How to teach Indian history, and how not to – N. S. Rajaram

Kamlesh Kapur

Dr. N. S. RajaramIt is now a time-worn cliché that the teaching of Indian history has been distorted. The real question is how to correct it. A committed teacher has taken an important step by showing how to go about doing it. – Dr N. S. Rajaram

Speaking before the Kerala History Association, Kochi on 18 Dec. 2005, Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, then President and among the most respected intellectuals in India observed: “The best historians present us with descriptions and analyses of the past that make unfamiliar times and places somehow comprehensible. In seeking to penetrate the veil of the past, we end up by studying how other individuals and societies dealt with the practical and existential problems at least related to our own.” 

After this sage observation, Dr. Kalam came specifically to Indian history and noted: “My observation is that in India many have written history of India [coming] both from the Indian historians recently and by those who had conquered us. So far, even 58 years after Independence, the dogmas, rituals, systems and norms of the historical past, imposed by the last millennium of invasion and conquest, still continue to condition our minds.” Most tellingly he emphasized: 

“We tend more to conform to the past [as described by our invaders and occupiers], rather than think in true freedom and create a future, free from the pain of the past. Now time has come, in the 21st century, we need new breed of historians who can make the past meet the present and create the future….”   

More than a century before Dr. Kalam, Swami Vivekananda told a group of youngsters (1891): “Study Sanskrit, but along with it study Western sciences as well. Learn accuracy, my boys, study and labor so that the time will come when you can put our history on a scientific basis. … The histories of our country written by English writers cannot but be weakening to our minds, for they talk only of our downfall. How can foreigners, who understand very little of our manners and customs, or our religion and philosophy, write faithful and unbiased histories of India?”   

He then went on to observe: “Naturally many false notions and wrong inferences have found their way into them. Nevertheless they have shown us how to proceed making researches into our ancient history. Now it is for us to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves, to study the Vedas and Puranas and the ancient annals (Itihasas) of India, and from them make it your sadhana (disciplined endeavor) to write accurate, sympathetic and soul-inspiring history of India. It is for Indians to write Indian history.” 

Without resorting to polemics, Vivekananda exhorted his youthful audience to “…never cease to labor until you have revived the glorious past of India in the consciousness of the people. That will be the true national education, and with its advancement, a true national spirit will be awakened.” What he left unsaid was that such an approach would need them to develop new tools of historical research leading to new methodologies 

Historical method 

One scholar who appears to have taken this message to heart is Smt Kamlesh Kapur, an educator of great experience both in India and the US. She has put her knowledge, experience and the spirit invoked by Dr. Kalam and Swami Vivekananda into practice in producing the book Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India. In addition to giving the facts of history as can best be reconstructed the author provides details of methodology used and historiography.  

A book along these lines should have been, and could have been, written fifty years ago, but was not. The reasons are several, but two need to be highlighted because they have persisted. First, there was the Nehruvian feudal establishment; and pandering to his tastes and prejudices became the route to recognition and career success. This meant that the views advanced in Jawaharlal Nehru’s amateurish and entirely Eurocentric Discovery of India became entrenched in history books as the “authorized” view. To go with this, a whole generation of historians beginning with Romila Thapar and R. S. Sharma were trained by a single British professor, A. L. Basham of the School of Oriental Studies in London. Basham was more a religious scholar than a historian or archaeologist, but his legacy has persisted. 

It is unhealthy for any institution to be so in-bred in its research and faculty, with everyone trained to think the same way. A prime example is the Center for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Until recently it was dominated by the Marxist historian—and Basham student—Romila Thapar and a clique around her. A singular feature of ‘scholars’ belonging to this clique is their ignorance of Indian languages, especially Sanskrit. This is true of Thapar also though it has not stopped her from writing extensively about Vedic India! As a result they are totally dependent on English translations made by colonial scholars. This has resulted in what Sri Aurobindo called their “lack of sturdy independence” and “excessive deference to European authority.” 

What this clique has produced is copycat scholarship, with status tied to how closely they follow their erstwhile European masters. This makes them oppose any revisions to Eurocentric models like the Aryan invasion theory and the Aryan-Dravidian myth. In fact, the strongest defenders today of these discredited notions are not Europeans anymore but their Indian followers. Harappans as Dravidians and victims of the Aryan invasion is propagated not by European scholars but Dravidian politicians like Karunanidhi. (One exception is Asko Parpola who was paid a generous reward by Karunanidhi for endorsing the DMK ideology built on the scientifically discredited Aryan-Dravidian divide.) 

This sheds light on another aspect of the post-Independence history establishment, especially of the JNU-AMU (Aligarh Muslim University) school, known more for political activism than any contributions to scholarship. Underlying their political posturing is the denial of everything good about India. Vedas and Sanskrit were brought by invading Aryans; Indian astronomy is of Greek origin; Muslim invaders including Babar never destroyed any Hindu temples—you get the drift. 

Much of this can be explained by the fact that this arrogance and posturing is a façade to cover up their deficiency in scholarship and inferiority complex. Being ignorant of both science and primary sources (in Sanskrit), they feel their best defense lies in denial and attack. This came to the fore when this writer and the late Natwar Jha in 2000 proposed a solution to the Harappan script puzzle by linking its language to Vedic Sanskrit and presenting readings of a large number of inscriptions. 

This of course demolishes the Aryan-Dravidian myth. The reaction of JNU-AMU clique was not any attempt at refutation, but a personal attack in the Communist magazine Frontline. Even here, Romila Thapar, lacking the self-confidence to deal with our work (based on Vedic Sanskrit), went to Hindu-baiter Michael Witzel of Harvard to mount the attack. (The recent attack on Subramanian Swamy and Rajiv Malhotra by Witzel and his colleague Diana Eck is not without precedent.) 

In pursuit of their goals, this clique has not hesitated to deny and even falsify evidence. A prime example that had tragic consequences was its denial and falsification of evidence for the existence of a prior temple and its destruction beneath the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This was noted by the judge who severely criticized these scholars for their role. In its judgment on the long-standing Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, the Allahabad High Court flayed the role played by several witnesses including Thapar’s protégé Shireen Ratnagar.  She was forced to admit under oath that she had no field experience in archaeological excavations in India. 

Still their hostility bordering on hatred towards their ancestral land and culture is hard to comprehend. They owe everything to India; unlike Indian scientists and professionals, they would be nonentities in the West. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best when Julius Caesar was murdered by his erstwhile followers: “What private griefs these men have, alas, I know not.” 

Be that as it may, Kamlesh Kapur in Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India suffers from no such deficiencies or ignorance of primary sources and science. She displays a refreshingly original approach to the sources. She observes that the Vedas, the Rig Veda in particular has been the most faithfully preserved text of the ancient world and hence has suffered least in terms of interpolations. We must treat the Vedic records—names, dynasties, astronomical statements, etc—as the most reliable and accord them the highest priority. 

This is a valuable insight: it means that statements that seemingly violate our beliefs—like Aryans as nomadic invaders—cannot be dismissed. If the Rig Veda describes a maritime society of rivers, oceans and ships as David Frawley pointed out more than 20 years ago, we cannot ignore it and insist that it was nomadic-pastoral. Also to be admired is the author’s bold multidisciplinary approach by looking at natural history, genetics, and archaeo-astronomy in addition to the usual sources like archaeology and literary records. In fact, some of this material appears for the first time in a textbook (as opposed to articles and research monographs by Oppenheimer, Cavalli-Sforza and this writer). 

In the process, the author succeeds in building a sound foundation in historiography not only for her book but for all future students of Indian history. A particular strength of the book is that its author is no ivory tower academic writing to impress peers, but an educationist who has worked with students and teachers for many years. She has seen the problems at ground level, and has produced a book that is at once up to date and pedagogically sound. 

To appreciate the value of Kamlesh Kapur’s work it helps to have some idea of the magnitude of the distortion, nay perversions, inflicted on generations of innocent young minds by self-serving academics in the name of history. It is a vast subject, but here is a brief summary. It is a case study in how not to teach history, or any subject for that matter. 

Historians or ‘distortians’ 

While most educated Indians now have at least an idea that their history has been distorted, few know the lengths to which “scholars”—European and Indian—have gone to preserve and perpetuate the Aryan myth. Given the Aryans’ importance to their worldview, it is extraordinary that after two hundred years of voluminous outpourings, these scholars are still unable to identify them. Originally they were claimed to be a race related to Europeans but science has discredited it. 

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, scholars avoid overtly racial arguments but the basic idea of an invasion by Europeans bringing civilization to India is retained even if they acknowledge that ancient Indian records know nothing of any such invasion. All we have are repeated assertions of their central dogma. As expressed by the late Murray Emeneau, a leading linguist: 

“At some time in the second millennium B.C., probably comparatively early in the millennium, a band or bands of speakers of an Indo-European language, later to be called Sanskrit, entered India over the northwest passes. This is our linguistic doctrine which has been held now for more than a century and a half. There seems to be no reason to distrust the arguments for it, in spite of the traditional Hindu ignorance of any such invasion.” 

This is typical of the field, with arguments closer to theology than to science. In short Emeneau and his ilk are telling us: “Evidence be damned, we know Aryans invaded India and brought the Vedas.” Aryans are needed because there can be no Aryan invasion without the Aryans. It is a case of the tail wagging the dog, but theology cannot exist without such “logic”. Scientists, however, had long ago dismissed the idea of the Aryan race. As far back as 1939, Sir Julian Huxley, one of the great biologists of the twentieth century had observed: 

“In England and America the phrase ‘Aryan race’ has quite ceased to be used by writers with scientific knowledge, though it appears occasionally in political and propagandist literature…. In Germany, the idea of the “Aryan race” received no more scientific support than in England. Nevertheless, it found able and very persistent literary advocates who made it appear very flattering to local vanity. It therefore steadily spread, fostered by special conditions.” 

These “special conditions” were the rise of Nazism in Germany and British imperial interests in India. Its perversion in Germany leading eventually to the Nazi horrors is well known. The fact that the British turned it into a political tool to make their rule acceptable to Indians is not generally known. A recent BBC report acknowledged as much (October 6, 2005): 

“It [Aryan invasion theory] gave a historical precedent to justify the role and status of the British Raj, who could argue that they were transforming India for the better in the same way that the Aryans had done thousands of years earlier.” 

That is to say, the British presented themselves as “new and improved Aryans” that were in India only to complete the work left undone by their ancestors in the hoary past. This is how the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin put it in the House of Commons in 1929:

 “Now, after ages, … the two branches of the great Aryan ancestry [Indians and the British] have again been brought together by Providence…. By establishing British rule in India, God said to the British, “I have brought you and the Indians together after a long separation. … It is your duty to raise them to their own level as quickly as possible …brothers as you are….” 

Preposterous as it sounds today, it was a ploy to create an Indian elite loyal to the British rulers by flattering them as long-lost brothers, now being uplifted from their degraded state. The ploy was so successful that English educated Indians continue to cling to this fiction long after the British themselves admitted to the fraud. While the British can live without their creation, their followers in the Indian history establishment cannot do without it. Their identity no less than their politics is bound up with it. 

All this is a matter of record. Our historians don’t have to learn Sanskrit or study the Vedas to understand it. Yet they are curiously reluctant to expose such passages that bring their whole history into discredit. They loudly denounce the Nazi misuse of Aryan myth, but carefully avoid mentioning its British version. Worse, they continue to perpetuate it by resorting to various subterfuges. 

Thomas Trautman (Aryans and British India) makes no mention of these even while acknowledging the British effort to create an Indian identity through a concocted Aryan kinship. In India: Brief history of a civilization (2011), he falls back on the Aryan migration—or invasion—with Sanskrit as a foreign import. He resorts to spurious arguments like the ‘rare’ depiction of the Aryan horse in Harappan archaeology to preserve the Vedic-Aryan, Dravidian-Harappa divide. (Why? Did those horses speak Sanskrit?) 

When I presented some of this material at a workshop in the U.K., a member of the audience, not a historian, joked that these people who engaged in distortion on such a monumental scale should be called “distortians” rather than historians. Historians in the audience did not find it funny. 

In the U.S., these “distortian” scholars are in a state of near panic and running to wealthy Indians for money with cries of “Sanskrit in danger if you don’t fund us.” Our response should be: “Sanskrit thrived for thousands of years long before any of you Indologists appeared on the planet. Vyasa, Valmiki, Bhasa, Kalidasa nor any of the great figures in the Sanskrit pantheon needed to go to you distortians or your blighted departments.”  – Vijayvaani, 18 February 2017

» Dr N. S. Rajaram is a mathematician who publishes on topics related to ancient Indian history and Indian archaeology, alleging a Eurocentric bias in Indology and Sanskrit scholarship, and arguing for the Indigenous Aryans theory instead. He publishes with Voice of India, New Delhi.

Portraits of a Nation: History of Ancient India by Kamlesh Kapur

Even the greatest specialists have failed to prove the Aryan Invasion Theory – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst

Shoaib DaniyalThe Belgian Indologist Dr Koenraad Elst responds for a second time to the Scroll.in article “Video: An animated map shows how Sanskrit may have come to India” by Shoaib Daniyal published in 2015, which challenged the theory that the Aryans are indigenous to India. Dr Elst’s first response to Daniyal’s article is here.

Theory of origin

While I do not much mind an ignorant pen-pusher pontificating about the Aryan invasion debate, some concomitant modesty would at least be in order. Ridiculing any scepticism about the 19th-century Aryan Invasion Theory merely shows that the writer is quite unaware of the state of the art.

So he equates the rivalling Out-of-India Theory with Flat Earth and Creationism. But it is very easy to find material evidence against both the latter, such as the fossil record. By contrast, your contributor is quite unable to muster any evidence against the Out of India Theory. Even Harvard professor and Aryan Invasion Theory champion Michael Witzel admits that no material evidence of Aryans moving into India has been found “yet”, that is after two centuries of being the official hypothesis sucking up all the sponsoring. So, your correspondent thinks himself superior, successful where the greatest specialists have failed?

Cultural continuity

A year ago I was participating in a Delhi conference on the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilisation. While there, I received an e-mail from one of the world’s foremost specialists on the linguistic aspect of Indo-European origins, H. H. Hock, all the way from the US. Predictably, he upheld the now-dominant invasion scenario and added that no one takes the Out-of-India Theory seriously today (though it was the dominant assumption from 1786 till ca. 1820).

Among linguists, this is approximately true: Nicolas Kazanas, Shrikant Talageri and myself have been in splendid isolation in those circles. But then, linguists who can competently argue in favour of the Aryan Invasion Theory are hardly more numerous. As I have verified at several specialist conferences, most concerned linguists do not work on the problem of the origins, which has an aura of obsoleteness, and blindly follow the dominant theory because it happens to be what their textbooks contained. Which is what non-linguists like the cited team from Auckland also do.

However, while I read this e-mail, I was surrounded by the creamy layer of Indian archaeology. Each professor read his paper presenting the findings at a particular Harappan site where he was digging, and each of them reported a complete cultural continuity, no trace of an invasion.

Sitting next to me was the dean of Indian archaeology, the nonagenarian professor B. B. Lal. When he was young, he made his name by “proving” that the archaeologically attested Painted Grey Ware indicated the Aryans on their way into India. That “proof” is cited till today in favour of the Aryan Invasion Theory, at least in India. But in reality, Lal himself has renounced that hypothesis decades ago, realising that his posited link with Aryan invaders was itself based on a tacit acceptance of the omnipresent Aryan Invasion Theory. Today, he emphasises that there is no trace at all of any Aryan invasion.

You choose to poison the debate by insinuating a Hitler reference into it. Suit yourself, but again it proves your ignorance, for Hitler was a zealous follower of the Aryan Invasion Theory. If the Out-of-India Theory has been associated with Hindutva (wrongly, for V. D. Savarkar, who launched this political concept, was an Aryan Invasion Theory believer), its alleged political use is at any rate only a trifle compared to the Aryan Invasion Theory.

The Out-of-India Theory has been upheld mostly in one country for a few decades by a few scholars without any political power. By contrast, the Aryan Invasion Theory has been used politically for some 160 years by major state actors such as the British Empire and Nazi Germany, and in India by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Ambedkarites (though B. R. Ambedkar himself emphatically rejected it), the Dravidianists, the missionaries and of course, the secularists. If you don’t like the mixing of scholarship with politics, you should first of all lambast the Aryan Invasion Theory, not the Out-of-India Theory.

May Allah—or Whoever serves as God to you secularists—give you the wisdom to keep your mouth shut on topics you don’t know enough about.– Koenraad Elst

» Dr Koenraad Elst is a Belgian indologist and historian who publishes with Voice of India.

Human migration out of Africa to India and then to Europe.

Can Devdutt Pattanaik really save Hinduism from Western distortions? – David Frawley

Devdutt Pattanaik

Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)Devdutt Pattanaik is a popular interpreter of Hindu sacred stories, what are now, not always respectfully, called “myths”. In a recent article “From Macaulay to Frawley, from Doniger to Elst: Why do many Indians need White saviours”, he claims that “Indians do not really need Europeans and Americans to tell them what Hinduism, Sanskrit or Vedas were, are or should be.”

Attacking both Western critics and Western defenders of Hinduism

The title of the article appears appealing given the many Western distortions of Hinduism. Yet strangely, Pattanaik criticises both Western defenders of Hinduism as well as critics, lumping them both together as if they were two sides of the same bad coin, suggesting that neither understands the Hindu tradition.

Pattanaik would like us to think that he is honouring this tradition of great yogis that has suffered so much from colonial, missionary, Marxist and neo-modern misinterpretations. But in the majority of his own writings, he himself follows the current politically correct Western scholarship that denigrates Hinduism at a cultural level and downplays its deeper philosophical and yogic dimensions. His comments on Hindu gods and goddesses are often in terms of modern psychology and leftist politics, as if these deities were human beings with personal problems and social biases, not symbols of transcendent and cosmic powers.

Now Pattanaik is suddenly critical of the same controversial Western scholars like Wendy Doniger and Sheldon Pollock that he has previously defended. The mythological approach he uses is an approach they also use and is very different from India’s own dharmic school of thought. Is he questioning that mythological angle that he has so extensively promoted?

Looking deeper, Pattaniak’s article betrays a subterfuge. His critique of Western defenders of Hinduism appears more strident than his questioning of anti-Hindu views. Clearly Western scholars defending Hinduism are his main target, and by implication the defence of Hinduism itself.

India connections of Western interpretations of Hindu Dharma

Pattanaik makes a point that one has to be born a Hindu to be a real Hindu that is connected to “birth” and “geography”, no doubt to discredit any Western attempts to speak for Hinduism. This is historically easy to disprove given the numerous Hindu temples and kingdoms from Angkor Wat in Cambodia to Vietnam and the Philippines whose populace were not simply born Hindus in what is now India.

Yet the deeper question in all such discussions is the nature of the interpretations given, not the skin colour of the person advocating them. Most important is the methodology that such interpreters follow. Individual scholars are usually representatives of schools of thought that must be examined overall.

The denigrating approaches of such as Doniger and Pollack have prominent Indian supporters, notably Marxists like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib, whom Pattanaik does not mention. Similarly, the view of Hindu Dharma by Western Hindus has its roots in teachers from India. The books of Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup have framed much of the defence of modern Hinduism. Yet this trend goes back to Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Lokmanya Tilak and India’s Independence movement that challenged Eurocentric ideas of religion, culture and history.

Mahatma Gandhi’s criticism of Christian missionaries is also relevant here. It ultimately is based upon Vedic texts that address the nature of the mind and the meaning of human life in a very different manner than dominant Western schools of thought.

Pattanaik has tried to place Hinduism’s Western defenders on the “right”of the political perspective, with its critics on the “left”, forgetting that right and left in politics are Western views, not Indian and neither is dharmic. He reflects the statements of anti-Hindu writers who routinely label Hinduism as right-wing and regressive.

Pattanaik further describes Western defenders of Hindu Dharma as “authoritarian” and “Abrahamic” in approach, as if they were presenting a distortion of Hindu Dharma. This is also nothing new. The same charge is made by Luytens’ Delhi against any Hindu groups in India that have sought to proudly promote Hindu Dharma. Such verbal theatrics only shows that he remains ambivalent about presenting Hindu teachings in a respectful manner. He does not otherwise criticise Abrahamic traditions.

Problems with ancient history

Pattanaik seems to have a particular problem with the historical view of the Harappan or Indus Valley civilisation as Vedic, as supported by Western Hindus. Yet, this is also the view of the Archaeological Survey of India and its former director general Prof B. B. Lal. It is the view of the Geological Survey of India based upon Landsat Satellite photography and numerous ground water studies of the long dry Sarasvati River. It is the view of India’s great gurus today. To call it into question because it is also a view of white Hindus is neither accurate nor sincere. It suggests that Pattanaik does not like the idea of a history of India that gives prominence to Vedic and Hindu contributions.

Is sadhana necessary to truly understand Hindu Dharma?

Hindu teachings, as in the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads, have at their core a yogic pursuit of higher consciousness, including experiences beyond the human intellect and its limiting dualities. They hold that the physical world is but an outer aspect of a multi-dimensional universe of consciousness, with our inner self having many bodies and many births and ultimately extending beyond all time and space.

Pattanaik does not seem comfortable with such yogic spirituality, which Doniger and company routinely ignore or dismiss, though he throws a few Sanskrit terms around in order to sound traditional. He is particularly unhappy with my claim that Yoga sadhana should be part of any authentic interpretation of Hindu texts. Yet that is not merely my personal view, it is found in all the great traditions of India that emphasise meditation over mere book learning. If sadhana is not part of one’s study of Hinduism, one can only claim to have the view of an outsider.

Is Pattanaik changing his views?

Pattanaik’s article is a cover-up for his own errors and prejudices. It is an effort to surreptitiously disown his own past with Doniger and company, perhaps out of fear of being judged politically incorrect by these Western critics that he has often kowtowed before in the past. Attacking Western defenders of Hinduism along the way affords him the appearance of being a neutral observer, and makes it more difficult for him to lump with what Doniger and company castigate as the Hindu right that they usually decry as fascist as well.

Make certain, Pattanaik is no detached observer, but has a vested interest in the very negative interpretations of Hinduism that he now seems to question. He has so far shown little interest in any defence of Hinduism whether by Indians or Westerners, much less promoting its deeper Yoga and Vedantic teachings. While there is nothing wrong with changing one’s views, it is better to be honest about it and admit one’s mistakes. – Swarajya, 1 January 2017

Indraprashta vs. Dinpanah: Nothing communal about the name Indraprashta – Koenraad Elst

Indraprashta

Koenraad ElstIndraprastha was founded as the capital of the Pandavas’ small-time kingdom but the area was destined by fate to become the capital of the Delhi Sultanate, the Moghul Empire, Samrat Hemachandra’s short-lived empire, British India spanning the whole subcontinent, and now the Indian Republic. It is a source of pride, and worth celebrating, that here, the “righteous ruler” once chose to highlight the great universal ideas personified in Indra. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Indraprastha was the town founded by the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame as their capital. Here, the eldest among them, Yudhishthira, became the “ruler of righteousness” (dharma-râja). More than three thousand years later, on 22-23 November 2016, the Draupadi Dream Trust held the first Indraprastha Conference in the National Museum, Delhi. This was part of a larger initiative on Indraprastha, with an exhibition in the Purana Qila (Old Fort). This fort itself had been built over the ancient site of Indraprastha, now partly made visible by archaeological excavations.

Among secularists, there is predictably an attempt to sow doubt about this. In his 2015 book Where Stones Speak: Historical Trails in Mehrauli, the First City of Delhi, Rana Safvi argues that the finds under the Purana Qila have not been established to be the Pandavas’s city, which was but “mythological”. In particular, they are claimed not to contain the characteristic Painted Grey Ware, as per the 1954 excavations by India’s top archaeologist B. B. Lal. However, 62 years later, the nonagenarian Lal edited the brochure of the present exhibition and, taking into account several excavations since then (which Safvi feigns to ignore), he asserts that PGW was indeed found there, and that it was certainly the city of the Pandavas. Mehrauli was not the oldest part of Delhi, Indraprastha was.

(This repeats two earlier and similar attempts at secularist deception, involving the very same archaeologist. When Lal discovered the temple’s pillar-bases underneath the Babri Masjid, the secularists started nitpicking about his field-notes, when his final report was already in the public domain and affirmed the existence of the temple remains. And till today, defenders of the Aryan Invasion Theory keep on citing as proof of the invasion the identification by the young Lal of the PGW as showing the Aryan invaders on their way deeper into India, a view that he has long dismissed as immature. As ought to be well-known, Lal has for decades testified that there is no proof for this invasion whatsoever, and that Vedic India and the Harappan civilization were two sides of the same coin. In all the three cases, the secularists cite an early or even a non-existent position of Lal’s to trump his well-known mature position.)

Lord IndraLightning

A prastha is an open space, a clearing in the forest where you go and settle, a “colony”. Thus, a vanaprastha, an elderly person who withdraws from society, is “one who goes and settles in the forest” or “one who has the forest as his colony”.

The new town was dedicated to Indra. He was the god of the thunderstorm that puts an end to the oppressive summer heat and opens the rainy season. That is why among the 12 Vedic solar months or half-seasons, he rules the first month of the rainy season. As the Rg-Vedic seer Vasishtha says in his celebrated Hymn of the Frogs, both the priests and the frogs croak with joy when the first rainstorm breaks: the frogs because of the advent of water, the priests because of the manifestation of their god, Indra. Implicitly, the priests’ recitation is humorously likened to the frogs’ croaking.

He was also the slayer of the dragon Vrtra, a model for all the dragon-slayers in the world, such as Zeus killing Typhon, or Saint George, or Siegfried, or Beowulf. In Iran, he was transformed into a demon, but his nickname Verethragna (Vedic Vrtrahan, “Vrtra-slayer”) then became a popular god in its own right. There, we have an Indra on the side of both good and evil.

Less poetically and more philosophically, the Atharva Veda puts him at the centre of the sophisticated concept of Indrajâla, “Indra’s net”. In this net, a diamond in every knot reflects every other diamond knot, and thus the whole. The West needed another four thousand years to develop the similar concept of the holographic paradigm.

In India, Indra’s cult gradually declined after the Mahabharata age. Originally an embodiment of masculine strength, he becomes the subject of poetic variations extolling his (and his wife Shachi’s) sexual prowess. Like his Greek counterpart Zeus, he gets involved in flings on the side, such as with sage Gautama’s wife Ahilya. While becoming a character of fun, he further gets disavowed by the Mahabharata hero Krishna. In the famous Govardhan episode, Krishna lifts a mountain and holds it like an umbrella over the common people to protect them from the storm, embodiment of Indra’s wrath. This spurs on the further decline of the Vedic gods and their replacement with the now-familiar Hindu pantheon. By the time Hindus start building temples in the last centuries BCE, Indra is no longer worshipped.

However, the Buddha arrived just in time for Indra to play a role in his career. it was Indra himself who persuaded the freshly awakened Shakyamuni to start preaching his newfound path. Buddhist monks then spread the cult of Indra to foreign lands as far as Japan. Indra’s weapon, the lightning or vajra, became the emblem of instant Enlightenment. The sought-after “Self-nature” (Chinese zixing) is present all the time, deep in all of us; but when we embark on the path of meditation and finally awaken to it, it strikes like lightning.

Dînpanah and the religion

When the Muslim conquerors incorporated the area into their capital and built the Old Fort there, it was apparently not a case of “a Hindu sacred site destroyed to make way for a showpiece of Muslim power”. Indraprastha had largely fallen in disuse centuries before the conquests, leaving pride of place to other parts of Delhi. Still, the conquerors were aware of the site’s past as Indraprastha, for in his Ain-i-Akbari, Moghul chronicler Abu’l Fazl writes that it had been built on the site of “Indrapat”. There was probably no explicitly communal angle to it when the Muslim rulers chose the Indraprastha site.

That changed when the second Moghul emperor Humayun decided to reorganize the area as his own glimpse of paradise, calling it Dînpanah, “refuge of Islam”. Dîn is the general Semitic word for “justice, righteousness”, even “religion” (roughly, dharma). It was in this sense that the syncretistic emperor Akbar was to use it when he founded the Dîn-i-Ilâhî, the “divine religion”. This new religion was meant as a confluence between Hinduism and Islam, symbolized by Akbar’s newly-founded city of Ilâh-âbâd (“divine city”, wrongly transcribed by the British as Allahabad) on the Ganga-Yamuna confluence. But this religion did not exist yet in Humayun’s time.

Akbar’s usage of Dîn accorded with its original Semitic meaning once used by the Arab Pagans. But it deviated from the meaning that Mohammed had conferred on the term during his rulership in Arabia: specifically the religion of Islam. It is in this more limited sense that the word came to be used in names like Saifu’d-dîn, “sword of Islam”, and likewise in Humayun’s Dînpanah, “refuge of Islam”. Humayun’s rulership of Delhi was short-lived, and when he finally recovered it, he found his Dînpanah in disarray. He did not get a chance to rebuild it for he died soon after. So, it only had a very fleeting existence and made no mark at all in Delhi’s long history. By contrast, the earlier town of Indraprastha had existed for many centuries.

Recently, some well-meaning but illiterate bureaucrat came up with the idea that Lutyens’ Delhi should be renamed as Dînpanah. However, naming a central neighbourhood of Delhi after a particular religion might not go down well with the preponderantly secular-minded population. Probably the bureaucrats who considered naming the area’s development project Dînpanah had not considered this because they had not realized the meaning of Dîn. At any rate, the plan was shelved when they learned of the far better credentials of Indraprastha.

ZeusThe god

Now, some usual suspects will object upon hearing anything with the Vedic god Indra in it: “Communal!” They are mistaken. There is nothing communal about the holographic paradigm. There is nothing communal about sudden Awakening. He is the same storm god whom we find the world over: Zeus among the Greeks, Jupiter among the Romans, Thor among the Vikings (whence Thursday), Marduk in Babylon, Ba’al in the Levant. Note how Indra is likened to a bull, how Zeus seduced princess Europa in the shape of a bull, and how Ba’al was famously worshipped as a bull in the Biblical episode of the Golden Calf.

In fact, in the Golden Calf events, two faces of the storm god were in confrontation: not just Ba’al but even Moses’ god Yahweh are evolutes of essentially the same god. A lesser known face of the storm-god was indeed Yahweh among the Midianite Beduins in northwestern Arabia. Among them, then led by chieftain Jethro, the fugitive Egyptian prince Moses found asylum. That is when he acquired both a wife and a new religion. Yes, Yahweh was originally an Arab storm god, whose name was misinterpreted by the Bible authors as “He who is”. His name stems from a verbal root h-w-h also attested in the Quran, and meaning “to move in the sky”. This is both in the sense of the storm-wind’s blowing (an image of the palpable though subtle power of heaven) and of an eagle swooping down to catch its prey (an image of the sudden whims of destiny).

This Yahweh, this choleric storm god, was then taken to Egypt, apparently in the age when some of Pharaoh Akhnaton’s monotheistic reform was in the air. Next, he led Moses and the Israelites in the legendary Exodus through the desert. He remained powerful, sovereign and choleric, but was theologically transformed into the Biblical “jealous god”, who tolerates no second god beside him. This Yahweh, the sender of prophets, was later to be embraced by Mohammed under the name Allah, from al-Ilâh, “the god”.

Long live Indraprastha!

So, everybody can feel happy with the name Indraprastha. No Muslim invader ever destroyed a temple to Indra, for he had been worshipped before the Hindus even used idols housed in temples. Indra throwing the lightning (elsewhere “Thor’s hammer”) is an apt image of a heavenly intervention in earthly affairs. Everybody naturally considers thunder and lightning to be the prime symbol of heaven’s unchained might over us. Thus there is nothing communal about this name, on the contrary: Indra’s thunder storms are a pan-religious symbol, an embodiment of the basic unity underlying the plurality of religions.

Indraprastha  was founded as the capital of the Pandavas’ small-time kingdom but the area was destined by fate to become the capital of the Delhi Sultanate, the Moghul Empire, Samrat Hemachandra’s short-lived empire, British India spanning the whole subcontinent, and now the Indian Republic. It is a source of pride, and worth celebrating, that here, the “righteous ruler” once chose to highlight the great universal ideas personified in Indra. Therefore, the open-minded Delhiites all agree: Indraprastha amar rahe! – Koenraad Elst Blog, 30 December 2016

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an indologist and historian from Belgium who publishes with Voice of India, New Delhi.

Purana Qila Delhi

Is Mohenjodaro’s ‘Dancing Girl’ an image of goddess Parvati? – Praveen Shekhar

Mohenjodaro's Dancing Girl

Praveen ShekharAccording to British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, “There is her little Baluchi-style face with pouting lips and insolent look in the eye. She’s about 15-years-old I should think, not more, but she stands there with bangles all the way up her arm and nothing else on. A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of herself and the world. There’s nothing like her, I think, in the world.” —  Daily-O

Indian Council of Historical ResearchA new research paper published in Itihaas, the Hindi journal of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), has said the famous statue of the “Dancing Girl” of Mohenjodaro from 2500 BC is actually the goddess Parvati, reports The Indian Express.

In the research paper called “Vedic Sabhyata Ka Puratatva” (Archaeology of Vedic Civilisation), retired professor Thakur Prasad Verma of Banaras Hindu University claims the Dancing Girl being Hindu goddess Parvati is evidence that the Harappan civilisation worshipped Shiva.

This claim that the Dancing Girl is Parvati has been made for the first time. Supriya Verma, historian and Jawaharlal Nehru University professor, told Express: “Till date, no archaeologist has ever interpreted the Dancing Girl as a goddess, let alone Parvati. This particular artefact has always been seen as the sculpture of a young girl.”

The small, barely 10.5cm tall, bronze statue is estimated to be around 4,500 years old and has fascinated archaeologists and historians ever since she was found in Mohenjodaro in 1926.

Verma claimed that several artefacts have been found among the ruins of the civilisation that prove that its citizens worshipped Shiva, among them “Seal 420”. The seal shows a horned figure sitting in a yogic posture surrounded by animals. While some historians support this theory, others have contended that the seal shows a woman, not a man.

Priest-King of Indus CivilisationHe adds that the trefoil pattern on the shawl of the “Priest King” sculpture, also excavated from the region, was evidence of Shiva worship because the pattern, according to him, is like the “vilva” or “bilva” leaves that are used to worship the Hindu god.

The article was published in Itihaas’s first edition since Y. S. Rao’s took over as ICHR chairman.

A controversy had generated when Rao was appointed the ICHR head in 2014 by the BJP-led government. Several historians had questioned Rao’s credentials for the post. They were concerned that they had appointed a little known historian to head the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Eminent historian Romila Thapar says Rao’s research is little visible and the articles authored by him on the historicity of Indian epics have not been published in any peer-reviewed journals.

Before taking over as ICHR chief, Rao was working on a project to “fix” the date of the Mahabharata war. He had invalidated the argument of historians like D. D. Kosambi that the Ramayana and Mahabharata have different versions added to them over almost a 1,000 years.

Ten things to know about ‘Dancing Girl’

1) According to PTI Islamabad, a Pakistani lawyer has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court asking his government to bring back “Dancing Girl”, a 5,000-year-old bronze statue so-called, from India.

2) This 10.8cm long bronze statue was found in 1926 from a broken down house on the “ninth lane” in Mohenjo-Daro, Pakistan. It was found by excavator D. R. Sahni during the 1926-1927 field season.

3) The “Dancing Girl” is a free-standing bronze figurine, with about 25 bangles on her left arm, and holding a small bowl in her right hand. She has a relatively short trunk and long legs and arms; her head is tilted slightly back and her left leg is bent at the knee. Her right arm is bent, with her hand placed on the back of her hip, that hand apparently clenched around an object, perhaps a baton, which is now missing. She wears a necklace with three large pendants, but is otherwise naked.

4) Experts have it that the “lost wax” method used by the metallurgist involved carving the sculpture out of wax, then covering it in wet clay. Once the clay was dried, holes were bored into the mould and the mouldwas heated, melting the wax. The empty mold was then filled with a melted mixture of copper and tin. After that cooled, the mould was broken, revealing the lady.

5) According to National Museum of India website, “The statue is suggestive of two major breakthroughs. One, that the Indus artists knew metal blending and casting and perhaps other technical aspects of metallurgy, and two, that a well-developed society Indus people had innovated dance and other performing arts as modes of entertainment”.

Sir Mortimer Wheeler6) According to British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, “There is her little Baluchi-style face with pouting lips and insolent look in the eye. She’s about 15-years-old I should think, not more, but she stands there with bangles all the way up her arm and nothing else on. A girl perfectly, for the moment, perfectly confident of herself and the world. There’s nothing like her, I think, in the world.”

7) Petitioner Javed Iqbal Jaffrey claimed that the statue is the property of the Lahore Museum. “It was taken to India around 60 years ago at the request of the National Arts Council, Delhi, and was never brought back,” a report in Dawn said.

8) On October 10, he called for a suo motu action by the court.

9) He contended the 5,000-year-old statue enjoyed the same historical importance in Pakistan as Mona Lisa in Europe.

10) Jamal Shah, director general of the Pakistan National Museum of Arts, in a statement said a letter would be written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to bring the statue back. – Daily-O, 11 October 2016 & 26 December 2016

» Praveen Shekhar is an associate producer for TV Today Network.

Shiva Pashupati of Mohanjodaro

Righting a Historical Wrong: Bring back Bose and the INA on Rajpath – G. D. Bakshi

Subash Chandra Bose with his Indian National Army

G. D. BakshiThe post-Independence Intelligence Bureau (IB) and sections of the bureaucracy ostensibly remained loyal to the erstwhile British masters. For almost a quarter century after Independence, the IB kept reporting to MI-5 about the whereabouts and activities of Netaji’s kin. The INA men were treated as traitors and not taken back into the Indian Army. – Maj. Gen. (Retd) G. D. Bakshi

The nation enters its 71st year of Independence in 2017. With this, the upcoming Republic Day parade will mark a significant milestone in the life of the Republic. It would be a time to reflect and see where we are going. It would also be a suitable occasion to set right a grave historical wrong. The basic issue concerns the narrative of state the Nehruvian dispensation had crafted for itself in 1947. It had claimed that India was a unique state that had gained its Independence solely by the use of soft power tools of non-violence, persuasion and non-cooperation. Force and violence, they claimed, had no role, whatsoever, in India’s freedom struggle.

This narrative was deliberately crafted by the spin doctors of Nehru to gain political legitimacy and the right to rule. It was designed to counter the legend of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army (INA). Of the 60,000 INA men, 26,000 perished in the war in Burma. Was that non-violence? The historical fact, however, is that non-violence had dismally failed to get India its Independence. Its last charge was the Quit India Movement of 1942. Unfortunately, the British had employed some 57 battalions of white troops to crush it ruthlessly. All Congress leaders were flung into jails and released at the end of the war. Many of them, while in jail, had struck Faustian bargains with the British. So how and why did the British quit India just two years after the end of war? This is the critical question of our freedom struggle.

Azad Hind FlagThe key British decision-maker in this exercise was Lord Clement Attlee who took over as the British Prime Minister at the end of the war. In 1956, he visited Kolkata as guest of Justice P. B. Chakraborthy, then Governor of West Bengal. The two had a long conversation about the events of the freedom struggle. Chakraborthy asked Attlee point blank, “The Quit India Movement had failed dismally in 1942. Why then did you leave in such a tearing hurry just two years after the war ended? Attlee’s reply was direct, forthright and unequivocal, ‘It was Subhas Bose and his INA.’” He explained that though the INA had lost the battles of Imphal and Kohima, the post war trials of the INA officers had enraged the people of India. There had been major mutinies in February 1946 in the Royal Indian Navy and the Air Force, and finally the Army.

The British decided to leave. The original date was 1948, but Mountbatten preponed it to August 1947. Thus the prime catalyst and trigger for the British to leave was Bose and his INA. Unfortunately, the British had their final revenge by handing over power to an Anglophile elite. They made Mountbatten the first Governor General of free India. The post-Independence Intelligence Bureau (IB) and sections of the bureaucracy ostensibly remained loyal to the erstwhile British masters. For almost a quarter century after Independence, the IB kept reporting to MI-5 about the whereabouts and activities of Netaji’s kin. The INA men were treated as traitors and not taken back into the Indian Army.

The Nehruvian dispensation blanked Bose and the INA completely out of the history books. The court historians fabricated a new history of the freedom struggle based entirely on non-violence and Satyagraha. To live up to this exaggerated narrative, Nehru became a great pacifist. He told General Sir Roy Bucher, India’s first Army Chief, that independent India didn’t need armed forces. Police forces were sufficient! He marginalised the military and sidelined it. He starved it of resources till we met the disaster of 1962 at the hands of the Chinese. That abject humiliation opened our eyes and made India’s leaders turn to real politic. Armed forces were expanded and modernised. It did well in the 1965 war with Pakistan and won in Bangladesh in 1971. – The New Indian Express, 24 December 2016

»  Maj. Gen. (Retd) G. D. Bakshi has served two tenures at the Directorate General of Military Operations where he dealt with Information Warfare and Psychological Operations.

British troops leaving India in 1947.

Five reasons to suspect that Jesus never existed – Valerie Tarico

Nativity Display Vatican 2014

Dr Valerie Tarico“The arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido ReniMost antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history.” In other words, they think that around the start of the first century a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef gathered a following and his life and teachings provided the seed that grew into Christianity.

At the same time, these scholars acknowledge that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide-ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts, both those that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t, in attempts to excavate the man behind the myth. Several current or recent bestsellers take this approach, distilling the scholarship for a popular audience. Familiar titles include Zealot by Reza Aslan and How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman.

But other scholars believe that the gospel stories are actually “historicized mythology.” In this view, those ancient mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

David FitzgeraldThe notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All. For centuries all serious scholars of Christianity were Christians themselves, and modern secular scholars lean heavily on the groundwork that they laid in collecting, preserving, and analyzing ancient texts. Even today most secular scholars come out of a religious background, and many operate by default under historical presumptions of their former faith.

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer, popular with secular students and community groups. The internet phenomenon, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist and similar works contain known errors and oversimplifications that undermine their credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship.

More academic arguments in support of the Jesus myth theory can be found in the writings of Richard Carrier and Robert Price. Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history uses the tools of his trade to show, among other things, how Christianity might have gotten off the ground without a miracle. Price, by contrast, writes from the perspective of a theologian whose biblical scholarship ultimately formed the basis for his skepticism. It is interesting to note that some of the harshest debunkers of fringe Jesus myth theories like those from Zeitgeist or Joseph Atwill (who tries to argue that the Romans invented Jesus) are from serious mythicists like Fitzgerald, Carrier and Price.

Isis & Horus / Mary & JesusThe arguments on both sides of this question—mythologized history or historicized mythology—fill volumes, and if anything the debate seems to be heating up rather than resolving. A growing number of scholars are openly questioning or actively arguing against Jesus’ historicity. Since many people, both Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate even exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the key points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef. In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. As odd as it may seem, there is no mention of Jesus at all by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, no heated slanders, no passing references—nothing. In fact, if we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death—even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era—there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. I should stress that we do have a large number of documents from the time—the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials, for example, not to mention the large collection of surviving inscriptions on stone and private letters and legal documents on papyrus. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.” (pp. 56-57)

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts. Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth, for example. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the most basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples—or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers aren’t just vague, but contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order to see how early Christianity unfolded. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel—the good news—of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.”

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses, a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has heard the phrase, my aunt knew someone who . . . .

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other. If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added their own corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and, to an even greater degree contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives for different audiences. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, non-violent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price. In his words (pp. 15-16), “The historical Jesus (if there was one) might well have been a messianic king, or a progressive Pharisee, or a Galilean shaman, or a magus, or a Hellenistic sage. But he cannot very well have been all of them at the same time.” John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar grumbles that “the stunning diversity is an academic embarrassment.”

Thomas JeffersonFor David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a mystery faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a soon-to-be-released follow-up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a real Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little practical meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are themselves fictions.

We may never know for certain what put Christian history in motion. Only time (or perhaps time travel) will tell. – Salon, 1 September 2014

Joseph & Mary