Rewriting Indian history

A civilisation is like the human soul: it has a childhood, where it struggles to learn; an adolescence where it discovers - sometimes painfully - the hard facts of life; an adulthood, where it enjoys the fruits of maturity; and an old age, which slowly leads to death and oblivion. In this manner, since the dawn of human history, civilisations have risen, reached the top where they gravitate for some time, achieving their enduring excellence -and then slowly began their descent towards extinction. Usually, old age for these civilisations meant that they fell prey to barbarians, because they had lost the vitality and the inner obedience to their particular genius, which they had possessed at the time of their peak and which had protected them. This has been a natural process and barbarians have played an important role in the evolution of humanity, for they made sure, in the most ruthless manner, that civilisations did not stagnate; because like a human being, a civilisation must die many times before it realises the fullness of its soul and attains divine perfection. There have been many such great civilisations which rose and fell throughout the ages: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Africa, China, Greece, or Rome. Human nature being what it is, most of these civilisations established their might by military conquest and thus imposed their order and their views upon others, a process which some have called civilisation, others colonisation.

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India's Self Denial

Why is it that Indians, particularly its elite - the intelligentsia, the journalists, the writers, the top bureaucrats, the diplomats - hold an image of themselves which is often negative, and have a tendency to run down their own country? The self-perception that Indians have of themselves, is frequently detrimental to their self-confidence. This is particularly striking amongst Indian journalists, who always seem to look at India through a western prism and constantly appear to worry how the foreign press views India, how the foreign countries - particularly the United States of America - perceive India, what the Human Right agencies say about India… Thus, when one reads certain Indian magazines, one has the impression that they could be written by foreign journalists, because not only do they tend to look at India in a very critical manner, but often, there is nothing genuinely Indian in their contents, no references to India's past greatness, no attempts to put things in perspective through the prism of India's ancient wisdom. Therefore, most of the time, their editorial contents endeavour to explain the present events affecting India, such as Ayodhya, or the problem of Kashmir, or the Christian missionaries' attempts at conversion of tribal Hindus, by taking a very small portion of the subcontinent's history - usually the most recent one - without trying to put these events in a broader focus, or attempting to revert back to India's long and ancient history. In a gist, one could say - although things have been changing in the late nineties - that there is hardly any self-pride amongst India's intellectual elite, because they are usually too busy running down their own country. It is done in a very brilliantly manner, it is true - because Indian journalists, writers, artists, high bureaucrats, are often intelligent, witty and talented people - but always with that western slant, as if India was afflicted by a permanent inferiority complex. One then has to try to analyse the underlying reasons of this negative self-perception that India has of herself, probe the unconscious impulses which give many Indians - Hindus, we should say, as the majority of India's intelligentsia are born Hindus - the habit of always depreciating their own culture and traditions.


If India were India, She Could Lead the World

It is gratifying to address the challenging theme of "Eternal India". The task of unveiling such a far-reaching concept is daunting. Yet, the attempt to articulate even a fragment of this vast globally significant scenario is rewarding. I will attempt to focus only on certain features that are integral to that "eternal" aspect of Indian civilisation which defies the vicissitudes of history, without losing sight of the India that is as palpable and vulnerable, as we know her to be today. While I was pondering over a title for this paper, the memorable words of the Russian artist, Roerich came to mind: 'If India were India, she could lead the world.' These simple yet startlingly powerful words were etched in my memory ever since my childhood in Kolkata.

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