2 – An “eminent historian” attacks Arun Shourie – Koenraad Elst

Nalanda

Koenraad Elst“Like any stage magician, Jha indulges in misdirection. While he himself has been caught in the act of misquoting his source (Yadava), and repeats this act of dishonesty in this very article, he tries to offset his embarrassment by a flight forward, viz. heaping imaginary allegations and plain swearwords upon Arun Shourie.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

D.N. Jha’s “Reply to Arun Shourie”, dated 9 July 2014, was published in shorter form as “Grist to the reactionary mill”, Indian Express, 9 July 2014. It starts as follows: “I was amused to read ‘How History Was Made Up At Nalanda’ [28 June 2014, The Indian Express] by Arun Shourie, who has dished out ignorance masquerading as knowledge – reason enough to have pity on him and sympathy for his readers!”

Shourie had charged him with fudging evidence to distort the historical narrative of the destruction of the ancient Nalanda Mahavihar. Jha therefore considered it necessary to “rebut his allegations and set the record straight instead of ignoring his balderdash”. Note the unscholarly language, and this at his advanced age. We are dealing with a verbal street-fighter who has been given a post as an academic. Further down, we see him belittling his opponent, typical for the nouveau riche who thinks the world of his own status. When Shourie doubts miracle-tales as historical sources, Jha does not justify his own use of the same, but plays up his academic status: “Acceptance or rejection of this kind of source criticism is welcome if it comes from a professional historian but not from someone who flirts with history as Shourie does.”

Prof D. N. JhaMisdirection

The article is, as usual in secularist polemics, an exercise in misdirection. Beating around the issues of history, Jha draws the reader’s attention away from those by indulging in nit-picking: “My presentation at the Indian History Congress, to which Shourie refers, was in 2006 and not 2004 as stated by Shourie. It was not devoted to the destruction of ancient Nalanda per se – his account misleads readers and pulls the wool over their eyes.” His entire presentation may have contained material for several more articles, but here Shourie has focused on one daring lie of Jha’s in the course of that presentation, viz. the claim that the disappearance of Nalanda University was due to Hindus rather than Muslims.

Jha: “It was in fact focused on the antagonism between Brahmins and Buddhists, for which I drew on different kinds of evidence including myths and traditions.” At least he has the merit of pointing to a rhetoric that, that force of repetition from high pedestals, has by now almost become an established fact, viz. that Hindus themselves did to Buddhists what they allege Muslims did to them. Hindus have let this lie fester for decades, and at their own peril.

Jha: “In this context I cited the tradition recorded in the 18th century Tibetan text, Pag-sam-jon-zang by Sumpa Khan-Po Yece Pal Jor, mentioned by B. N. S. Yadava in his Society and Culture in Northern India in the Twelfth Century — with due acknowledgement, although in his pettiness Shourie is quick to discover plagiarism on my part! (I may add that ‘Hindu fanatics’ are not my words but Yadav’s, which is why they are in quotes. How sad that one has to point this out to a winner of the Magsaysay Award!)” Jha did mention Yadava as his source in general, but his quoted phrase “Hindu fanatics” was such that it gave the reader the impression of being from the Tibetan original. Either way, both he and Yadava are plainly wrong when they use the anachronistic term “Hindu fanatics”, because the source text only calls them “beggars”. There is no indication at all that they acted out of fanaticism; instead, it is explicitly mentioned that they were angry at being mistreated by some Buddhist monks.

The crux of Shourie’s argument is that Jha, too lazy to go to the original source, merely quotes Yadava as an authority but omits to mention that Yadava himself considers the source untrustworthy. That is clearly dishonest, and Jha has been caught in the act of committing it. Yet, in this article, Jha nowhere addresses the allegation that he himself has been dishonest, a central point of the article he claims to reply to. He even repeats the same trick: invoking Yadava as authoritative support for the Tibetan fairy-tale.

Jha: “In his conceit Shourie is disdainful and dismissive of the Tibetan tradition, which has certain elements of miracle in it, as recorded in the text.” Correction: he is only dismissive of the use a Marxist historian makes of it. In the Ayodhya affair, Marxists, and secularists in general, dismissed the Hindu side’s claim (which was not even miracle-mongering, just tradition-based) as “irrational”. And that claim was also based on documentary and archaeological evidence, whereas this Tibetan tale stands alone, is from five hundred years after the fact, and is contradicted by other evidence.

Jha: “Here is the relevant extract from Sumpa’s work cited by Shourie: ‘While a religious sermon was being delivered in the temple that he [Kakut Siddha] had erected at Nalanda, a few young monks threw washing water at two Tirthika beggars. (The Buddhists used to designate the Hindus by the term Tirthika). The beggars, being angry, set fire on the three shrines of Dharmaganja, the Buddhist University of Nalanda, viz. — Ratna Sagara, Ratna Ranjaka including the nine-storeyed temple called Ratnodadhi which contained the library of sacred books’ (p. 92). Shourie questions how the two beggars could go from building to building to ‘burn down the entire, huge, scattered complex’.”

Shourie is perfectly right to question the verisimilitude of this story. At any rate, Nalanda University comprised more than these three buildings. Whether this Tibetan miracle-tale is true or not, it does at any rate not pertain to the wholesale destruction of Nalanda, though that destruction did take place. The whole university was flattened by fire (as archaeology can confirm), not just three shrines but the teaching and living quarters as well. If anyone could be tricked by the Tibetan tale into thinking that it pertained to this wholesale destruction rather than narrating some small incident, at least it should not be a historian.

Arun ShourieBrahmin-Buddhist antagonism

Jha: “Look at another passage (abridged by me in the following paragraph) from the History of Buddhism in India written by another Tibetan monk and scholar, Taranatha, in the 17th century: ‘During the consecration of the of the temple built by Kakutsiddha at Nalendra [Nalanda] ‘the young naughty sramanas threw slops at the two tirthika beggars and kept them pressed inside door panels and set ferocious dogs on them’. Angered by this, one of them went on arranging for their livelihood and the other sat in a deep pit and “engaged himself in surya sadhana” [solar worship], first for nine years and then for three more years and having thus “acquired mantrasiddhi” he “performed a sacrifice and scattered the charmed ashes all around” which “immediately resulted in a miraculously produced fire” which consumed all the eighty-four temples and the scriptures some of which, however, were saved by water flowing from an upper floor of the nine storey Ratnodadhi temple. (History of Buddhism in India, English tr. Lama Chimpa & Alka Chattopadhyaya, pp.141-42).

If we look at the two narratives closely they are similar. The role of the Tirthikas and their miraculous fire causing a conflagration are common to both.”

Clearly, the two miracle tales have a common source. A polemicist would boast that he has no less than two sources available, but a genuine historian would soberly realize that he can draw only on a single source, centuries removed from the events it claims to narrate.

Jha: “Admittedly, one does not have to take the miracles seriously, but it is not justified to ignore their importance as part of traditions which gain in strength over time and become part of the collective memory of a community.” Notice the very different tune he is singing compared to the Ayodhya controversy. Back then, the whole mission of the “eminent historians” was to debunk the temple destruction scenario which they conceived as merely “part of traditions which gain in strength over time and become part of the collective memory of a community”. Here a sheer miracle story is not debunked, but on the contrary invoked as a decisive historical source.

Jha: “Nor is it desirable or defensible to disregard the long-standing antagonism between Brahmins and Buddhists, which may have given rise to the Tibetan tradition and nurtured it until the 18th century or even later. It is in the context of this Buddhist-Tirthika animosity that the account of  assumes importance; it also makes sense because it jibes with Taranatha’s evidence. Further, neither Sumpa nor Taranatha ever came to India. This should mean that the idea of Brahminical hostility to the religion of the Buddha travelled to Tibet fairly early, became part of its Buddhist tradition, and found expression in 17th-18th century Tibetan writings.”

Another explanation for this Tibetan tradition of hostility could be that they heard how Buddhism had been mistreated in India by the Muslim invaders, and concluded that “Indians” or “Hindus” (the two terms were not yet distinct) had done it. Even today, when the communication distance to the West is far smaller than to Tibet back then, numerous Westerners who hear about something wrong in India assume it must have been the doing of Hinduism. But if the Tibetans really thought that Hindus had been anti-Buddhist to the point of destroying major Buddhist shrines, they were simply misinformed. A historian should not merely quote sources, he should also ask himself how pertinent those sources are, and especially whether they are trustworthy. The question of truth, though central to the Indian Republic’s official motto, goes unconsidered too often.

At any rate, there was no “long-standing antagonism between Brahmins and Buddhists”, if only because most Buddhist writers were born Brahmins themselves and partook of Brahminical culture. Buddhist institutions in India flourished under Hindu rule for 16 centuries, otherwise there would have been nothing of them left for the Muslim invaders to destroy. By contrast, when Islam appears on the scene, Buddhism disappears, and not on account of two Tirthika beggars. Cases of polemic between Buddhists and Brahmins may be cited, as also between different Brahminical schools and different Buddhist sects, but they were only the normal exercise of freedom of opinion. They cannot be equated to the Islamic destruction of Buddhism in Central and South Asia.

Marxism

Jha: “Acceptance of the two Tibetan traditions, the one referred to by me has been given credence not only by Yadava (whom Shourie, in his ignorance, dubs a Marxist!) but also by a number of other Indian scholars like R. K. Mookerji (Education in Ancient India), Sukumar Dutt (Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India), S. C. Vidyabhushana (Medieval School of Indian Logic), Buddha Prakash (Aspects of Indian History and Civilization), and many others. They were all polymaths of unimpeachable academic honesty and integrity. They had nothing to do, even remotely, with Marxism: which is, to Shourie in his bull avatar, a red rag.”

Marxism is no longer what it used to be; its fall in the Soviet Union and decline in China are making themselves felt even in India at last. Some erstwhile Marxists do not like to be described as Marxist anymore. In the 1990s, Romila Thapar was mentioned in Tom Bottomore’s Dictionary of Marxism as a representative of Marxist history-writing without any discussion, but today she avoids the label “Marxist”. They may be telling one more lie here, this time about their own label, but some of them may genuinely have outgrown Marxism. I leave it to Jha and Shourie, and first of all to Yadava, to decide which description of Yadava is the correct one. But Marxism has conditioned the Indian history discourse, even through many who would reject the “Marxist” label for themselves. It will take time to undo its influence.

Worse is that here again, Jha repeats his lie. Yadava has explicitly written that the said Tibetan tradition is “doubtful”, but once more Jha cites him in its support. He insists on proving Shourie’s allegation right.

Odantapuri

Jha: “Now juxtapose the Tibetan tradition with the contemporary account in the Tabaqat–i-Nasiri of Minhaj-i-Siraj, which Shourie not only misinterprets but also blows out of proportion. Although its testimony has no bearing on my argument about Brahmanical intolerance, a word needs to be said about it so as to expose Shourie’s “false knowledge” – which, as G. B. Shaw said, is ‘more dangerous than ignorance’. The famous passage from this text reads exactly as follows:
“He [Bakhtiyar Khalji] used to carry his depredations into those parts and that country until he organized an attack upon the fortified city of Bihar. Trustworthy persons have related on this wise, that he advanced to the gateway of the fortress of Bihar with two hundred horsemen in defensive armour, and suddenly attacked the place. There were two brothers of Farghanah, men of learning, [Nizamu-ud-Din and Samsam-ud-Din] in the service of Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar, and the author of this book [Minhajuddin] met with at Lakhnawati in the year 641 H and this account is from him. These two wise brothers were soldiers among that band of holy warriors when they reached the gateway of the fortress and began the attack at which time Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar, by the force of his intrepidity, threw himself into the postern of the gateway of the place, and they captured the fortress and acquired great booty. The greater number of inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven; and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and, when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindus were killed. On becoming acquainted (with the contents of the books), it was found that the whole of that fortress and the city was a college, and in the Hindu tongue, they call a college Bihar” (Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, tr. H. G. Raverty, Calcutta, vol 1, 1881, pp.551-52).

“The above account mentions the fortress of Bihar as the target of Bakhtiyar’s attack. The fortified monastery which Bakhtiyar captured was ‘known as Audand-Bihar or Odandapura-vihara’ (Odantapuri in Biharsharif, then known simply as Bihar). This is the view of many historians but, most importantly, of Jadunath Sarkar, the high priest of communal historiography in India (History of Bengal, vol. 2, Dacca, 1948, pp.3-4). Minhaj does not refer to Nalanda at all: he merely speaks of the ransacking of the ‘fortress of Bihar’ (hisar-i-Bihar). But how can Shourie be satisfied unless Bakhtiyar is shown to have sacked Nalanda? Since Bakhtiyar was leading plundering expeditions in the region of Magadha, Shourie thinks that Nalanda must have been destroyed by him – and, magically, he finds ’evidence’ in an account which does not even speak of the place. Thus an important historical testimony becomes the victim of his anti-Muslim prejudice.”

I remember Sita Ram Goel himself pointing out to me that this passage is about Odantapuri, not Nalanda. So Shourie may have misidentified the institution here. But of course, a description of the Islamic sacking of Odantapuri implies nothing about other places not mentioned. Would the motives that led to the destruction of Odantapuri not have applied to Nalanda as well. We have it from the horse’s mouth, and now also from Jha, that the Islamic invaders sacked Odantapuri and killed every single inmate. We learn elsewhere that in the same military campaign (end of the 12th century), a thousand temples in Varanasi and many more religious institutions at other places were destroyed. Would it then, even without appeal to other sources, be so strange to assume that they did the same to other institutions, which were left unmentioned but nonetheless disappeared? Would that not be far more likely than Jha’s contrived hypothesis that, after sixteen centuries of allowing Buddhism to flourish, Brahmins in their very hour of need suddenly turned against Nalanda?

Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar KhiljiIslam destroyed Nalanda

Jha becomes distinctly unpleasant when he starts throwing around allegations: “In his zeal, [Shourie] fudges and concocts historical evidence and ignores the fact that Bakhtiyar did not go to Nalanda from Bihar (Biharsharif). Instead, he proceeded to Nadia in Bengal through the hills and jungles of the region of Jharkhand, which, incidentally, finds first mention in an inscription of AD 1295 (Comprehensive History of India, vol. IV, pt. I, p.601). I may add that his whole book, Eminent Historians, from which the article under reference is excerpted, abounds in instances of his cavalier attitude to historical evidence.”

Notice the rhetorical sleight of hand: Shourie the non-historian has made only one mistake of historical fact, and yet Jha multiplies his invective as if it were a habit. By contrast, Jha the history professor has repeatedly been caught in distortions and manipulations in this debate alone, yet he reckons he can get away with those.

But then Jha admits the very thing which secularists, and partly he himself, had set out to deny: “It is neither possible nor necessary to deny that the Islamic invaders conquered parts of Bihar and Bengal and destroyed the famous universities in the region.” So, next time the Vishva Hindu Parishad starts a temple reclamation campaign, it can cite Jha in support.

Jha: “But any one associating Bakhtiyar Khalji with the destruction and burning of the university of Nalanda would be guilty of gross academic dishonesty. Certainly week-end historians like Shourie are always free to falsify historical data, but this has nothing to do with serious history, which is always true to evidence.”

History may be true to the evidence, but Jha with his hair-brained reliance on a much later foreign testimony isn’t. Circumstantial evidence certainly still points to Bakhtiyar Khilji as the culprit, since we don’t know of another commander at that time and in that area. Not every event on his campaign was recorded. As all genuine historians know: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But even his name makes little difference for the larger debate that motivated Jha to his distortions. Numerous holy warriors of Islam displayed the same behaviour as Bakhtiyar Khilji because they had the same motive: the doctrine of Islam with its hatred of Pagans and their institutions. In spite of so much denial and so many distortions, secularists cannot alter that historical fact. Islam had the motive and the chance. Hinduism had the chance for sixteen centuries to destroy the Buddhist institutions but showed no interest because it lacked the motive. Islam, by contrast, appeared on the scene and immediately Buddhism disappeared. Islam is guilty.

Book-banning

Jha’s final word: “Shourie had raised a huge controversy by publishing his scandalous and slanderous Eminent Historians in 1998 during the NDA regime and now, after sixteen years, he has issued its second edition, from which the article under reference has been excerpted. He appears and reappears in the historian’s avatar when the BJP comes to power and does all he can to please his masters. His view of the past is no different from that of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and their numerous outfits, consisting of riff-raff and goons who burn books that do not endorse their views, who vandalize art objects which they label blasphemous, who present a distorted view of Indian history, and who nurture a culture of intolerance. These elements demanded my arrest when my book on beef-eating was published, and they censured James Laine when his book on Shivaji came out. It is not unlikely that Shourie functions in cahoots with people like Dina Nath Batra, who targeted A. K. Ramanujan’s essay emphasizing the diversity of the Ramayana tradition; Wendy Doniger’s writings, which provided an alternative view of Hinduism; Megha Kumar’s work on communalism and sexual violence in Ahmedabad since 1969; and Sekhar Bandopadhyaya’s textbook on modern India, which regrettably does not eulogise the RSS. Arun Shourie seems to have inaugurated a fresh round of battle by fudging, falsifying and fabricating historical evidence and providing grist to Batra’s mill.”

Jha seems to suggest that publishing these allegations (which he doesn’t refute) was only safe with the NDA in power. Apparently the UPA would have done the Eminent Historians’ bidding and arrested Shourie for slander. Then again, maybe as an intellectual Jha found it below his dignity to appeal to the authorities, and preferred the proper medium of a debate. In that case, we would like to see his refutation.

The rest of his final allegation is an exercise in guilt by association. This is beneath the standards of an intellectual but proper for a political polemicist. We have already pointed that the allegation of “fudging, falsifying” etc., repeated here, is unjustified and applies more to Jha himself. Then he associates Shourie with the VHP-RSS penchant for banning books. In reality, Shourie as a crusader for civil rights and probity in public life has always been on the side of free and frank debate. The RSS, by contrast, is a lot more like Jha himself: never addressing issues but grandstanding on extraneous factors: status and the perceived interests of secularism in Jha’s case, patriotic indignation in the case of the RSS. He supposes that is “not unlikely that Shourie functions in cahoots with people like Dina Nath Batra”: this is worse than empty speculation, as it is easy to verify that Shourie was not involved in these recent book-banning operations. Indeed, Jha himself has been targeted, so he knows from experience that those who persecuted him comprised Batra but not Shourie.

To sum up: like any stage magician, Jha indulges in misdirection. While he himself has been caught in the act of misquoting his source (Yadava), and repeats this act of dishonesty in this very article, he tries to offset his embarrassment by a flight forward, viz. heaping imaginary allegations and plain swearwords upon his critic.

Hindu passivity

But he will largely get away with it, and secularists will go on quoting his speech at the Indian History Congress as an argument of authority for their truly daring thesis that “not Muslims but Hindus destroyed Nalanda University” and that this was but an instance of the long-standing hostility between Brahmins and Buddhists. Since the record is not being set straight from any powerful forum, it may even become part of the received wisdom.

At the end of 1990, Sita Ram Goel and myself visited the VHP headquarters at R. K. Puram, Delhi. To some of their bigwigs (names available), I argued passionately that since they had been forced to make a historical case for their Ayodhya demand, and for other reasons too, they badly needed to invest in serious history-writing, rather than relying on either the output furnished by their enemies or the caricatures produced by incompetent Hindus of the P N Oak variety. Wise old Goel just smiled, knowing already what the effect of my enthusiastic plea would be. One VHP leader concluded the conversation by assuring me: “We will think about your suggestion”— the polite way of saying: “Drop dead.” As we left, Goel said: “You could just as well have talked to my wall.” The Sangh Parivar was determined not to invest in chicken but only in eggs; not to involve itself in building a Hindu worldview but to continue focusing on empty locomotion.

Today, 24 years later, no Hindu force has invested anything at all in rectifying India’s history. In about 2002, HRM Minister M. M. Joshi had the history textbooks rewritten, only to prove for all to see the incompetence of most people he picked for the job. (Notice, Prof. Jha, that Arun Shourie was not involved in this operation either.) The secularists had no problem in overruling this reform, and no Hindu force deigned to address the question: “What have we done wrong?” They only went on wailing about the daring injustice perpetrated by the secularists without ever wondering what they themselves could have done or could still do. Hindu moneybags who like to show off their commitment to Hinduism, finance large temple-building projects or sponsor their declared enemies, but never think of financing the research that Hindu society badly needs. And so, bad but highly-placed historians like D. N. Jha can go on rubbishing Hindu history.

» Dr Koenraad Elst studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. He blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.in/

Eminent Historians

1 – How history was made up at Nalanda – Arun Shourie

Nalanda

Arun Shourie“Surely, no self-respecting Marxist could have made his account rest on not just one miracle — acquiring siddhis and raining fire on to the Nalanda structures — but two, for we also have the streams of water running down from the scriptures.” – Arun Shourie

“The mine of learning, honoured Nalanda” — that is how the 16th-17th century Tibetan historian, Taranath, referred to the university at Nalanda. At the time I-Tsing was at the university, there were 3,700 monks. The total complex had around 10,000 residents. The structures housing the university were as splendid and as extensive as the learning they housed. When excavations began, the principal mound alone was about 1,400 feet by 400 feet. Hieun Tsang recounts at least seven monasteries and eight halls. The monasteries were of several storeys, and there was a library complex of three buildings, one of them nine storeys high.

As the Islamic invaders advanced through Afghanistan and north-western India, they exterminated Buddhist clergy, they pillaged and pulverised every Buddhist structure — the very word “but”, the idols they so feverishly destroyed, was derived from “Buddha”. Nalanda escaped their attention for a while — in part because it was not on the main routes. But soon enough, the marauders arrived, and struck the fatal blow. The ransacking is described in the contemporary Tabakat-i-Nasiri by Maulana Minhaj-ud-din.

Minhaj-ud-din rose and came to the notice of the rulers of the time — Qutb-ud-din Aibak and others — because of his raids and depredations, and because of the enormous booty he gathered, booty sufficient for him to set himself up as a plunderer in his own right. “His reputation reached Sultan (Malik) Qutb-ud-din, who despatched a robe of distinction to him, and showed him honour,” the historian writes. With its high wall, its large buildings, Nalanda seemed like a well-endowed fortress to Ikhtiyar-ud-din and his force. He advanced upon it with two hundred horsemen “and suddenly attacked the place”. Minhaj-ud-din continues,

“The greater number of inhabitants of that place were Brahmans, and the whole of those Brahmans had their heads shaven, and they were all slain. There were a great number of books there; and when all these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus that they might give them information respecting the import of those books; but the whole of the Hindus had been killed. On being acquainted (with the contents of the books), it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college, and in the Hindu tongue, they call a college, Bihar [vihara].”

“When that victory was effected,” Minhaj-ud-din reports, “Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar returned with great booty, and came to the presence of the beneficent sultan, Qutb-ud-din I-bak, and received great honour and distinction.…” — so much so that other nobles at the court became jealous. All this happened around the year 1197 AD.

Prof D. N. JhaAnd now the Marxist account of the destruction of this jewel of knowledge. In 2004, D. N. Jha was the president of the Indian History Congress. In the presidential address he delivered — one to which we shall turn as an example of Marxist “scholarship” — this is the account he gives of the destruction of Buddhist viharas, and of Nalanda in particular:

“A Tibetan tradition has it that the Kalacuri King Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha, and the Tibetan text  Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’.”

“Hindu fanatics”? The expression struck me as odd. A Tibetan text of the 18th century using so current an expression as “Hindu fanatics”? Especially so because, on Jha’s own reckoning, Hinduism is an invention of the British in the late 19th century? So, what is this “Tibetan text”? What does it say? Had Jha looked it up?

Pag Sam Jon Zang was written by Sumpa Khan-Po Yece Pal Jor. The author lived in 1704-88: that is, 500 years after the destruction of Nalanda.

That is the first thing that strikes one: our historian disregards the contemporaneous account, Tabakat-i-Nasiri, and opts for a text written 500 years after the event. But had he read the text at all? Could a self-respecting Marxist have at all believed what is written in it?

This is how Sarat Chandra Das, the translator and editor of Pag Sam Jon Zang, sets out the account of the destruction of Nalanda as given in this text:

“While a religious sermon was being delivered in the temple that he (Kakuta Sidha, a minister of a king of Magadha) had erected at Nalanda, a few young monks threw washing water at two Tirthika beggars. The beggars being angry, set fire on the three shrines of dharma ganja, the Buddhist university of Nalanda — that is, Ratna Sagara, Ratna Ranjaka including the nine-storey building called Ratnadadhi which contained the library of sacred books” (pg 92).

Two beggars could go from building to building of that huge campus and, with all the monks present, burn down the entire, huge, scattered complex?

And, the account of the relevant passage reproduced above is the one set out by Sarat Chandra Das in his Index. That is, it is just a summary of the actual passage — in an index, it scarcely could be more. What does the relevant section, and in particular the passage about the burning down of the library, say?

The author is giving an account of how Dharma has survived three rounds of destructive attempts. One round was occasioned by the fluctuating relations between Khunimamasta, a king of Taksig (Turkistan?), and Dharma Chandra, a king of Nyi-og in the east. The latter sends gifts. The former thinks these are part of black magic. He, therefore, swoops down from “dhurukha” and destroys “the three bases” of Magadha — monasteries, scriptures and stupas. Khunimamasta drives out and exiles the monks. Dharma Chandra’s uncle sends many scholars to China to spread the teaching. He receives gold as thanksgiving. He uses this and other gifts to appease rulers of smaller kingdoms to join the fight against the king of Taksig (Turkistan?). The uncle thereafter revives “the three bases”. Almost all the shrines are restored and 84 new ones are built. And so, the dharma survives.

In the next round, “the teacher who taught Prajnaparamita for 20 years is assassinated by burglars from dhurukha. His blood turned into milk and many flowers emerged from his body. (Thus) he flew into the sky.”

We now come to the crucial passage, the one that Jha has ostensibly invoked. I reproduce the translation of it by Geshe Dorji Damdul in full:

“Again at that time, there was a scholar by the name Mutita Bhadra, who was greatly involved in renovating and building stupas. Eventually he had a vision of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra. He flew to Liyul by holding the garment (of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra) and there he made great contributions to the welfare of sentient beings and the Dharma. Reviving the Dharma that way, the Dharma flourished for 40 years in the Central Land (Magadha?). At that time, during the celebration over the construction of a shrine in Nalanda by Kakutasita, a minister of the king, some naughty novice monks splashed (dish) washing water on two non-Buddhist beggars and also pressed (the two) in-between the door and (the door frame.) Angry over these gestures, one (beggar) served as the attendant to the other who sat in a deep pit for 12 years to gain the siddhi of the sun. Having achieved the siddhi, they threw ashes of a fire puja (havan) they did, on 84 Buddhist shrines. They were all burned. Particularly, when the three dharma ganja of Nalanda — the shrines which sheltered the scriptures — as well got consumed in fire, streams of water ran down from the scriptures of Guhyasamaja and Prajnaparamita, which were housed in the ninth storey of the Ratnadhati shrine. This saved many scriptures. Later, fearing penalty from the king, the two (beggars) escaped to Hasama in the north. However, the two died due to immolation, which happened on its own.”

Surely, no self-respecting Marxist could have made his account rest on not just one miracle — acquiring siddhis and raining fire on to the structures — but two, for we also have the streams of water running down from the scriptures.

But we strain unnecessarily. There is a clue in Jha’s lecture itself. He doesn’t cite the Tibetan text, he does what Marxists do: he cites another Marxist citing the Tibetan text! To see what he does, you must read the lines carefully. This is what we saw Jha saying:

“A Tibetan tradition has it that the Kalacuri King Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha, and the Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’.”

As his authority, Jha cites a book by B.N.S. Yadava, Society and Culture in Northern India in the Twelfth Century. What did Yadava himself write? Here it is: “Further, the Tibetan tradition informs us that Kalacuri Karna (11th century) destroyed many Buddhist temples and monasteries in Magadha.”

Jha has clearly lifted what Yadava wrote word for word — at least he has been faithful to his source. But in the very next sentence, Yadava had gone on to say: “It is very difficult to say anything as to how far this account may be correct.”

Words that Jha conveniently left out!

Yadava had continued, “However, we get some other references to persecution.”

He cited two inscriptions and a Puranic reference. And then came to the Tibetan text. Recall what Jha wrote about this text: “… and the Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang refers to the burning of the library of Nalanda by some ‘Hindu fanatics’.”

And now turn to what Yadava wrote about this very text: “The Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang contains a [I am leaving out a word] tradition of the burning of the library of Nalanda by some Hindu fanatics.”

Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar KhiljiClose enough to pass for plagiarism? But wait, there is originality! Notice, first, that two Hindu beggars have become “Hindu fanatics”. Notice, next, that the words “Hindu fanatics” that Jha had put in quotation marks as if they were the words that the author of the Tibetan text had used to describe the arsonists, were actually the words of his fellow Marxist, Yadava. But the best clue is the word that I omitted from what Yadava had actually written. Yadava’s full sentence was as follows: “The Tibetan text Pag Sam Jon Zang contains a doubtful tradition of the burning of the library of Nalanda by some Hindu fanatics.”

Just as he had left out the words, “It is very difficult to say anything as to how far this account may be correct,” Jha now leaves out the word “doubtful”. And all this in the presidential address to the Indian History Congress.

In a word, there is a Tibetan text written five hundred years after the destruction of Nalanda. Sarat Chandra Das annotates it, and includes in his Index a summary in English of a passage in the text — the summary naturally leaves out telling components of the original passage.

Yadava looks only at the summary in the Index — “non-Buddhist beggars” becomes “Hindu fanatics.”

Yadava notes that the account is based on a “doubtful tradition.”

Jha omits the word “doubtful.”

And we have a presidential address to the Indian History Congress!

Given what we have seen of Marxist historians even in this brief book, the brazen-faced distortions — to the point of falsehood — do not surprise me.

What does surprise me is that no one looked up either the source that Jha had cited or the text.

Indeed, in concluding his section, Yadava had stated:

“A great blow to Buddhism was, no doubt, rendered by the Turkish invasions, leading to the destruction and desertion of the celebrated Buddhist monasteries of Magadha and Bengal. Many Buddhist scholars fled to Tibet and Nepal.” – Indian Express, 28 June 2014

» Arun Shourie, a former Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP, was Union minister for communications, information technology and disinvestment. This article has been excerpted from his book, Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, published by HarperCollins India.

Eminent Historians

 

Scientific evidence for River Saraswati, says Uma Bharti – TNN & TOI

Saraswati River Map

Uma Bharti is the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation“BJP member Ratan Lal Kataria said the river was a symbol of India’s cultural heritage and completes the narrative of the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilization which grew up by its banks and by the banks of the other historic river Indus.” – TNN

The government has launched a fresh effort to unravel the ancient riddle about the existence of river Saraswati which finds reference in Vedic texts.

Though efforts have been made in the past by geologists and the scientific community, both during British period as well as in independent India, the river remains a mystery so much so that its mention in ancient texts has invariably been termed ‘mythological’.

“There is enough scientific evidence on the presence of the river Saraswati in some parts of the country through which it flowed about five to six thousand years ago … Saraswati is not a myth”, said the Union water resources and river development minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday.

Responding to a calling attention motion in Lok Sabha, Bharti said her government was taking up the issue very seriously “to trace the route of the river”.

She also informed the Lower House that the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) of her ministry has been directed “to test the water of a well located inside the Allahabad Fort” in order to trace the source and route of the lost river.

The motion was moved in the House by BJP member Ratan Lal Kataria who wanted the government to set up ‘Saraswati Research Institute’ for the “revival” of the river. He reminded the House of a promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, he claimed, during an election campaign in Kurkshetra vowed to bring to the surface the water of the subterranean river Saraswati.

Stating that a lot of research has been done on the river, particularly in Gujarat, Bharti said there were several rivers named Saraswati which emanated from the Himalayas, including one which mingled with the Triveni in Allahabad, another with Mandakini and the third with Alaknanda river.

She said there was also a river with the same name that passed through Haryana to Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Raising his demand, Kataria said the river was a symbol of India’s cultural heritage and completes the narrative of the Harappa and Mohenjodaro civilization which grew up by its banks and by the banks of the other historic river Indus.

He said drilling of deep wells in parts of Gujarat had shown the existence of sweet water, which proved the existence of water flow.

Maintaining that research work on the river would also act as a search for lost civilizations and habitations, Kataria demanded the establishment of an authority to carry on the research. – The Times of India, 13 August 2014

Saraswati River

Myth to Reality: Sarasvati River is set to flow again – Atul Sethi – The Times of India – Dec 28, 2008

Atul Sethi“The idea that the ancient Sarasvati might be the modern-day seasonal river, Ghaggar, is not new. It was first put forward over 100 years ago by C.F. Oldham, an English engineer who observed that the dry bed of the Ghaggar appeared too broad for a seasonal river. He believed that the Ghaggar was, in fact, flowing on the bed of a bigger river that existed before. Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley sites have also revealed numerous settlements along the Ghaggar, lending further credence to this theory.” – Atul Sethi

Almost 13 km from Kurukshetra lies the ancient village of Bhoresaidan – named after the Kaurava hero Bhurisrava, who was one of Duryodhana’s 11 distinguished senapatis during the Mahabharata war. A dusty road adjacent to the village leads to a yawning valley, flanked by rocks and covered with a soil that is a curious mix of various sedimentary deposits. Rajesh Purohit, deputy director of the Kurukshetra-based Sri Krishna Museum, bends to scoop up some of the soil. “This soil has a lot of history,” he says gravely. “After all, the river Sarasvati used to once flow here.”

Purohit’s contention is that the ‘valley’ is actually the bed of the Sarasvati, a fact which finds mention in numerous ancient literary texts, but whose existence has often been questioned by historians. “The discovery of the river bed,” he says, “proves beyond doubt that Sarasvati is not a myth.”

That myth may now be laid to rest forever as plans are afoot to revive a part of the course taken by this ancient river. The Haryana government has acquired almost 20 acres of land and work is under way on a 50 km-long channel in Kurukshetra, through which the river will flow again.

“The revival of the Sarasvati will benefit countless people in the region as it will augment ground water resources,” says Darshan Lal Jain of the Sarasvati Nadi Shodh Sansthan, which is working with the government on this project. The plan is not to line with the river’s course with bricks so that water can permeate the ground. With ground water levels dipping to as low as 150 feet, the river’s revival may be a boon for parched Haryana.

A boon that would not have been possible without the discovery of the river bed. “In 2004, an extraordinary phenomenon occurred,” recalls Purohit. “Water started oozing out from a palaeochannel (a dried river bed) at the Kapil Muni temple sarovar at Kalayat. We carried out studies of this water. Simultaneously, a scientific team studied its mineral composition.”

Scientists from ISRO also carried out studies using space imagery and discovered a number of fossil valleys in upper central Haryana. “Mapping images of the palaeo channels showed that they corresponded to the archaeological sites of Haryana,” says Purohit. “This means that these settlements came up near the river, as was the norm in those times and gives further proof that the river Sarasvati indeed existed,” he says.

Incidentally, the debate about the existence of the Sarasvati has been continuing for a long time although lately, most historians have begun to concede that the river perhaps did exist. However, they still continue to debate the name by which the river was known, the route that it took and the reasons for its disappearance. “There is no doubt that the Sarasvati river existed. However, opinion is divided on whether it was known as the Sarasvati or the Ghaggar,” says S. Kalyanraman of the Sarasvati Research and Education Trust (SRET).

The idea that the ancient Sarasvati might be the modern-day seasonal river, Ghaggar, is not new. It was first put forward over 100 years ago by C.F. Oldham, an English engineer who observed that the dry bed of the Ghaggar appeared too broad for a seasonal river. He believed that the Ghaggar was, in fact, flowing on the bed of a bigger river that existed before. Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley sites have also revealed numerous settlements along the Ghaggar, lending further credence to this theory.

But then, how did this river disappear? “Primarily due to tectonic shifts,” says K.S. Valdiya of the Bangalore-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

“Tectonic uplifts caused the deflection of the waters of the Yamuna and Sutlej, which contributed the bulk of the expanse of the river. In a way, it was a case of ‘river piracy’,” says Valdiya, who recently delivered the keynote address at a conference on the Sarasvati that was organised by SRET.

Whatever the reason for its disappearance, this river sutra is far from over. And when this ancient river does start to flow again, everyone will be watching. After all, it is not every day that a river is reborn. – The Times of India, 28 December 2008

History textbooks should reflect reality, not ideology – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh SinhaLeftist historians profess that history should be secular and its content should help inculcate scientific and rational temperament among students. But that does not mean history should be used as a tool to glorify the false, exaggerate selective details and be written with an objective to help them gain dominance in the contemporary ideological-political debate. They are so obsessed with the economic interpretation of history that they metamorphose the episodes. For instance, after the Khilafat fiasco in 1921, riots broke out in Moplah in Kerala. Reports of rapes, looting, burning of houses and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam shocked the world. … It is bizarre that the Marxists legitimised these perpetrators of rape and conversions as ‘rebels of economic oppression’.” – Prof  Rakesh Sinha

Prof Yellapragada Sudershan RaoWith the ascendency of BJP to power, yet again a debate on the proposed changes in the syllabus of history textbooks has kicked off. A similar debate was also witnessed during the Vajpayee regime. But there is a difference between the two. In the debate that took place during the Vajpayee-led NDA rule, the Left forces were against the idea of change in curriculum, but in 2014, their primary focus seems to target individuals predisposed to head academic institutions. Unfair criticism of Prof Y. Sudershan Rao’s appointment as the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is one such example. This clearly shows that the Leftist historians are no more in a position to carry on with their philosophy of ‘writing history’.

The debate also has a unique feature. While the Marxist-Nehruvian stream has many big faculty names with it, the nationalist stream has facts and reality on its side. In the debate during the Vajpayee premiership, ‘eminent’ historians of the Marxist clan used their names to appeal to the popular mind and tried to make the forces of alternative history defensive. They are masters in the art of using the ‘power of propaganda’, which they have learnt from the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, in changing the minds of common man. They left no stone unturned to prove that corrections in history lessons were nothing but ‘saffronisation’ and they use this term synonym to ‘communalism’. But they fail to contest issues raised by the nationalist historians. There are umpteen such examples, but Antonio Gramscipresenting only one instance will be enough to prove the fallacy of their argument. The NCERT textbook taught children that the ninth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Tegh Bahadur, who we all know made unparalleled sacrifices for the freedom of religion, was linked to ‘plunder and rapine’.

Leftist historians profess that history should be secular and its content should help inculcate scientific and rational temperament among students. But that does not mean history should be used as a tool to glorify the false, exaggerate selective details and be written with an objective to help them gain dominance in the contemporary ideological-political debate. They are so obsessed with the economic interpretation of history that they metamorphose the episodes. For instance, after the Khilafat fiasco in 1921, riots broke out in Moplah in Kerala. Reports of rapes, looting, burning of houses and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam shocked the world. British historian L.F. Rushbrook Williams wrote: “The main brunt of Moplah ferocity was borne not by the government but the luckless Hindus, who constituted majority of the population… Massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, pillage, arson, destruction—in short all the accompaniments of brutal and Ali Musliyarunrestrained barbarism—was perpetrated freely.” Reporting the event, the Times of India stated: “Not a single Moplah had been looted by these bands and it is very doubtful whether any Hindu house has been left unmolested…” It is bizarre that the Marxists legitimised these perpetrators of rape and conversions as ‘rebels of economic oppression’.

Their selective amnesia is more than obvious. They omitted important historical facts. For instance, it was Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s insistence that Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) continued. Times of India reported on December 17, 1947, that he appointed Liaquat Ali Khan as the president of Pakistan Muslim League and Mohammad Ismail of Madras as the first president of IUML in a conference held in Karachi. Moreover, their ideological predisposition can be seen while discussing the role of Indian Communists during freedom movement. Their allegation against RSS historians is akin to pot calling the kettle black. They fail to digest that history textbooks should reflect realities, not ideologies. – The New Indian Express, 10 August 2014

» Prof Rakesh Sinha  is the Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation. He is an eminent political scientist. Contact him at rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

About the St Thomas reference in Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Shashi Tharoor

St Thomas by Georges de la Tour  (1593 – 1652)This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend. – Poulasta Chakraborthy

Page 280 of former minister and current Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor’s book Pax Indica contains an interesting assertion.

Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St. Thomas the Apostle (‘Doubting Thomas’), who came to the Malabar Coast sometime before 52 CE and was welcomed on shore, or so oral legend has it, by a flute playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christians well before any Europeans discovered Christianity.

Although Tharoor identifies the incident of St. Thomas being welcomed to Malabar by a flute-playing Jewish girl as part of folklore, he states that the arrival of St. Thomas to the Malabar Coast as a historical fact.

The good news is that he’s not the first one to state that myth as a historical truth. The biggest of political leaders in India have obediently accepted this historical myth. In one of his works, the nation’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote:

Few people realise that Christianity came to India as early as the first century after Christ, long before Europe turned to it, and established a firm hold in South India….

This statement was repeated in a different way by Dr. Rajendra Prasad in his St. Thomas Day speech at New Delhi, in 1955:

Remember St. Thomas came to India when many countries in Europe had not yet become Christian and so these Indians who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of the European countries. And it is a matter of pride for us that it happened….

This famous legend as well as the assertion that Christianity came to India before it went to Europe is a tactic to make it a sort of indigenous religion, even if it came from the Middle East. The statements made by our great leaders are based on the following incidents:

St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ (itself a disputed fact), came to India in 52 CE. He landed at Maliankara (Cranganore) in Kerala, preached the Gospel, produced miracles, and got many converts.

Then he went to Mailepuram (Mylapore), and from there to China, but after some time returned to Maliankara, and from there came again to Mylapore where he spent the rest of his life preaching, converting a large number of the low-caste Hindus.

The aforesaid points make St. Thomas appear as socio-religious reformer who aimed to ameliorate the woes of local residents—specifically those suppressed under the caste system. As every tale of reformers goes St. Thomas was also disliked by the orthodox elements (which in the Indian context are the Brahmins) of the land that were determined to finish him. This risky situation made Thomas take refuge in a cave at a mountain located near the present St. Thomas Mount. Unfortunately the great Saint was murdered by one of those zealous Brahmins at St. Thomas Mount. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried in 73 CE.

This sounds like a good story. And that’s what it is: a good story. All those statements on Thomas made by Tharoor, Nehru and Prasad are not based on any solid historical evidence. They are just repetitions of a well established legend.

Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict

Now let’s see what some historical, and even Christian religious texts have to say about this tale:

  1. D. Burnell, in an article in the Indian Antiquary of May 1875, writes, “The attribution of the origin of South Indian Christianity to the apostle Thomas seems very attractive to those who hold certain theological opinion. But the real question is, on what evidence does it rest? Without real or sufficient evidence so improbable a circumstance is to be at once rejected. Pious fictions have no place in historical research.”
  2. Prof. Jarl Charpentier, in St. Thomas the Apostle and India, writes, “There is absolutely not the shadow of a proof that an Apostle of our Lord be his name Thomas or something else — ever visited South India or Ceylon and founded Christian communities there.”
  3. Rev. J. Hough, in Christianity in India, writes, “It is not probable that any of the Apostles of our Lord embarked on a voyage … to India.”
  4. Cosmas the Alexandrian, a theologian, geographer and merchant who traded with Ethiopia and Ceylon, visited Malabar in 520-525 CE and provided the first acceptable evidence of Christian communities there as noted in his Christian Topography. There is no mention of any Thomas in his works.
  5. Regarding the fabled Apostle of Jesus, Thomas, early Church Fathers like Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Eusebius had stated outright that Apostle Thomas settled in ‘Parthia’, and established a church in Fars (Persia). This is supported by the 4th century priest Rufinus of Aquileia, who translated Greek theological texts into Latin, and the 5th century Byzantine church historian, Socrates of Constantinople, who wrote an Ecclesiastical History, the second edition of which survives and is a valuable source of early church history. None of those sources speak of St. Thomas visiting India.
  6. Bishop Stephen Neill who had spent many years in South India examined the St. Thomas story as late as 1984. “A number of scholars,” wrote Neill, “among whom are to be mentioned with respect Bishop A.E. Medlycott, J.N. Farquhar and Jesuit Dahlman, have built on slender foundations what can only be called Thomas romances, such as reflect vividness of their imagination rather than the prudence of historical critics…. Millions of Christians in India are certain that the founder of their church was none other than the apostle Thomas himself. The historian cannot prove it to them that they are mistaken in their belief. He may feel it right to warn them that historical research cannot pronounce on the matter with a confidence equal to that which they entertain by faith.”

And to top them all, in September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI himself declared that Thomas never came to India. But his declaration was toned down after a complaint from the so-called St. Thomas Christians who still believe Thomas came to India and converted their ancestors. Now the question: where did it all begin?

Bardaisan / BardesanesThe chief source of this tale is a Gnostic Syrian fable, Acts of Thomas, written by a poet named Bardesanes at Edessa around 201 CE. The text says the apostle went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people are ‘Mazdei’ (a term used for Zoroastrians) and have Persian names. The term “India” in Acts is used as a synonym for Asia.

The Acts identifies St Thomas as Judas, the look-alike twin of Jesus, who sells him into slavery. The slave travels to Andropolis where he makes newly-weds chaste, cheats a king, fights with Satan over a beautiful boy, persuades a talking donkey to confess the name of Jesus, and is finally executed by a Zoroastrian king for crimes against women. His body is buried on a royal mountain and later taken to Edessa, where a popular cult rises around his tomb. Even in this story, it is clear that St. Thomas never visited India.

Thomas of CanaThere is another popular fable among Indian Christians about one Thomas of Cana, a merchant who led a group of 400 Christians from Babylon and Nineveh, out of Persia in the 4th century CE, when Christianization of the Roman Empire motivated the Persians to persecute their Syriac-speaking Christian minority. These Christians apparently landed in Malabar around 345 CE.

Based on this tale, a section of St. Thomas Christians believe Thomas of Cana to be known as St. Thomas.

And so it is clear that nothing much is known about St. Thomas beyond these stories which have been refuted by historical evidence.

Even after reading the refutation of this tale of St. Thomas by strong historical evidence, the likes of Tharoor will claim that these ‘fables’ are historical facts, in no less than a full length book of the genre Pax Indica belongs to. The reason is not far to seek: Tharoor’s parroting of the St. Thomas myth arises from the Indian secularist template for keeping the secular fabric of India intact.

Sita Ram GoelBut there are deeper, more fundamental reasons why the St. Thomas myth must be debated and re-debated.

The reason is given in detail by Sita Ram Goel in his Papacy: Its Doctrine and History.

Firstly, it is one thing for some Christian refugees to come to a country and build some churches, and quite another for an apostle of Jesus Christ to appear in flesh and blood for spreading the Good News. If it can be established that Christianity is as ancient in India as the prevailing forms of Hinduism, no one can nail it down as an imported creed brought in by Western imperialism.

Secondly, the Catholic Church in India stands badly in need of a spectacular martyr of its own. Unfortunately for it, St. Francis Xavier died a natural death and that, too, in a distant place. Hindus, too, have persistently refused to oblige the Church in this respect, in spite of all provocations. The Church has to use its own resources and churn out something. St. Thomas, about whom nobody knows anything, offers a ready-made martyr.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church can malign the Brahmins more confidently. Brahmins have been the main target of its attack from the beginning. Now it can be shown that the Brahmins have always been a vicious brood, so much so that they would not stop from murdering a holy man who was only telling God’s own truth to a tormented people. At the same time, the religion of the Brahmins can be held responsible for their depravity.

Fourthly, the Catholics in India need no more feel uncomfortable when faced with historical evidence about their Church’s close cooperation with the Portuguese pirates, in committing abominable crimes against the Indian people. The commencement of the Church can be disentangled from the advent of the Portuguese by dating the Church to some distant past. The Church was here long before the Portuguese arrived. It was a mere coincidence that the Portuguese also called themselves Catholics. Guilt by association is groundless.

To reword a phrase used by the famed novelist S.L. Bhyrappa ‘Secularism can never be strengthened by projecting historical lies.’ Hence it is imperative for students of history as well as those claiming to be historians to challenge these distortions in our public discourse. – India Facts, 1 August 2014

References

  1. Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of St. Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple
  2. Sandhya Jain, Merchant Thomas to Saint Thomas
  3. Tejasvi Surya, The Mylapore St. Thomas Myth that just doesn’t seem to die: Part 1 [and 2]
  4. Ishwar Sharan, Wikipedia & Encyclopaedia: Their counterfeit St. Thomas entries exposed

Bharat by Batra & Co. – Anil Dharker

History Lessons In Gujarati Schools

Anil Dharker“Mr Batra is not the first man to claim that planes were invented in ancient India because our epics refer to them. That’s because people like Mr Batra do not have the imagination to credit our ancient writers with imagination: if a writer described flight hundreds of years ago, it was not because he had witnessed a plane taking off, but because he imagined people in flight. Writers of science fiction take their characters through time and space, not because they have seen this happening, but because they have let their imagination soar. Only the literalists are capable of believing that what is written is proof of having been witnessed.” – Anil Dharker

Dina Nath BatraIf you care about India’s children, prepare to shed a tear now. If you care about Gujarat’s children, prepare to cry buckets now. Because Dinanath Batra, ace scholar, perfervid activist, slayer of Donigers, is a revered figure in the schools of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s motherland.

Mr Batra’s office-cum-residence, however, is not in Gujarat but in Delhi. It is located in Saraswati Bal Mandir, a school affiliated to Bharatiya Vidyapeeth. The lift plays music, but it’s not the usual muzzak or distortions of Mozart, but the Gayatri Mantra. His own room is dominated by portraits of Maharana Pratap, Swami Vivekananda, Chanakya — who are the real heroes of India he says, yet haven’t got their due. He sees it as his mission to correct this. Actually, it’s only part of his mission. He wants to completely overhaul our system of education, which is “distorted by Marx and Macaulay.” This is almost a Modism. (A real Modism would be “mauled by Marx and Macaulay”.) The proposed overhaul of the curriculum embraces every possible subject.

If you remember your days at school, almost the first thing you did in geography class was to learn to draw a map of India. Dinanath Batra’s students would have to relearn the basics, because Mr Batra’s India would not be the truncated version we live in now, but the glorious Bharat of old, the Akhand Bharat of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and unless I am mistaken, even Burma.

Mr Batra’s erudition covers every possible subject:

  • Aeronautics: “Pushpak Viman, a flying chariot used by Lord Rama, was the first aeroplane in the world”.
  • Mathematics: “Vedic maths is the real mathematics and must be taught in schools”.
  • Medicine: “When the royal couple couldn’t produce an heir, they were asked to do gai puja, and their cow devotion helped them beget a son”.

All this stems from his belief that “we must reject English education and revert to our ancient languages.” We should reject Western education because it has not given our ancient wisdom its due. “Our rishis were scientists,” Mr Batra says, “Whose inventions in the fields of technology, medicine, science have been appropriated by the West.” So he doesn’t want children to celebrate birthdays by blowing candles on cakes, an imported idea, but by wearing swadeshi, taking part in a havan, reciting the Gayatri Mantra and feeding cows. The Books of Batra have many such pearls of wisdom. There are nine books, all made supplementary reading for schools in Gujarat, and to encourage the reading of which free copies are being distributed to 35,000 government schools. Mr Batra has his ideas on creating an ideal society, too: “Keeping a good friend circle is not enough. To keep it faultless, a good company is also required. This means a company of saints and learned people. The student that goes to a RSS shakha daily, he finds miraculous change in his life.”

Mr Batra is not the first man to claim that planes were invented in ancient India because our epics refer to them. That’s because people like Mr Batra do not have the imagination to credit our ancient writers with imagination: if a writer described flight hundreds of years ago, it was not because he had witnessed a plane taking off, but because he imagined people in flight. Writers of science fiction take their characters through time and space, not because they have seen this happening, but because they have let their imagination soar. Only the literalists are capable of believing that what is written is proof of having been witnessed.

Batra's BooksTejomay BharatSadly for the student going to Gujarat government schools, Mr Batra is not alone in his looniness. A 125-page book called Tejomay Bharat, not written by him has also been mandated along with Mr Batra’s, as supplementary reading for all government primary and secondary schools. Here are some passages from it: “What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horse, but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra rath, what is today motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this…”

“We know that television was invented by a priest from Scotland called John Logie Baird in 1926. But we want to take you to an even older Doordarshan…. Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti. There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this…. In Mahabharata, Sanjay sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his ‘divya shakti’ would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata … to the blind Dhritarashtra”

“America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…. You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like Sun itself. When Gandhari, who was not conceiving for two years, learnt of this, she underwent hysterectomy. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this he (Matapurkar) realised that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago.”

This book’s content adviser is Harshad Shah, vice-chancellor of Children’s University in Gandhinagar and former Gujarat chairman of Vidya Bharati. By the way, Tejomay Bharat objects to our country being called India. It says, “We should not demean ourselves by calling our beloved Bharatbhoomi by the shudra (lowly) name ‘India’. What right had the British to change the name of this country? … We should not fall for this conspiracy and forget the soul of our country.”

Mr Shah at least is from Gujarat. How does Mr Batra from Delhi exert such a strong influence on that state’s education system? And what are Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s views on this?

Narendra Modi as Gujarat's Chief MinisterCould they be any different from the views expressed in the following two passages?

“It is congratulatory that Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks is publishing writer Dinanath Batraji’s literature. It is hoped that this inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers…. Seeds of values which are sown in the childhood emerge with time like a large banyan tree of idealism. Then it becomes possible to build a citizenship based on character and intelligence”

We should be surprised if the Prime Minister’s views are too different. After all, the two passages above are from the forewords of two books by Mr Batra. The forewords are by Mr Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. – The Asian Age, 30 July 2014

» Anil Dharker serves as head of the National Film Development Corporation and as a film critic and novelist. He is a columnist for many of India’s leading newspapers such as The Times of India, The Economic Times, Mid-day, The Hindu and DNA. At various stages in his life, he has been an engineer, a film critic, a film censor and a promoter of New Cinema. 

VIDEO: Himalayan Academy’s History of Hindu India is a valuable resource – Murali Balaji

Murali Balaji“Himalayan Academy, which publishes the acclaimed Hinduism Today magazine, produced the video and the textbook in “response to the problem of negative portrayal of Hinduism and India in school textbooks,” and their approach relied on academic expertise and vetting. The primary author was Shiva Bajpai, professor emeritus of history at California State University-Northridge, while noted religion scholars such as Anantanand Rambachan, Jefferey Long, T.S. Rukmani, and Klaus Klostermaier were consulted for accuracy.” – Murali Balaji

The History of Hindu IndiaTeaching history continues to be one of the biggest challenges in school districts across America, as schools must often grapple with outdated standards and old and inaccurate textbooks. In addition, teachers can sometimes struggle transitioning to the most current pedagogical approaches.

History can also be highly politicized, as we continue to see in states such as Texas, where small but vocal groups envisage instructional materials and curriculum shaped solely by their own worldviews. Teachers I’ve trained complain that they’re often caught in the middle between angry parents and school district or even state-level mandates. Moreover, there aren’t many vetted multimedia resources that can engage students across grade levels.

Teaching about Hinduism and ancient Indian history is especially problematic because Hinduism and India aren’t one and the same. However, the Himalayan Academy’s nuanced approach in their newly released “History of Hindu India” video provides a great template of explaining the overlaps by highlighting the development of Hindu culture in what is now India over thousands of years. The video, narrated by Roger (Raj) Narayan, supplements Himalayan Academy’s textbook of the same name.

Himalayan Academy, which publishes the acclaimed Hinduism Today magazine, produced the video and the textbook in “response to the problem of negative portrayal of Hinduism and India in school textbooks,” and their approach relied on academic expertise and vetting. The primary author was Shiva Bajpai, professor emeritus of history at California State University-Northridge, while noted The History of Hindu Indiareligion scholars such as Anantanand Rambachan, Jeffrey Long, T.S. Rukmani, and Klaus Klostermaier were consulted for accuracy.

The video provides a compelling look at underrepresented aspects of India’s history, as well as the development of Hinduism from both a cultural and philosophical standpoint. Developed primarily for sixth graders, the video can be used at almost all grade levels through high school. While its tone is positive, the content isn’t preachy and aligns to meet state and local standards on teaching about religion.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the video is that it can also be used by parents (Hindu and non-Hindu alike) for cultural education. It has already been released in Tamil, with plans to release in several more languages in the near future. The video’s distribution can be an important tool to help expand understandings about Hinduism in classrooms across the country. – Huff Post, 21 July 2014

» Prof Murali Balaji, Ph.D, is Director of Education and Curriculum Reform at the Hindu American Foundation. A Fulbright Specialist and former journalist, he had previously taught at Temple University, Lincoln University and Penn State University. A longtime advocate of minority issues, Balaji is the author of several books and is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Thinking Dead (2013).

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