actually, they are not moving at all.

As for the Kula system, he says that Kula means the science of totality. In each and every part of the universe totality shines . Take an infinitesimally small object, in that you will find the universal energy. A macrocosm resides in microcosm .

The fourth, the Pratyabijnya system deals with the school of recognition. The Pratyabhijnya School, initiated by Sri Somananda; and developed by Utpaladeva, reached its culmination in Abhinavagupta. This School conceived Shiva (the manifestation of ultimate reality), the individual soul, and the universe as essentially one; Pratyabhijna refers to the way of realizing this identity.

Abhinavagupta, while explaining this school of recognition, says, man is not a mere speck of dust; but, is an immense force, comprising a comprehensive consciousness and capable of manifesting through his mind and body limitless powers of knowledge and action (Jnana Shakti and Kriya Shakti). The state of Shiva-consciousness is already there, you have to realize that and nothing else.

His non-dual philosophy, in essence, is similar to the one expounded by Sri Shankara. He considers the universe completely real, filled with infinite diversity and not different from Shiva , the supreme consciousness. He expands on this concept and shows that the various levels of creation, from the subtlest to the grossest, are all the same and Shiva.

He conceived Shiva, the I or Consciousness (Aham) , as an expression of the supreme freedom This concept of freedom (Svatrantya) is one of the principal achievements of Kashmiri Shaivism .

Abhinavagupta explains that Shiva brings about the manifestation of the world by the means of His svatantrya –shakthi or absolute autonomy by which he effects all changes without undergoing any change in Himself. The world is abhasa, pratibimba projected or reflected in the mirror of cosmic consciousness. Abhinavagupta  illustrates this  position  with  the aid  of  analogy of the reflection in  a mirror : just as earth,  water etc. are  reflected  in a clean mirror without being contaminated, so also the entire world of objects appears together in the one Lord consciousness- nirmale mukure yadvadbhanti bhumi-jala- dayah.. visvavrttayah.

Abhinavagupta asserts that Shiva, the Ultimate Reality, manifests himself as the world – asthasyadekarupena vapusa canmahesvara! Ghatadivat. He says;  in reality,  the jiva, the individual soul, is none other than the Lord Shiva Himself, having taken up the form of the bounded being – Shiva eva grhita pasu bhavah. The whole of this existence, according to Abhinavagupta, is indeed the manifestation of that Absolute Reality Shiva – Bharupam..paratattvam tasmin vibhati sat trimsad-atma jagat 


But, the basic difference between the Sri Shankara and Abhinavagupta is that the philosophy of Abhinavagupta is theistic absolutism.  It is similar to Vishitadvaita.  Abhinavagupta accepts the monistic and absolute  pure  consciousness   as  the  only  eternal reality; but, at the same time establishes Shakthi as the very essential nature of such monistic Reality. Hence, the aspect of the pure and perfect I-consciousness is His static aspect in which He is known as Shiva; and, the aspect of His phenomenal manifestation through the five divine activities is His dynamic aspect in which He is known as Shakthi.  Thus, Shiva is the basic eternal Reality and Shakthi is the divine nature of such Absolute Reality. Shiva and Shakthi are also said to be identical; the difference being just in nameittham nanavidhaih rupaih! kridaya prasruto nityameka-eva sivah prabhuh.


Abhinavagupta was a mystic and a Sadhaka par excellence. According to him; one’s body is indeed a worthy place of worship. All the devatas , vidyas, cakras, trisulas, mandalas  etc. are present in the body. Beyond this there is no other Dhama  , a place, which is more   suitable  for true worship – deha-eva-param-lingam  sarvata tat-vatmakam   shivam.. Atraiva  devata cakram  bahirantah sada yajet .

Abhinavagupta advises that a serious seeker should  obtain proper  initiation , Diksha , from a worthy Guru, who  has the immense power of grace. The Sadhaka through relentless practice of Mantra, Japa and Bhavana (contemplation), should strive to attain true realization – tat svarupam japah prokto Bhava –bhavapada-cyutah.

He categorized such means of achievement (Upaya) into:  Anavopaya; Saktopaya and Sambhavopaya.. These Upayas are hierarchical; and, are meant for different levels of  Sadhakas.


Kashmir Shaivism, reached its culmination in the philosophy of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja (10th century) ; and,  in the theory of Recognition , Shaivite philosophy found its full flowering .

Together with Somananda’s disciple Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta is the most important representative of the School . Many believe Shiva himself appeared in Kashmir in the form of Abhinavagupta to enlighten the people. In any case , Abhinavagupta is a precious jewel of our heritage . His works and teachings continue to influence our thoughts.

Abhinavagupta talks about Shadanga_yoga, a system of yoga comprised of six aspects. According to him, prana (life force) and manas (mind) are interdependent. The Yoga consists in harnessing these two together. The disciplines of yama, niyama and aasana prescribed by Patanjali are meant for conditioning the body; they are the indirect methods.

Whereas, the methods that help directly are  dhyana  (meditation),  dharana (contemplation),  tarka (reasoning) and  Samadhi (absolute identity with the ideal). Contemplating on the identity of self and the Shiva  is essential; and it can be achieved through divine grace. It leads to emancipation and freedom from ignorance; and roots out the sense of duality. This he called it Pratyabhijnathe new method  (margo navaha).

guru charana



Images are from Internet


Tags: ,

Where do we go from here?

 My post Oh History! My History! ( )

was about writing and understanding History in general. It also highlighted the problems in interpreting Indian history, the way in which it is taught in schools. The comments that followed discussed the problems involved in teaching Indian History and culture to Indian children in USA .

(… )

 The debate is still on. In the mean while a book titled “Invading the Sacred” edited by Ramaswamy, Antonio de Nicolas, a professor, and Aditi Banerjee appeared on the scene. , the book brings together essays by well-known scholars and seeks to facilitate a debate to challenge the systematic misrepresentation of Indian culture and philosophy by certain American academicians. The book is product of an intensive multi-year research project that uncovers shoddy and biased scholarship driven by certain power cartels.. The book narrates the Indian Diaspora’s challenges to such scholarship, and documents how those who dare to speak up have been branded as `dangerous’.

  Further, an article written by Aditi Banerjee one of the authors of the book appeared in the Outlook magazine


 Following the debate thereon I wrote to the Discussion Forum of the book saying that we were having a lively and a very concerned debate in progress about the Indian History in general, and the way in which India and Hindu religion is taught at the schools in USA , in particular. Further I said

 “Our anxiety is that the abuse of India does not merely start with the books you mentioned .They are just symptoms. This issue has a deeper root and a sinister history of its own. It has its roots in the content of Indian History in our school books; patronage of a certain brand of Historians by the Government; the anxiety of “Historians” to please those that matter, neglect of research and higher studies in Indian History in our Universities and Research Organizations and disillusionment of our bright young minds who are scared (with reason) to take up study of History as an academic career.

 The question is, where do we go from here? How do we tackle the menace that confuse and disillusion our younger generation about our History, our Culture and our Religion? The question is not merely about books written by some westerns without an iota of understanding; it concerns the identity of our communities and valuing conservation of our culture

 You have a wider canvass and larger area of work and influence than many of us have. Could you please let us have your views on the issues we are grappling with? Where do we go from here? “

There are other discussions in progress on  similar issues . Please follow those interesting  debates too.

 Invading The Sacred-The Foreword . 

 Invading The Sacred-A Review

 Challenging Western Scholarship on Hinduism

 Invading The Sacred : An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America


Riverine suggests that measures to project our history, our culture and our religion in the right perspective and to present it to our younger ones should start from our homes and our schools. Re asserts the truth that mothers are the protectors and nourishes of our identity and Dharma. She also suggests involvement in this task of women disposed to social service/activities.

Melody Queen says,”would be a good way to start with ( to st right all the distortions). Requires  rallying of all the like minded people;success shouldn’t t be be elusive if we display the tremendous amount of unity ,patience, and perseverance that is required for a cause of this kind.”

On that optimistic note please read on.

 Kindly post your comments

Message received from the Editors of Invading the sacred

 From: ITS Team <invadingthesac…>
Date: Jul 12, 2:58 am
Subject: Where do we go from here?
To: discuss-invadingthesacred

Dear Srinivasarao

Thanks for your presence & adding to the discussion. Also, thank you
for keeping the discussion alive on outlets like Sulekha.

 My response to the Editors’ reply

 Dear Sir, Madam

 Thank you for the reply and the appreciation.

 We were aware of the problem and were trying to spread the awareness about that with our very limited resources and a restricted reach. Your book has accomplished the task of awakening, on a larger scale, in a more scholarly, professional manner acceptable to academia and in a   much more effective way. None of us had the capability to do what you have just done. It has made a great difference. We all thank you for the task you just finished.

 The question we were wondering at: “Where do we go from here?” remains largely un answered in all the discussions that followed. Most of the comments posted are the reactions to the contents of book with hardly any thought expressed on what we need to do now or in future. Where do we go from here?

 We have just identified a problem and reacted to it. However, it takes much greater effort and dedication to effectively deal with the issue in a holistic fashion and to find credible answers to questions gnawing at the root of our cultural identity,” What do we tell and how we tell our children, who we are?” .We feel that a long term and a well thought out strategy involving various segments of the academia, the govts and intellectuals is essential. There are no quick fixes here. Have you envisioned a strategy or a road map in that direction? Can you kindly share it with us now or later?

 Thank you again for a difficult just accomplished.

 Looking forward to your response.


 Sreenivasarao s


This was the reply received from the Editors

  TS Team <>   hide details 2:54 am (4 hours ago) reply-to to discuss-invadingthesacred <> dateJul 13, 2007 2:54 AM subject[discuss-invadingthesacred:34] Re: Where do we go from here?

Dear sreenivasarao s
Thanks for your perceptive comments, & your obvious concerns about the
big picture. What you have, in the form of this book, is a tool for
firstly absorbing a deeper understanding of the problem, and then
fashioning an intellectual & intelligent response to it.
At the bare minimum, the book calls for an awakening of the people
concerned to the problem, & and an acknowledgement that it exists.
After that, it is up to the person(s) to think how to go ahead in
contributing to a remedy. It could be as simple as alerting oneself &
friends & family about the issues faced when one’s cultural heritage
is unfairly targeted, or bigger things like getting together to form
organizations that actively participate in academic forums to have the
“insider” voices of the traditions heard.
It all starts with healthy discussions like this one.
Thanks for the comments, & please continue sharing your thoughts. They
are important


There have been discussions in Group. You can read the detailed discussions at(

 The following are excerpts from the comments made by some members of the Group

Krishen Kak <> 

 15 July , 2007


This is being sent at RM’s request.

 It is about a personal experience of “reversing the gaze” that resonates strongly with the theme of the book.  It also resonates with subsequent personal experience in Delhi where, as guest faculty, I teach occasionally at a well-known b-school (and elsewhere).  There are all these bright young MBA aspirants, supposedly of our country’s intellectual “creamy layer”, who uncritically accept “the Western knowledge of India … as God’s own truth”.  But it’s not their fault.  We have a macaulayan educational system firmly in place producing macaulayan parents who go on to produce macaulayan children who go into the macaulayan education system.  Of course, this is a generalization but, I think, a valid one – witness, for one, your book itself!  

 As a small but another characteristic example, some Punjabi families were celebrating “lori” and I asked this teenager (private school, mission college, but of pukka Punjabi parentage – language, food, head-covered women, etc., etc.) what “lori” is about.  She said she didn’t know, and added brightly, “But I can tell you about Christmas”.

 At the b-school and elsewhere, more and more I find that our English-medium educated youngsters are ignorant of even the Mahabharata – but unthinkingly subscribe to a tangle of confused beliefs that all religions are equal and about love, and that “Hinduism” is mythology and not truthful and therefore inferior to the religions that are the Truth and so if I have any Hindu beliefs I should keep these superstitions to myself and not talk about them in “secular” society because that will make me a Hindu fundamentalist and I will be looked down upon by Westerners and the West-educated.         


Krishen Kak

June 25, 2004

This one starts on a personal experience, but I hope it has a larger lesson that is topical.  Not so very long ago, I negotiated a Ph.D. from Princeton University .   Shri Ashok Chowgule has for some time been pressing me to share that experience with the larger world, and “prevailing ideology” in David Brooks, “Lonely Campus Voices”, The New York Times, Sept 27, 2003 that Shri Chowgule circulated, plus certain behaviour, essentially unchanged since it was televised to the world on May 18, 2004, prompts me now to do so.

 I won a Parvin Fellowship for 1983-84 to Princeton University and during that one year fulfilled nearly all the requirements of a major in anthropology (i.e., the honours course requirements for a BA in cultural anthropology).  Sat for the GRE and, armed with my course grades and my GRE, and with strong encouragement from Prof James Fernandez (who later shifted to Chicago ), applied for regular graduate admission.

 Joined as a graduate student in 1985 and had 5 years in which to complete (an MA and) the Ph.D. before being obligated to return to sarkari naukri back home (the average time taken by an indigenous student exceeded 7 years). 

 I must say those 5 years were a most educative experience – the pluses of the American educational system are well-known and I won’t repeat them here.  Mainly, these are the opportunities and facilities the system makes available to any one who wants seriously to study. 

  This is about what I didn’t know then – and I have no reason to believe it has changed in its basics.

  First, my teachers as a Delhi Univ undergraduate in the early 60s were as good or better than the ones I had at Princeton in the 80s.  Whatever the drawbacks of the Indian system, ours has a discipline and a rigour that enables those trained in it to do very well there. 

  Secondly, for all the academic freedom proclaimed, there are high walls you cross at your risk.  The playing field is a large one, but its boundary is then sharply demarcated.

Thirdly, racism is subtle but sharp.  I was encouraged by Prof Fernandez and, after he left, by my advisor Prof Hildred Geertz, to reverse the well-entrenched hierarchy of enquiry (in which Western/White/West-based anthropology studies others, preferably dark-skinned, non-Englishspeaking, Third World natives) and bring to bear my non-western eyes and non-western perspective to any aspect of American culture that interested me.  As I told an indigenous student (of Tamil-Irish parentage!) who asked, “But aren’t you supposed to study someone exotic?”, “What makes you think that to me you Americans aren’t exotic?”  “Oh!”  

 But life in America is expensive, and while my Department had always been understanding and generous, no funding agency was prepared to give me a grant to do my fieldwork on mainstream Americans.  I read some of the feedback.  Essentially, it was a question of authority: who is he to study us?  Politely and carefully-worded, but the subtext was clear – student, Indian, Brown, Third World, inferior, the ruled, the periphery, etc. to study the No.1, White, First World, superior, the rulers, the centre, etc.? Nah!

 This “who is he to study us?” played like a signature tune to the very end.  Up to the qualifiers (the MA), I played by their rules, did their coursework, met all their academic requirements to their pronounced satisfaction.  I was apparently successfully co-opted and could be a fine example of their system (senior administrator from world’s largest democracy, fluent in English, Westernized, much older than the average indigenous student, and dutifully kneeling at their altar to Athena, not mine to Saraswati).    

 Then came the fieldwork, of studying Americans as “them”.   My area of ethnographic enquiry was the Western social paradigm in its American expression, but in its “bhayanaka”, not “adbhuta”, side; and to express it I introduced “rasasvadana” (from Indian aesthetics) as an ethnographic method. 

 Suffice it to say that, as I began to share my experiences and critical understanding in the Department, I was soon disabused of the notion that, as a Brown foreigner, I had interpretative authority.  For example, some interpretation I shared with Prof Laurence Rosen was “wrong”.  So I began to use the words of the indigenes instead of my own; I used American quotations to say to White Americans what obviously they were not prepared to hear – let alone accept – from a Dark Brown Indian who was forgetting his place in their larger scheme of life!

 The procedure required the submission and clearance of the draft dissertation by the main advisor, its approval by a second reader, then it was to be seen by two more readers who’d have it for a fortnight each, and then, all going well, the date for the student’s final public oral exam (FPO) would be notified – and the whole world and their nears and dears could attend!    

  Right on schedule, I handed in my final draft to Prof Geertz.  Her initial response – “marvellous”.  Three days later she said she couldn’t accept it – it wasn’t “science”.  I pointed out I was critiquing “Western science”. She wanted this change and that, and changes that I felt I could make without compromising my integrity and that of my thesis, I made.  At one change, I drew the line.  I said that if I made it, it would no longer be my dissertation; it would become hers. She was asking me to convert from my faith (as an academic credo) to hers, and I wasn’t prepared to convert. She said that then she couldn’t accept my dissertation.  I said, fine, I’d go back without the Ph.D.

  Impasse.  Sensation.  After all, here I was.  A brown sahib there, and not just any chhota-mota brown sahib. I had been a Parvin Fellow at the same university.  I had a certain official status in my own country.  My academic results had been to their entire satisfaction.  How would they explain not awarding me a Ph.D?            

  Friendly American students advised me to write as my guide wanted; when subsequently I published I could rewrite as I wanted.  I was horrified to discover this well-meant advice was a very common one.  The important point was to get the degree, not how you got it?  And I then realized the American doctorate is not awarded, it is negotiated.

  The negotiations began.  No, no, I sat tight – in my dharma, that piece of paper would not go up (or down!) with me when my  time finally came.  As my wife will certify, I was quite prepared to return home without that degree.  I was certainly not going to “sell” myself for White / Western recognition.  What to me was important was what I’d studied and learned and understood, and that they couldn’t take away from me.

 My second reader was Prof Gananath Obeyesekere (of Sri Lankan origin) and to him Prof Geertz referred me and my draft.  Prof O, apart from being a fascinating teacher, is one smart cookie, and he brought to bear his Asian chutzpah in dealing with the American system (and, believe me, first-generation clued-up Asians who smartly want to play the American system to their own advantage – as I did – can certainly do so).  So we negotiated certain portions of my draft without compromising on its integrity and he sent me back to Prof G.  She declined to look at the draft, saying that if O had okayed it, it was okay by her.

 It then went to big-name professors Jorge Klor de Alva and James Boon, with a covering note that I would be happy to explain any point they wished.  Complete silence from them both for their fortnights, and the date of the FPO was announced. 

  Now, I’d sat through the FPOs of a number of my seniors – small friendly affairs, just other students of the Department (and perhaps some friends) and a supportive faculty that’d known the student for six years or more.  Professional, yes, but very friendly, and I’d seen how once they gently led a sweating student out of his sudden and total mental block.  Nothing to worry about, except that in my case I was warned “they” were out to get me!   So, strategy became necessary, and some close, concerned American friends and I went into a huddle.  The student has about half-an-hour to “present” the dissertation and then the questioning starts.  We decided that I would raise no substantive issue in my presentation (let the questioners do that) and I wasn’t, absolutely was not, no matter how much the provocation, to lose my temper!   

 The entire faculty were seated around a long table, I was at one end, and the hall was overflowing with students from my and related departments. Word had certainly got around – martyr to the lions!!  And, oh yes, instead of my usual jeans, I wore a kurta and a churidar pajama. 

 For 25 minutes I spoke, and carefully said nothing at all.  Then, questions from the faculty.  Appropriate ones, including one from Prof Laurence Rosen about the application generally of my anthropological method, except for Profs Klor de Alva and Boon who were clearly seething with anger (Boon was literally red in the face) and who took over and dominated the table.

 Prof K de A: “Who are you to write this about us?  Can this be written about your country too?”

Prof B: “Your behaviour is uncharacteristic of Hindu behavior”

 Across the table it went, around those two statements of theirs I’ve never forgotten.  Cutting, insulting, snubbing.  K de A saying that all that was needed was to replace the title page with one saying ” India “, and what’s the difference.  Boon’s statement suggesting that Hindu (not Indian, mind you, but Hindu) behaviour is characteristically one of humility, of abject and grateful servility (yes, the kind leading “Hindu” members of our country’s Parliament happily displayed in the CPP meeting on May 18 – V’mala 59).

 And not a word from Prof Geertz or anyone else to restrain or divert them (as not a word at that CPP meeting from La Duce Suprema while her Hindus behaved in the way she obviously considers characteristic of us). 

 No, I did not lose my temper.  But Prof G didn’t allow any questioning from the audience; she ended the FPO immediately after the faculty had done with me.  There was a moment’s silence, then the students gave me a standing ovation, and student feedback later was that faculty behaviour had been “obnoxious”. 

 I had successfully negotiated my degree.  But I declined the invitation to dinner with the faculty that the new Ph.D has, as having become their peer.  A few days later, the five years soon to be getting over, I left.

 (And please do not compare my negotiating my Ph.D. to caro Raul’s obvious negotiation of his M.Phil. – V’mala 62.  I had sat for and passed the proper prerequisite examinations!)   

 Poor Prof Geertz was clearly very embarrassed that her potential White swan had metamorphosed into this ugly Brown duck!   No, no, the Department and she – and this I make emphatically clear – had been very supportive, and my qualms about “namak-harami” were brushed away by her and by Prof Rena Lederman.  I value indeed the opportunity I had to study the Western system from within it.  But my concern is with the hegemonic paradigm so well-illustrated in the uninhibited typecasting of Hindus by Profs Klor de Alva and Boon (see Part 1 of Krishen Kak, “Enucleated Universes: An Ethnography of the Other America and of Americans as the Other”, Princeton University, Ph.D. dissertation, June 1990, available in America on an inter-library loan through your academic or friendly neighbourhood public library.  On “namak-harami”, see its fn 5, Part 1.III).  

 Now, it is easy to point out worse attitudes in the Brown system but we, by our own general consensus (by “the people’s mandate”, if you prefer!), are a people inferior to the White.

 Call it the “fair and lovely” syndrome.  If you’re fair, you’re by definition lovely.  And the White is by definition fair and, therefore, lovely. 

 The White West universities by general consensus (that includes themselves and elite English-speaking Indians) are the best in the world, and the White Western educational system is the best, and the White West is the best……..

 Sure it is, if you’re willing to be co-opted by their system, to gratify them by praising theirs and running down our own, to becoming faux White.  Okay, okay, the full reasoning is in that dissertation which first q.v., so “flames” will be promptly extinguished if you’re responding angrily only to its findings as repeated here.  Don’t forget I defended in extended, publicly and successfully these findings there! 

 Apart from my experience as a grad and, this offering illustrates two points: how mainstream America / the Western social paradigm / mainstream White culture really perceive us “Hindus” and, much more significantly for us, how we continue to reinforce that perception. 

 And the larger point of that research that, in analysing the Western social paradigm, implicitly warns against blindly seeking a White solution to Brown social problems.  The remedy is worse than the disease, and we seek it at our peril.  


Gautam sen

Jul 7, 1:29

The main issue is how to stop their ‘normal’ prevalence being used to attack the entire fabric of the Hindu order, its society and the Indian State , or what  remains of it.

Without political power and control over the Indian State all endeavours to defend Hinduism will remain painfully difficult. India will soon be ruled directly from Brussels, headquarters of NATO .mark my words.


Lalitha vaidyanathan

 July 02, 2007

 Indian academics should rise to the occasion and do a better job of critiquing and debating  Western scholarship on India , the authors said.

 “Enough funds should be made available for scholars so that such detailed work can be carried out in India to counter such misrepresentations,” says Rajiv Malhotra, a US-based Diasporas  intellectual who first exposed many of these biases.


Tavleen Singh   

July 01, 2007

Indian students who want to learn about their religion and civilization have to go to foreign universities where they are taught that Hinduism has no philosophy or higher idea, only a pantheon of badly behaved gods and priests. Until Indian scholars work actively to rectify this scandalous distortion, it will prevail. But where are the scholars going to come from if our own universities do not produce them?


Sanjeev Nayyar

June 28, 2007

 India has not actively funded and managed the American academic representation of her cultural identity. Therefore, on one hand American Business Schools view India as a place of opportunity and problem-solving creativity, on the other, the large civilizational achievements of India in science and technology or its contributions to American lifestyles through yoga, vegetarianism, non-violent political protest are made invisible.

 Today, Sanatan Dharma in U.S. universities is taught more by Christians, than Hindus themselves. There is a very powerful trend in the American establishment that views Indian culture and Sanatan Dharam in particular, as being oppressive, psychologically destructive and the cause of India ’s problems like poverty.  This view is very strongly held in many top American schools like the University of Chicago , among influential “secular” professors of the humanities.  From these colleges, where America ’s elite are trained, a very biased view of India emanates, and can undermine the ‘ India brand’ built by I.T.  and automotive component cos.

 Why does this book concern Resident Indians? Given the neglect of rigorous academic documentation of our history and culture, there is an almost blanket use of foreign textbooks, academic material and research in teaching, learning and authentically defining Indian history and culture. The views of European Indologists or American Sanskrit scholars loom massively as “truth” in the psyche of the student, teacher and intelligentsia.

While this book is in the first instance about reclaiming the space for unbiased and non-defamatory academic research and study of Indian culture in the U.S. academia, its import goes well beyond that.  No nation can surrender sovereignty over the authentic documentation of its culture -or of its problems and solutions- to others.  It is not only a matter of academic debate, or of traumatized Indian-American children and adults; it is also a strategic imperative in the projection of soft power as the Indian nation rises to its rightful place at the world’s high table

Smita Deshmukh

June 30, 2007

The scholars also express the need for India to have a home team to debate about its religion and culture, the way China and Islamic nations have many scholars in the West writing from a sympathetic Islamic centric view point . The idea is to hear all voices- not to silence the western voices, but ensure that bias is exposed . The standard portrayal of Hinduism, often a caricature, is far from the truth.


 V. Balachandran

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat

7 July 2007

 “Indians themselves have contributed to the problem in significant ways.”While American  universities have major programmes for studying world religions, their Indian counterparts do not offer any comparable courses resulting in scholarship being confined to “Ashrams, Mattas, Jain Apasaras and Gurudwaras.” Those who want to seriously study Indian religions have to go to American, British or Australian universities.

 Indian Americans who are merely content with building temples “while their cultural portrayal in the educational system and in the media has been abandoned to the tender mercies ofthe dominant western traditions.”

 Is there a way to tackle this imbroglio? A recent California experience has shown that it is possible to reverse the trend with hard work. In 2005, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim groups complained to the California State Board of Education (SBE) that their
religions were negatively portrayed in some textbooks. The board was in the mood to make the changes proposed by the Hindu groups, but reversed the stand on the motivated intervention of Prof. Witzel, a Harvard Sanskrit professor. As a result, the changes made by the SBE did not satisfy the Hindu groups who chose court action. Their suit that the textbooks tended to demean and stereotype Hindu beliefs and practices, opening itself to ridicule was decided partly in their favour in 2006. The court held that fair and open process was not followed in adopting textbooks to Standard VI students and ordered SBE to pay part of the costs to the litigants. However, their demand to scrap the textbooks was not allowed, although during this year advance consultations on the textbooks had begun from March onwards.

Financially strong Indian associations should emulate this example. It will not be irrelevant to mention here that the American Jewish groups have been able to wrest fair treatment for their community only by aggressive ground action through their Anti-Defamation League.


Dr. V. V. Raman
Emeritus Professor of Physics and Humanities
Rochester Institute of Technology
July 7, 2007

 Possible impacts

This book could have three kinds of impact: From now on, many scholars, Hindu and non-Hindu, may become extremely cautious about what they publish on traditional Hindu themes. This could be viewed as a damper on freedom of expression, but also as an antidote to irresponsible commentaries. Another effect of the book could be that in the future there may be a decreasing number of non-Hindus who choose to pursue Hindu studies as a life-long commitment, because they may see this to be a rather risky profession. This may or may not be a loss for Hindu scholarship. Or thirdly, the whole field may be influenced in positive ways if outsiders take seriously the insights and perspectives that insiders provide.

 Given that throughout the book there is little of anything positive in Western scholarship and attitudes, I am somewhat concerned that those unfamiliar with the openness of Western societies and the positive contributions of Western science and enlightenment, and are legitimately ill-disposed towards America at the present time for various other reasons might get the impression that every American harbors Hinduphobia, and that all American scholars are working in cahoots to denigrate Hinduism and Hindu culture. I am not persuaded that this is the case.

 As a Hindu American I am as much concerned about the demonization of all Americans as of all Hindus. There is potential for such an impression despite the fact that the book explicitly limits itself to criticize one hermeneutics only, namely, Freudian psychoanalysis. However, while the book rightly exposes many intolerable aspects of Hindu studies in the U.S. , it does not explicitly mention that there are also scholars in the United States who have genuine regard and respect for Hindu culture, religion, and civilization. In fact, some of them have contributed to this book. Others have embraced Hinduism themselves. Yet others are secular scholars who speak and write just as harshly about Christ and the Virgin Mary. It is also true that a Hindu woman was recently elected as President of the American Academy of Religion, Hindu scholars teach Hindu philosophy in American universities, one of them is Head of the Department of Religion in a Christian College in America, American universities host conferences on Hindu philosophy and Vedanta. The Metanexus Institute on Science and Religion elected a Hindu as their Senior Scholar prior to giving that honor in succeeding years to a Catholic theologian and a Jewish scholar. Many schools in America invite local Hindus to come and speak to their students about Hinduism, its worldviews, festivals, etc. There is a growing number of Interfaith Forums in the country where Hindus play important roles. Recently Hindu prayers were introduced in the American Senate.

 There is no question but that courses on Hinduism taught in the United States could and should be vastly improved. This book is certain to contribute to that need. But it is also a fact that there are not many good textbooks for such courses written by competent Hindu scholars.

 Concluding thoughts

It would be good if Indian scholars who may disagree with the contents or perspectives of the book also engage in healthy discussions on its basic thesis. This publication may be taken as an opportunity to enter into mutually respectful and productive dialogues and debates, which can only serve the greater cause of Hindu culture at this important juncture in our history.

All parties will be losers if the current state of inimical tension is allowed to fester and persist for long, and the diverging perspectives between insiders and outsiders are looked upon by both groups as classic conflicts between devas and asuras. The book diagnoses a serious problem, but now we must take the next step, which would be to explore effective ways to enhance the understanding of Hinduism, and elevate the quality of Hindu scholarship and the West and in India


Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Books, History


Tags: , ,

What would be the fate of TRUTH if a Historian turns to be a Fiction author?

What would be the fate of TRUTH if a Historian turns to be a Fiction author?

[A copy of an article written by Shri S L Bhyrappa in Vijaya Karnataka, 27th September, 2006).]

During 1969-70, the Central Government under Smt. Indira Gandhi, with a mission to integrate the nation through education had established a committee under the Chairmanship of G .Parthasarathy, a diplomat whowas close to Nehru-Gandhi family. At that time I was a reader in Educational Philosophy at NCERT and I was selected as one of the fivemembers of the committee. In the first meeting Mr. Parthasarathy, theChairman of the committee had explained the purpose of the committee in his diplomatic polite language: “it is our duty not to sow the seeds of thorns in the minds of the growing children which will shapeup as barriers for the national integration. Such thorns are mostly seen in the history lessons. Even we can find them occasionally in the language and social science lessons. We have to weed out such thorns. We have to include only such thoughts which will inculcate the concept of national integration in the minds of the children.This committee has this great responsibility on it.”

Other four members were nodding their heads respectfully. I said:
“Sir, I am not able to understand your words. Will you please explain with some illustrations? “

“Gazni Mohammed had looted Somnath Temple, Aurangzeb built the mosques by demolishing the temples in Kashi and Mathura, he collected jizya – is it helpful to build a strong India under the present circumstances by conveying such useless facts, other than generating the hatred in the minds?”

“But are not they the historical truths?”

“Plenty of truths are there. To use these truths discriminately is the wisdom of the history”

The remaining four members simply nodded their heads by saying “yes, yes”.

“You gave examples of Kashi and Mathura. Even today every year lakhs of people go to these places from all nooks and corners of the country as pilgrims. They can see very clearly the huge mosques built using the same walls, pillars and columns of the demolished temples ,they can also see a recently built cow shed like structure in a corner, behind the mosque, representing their temple. All the pilgrims are distressed to witness such awful structures. They describe the plight of their temples to their relatives after they return home. Whether this can create national integration? One can hide the history in the school texts. But can we hide such facts when these children go on excursions? The researchers have listed more than thirty thousand such ruined temples in India. Can we hide them all? . . . . .”

Mr. Parthasarthy interrupted me by asking “you are a professor of Philosophy. Please tell us what the purpose of history is?”

“No body can define the purpose of history. We do not know how thethings shape up because of the development of science and technology in the future. Some western thinkers might have called it the philosophy of history. But such thoughts are futile. Our discussion here should be, what is the purpose of teaching history? History is seeking the truth about our past events, learning about the ancient human lives by studying the inscriptions, records, literary works, relics, artifacts etc. We should not commit the same blunders that our predecessors committed, we have to imbibe the noble qualities that they have adopted, historical truths help us to learn all these things.. . . .”

“Can we hurt the feelings of the minority? Can we divide the society? Can we sow the seeds of poison . . . .”

He stopped me with these questions.

“Sir, the categorization on the lines of majority and minority would itself result in the division of the society or that would be a strategy to divide the society. This idea of ‘seeds of poison’ is prejudiced. Why should the minority think that Gazni Mohammed, Aurangzeb are their own people? Mughal kingdom was destroyed by the religious bigotry of Aurangzeb. Mughal kingdom was at its pinnacle because of Akbar’s rules for religious harmony; can’t we teach such lessons to the children without offending the historical truths? Before teaching the lessons to be learnt from the history, should we not explain the historical truths? These ideals of hiding history are influenced by the politics. This trend will not last long. Whether they are minority or majority, if the education does not impart the intellectual power to face the truth and the resultant emotional maturity then such education is meaningless and also dangerous.” I said.

Parthasarathy agreed. He appreciated my scholarship and ability to think. During lunch break he called me separately, indicated his closeness to me by touching my shoulders, enquired about my native place.

He asked me to write a Kannada word, and spoke two sentences in Tamil thus emphasized the fact that we are from neighboring states, speaking the sister languages.

Afterwards he said with a winning smile, “your thoughts are correct academically. You write an article about this. But when the government formulates a policy governing the entire nation, it has to combine the interests of all the people. Puritan principles do not serve any purpose.”
Next day when we met, I struck to my stand strongly. I argued that history that is not based on truth is futile and dangerous too.

Parthasarathy showed his irritation on his face. I did not budge. The morning session closed without arriving at any conclusion.

Parthasarathy did not speak to me again.

After a fortnight again we met. The committee was re-structured, my name was not there, in my place a lecturer in history by name Arjun dev with leftist ideas was included in the committee. The revised text books of science and social studies published by NCERT and the new lessons that were introduced in these texts were written under his guidance. These are the books which were prescribed as texts in the congress and communist ruled states or they guided the text book writers in these States.


(I am quoting this instance taken from my presidential speech at Alwas Nudisiri, second conference held on October 21, 22, 23-2005).

NCERT books for XI standard, Ancient India is written by a Marxist historian R.S. Sharma and Medieval India written by another Marxist historian Satish Chandra, when reviewed, one can observe that how members belonging to this group had a scheme to invade the minds of growing children.

According to them Asoka preached to respect even (stress is mine) Brahmins by advocating the quality of tolerance. He had banned the ritual of sacrificing the animals and birds, performance of yagnas were stopped due to this ban, Brahmins lost their share of dakshina (cash gifts) and their livelihood was affected. After Asoka, Maurya kingdom was disintegrated and many parts of this kingdom came underthe rule of Brahmins. How childish it is, to say that a highly influential religion, which had spread all over India and even crossed the borders to reach foreign shores declined because of dissatisfied Brahmins who were deprived of their dakshina (cash gifts).

Muslims demolished the temples to loot the riches and wealth accumulated in these temples — this explanation softens their actions. In some other context they may even say the looting may be  according to the laws of Shariat which again paints the events as insignificant.

Dr. Ambedkar in the section, the decline and fall of Buddhism (Writings and Speeches volume III, Government of Maharashtra 1987 pp 229-38) after explaining the events like Muslim invaders destroying the universities of Nalanda, Vikramasheela, Jagaddala, Odanthapura etc., brutal killings of the Buddhist monks, escape of Buddhist monks to Nepal, Tibet to save their lives says, “the roots of Buddhism were axed. Islam killed the Buddhism by killing priestly class of Buddhism. This is the worst catastrophe suffered by the Buddhism in India.”

These Marxists who quote Dr. Ambedkar whenever it is convenient for them to denigrate Hinduism, ignore nicely these words ‘the decline of Buddhism in India is due to terrifying actions of Muslims ‘of Dr. Ambedkar, who fought against the caste system in Hinduism throughout his life and at the end embraced Buddhism; this may be it is one of the important philosophies of Indian Marxists. R.S. Sharma the author of NCERT text Ancient India,  New Delhi, 1992 p 112 writes, “Buddha viharas attracted Turkish invaders because of their wealth. They were the special greedy targets for the invaders. Turks killed many Buddhist monks. Despite these killings, many monks escaped to Nepal and Tibet.”

Here the clever Marxists have hidden the fact that Muslims destroyed these religious places as dictated by Shariat by calling Muslims of Turkey with a tribal name Turkish. At the same time they write that Buddhism declined during Asoka’s reign because of Brahmins who were deprived of their dakshina (monetary gifts). One should appreciate their cleverness to hide a truth by creating an untruth.


The English scholars who started writing Indian histories on the lines of European history have introduced a cunning idea behind their scholarship. First they established that Indian culture is Vedic culture. The creators of this culture are Aryans who were outsiders. Aryans established themselves by destroying the local civilization. All the invaders who came later were outsiders. Muslims came. After them we (English) came. Therefore if we are not natives of this country, you are also not natives of this land. English strengthened this argument in the universities, media and also in the minds of the English educated people.

Rig-Veda the so called religious text of Aryans was written when they were outside India. That means the basic religion of Indians was originated from a foreign land. This argument severed the spiritual relationship between India and Indians. English educated Indians were struggling with this alien feeling for about 100 years. This argument sowed and enraged the feelings of hatred and racial hostility between Aryans who were outsiders and the Dravidians the natives of this land. It is easy to create the feelings of hatred and hostility. But the people who know the human psychology can understand that it is very difficult to come out of such feelings even after knowing that the reasons quoted in support of these arguments were proved wrong.

Although the research conducted in the later periods discovered many facts which disapproved the Aryan Invasion theory, nobody has written a complete history of India from the Indian point of view.  Under such circumstances, freedom fighter, follower of Gandhi, famous advocate, the member of Constitution Drafting Committee, a great scholar, founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kanhiahlal Munshi had planned to write a complete Indian history.

He invited an eminent scholar and researcher R.C. Majumdar to be the editor of this book. Both of them entered into a contract. As per the terms of the contract Munshi should supply all the equipment and finance that is required by Majumdar. But he should never interfere in the matters of choosing the historians to write various sections, and also in the ensuing discussions. Munshi was committed to this agreement.

Majumdar and his team of scholars published 11 volumes of a complete, objective and scholarly book, ‘THE HISTORY AND THE CULTURE OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE’. In the last 15 years nobody has written a book like this singly or jointly.

National Book Trust had proposed to translate all these volumes in all the Indian languages. The proposal was sent to ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research) The ICHR committee comprised of Communist leaning people like S.Gopal, Tapan Roy Choudhary, Satish Chandra, Romilla Thapar etc. They had recommended that these volumes from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan are not suitable for translation and hence the proposal should be rejected.

This ICHR committee e suggested alternative books for the translation into Indian languages, which were written by either these members of the committee or by their other Marxist comrades. Their list included five books of ICHR president R.S. Sharma; 3 books of S. Gopal (the son of scholar philosopher S. Radhakrishnan); 3 books of Romilla Thapar; 2 books of Bipin Chandra; 2 books of Irfan Habib; 2 books of his father Mohammed Habib; one book of Satish Chandra, books of E.M.S. Namboodripad, then senior leader of Communist Party of India; and the book of British Rajni Pamdatta (who was controlling Indian communists during the decade of 1940s)

But there was not even a single book of Lokamanya Tilak, Jadunath Sarkar or R.C. Majumdar!


(One has to refer Arun Shourie’s EMINENT HISTORIANS: Their Technology.  Various groups hate Arun Shourie for various reasons.

Shourie is special, in the sense that he will investigate thoroughly until he reaches the roots of any subject which he intends to write. In the book Eminent Historians, Sri Shourie has investigated about these writers and has unearthed the details of who had recommended the books for translation and who has received what remuneration how much fees and in what form.)


The influence of Gandhian thoughts had declined in the Congress Party in the last days of Gandhiji. Nehru never followed Gandhian thoughts. Though he had great admiration for the democracy of England, in his heart he had love for the communism of Russia. After he came to power he gradually sidelined other congress leaders. The death of Patel was a boon to him. Rajendra Prasad as a President was only a formal head. Rajaji, Krupalani though they formed their own parties, were not influential enough. Nehru was not innocent though he was under the control of a radical communist like Krishna Menon. He was well known in the international circles because he was one of the leading figures who followed the global non-alignment policy but yet he was disliked by western countries like America as the non alignment policy had the strong support of communist Russia. As a result India suffered a loss.

India’s loss was not Nehru’s loss. He was so much devoted and had a strong faith in communism that his government and the entire Indian Media was chanting the mantra, Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai as a daily ritual till China forcibly kicked us out of our own land. In the meantime communists (Marxists) had occupied the Indian intellectual world. Nehru had a scheme to divide Hindus and to please the Muslims for his political survival. Nehru adopted the same strategy that British used to continue their regime in this country.

Secularism means a word of contempt used to address only Hindus. Secularism means our duty towards Muslims and Christians. Nehru spread the message that minority will never be secular. M.C. (Mohammed Karim) Chagla in his autobiography, ‘Roses in December’ writes, he was born and brought up in Mumbai. He was a lawyer in the same city, earned a great name as an honest person. Later he retired as the Chief Justice of Mumbai High Court. He wanted to contest for Loksabha. He wrote a letter to Nehru asking for a ticket for one of the constituencies of Mumbai. He was given a ticket from Aurangabad constituency through a letter from Congress high command. He had written a letter in reply to the high command letter, “I was born and I grew up in Mumbai, I am familiar with the people of Mumbai by serving them. Why did you give me ticket for the unfamiliar Aurangabad?” Nehru’s high command answer for this letter was,

“Aurangabad is a Muslim majority constituency. You are also a Muslim. So you can contest from that constituency. “


Indira Gandhi had one and only aim of retaining the power, so she needed the support of communists to crush the Jansangh and the old guards of Congress like Morarji Desai, Nijalingappa, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Kamraj and others. Communists knew pretty well that they cannot occupy the seat of power directly, so they devised a plan so that at least their theories would capture the seat of power.

Therefore Indira Gandhi helped them to enter and occupy the posts in the universities, media, ICHR, NCERT etc. Communist Russia also pressurized to follow this path.

Nehru and his daughter had become so close to Russia that they were not in a position to oppose her strongly. Communists somehow learnt the tactics from the dictatorial administration models of Russia and China to take the reins in their hands completely after occupying the vital places in the intellectual life of the country. This still continues even the lifeline of UPA government of Sonia Gandhi is in the hands of communists.

Media pretended silence when leftists occupied the education and history commissions, the departments of history, social science, literature and other subjects of the universities in our country. Leftists raised their voices when Murali Manohar Joshi from NDA government tried to bring the changes like Indianising the education, directing to mention the contributions of the ancient India to science while teaching science, advising to begin the day in the schools with Saraswathi Vandana. Even media projected them as great calamities. Congress members and the proponents of equality started a movement because they could visualize the rising storms in the country due to these changes. Nobody from these groups are objecting when Arjun Singh is resurrecting the leftist agenda in its extreme form. Media, specially the English media, in fact is encouraging this trend.

The only aim of Congress is to retain the power and it lacks the original thinking. It is sleeping blissfully in the thought of borrowing it from the communists. But it is following the liberal policies, thinking that the economic policies of the previous government had damaged the economy. Communists have accepted these policies in their hearts and are unable to come out of the clutches of Marxism, the very basis of their identity.

The methods adopted by the leftists to spread their roots are not different from the bane of caste politics in India. They systematically execute the tasks of appointing people who are loyal to their theories in the universities, presenting their own theories through newspapers, television and other media, getting appreciative criticisms for the books written by their favorite writers, devising plans to banish the writers from the opposite group, spreading their messages by organizing seminars frequently to attract the growing minds, getting awards and titles for their own men from the government. They have started a system of literary criticism for evaluating the books in the light of the standards defined in their theories. They think that they have reduced to the dust the traditional concepts of criticism like pure literature, aesthetics, imagery, context etc.

Even the truth in case of communists would be the stand taken by their party, similarly other values like art, morals etc. I need not explain these things to the people who have read the books written about these topics published by the communist Russia and sold at cheaper rates in India and in other countries.


I am always interested in the sociology, psychology history and other branches of humanities. I have studied all these subjects to some extent. Philosophy is my professional subject. Soundarya Meemse is my research field. But I am interested in the literature, I started writing novels. Truth and beauty, specially the relationship between the truth and the literature is haunting my mind. How much liberty an author has while creating the historical characters which are clearly defined by the inscriptions, records, relics, excavations and other evidences? I am haunted by this query- what is the nature of this liberty?

The statements made by the author of ‘The Real Tipu ‘(Kannada translation “Tipu – nija swaroopa” by Pradhan Gurudatta, Sahithi Sindhu Prakashana, Nrupathunga Road, Bangalore 1) H.D. Sharma in his preface in the matter has stimulated my thoughts:  “Tipu sultan has recently leaped from the history books on to the small screen. This has created a special interest about him and his period. This has raised a serious debate. Because many people – specially the people from Kerala – feel that Tipu was not like he was shown in the TV serial. (The serial is based on the novel ‘The Sword of Tipusultan’ by Bhagwan S. Gidwani is full of lies and has twisted the facts.) TV serial has contributed the untruths in its own way. This raging debate motivated me to make a detailed study about Tipu. When I learnt the facts I was shocked.” (This is the English translation of Pradhan Gurudat’s Kannada translation quoted by Mr. Bhyrappa in the article.)

Of course, one should not think about the Indian, specially the Bollywood people who are experts in selling their thrilling, colorful entertainments. Even the people who write ballads are fromthe village fairs and dramas. But why people who write serious literature create thrilling, entertaining scenes of different type?

Why do not they be loyal to the historical facts? Why do not they release themselves from the clutches of the historians of their ideology and try to interpret the historical evidences thinking independently? The historian S. Shettar (ICHR president) who supported Girish Karnad says, “Girish Karnad while writing a drama on Tippu sultan was searching for his good qualities only with the purpose of writing a drama. Dramatists and historians and creative writers will have their own ideals.”

(Vijaya Karnataka, 27th September, 2006).


Please read  Oh History! My History!



Posted by on September 2, 2012 in History



Oh History! My History!

A .1.The other day I was reading azygos’s very well written article

The Marxization of the Upanishads wherein he discusses the skewed attitude of one of our showcased historians Romila Thapar on ancient Indian history and heritage. I agree with azygos, entirely. I wonder what prompted a trained historian to take a lopsided view of things. I also share Melody Queen’s anxiety about the contents of Indian History curriculum in school; as also the issue of young Indian intellectuals’ cold shouldering history, as an academic pursuit.

2. In a way of speaking, the issues are related. The way in which history is written, the manner in which it is taught in the schools and the light in which history is understood   are largely responsible for keeping the bright minds away from history. I am not suggesting there are no good histories.

3. There is plenty of good History along with some bad ones, as it happens anywhere else, even in science. Good history can be recognized by the honest use of its sources, by transparent methods, open-minded interpretations and a balanced presentation. In fact, understanding history is a part of what is good history. There is a difference between writing History and recording the past, which is the task of an administrator. History is the study and analysis of the past.

4. Now, the writing of History is based on the subjectivity inherent within whatever academic is writing that history. Our experiences and view of life also matter. Our attitudes are shaped within the contemporary environment. It is not possible to bring in cold objective standards to measure a work of history. Further, a good history of one generation may become the bad history for the next generation. Thus, there are difficulties in identifying good history.

5.  As someone said to me the other day, human eye and human mind have much in common. The eye cannot see things that are too close to it – you need someone else (or a mirror) to look at the speck of dust fallen into your eye. The eye cannot see very distant objects either. Similarly, human mind cannot look at itself and cannot foresee too far. They both operate in a limited range. Both can be mislead.

5.1. History does the work of a mirror in addition to providing long-term perspectives. If there is a limitation to History, it is the human mind that works at it and that looks at it. So long as our minds are cluttered with cobwebs of bias or motives, History would remain tainted. This was my main concern, along with the helpless anxiety watching History abused by some self-proclaimed rationalists who decry anything of value in Indian history or in the Vedic past. They do not realize that History is not merely a process of discovery; it could be a process of liberation too. Then, how does one liberate ones mind?


B. Writing of History

1. History has always been a contentious subject. Some say, History is what the victor writes and that historians are condemned to repeat themselves. Some others call History a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel.

2. The reason such epithets are hurled at History is mainly because any one event will have many versions of the truth and it is difficult to judge objectively which version   of that “truth” is the truth. In the process, History is often misinterpreted and misunderstood. It would therefore be useful to look into such factors as:who wrote the history, about whom? Why they wrote it? How they wrote? Etc

3. Who? And About Whom?

3.1 What we call “history” of the ancient times are invariably the writings of the “civilized” societies about the ‘‘others”. Such writing were usually triggered either by curiosity about the “other” or by revulsion against them. Even the celebrated historians of the bygone ages loved to write about strangers’ .And, those writings were not history per se, as we understand the term today.

3.2. What was significant in those histories was their dominant theme: “they’” are different from “Us “, they are less than “Us”.

3.3 The “Us” versus “Them” syndrome has always prevailed in History. It continues to operate. For instance, the histories, as recognized, of USA-native Indians, Spaniards- Latin and Central American kingdoms, Australia-native Aboriginals, New Zealand- Maoris etc. are so heavily lopsided it leaves one gasping for a breath of sanity.

3.4. The political and economic domination of one nation over the other also led to distortions in the histories of vanquished nations. During the times of the British Empire , the English wrote the histories of the East and India . It was quite common in those histories to deprecate or mock at anything East or Indian. For instance, let us take James Mill’s the History of British India , which was a standard reading of the Imperial cadres about to embark on a voyage to the land of “deceit and perfidy”. The author of the “bible for the British Indian officers” never once visited India nor was he familiar with any Indian language. Nevertheless, Lord Macaulay described the book “the greatest historical work which has appeared in our language since that of Gibbon”. The theme of Mill’s history was to brand India as a land of “inferior civilization”, to deprecate India ’s achievements in science, medicine, art or philosophy, to attribute anything of value in India to the largess of the Europeans. The message to the “boys” was: the Indians are lesser humans, they are unlike “us” treat them as such and be weary of the “deceit and perfidy”.

In Thapar’s case too, she identifies herself with an ideology and looks at “them”; and they are not “us”.  The result is a distorted view of ancient Indian history.

4. Why?

4.1. Histories have been written or rewritten for a whole set of wrong reasons.

Histories were written, rewritten not to reveal the past but to obliterate or erase the past; to impose a pet political or religious ideology and to prop up new heroes and to condemn old heroes. Added to that, was the abuse of history to support whatever a group or a political leader wanted to show. Histories have been written to teach children hate a particular group or a country.  Therefore, if anyone claims a monopoly on a particular piece of history, it is then heavily tinged with an ulterior motive.

4.2.Take for instance the case of Romila Thapar’s views on Upanishads .Here, the effort to thrust an ideology or the anxiety to project herself as a  rationalist hence  be acceptable to  those that matter; appear to be dominant. The commitment to an ideology overshadows the historian. The understanding of the ethos of the Upanishads and the interpretation of the events in the context of its times, sadly get lost in the din. Certain of her observations leave you speechless:

– Upanishads were not the outcome of philosophic-spiritual enquiries but a ploy by Kshatriyas to discourage the Brahmaical wastage of wealth in rituals, so that the surplus money could be used for maintaining powerful states.

-Upanishads have relegated the Vedas and the old doctrines to an inferior position.

-Those of uncertain social origin such as Satyakama and women such as Maitreyi, the wife of Yajvavalkya were included perhaps to make a point.

4.3. It is amazing how anyone could come up with such notions and worse still call it an interpretation of history. She grossly misunderstood the Upanishads and the essence of its times. I fail to understand what she meant when she said that by recognizing women and a few others the Rishis were trying to make a point. What point? To whom? What were they trying to prove?

Is she suggesting that the Rishis were anxious to seek justification and approval from Marxists who might appear thousands of years later? She is obviously imposing her prejudice of gender bias on a past generation that had an unbiased worldview and a unique self-perception. Whereas a good History interprets the events in the context of its times and in the light of its ethos.

Her comment that Upanishads did not come about as a philosophical development but as a ploy hatched by Kshatrias to cut costs on Yagnas (sacrifices) is a gross misinterpretation of our intellectual heritage. To start with, the Kshatrias who performed them as a means for attaining their aspirations never viewed Yagnas as an economic activity. She imposed her views on a generation who were totally unconcerned with such ideologies. The Marxists/Socialists have long discarded the so-called Marxist idea she imposed. They no longer view all human activities as economic activities; else, how does one explain the acts of a Gandhi, a King, and a Mother Theresa or even of a suicide bomber. She took an out dated and a myopic view of human aspirations. Understanding History is a part of good History. You do not find that understanding here .

A paper titled “A socialist analysis of the materialist conception of History” produced by the Socialist Party of Great Britain states, “A short acquaintance with Marx’s writings would show how absurd it was to attribute such a superficial view to him.” The same holds good for Thapar’s interpretation of Upanishads.

  ( )

Perhaps there are few other social sciences as badly abused as history.

[That brings to my mind one of the characters in a much-discussed Kannada novel Aavarana written by SL Bhyrappa. The book is centered round the way in which Indian History is written and interpreted.  For more on it please read Aavarana by SLB

Please also check a copy of his article: What would be the fate of TRUTH if a Historian turn’s to be a Fiction author?]

5. How?

5.1 History along with Economics and Government falls Under “Social Sciences”. Many, however, wonder whether history is a science or an art. Jared Diamond in his essay why did Human History Unfold Differently on Different Continents for the Last 13,000 Years says, even historians themselves do not consider history to be a science. Historians , he says , don’t get trained in the scientific methods; they don’t get trained in statistics; they don’t get trained in the experimental method or problems of doing experiments on historical subjects. Further, though each branch of History demands individual skills and insight, not much is done to fine-tune the objective tools to suit the specialized requirements.

5.1.1. Contrary to the popular notion, history never repeats itself – similar things happen but they are never the same. The study of history has so far not yielded any sort of model of human society that can predict events with any sort of precision, it never will. It is not a science. If history is art, then so is a jigsaw puzzle. History probably has more in common with philosophy or maybe even law, in that it is about finding truths about a thing.

[Jared Diamond says, some may be justified in saying History is closer to art than science. I, however, feel History is independent of those classifications. The reason those labels were created was, perhaps, to form different administrative departments at universities. For instance, in England it is an Art; in USA it is a Social Science; and in Germany it is a Science.

[I am not aware of the status of History and its place in Indian Universities, today. I request those well informed on the issue kindly to post their views.]

5.2 Another school argues History is science. The word science, they point out, is derived from its Latin root “scientia” meaning “producing knowledge or science” and therefore it allows them to seek knowledge by whatever methodologies that are available and that are appropriate. They say, there are many fields where replicated experiments (as in physics or Chemistry) would be immoral, illegal, or impossible. History is one of such fields and historians are justified in adopting methods that are appropriate to their field.

5.3. There is a view that states History is an audit. This view is based on the premise that both history and auditing are “evidence-based” practices. Sources, in both cases, provide evidence to support judgments and opinions. It says if Historical methods are carried out properly, it will help “maximize the chance of arriving at the truth”.

5.3.1. There is a counter argument to this view. It points out that truth needs to be tempered by fairness and understanding in the context of its times: mere correctness is not enough. Moreover, judgments of fairness cannot so easily be reduced to matters of practice and method. The accounting/auditing methods do not provide options/choices. Where no single viewpoint emerges as the “best explanation”, then it would be unethical for the historian to present a single position as the only position. Further the audit repots usually say,”this financial statement gives a true and fair view, not the true and fair view. Hence the motives of the preparers of financial statements need to be critiqued, not just the statements themselves. The analogy between history and auditing is brittle and should not be pressed hard . (

5.4 There are those who say, it is neither science or art nor commerce, History is memory. History is not the story of strangers. It our story had we been born a little earlier. History is memory; we have to remember what it was like to be a Roman, or a Jacobite or an Asoka or even – if we dare, and we should dare – a Nazi. History is not abstraction; it is the enemy of abstraction.

5.5. They argue that if you cannot feel what our ancestors felt, then all you can do is judge them and condemn them, or praise them and over-adulate them.  According to this school, you have to feel and think like your ancestor.


I think it is not one or the other approach. The basic question is how to write a good, credible and a balanced history. It is the judicious combination of the three; the scholarship, the objective methods and an understanding of the ethos of the times that helps the historian to gain a better insight into the past humans and their ways of living, based on evidence and several perspectives.


It is needless to point out what was lacking in Thapar’s approach; there was not a speck of understanding of what she was dealing with. I share azygos’s conclusions.


C. History in Schools

1.  Undue importance is placed on memorizing dates, names, battles, regions etc. It would kill a child’s interest in history if the child were to be forced to learn without understanding.

1.2. Dates have a limited role in the learning of history. They provide a point of reference. The important things are: the causes and consequences, continuity and discontinuity, changes, innovations, response to a challenge etc. Time in History is a kind of relationship. The present is the result of the choices people in past made while the future will be the coming together of several events developing today .The understanding of processes is more important than learning facts by heart.

1.3. Unless History catches the imagination of the child there is little possibility of him/her pursuing it later in life. The teaching methods in middle and high school levels are crucial.

2. the basic question is; How do we present India in the best light, in a balanced manner.

2.1. Melody Queen makes very valid observations on the difficulties and the risks involved in teaching Indian History to Indian children in foreign lands. She feels,” the situation isn’t going to change much unless independent, unbiased research is encouraged.” Then, pursuing a study history in the academia is a trade off -cost vs. benefit. University, education is an expensive proposition. In addition, peer pressure and social stigma in Indian circles are attached to study of History.


2.2. The study of history is not rewarding. Job opportunities are few. They are not well paid. The career prospects are dismal. Not many young and bright opt for History in the Universities. These are realities of life.

2.3. The issues mentioned by Melody Queen  relate not merely to academia but to the community as a whole. They go beyond the issue of teaching History; they involve the question of the identity of a community and of valuing cultural conservation.

Suhag A Shukla, legal counsel for the Hindu American Foundation states that Hindus are just beginning to join the civic process in the US, the description of Hinduism that reflects the practice of Hinduism should be expounded upon; for that, inputs from the community are essential.


It is good that the community has some say in what should go into the textbooks. That however brings in its wake the responsibility to arrive at a clear and balanced view of our religion and culture. That again underlines the need for professional study and research.

2.4. The problems cited by melody Queen are not confined to USA; they are relevant in today’s India too. In fact, the position in India is worse. The History-situation in India is pathetic.

2.4.1. The Indian History Congress (IHC) held its 66th annual session at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal , 28-30 January 2006. In its Resolution (Two) expressing its anxiety about the History textbooks prepared for schools, it states, “The IHC does not agree with the reduction of space set aside to History in school teaching and the proposed trivialization of the substance of History, in the name of reducing ‘information burden’ or making facts ‘interesting’. The IHC also feels that there were no adequate reasons for doing away with the pre-saffronization History text books, which had been widely acclaimed.”


Not only that the history input is diminished, but also its quality is uncertain. We are not sure how we present the Indian History to our children.

Please read an article written Shri S L Bhyrappa about how the History text books come to be written in India   What would be the fate of TRUTH if a Historian turn’s to be a Fiction author?

2.4.2. As regards research and other studies in Indian History, there is no mention or anxiety expressed about their status in either the 66th or the 67th Annual sessions of IHC.

The resolutions passed at the Indian History Congress held its 67th annual session in Kerala, on March 10-12, 2007 do not go beyond expressing anxiety over           Government intervention in the administration of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the National Archives of India (NAI).


3. Melody Queen mentions that a significant number of those who write on Indian History are not Historians per se. (I am not sure about that.)Yet, those young persons write about History out of love for the subject. However, I wonder whether, what they write about History is regarded as History in the academic circles. The reason is they are not a part of the trained, professional academia; and it takes a certain discipline and training to be a Historian. For instance, Professor Michael Wetzel remarks what the non-specialist academics write on issues outside their areas of expertise is not scholarly but is of a religious-political nature promoted by Hindutva.


I am aware what I have just stated is debatable. I wish it provoked some sane debate.

3.1. Regarding Wetzel’s last comment, I fail to understand why it should be dubbed Hindutva if one writes, with reason, that about 2000 years or earlier the ancient Indians made great strides in philosophy, mathematics, medicine and literature; and they had universal vision and perspective of life. Those are facts. If they are presented cogently why should it offend the “secular minded” gentries?

3.2.Amartya Sen , the noted economist , in his book Identity and Violence said, “One of the oddities in the post colonial world is the way non-western people tend to think of themselves as quintessentially “the others”…they are led to define their identity primarily in terms of being different from western people. Something of this “otherness” can be seen….even in the contribution this reactive view makes to fundamentalism”.

In effect what Sen is saying is that even though the ex-colonies got rid of the colonial yoke, they live perpetually trying to convince themselves that the yoke no longer burdens them. With due respect to the Nobel Laureate, I beg to differ. If he were talking of India , I would call it an oversimplified cliché. If one tries to find ones roots and ones identity, it is a process of self-discovery and it certainly cannot be construed as an endless stream of reactions to a bygone relation. It is the beginning of a process” when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance”, as Nehru put it. But , as V.S. Naipaul said every awakening has its fringe groups. We need to say we have a point of view; and say it with restraint.

3.3. At the same time, it is essential to maintain a sense of balance in projecting our past and to avoid over adulation. Mark Tully says a sense of balance is the hallmark of Indian tradition. He writes in his India ’s unending journey, “ India ….believes in perpetual search for balance. So , the answer to any question can never be final, no theory should be closed to questioning, and no policy should be taken so far that it creates imbalance.” I hope that balance and sanity will prevail and guard against over adulation.

D. Understanding of History

1. I wish to emphasize again, all History is not bad History. There is truth in History. There are facts in History that one cannot deny, things did happen. History is -an ever-changing and fascinating puzzle with both personal and cultural significance. A good student of History will always look for the other point of view, knowing that our understanding of History changes over time. I have always looked upon that as a process of learning, a self-discovery.

1.1.The discussion under paragraph B was to put on guard saying , there is always going to be fundamental flaws in History, just as in any Academic field and be fore – warned of that and learn to spot the bad apples. That was NOT a general view on History.

2. The bad History will always be there. Nevertheless, our historians can evoke awareness and educate our ordinary men and women and especially our children about good history. If they can project a vision for History, what should History be in future and what human spirit should aspire for, then they would have rendered a great service to the country and its future generations This is not a day’s work, they need to keep chipping at it every day .

3. My impression is, the writing of history and reading of it has improved, thanks largely to the enthusiasm of the younger generation. As the walls crumbled, as the ideologies vanished and as the world shrunk, the views have broadened. Access to history and historic materials has vastly improved. The very fact we lay our hands on a variety of texts, writings etc. and discuss history openly on this Forum is a tribute to spirit of history. I hope that we will eventually arrive at a convincing method for explaining patterns of human life and human history.

That will , however, remain a distant dream unless : our Government and Universities honestly address the basic issues relating to teaching Indian History, pay greater attention and importance to History in the Universities, lend greater support to  the Research organizations, make study of History a rewarding career ; and  our Historians do not tend to work towards approvals and justifications.

4.  How I wish more members joined the debate on the issues brought out in azygos article, Melody Queen’s comments and this note..!!  It concerns all of us.

Please visit  Where do we go from here? for more discussion on “Invading the sacred and other issues”.


Posted by on September 1, 2012 in History


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On Arya , Aryan , Sarasvathi and other issues

This was initially written in response to comments from Mr. Kushwaha concerning a number of issues arising out of Bharatha_Varsha and Bharathas.

I am posting this at the suggestion of Riverine , to invite further comments from others on the Forum.

I suggest, read Bharatha_Varsha and Bharathas  before proceeding with this post.

Please read on..

1. Aryan 

The question of race, particularly the Aryan race is a messy one. It is one of those famous “False problems”. Let us start from the other end and clear the deck.

Aryan is an English word derived from the Vedic Sanskrit and Iranian Avestan terms Ari-, Arya-, Ariya-, and it’s another form Aryana. The Sanskrit and Old Persian languages both pronounced the word as Arya. The term came widely into use (misuse) early in 19th century. How it came to be developed and later how the British and others hijacked it is an interesting story.

Aryan theory was, initially, developed by Danish and German scholars of the romanticism era, like R. Rask and F. Bopp (1816) . The German linguists such as the Leipzig Junggrammatiker school members further developed it. The theory of an immigration into or invasion of South Asia by speakers of Indo Aryan language based on the familiar concept of the Hunnic and Germanic invasions of the Roman empire, emerged late in the 19th century.

The British latched on to the theory of an invasion by superior Indo Aryan speaking Āryas (‘‘Aryan invasion theory’’) as a means to justify British policy and their own intrusion into India and their subsequent colonial rule. In both cases (Hunnic/Germanic and British), a ‘white race’ was subduing the local darker-colored population. In a single stroke  AIT  negated the legacy and traditions of entire subcontinent; and  told them they lived on borrowed glory.

Further, the British also employed it, as a tool of their “divide and rule” policy, to drive a wedge between the various groups in the Indian people, by propagating that the Aryan invaders from Central Asia destroyed the native civilization and enslaved the native population. The strategy was to set one class / region against another and let them fight it out. The then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon called this policy “furniture of the Empire.” Sir Winston Churchill opposed any policy tending towards decolonization on the ground: “We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except perhaps for the Depressed Classes who are the native stock”. The British trick/strategy did work and many groups within India supported the British on both the counts and stated quarreling among themselves. Since then the debate on the racial character of the term “Aryan” gathered pace and chugged along.

During the early thirties, the “Aryan” found unexpected supporters in the form of Nazis who employed it as a racial term designating the purest segment of the White race. Nazis put the theory into a highly destructive operation . The holocaust that followed is rather too well known to be recounted here.

The Nazis pointed out to the British that Nazis were doing exactly the thing they (British) themselves were doing in India, subjugating an inferior race. Nazi schoolbooks included lessons on British rule in India . This caught the British on wrong foot. British were embarrassed to find themselves bracketed with Nazis. The British spin-doctors then came up with an explanation that that the Indians were “brown Aryans” and there was no subjugation of Indian people. The British thereafter soft peddled the Aryan theory and slowly receded from it.

In the mean time, things came to a full circle in Persia. An off shoot of this debate was that Persia woke up to its history and decided in March 1935 to call itself Iran , derived from “Arya“, “Aariyā“. We may recall that Darius the Great, King of Persia (521-486 BC), had  proclaimed:

2. (8-15.) I am Darius the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage.”

Having re- discovered his roots the then Shah warmed up to his newfound brethren, the other Aryans, the Nazis. The British were not amused with this blossoming camaraderie; and, promptly snubbed Iran. Later in 1959, Iran came up with a statement that names Iran and Persia could be used interchangeably. However, since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the official name of the country is “Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Because of its association with Nazi propaganda and the stigma that stuck to it, the word “Aryan” is no longer in technical use. Presently, white people go under the label Caucasian. Even in Linguistics, “Indo-European” replaces Aryan.

Now, the infamous AIT – the Aryan Invasion theory stands largely discarded.

Let us leave it at that.

2. Race

The term Arya, either in Sanskrit or Avesthan, has always meant “noble”. Amara_Kosha (2.6.812), the Sanskrit lexicon, explains the term as “sabhya” “sajjana” and “Sadhu“– meaning a gentleman (sabhya-sajjana-sādhavaḥ). Arya is a term used by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis, to mean noble or spiritual. The Vedic Aryans called themselves Arya in the Rig-Veda. Besides Iran, the Éire, the Irish name of Ireland; and Ehre (German for “honor”) are related to the term Arya. The Afghan airline is Aryana; named after the original name of that country. Many children in Iran are named Iran-dokht, Aryan pour etc. based on the term Arya. Similarly, the South Indian names like, Ponna_iah, Subba_iah or Ayya_sami etc. carry its cognate iah to assign respect to the name. The term, obviously, is employed in the context of culture than race

In all these cases, the people of those countries, belonging to various ethnic groups , preferred to associate with the term Arya to signify that they were a noble and a respected people . There were no racial tags attached to it.

Some say Rig-Veda too does not employ the term in a racial sense. According to Shrikant Talageri, among the tribes mentioned, most of whom of same race; Rig Veda refers to Purus and especially to Bharathas as Aryans. It is, therefore, a matter of regard and respect than of race.

I learn that in Manu Smrithi even Chinese were called Aryans. The South Indian Kings called themselves Aryans and those of whom that established kingdoms in South East Asia also called themselves Aryans.(to check with azygos)

Sri Aurobindo did not like the use of the term race in this context. He said, “I prefer not to use the term race, for race is a thing much more difficult to determine than is usually imagined.”

According to Michel Wetzel, designation of a particular race to people speaking a language is an aberration of the 19th and 20th century

Eva Nthoki Mwanika while commenting on the race of the Egyptian people said, ”The Egyptians did not recognize “race” with in the same context or definition in which modern society recognizes it and that, the division of humankind into races as understood in the modern sense is a recent phenomenon.” She went on to say, we are trying to impose a modern term “race” on an ancient people who had a non-racial self-perception and a different worldview.

I presume we can safely echo the views of Ms. Mwanika in the Aryan context as well.

As regards the Buddha,  he used the term Ariya any number of times. Sometimes he used the term to imply, “one who strives upward”, and that is to say the noble ones. He used the term Anariya to mean ignoble or vulgarFor instance he called extreme indulgence or extreme austerity as anariya and anatta samhita (futile). Most other times the term “ariya” was used to mean “noble”. For instance ariya sacchani (noble truths) and ariya patha (eightfold aryan path or the noble path).

In the later forms of Buddhism, the path to enlightenment is graduated into four stages. The arahat (the fourth stage of realization) is a fully enlightened being, having extinguished all defilements. The sotapanna (first stage of realization, also sotapatti-magga-nana) has uprooted wrong view but still has other defilement. The sakadagami and anagami are at the second and third stage of realization, respectively. All four are called ariyas, that is, noble.

There is a section in the pali cannon (tipitaka) in which the Buddha talks about himself. That section is titled ariya_pariyesana sutta. Similarly, in the Buddhist traditions of Burma and Sri Lanka , the future Buddha is generally referred to as ariya metteyya, the noble metteyya.

In the context I mentioned above, both the terms arya and aryan were  exclusively psychological terms or adjectives  denoting  noble or virtuous , and having very little to do with birth, race, or nationality.

3. Sarasvathi

As you mentioned, itis generally accepted that the SarasvatI represents the geographical heartland of the Vedic Aryan civilization. You are echoing the often-repeated statementthat while Rig Veda mentions the Ganga only once, it lauds the great Sarasvati fifty times. Yes, I agree, it is so.

As I mentioned in my post, the Rig Veda has a certain geographical horizon. It projects a land of seven great rivers bounded by ocean and many mountains. This mainly represents the geographical sphere of the Bharatas and their neighbors. Rig Veda is not talking about entire Bharatha Varsha. The geographical horizon of Rig Veda is confined to the Sarasvathi valley, the heartland of Puru/Bharatha country.

Further, the Purus and especially the Bharathas are the protagonists of Rig Veda. It extols their relations, their rituals, their Gods, their battles and their victories etc. The geography of the of the Rig Veda is therefore limited to the Sapta Sindhu region, the land of thePurus \ Bharathas ,who are the real Aryans of the Rig Veda.

In short;  Rig Veda is mainly the story of Purus/Bharathas. Naturally, Rig Veda speaks all the while about their land, their rivers, their mountains etc. It does not mean that the other parts of Bharatha Varsha (as you mentioned, the Ganga and others) did not exist. Those regions just did not figure in the Puru/Bharatha story. In fact, some of the Purus of Rig Veda hailed from what is now the U.P. region (e.g. Sudyumna).Rig Veda frequently refers to the Puru clan as children of Nahusha. This Nahusha was the father of Yayathi and ruled the in the Gangetic region.

(Interestingly, Nahash in old Hebrew means serpent. I am not suggesting any connection).

That is the reason, why there are not many references to the Ganga in Rig Veda. The position as explained, I presume, answers your question.

The range of the Puranas, on the other hand, is much wider .They speak of other regions of Jambu_dvipa/Bharatha Varsha, other Kings, their histories, as well. The Puranas are part history and part epic. The style of their narration is more relaxed and elaborate.


kassette mittani

Earlier we spoke of migration from North West into the Punjab region. Now, let us look at the, migration that might probably have taken place in the other direction.

The slow death and eventual disappearance of the mighty Sarasvathi also signified the end of the civilization associated with the Sarasvathi valley. The geo physical surveys and other studies suggest that around 1600 BC a massive drought struck the Sarasvathi region. That, and possible shift in the land lead to disappearance of the Sarasvathi. It was perhaps a part of a wider phenomenon that swept the other regions too. The people of the Sarasvathi valley, naturally, migrated to other regions. From a throbbing account of living generations, Rig Veda turned into memories of a lost heartland. A Camelot lost.

The disappearance of Sarasvathi valley civilization is a very important landmark in the history of Bharatha Varsha.

The presence of the Indo -Aryan kings of the Mittani and the Kassite dynasties, who worshiped Vedic deities, in the Babylonian region , during 1600 to 1300 BC , points to the possibility of migration of Vedic people from the plains of Punjab, following the collapse of the Sarasvathi valley civilization.

It is evident from the names of some of the Miittani and Kassite Kings and Generals (Kart-ashura,Biry-ashura,Sim-ashura,Kalm-ashura etc.) that they belonged to the early Rig Vedic times when the Asuras were the older set of gods; and when the sharp distinction between Asurasand Devas had not yet come into being ; and when the Asuraswere not yet a denigrated lot in the Vedic texts.

It is also evident that the Indo –Aryan kings were a minority among a population who spoke a different language.

It is remarkable how in the distant past , the Vedic people migrated from Punjab to the regions of Mesopotamia and Egypt .

(There is theory that suggests , Nefertiti (c.1400 BC) married to Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV was a Mittani princess , daughter of an Indo Aryan King)

(For more on Mittani and Kassite kingdoms and Rig Veda , Gathas ; please view-

“Rig Veda and Gathas re visited” @ )

4. Bharatha_Varsha / Arya_Vartha

I think you got into knots over the Bharatha_Varsha and Arya_Vartha . Let me clarify.

As discussed in the post the name Bharatha_Varsha came into vogue at the time of the Emperor Bharatha who was fifth or sixth in line from Swayabhuva Manu, the first Manu. The various Purans and texts have described the extent of Bharatha _Varsha as extending from the ocean in the South to the snowy mountains.

As regards Arya_vartha, the term might have come into use, at best, in Vedic times, in the manvantara of Vaivaswata Manu, the seventh Manu. There is, therefore, a huge time gap between the two occurrences. I do not even hazard a guess to measure the gap.

At times, it is used to refer to the Rig Vedic geography and at other times to the Ganga Valley. Sometimes, it amorphously referred to what we call India.

Bharatha Varsha, even in the times of Mauryas was larger in area than the present India . Kautila called it Chakravarthi Kshetra. It was before Asoka’s time.

Bharatha _Varsha has always been a nation even from the epic times overwhelming the political subdivisions.


Thank you





Posted by on September 1, 2012 in General Interest, History


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Bharatha Varsha and Bharathas


Traditionally the Indians, while in India, in their daily prayers, identify themselves as those residing in Bharatha_Varsha (the land of Bharatha), located to the South of MountMeru in the Jambu_Dvipa. Then, they go on to specify their location within the subcontinent.

What does this mean?


1. Cosmology

According to the cosmology projected in the books of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, the planet Earth consists seven islands (Saptha Dweepa vasundhara). One of those islands is Jambu_Dvipa (RoseAppleIsland) also known as Sudarshanadvipa. Markandeya Purana says, Jambu_Dvipa is depressed on its south and north; elevated and broad in the middle. The elevated region forms the Ila-vrta or Meruvarsa. At the center of Ila-vrta lies the MountMeru.


2. Location

Some attempts have been made , though not satisfactorily , to identify the zones(varshas) and the extent of the Jambu_Dvipa, by taking a clue from the details of mountain ranges, valleys and river systems and other geographical features of Jambu_Dvipa provided in Bhishmaparva of the Mahabharata and in other Puranas. According to one of those interpretations , Jambu_ Dvipa is a huge land mass of South Asia comprising the present day Indian Subcontinent, Tibet , Egypt , Mesopotamia , Syria and Corinth( near main land Greece).

It is surmised that Ila varsha and Meruvarsha, refer to the mountainous regions around the Pamirs and parts of north-east Afghanistan. MountMeru (or Sumeru) is identified with the vast Nagard Sarovar in the center of the modern Pamirs in Central Asia.

The concept of Jambu_Dvipa is present not merely in Hindu Puranas but also in Indian literature, history and in edicts.

3.Buddhist tradition

The Buddhist tradition also accepts the geographical concept of Jambu_Dvipa and places it south of Sumeru. It believes Jambu_Dvīpa is shaped like a triangle with a blunted point facing south.

The Buddha once remarked that the people of Jambu_Dvípa excel those of both Uttarakuru and Tavatimsain in three respects – courage, mindfulness and religious life. The Uttarakuru referred to by the Buddha might be the Kuru region mentioned in the Rig-Veda, It might even be the region to the north of Pamirs. There are a number of views on the probable location of Uttarakuru. As regards Tavatimsain, very little is known about it and there are not many guesses either.

In the later Buddhist texts, the connotation of the term Jambu_ Dvipa became more restricted. It came to mean only the Indian subcontinent and did not include even Sri Lanka. The Síhaladípa or Tambapannidípa (alternate names for Sri Lanka in Pali) were mentioned separately from Jambu_dípa. Further, the Emperor Ashoka introduced himself to the people of Sri Lanka as Devanam Priya (Beloved of Gods) hailing from Jambu_Dvipa, referring to main land India. Incidentally, the modern Sinhalese word for India is Dhambadiva, perhaps related to the Pali name for India , Jambudiipa.One of the other names for India in Buddhist literature is Indravardhana.

The Buddhists divided Jambu_Dvípa into three circuits or mandalas, for the guidance of their itinerant monks. The first circuit Mahámandala (greater circuit) extended over nine hundred leagues and the Majjhima (middle circuit) extended over six hundred leagues. The perambulation of both circuits was expected to be completed, each , in nine months time; while that of the Antima (final circuit) of over three hundred leagues was to be completed in seven months time.


B. Bharatha _Varsha

1.Location and Extent

According to Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts, the Bharata Varsha, the land of Bharatha, located in Jambu_Dvipa, lies to the South of Sumeru. However, the extent of Bharatha Varsha varies from text to text and from tradition to tradition.

Markandeya Purana describes Bharatha Varsha as the land that stretches from Kailasa to kanyakumari; while Vishnu Purana mentions Bharatha Varsha as The country (var ṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains, where the descendants of Bharata dwell.

uttaraṃ yat samudrasya himādreścaiva dakṣiṇam  varṣaṃ tadbhārataṃ nāma bhāratī yatra santatiḥ

Further, it extols the virtues of Bharatha Varsha and says, “Bharata is the most excellent division of Jambudvipa, for this is the land of action, while the others are places of enjoyment.” Bharata Varsha is designated karmabhumi.


Manu gives a beautiful and a lyrical description of Bharaha Varsha and mentions its various divisions. This is how Manu describes, “The land between the rivers Sarasvati and the Drishadvati, is called Brahmavarta. Beyond it, the land of the five rivers up to the Mathura region is called Brahmarshi Desha. The land between Vinashana (the place of disappearance of the Sarasvati River in the desert) and Prayaga and Vindhya, is Madhya Desha (Central Land). Finally, the land bounded by the mountain of Reva (Narmada), the Eastern Sea ( Bay of Bengal ) and the Western Sea is Arya Desha. This is the land where the black-skinned deer roam freely.”

sarasvatī-dṛśadvatyor devanadyor yad antaram /
taṃ devanirmitaṃ deśaṃ brahmāvartaṃ pracakṣate // Mn_2.17 //
tasmin deśe ya ācāraḥ pāramparyakramāgataḥ /
varṇānāṃ sāntarālānāṃ sa sadācāra ucyate // Mn_2.18 //
kurukṣetraṃ ca matsyāś ca pañcālāḥ śūrasenakāḥ /
eṣa brahmarṣideśo vai brahmāvartād anantaraḥ // Mn_2.19 //
etad deśaprasūtasya sakāśād agrajanmanaḥ /
svaṃ svaṃ caritraṃ śikṣeran pṛthivyāṃ sarvamānavāḥ // Mn_2.20 //
himavadvindhyayor madhyaṃ yat prāg vinaśanād api /
pratyag eva prayāgāc ca madhyadeśaḥ prakīrtitaḥ // Mn_2.21 //
ā samudrāt tu vai pūrvād ā samudrāc ca paścimāt /
tayor evāntaraṃ giryor āryāvartaṃ vidur budhāḥ // Mn_2.22 //
kṛṣṇasāras tu carati mṛgo yatra svabhāvataḥ /
sa jñeyo yajñiyo deśo mlecchadeśas tv ataḥ paraḥ // Mn_2.23 //

Kautilya, the author of Artha Shastra, mentions Bharatha Varsha as the land that stretches from Himalayas to Kanyakumari; he also called it Chakravarthi Khsetra, the land of the Emperor.

An epigraph of Kharavela (209 – 179 B. C?) who ruled over the region of the present day Orissa, found in Hathigumpha (near Bhubaneshwar in Orissa) uses the nomenclature of Bharatha Varsha.

The Hindu and Buddhist texts (vinaya) of later ages, described Bharatha Varsha as composed of five zones, namely the Madhya Desha ( the Middle Country), Purva Desha (the Eastern region), Dakshinapatha (the South), Aparanta or Praticya (the Western region) and Uttarapatha or Udicya (the Northern region). This zonal system was in vogue even in the Maurya period (322 BC to 125 BC).The maurya Empire was the largest and most powerful Empire of ancient India. It stretched from Assam to Khandahar; and from Himalayas to Tamil Nadu.

A similar Zonal system is now in India today too. (For more on Zonal systems consult a national cricket selector!.)


ancient bharatha

The different stages of Bharatha _Varsha as given in ancient literature represent various stages in the process of extension of the occupied or known areas of the country, during its history. Its shape is described variously at various stages. The changes represent the dynamics of the times.

A famous passage in Bhisma Parva of Mahabharata describes the shape of Bharatha Varsha. It views Bharatha as an equilateral triangle, divided into four smaller equal triangles, the apex of which is Kanya_ kumari and the base formed by the line of the Himalaya Mountains. The famous historian Radha Kumud Mookerji remarked,” the shape corresponds very well with the general form of the country, if we extend the limits of India to Ghazni on the north-west and fix the other two points of the triangle at Cape Comorin and Sadiya in Assam.”

The Markandeya Purana is quite specific about the shape of the country. Its configuration is that of a bow in which the Himalaya is like the stretched string of the bow with the quill of the arrow at the peninsular area of the south. It is said to extend into a triangle with its transverse base in the north.

According to Buddhist tradition, Jambudvīpa (subcontinent) is shaped like a triangle with a blunted point facing south.

3.The name

The Sanskrit word bhārata is a derivation of bharata. The root of the term is bhr-, “to bear / to carry”, with a literal meaning of “to be maintained”. The root bhr is cognate with the English verb to bear and Latin ferō.

Interestingly, the term Dharma, which is the core concept of Indian values, is derived from the root dhr, meaning – to uphold or to nourish. Both the terms Bharatha and Dharma, eventually signify that which supports universal order or the orderly existence of the individual in life.

The first Article of the Constitution of the Republic of India states, “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states.” Thus, India and Bharat are equally official short names for the Republic of India. The name Hindustan was used in historical contexts, especially in British times.

Bharatha Varsha was not always called by that name. Its earlier name was Aja_nabha_Varsha. Before that, it was Himavath Pradesha. Why did it become Bharatha Varsha? Who was this Bharatha?

To know that, we have to go back to Swayambhu Manu, the progenitor. His son was Priyavarta, a great monarch. His son was Agni_dhara. His son was Ajanabha also called Nabhi. Ajanabha was a very virtuous and a noble king. During his reign, the land came to be known as Ajanabha_Varsha. Ajanabha’s son was the great Rsabhadeva. . He was a saintly king. Rsabha renounced the kingdom in favor of his son Bharata and became an ascetic. Bharatha was one of the most pious and noblest of Monarchs of his line. He nourished and nurtured his subjects righteously. During his time, the land that was until then called Aja_nabha_Varsha came to be known, as Bharatha Varsha – ततश्च भारतं वर्षमेतल्लोकेषुगीयते. It has been so since then. Ajanabha (Nabhi), Rsabha and Bharatha figure prominently in the Jain tradition.

What we call Bhatatha Varsha or Bharatha is named after a very virtuous and noble king Bharatha. The best we (who are born and who reside in his land) can do is to be worthy of his name.

Obviously, in the olden days being born in Bharath was a matter of pride. In the Gita, Krishna often refers to Arjuna as Bharatha, the noble one.(For more on the name of India please visit

Over the centuries the name of Bharatha Varsha, its shape and its extent have changed many times. Whatever is its present name, either borrowed or assigned; whatever the extent of its boundaries is; the concept of India that is Bharath has survived as a many dimensional splendor; even amidst the encircling chaos. It has always been a nation. India has held on to its pluralism, its democratic way of life and its basic values; despite strife, contradictions and endless diversities. This is no mean achievement. It is for these reasons we call it, the Miracle that is India.



Rig Veda mentions the tribe of Bharathas several times.

The Rig Veda has a certain geographical horizon. It projects a land of seven great rivers bounded by several oceans and many mountains. It mainly shows the geographical sphere of the Bharatas and their neighbors. Accordingly, Rig Veda mentions that Bharathas ruled the land that spread over the banks of the rivers Parushni ( Ravi ) and Vipasa ( Beas ).

The Purus and in particular the Bharatas among them, are the main Vedic Aryans of the Rig Veda.

2. Battle of Ten Kings (dāśarājñá)

The seventh Mandala of Rig-Veda treats “The Battle of Ten Kings”, fought between the Puru clan and the Turvasha/Drihyu/Anu clans, rather elaborately. There is a view that it was a battle between Aryans and non-Aryans. I however, do not, subscribe to that view. All of those kings involved in the battle –Puru, Turvasha, Druhyu and Anu were the sons of Yayathi who in turn was the son of Nahusha. It was a intra clan fighting.

3.Bharatha son of Dushyanta

Bharathas were a clan among the Purus. The Purus prospered in the North and strengthened the Chandra vamsha (Moon Dynasty). Many generations later into this, clan was born Bharatha son of Dushyanta. The great poet Kalidasa in his epic Abhignana Shakuntalam immortalized the love of Dushyanta and Shakuntala.

Bharatha son of Dushyanta is NOT the Emperor Bharatha whom we discussed earlier and after whom Bharatha _Varsha is named. As per the chronology listed in Vishnu Purana, Bharatha son of Dushyanta appears thousands of years after Emperor Bharatha son of Rshabha. Pandavas and Kauravas are decedents of Dushyanta/Bharatha but are several generations removed from them.

Thus, the Bharatha Tribe of dāśarājñá is far removed from Emperor Bharatha son of Rshabha.


Please read On Arya , Aryan , Sarasvathi and other issues that complement the above post.

Jambu-dweep of Love



Posted by on September 1, 2012 in General Interest, History, Rigveda


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