“In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.” – D.M. Murdock
The passage about Jesus Christ in Jewish historian Josephus’s writings (Antiquities 18.3.3/63) has been debated for centuries, as concerns its authenticity totally, partially or not at all. This brief Testimonium Flavianum (TF) is put forth by Christian apologists as the “best evidence” for the historicity of Jesus, but it has been declared many times to be a forgery in toto. A recent study by a renowned linguist confirms this analysis of the entire passage as an interpolation by a Christian scribe, likely during the fourth century.
The most popular view of the Testimonium these days among critical scholars is the “partial interpolation theory,” which posits that a number of Christian-sounding phrases were inserted into the passage, which is nonetheless original to Josephus. Nevertheless, many scholars, historians, researchers and writers over the past centuries have held to the analysis that the Testimonium in toto is an interpolation into the text by a later Christian hand.
Most of the reasons for questioning the TF’s authenticity can be found in my book Who Was Jesus? and articles “The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled” and “Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?” Suffice it to say that there are a dozen or so scientific and convincing arguments against authenticity, including its abrupt introduction into the text and its omission in early Christian writings, as well as its pious language.
However, this pious language is not simply part of the supposed Christian insertions postulated by the partial interpolation theory but is present in the entire passage. The recent linguistic examination of the Testimonium’s original Greek shows the assessment of the entire passage as an interpolation to be correct, as it gives other scientific reasons to view the whole TF as a Christian profession of faith, rather than a report by a sober historian.
The author of this study published in 2014 is a professor of Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Paul J. Hopper, a longtime scholar who has been publishing peer-reviewed articles in journals for over 40 years. Hopper’s linguistic analysis of the TF in his article “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus” is definitive and adds significantly to the numerous other arguments against the passage’s authenticity evinced over the centuries.
In this regard, Hopper comments:
It is suggested that the Jesus passage is close in style and content to the creeds that were composed two to three centuries after Josephus.
He further explains:
The Testimonium itself is, when compared to the surrounding episodes, unusually short. Its very brevity is a suspicious feature, one that has led some defenders of its authenticity to suggest that while parts of the text are genuinely Josephan, the text has been tampered with by later Christians wanting to erase scandalous content.… In fact, however, the syntax of the Testimonium does not display the kinds of discontinuities we might expect to find if substantial changes such as major deletions or insertions had been made.
Here the linguist states that the syntax or arrangement of words and phrases of the TF shows no sign of either removals or insertions, the former put forth to explain the TF’s brevity and the latter as in the partial interpolation theory.
After discussing the history of TF criticism, Hopper concludes:
There is, then, reason to suspect that the Jesus episode is a later insertion, dating from more than two hundred years after Josephus’s death, and probably absent from most manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities until even later.
The Testimonium’s syntax and morphology indicate it was written as an apology or profession of faith, rather than a historical report. The passage seems to be addressing criticisms, as if written for those who had challenged Christian doctrine at some point after the religion had been established. Its structure reflects protest, and “Methinks it doth protest too much.”
The problems with the TF, therefore, go beyond a few Christian-sounding interpolations and extend to the syntax of the sentences themselves. To wit, they are composed not in typical narrative styles, but resemble more closely the writings of early Church fathers and apologists of succeeding centuries.
As concerns plot, the TF as a whole represents a summary of the gospel story, as recounted in the New Testament, not drawn from separate historical reports or oral history. As Hopper remarks:
… It is from the Gospels, and the Gospels alone, that the Jesus Christ narrative in the Testimonium draws its coherence and its legitimacy as a plot, and perhaps even some of its language. It is not just that the Christian origin of the Testimonium is betrayed by its allegiance to the Gospels, as that without the Gospels the passage is incomprehensible. … The Testimonium does not so much narrate to first century Romans new events, but rather reminds third century Christians of events already familiar to them.
The evident Christian context of the TF speaks also to genre or category of subject matter, likewise examined by Hopper, who states:
The Testimonium is anchored in a radically different discourse community from that of the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The Testimonium reads more like a position paper, a party manifesto, than a narrative….
Hopper next says that the “closest generic match for the Testimonium is perhaps the various creeds that began to be formulated in the early fourth century, such as the Nicene Creed (325 CE).”
Hopper’s linguistic analysis is yet another nail in the Testimonium coffin and should convince fence-sitters, although Christian apologists likely will never relinquish this “best evidence” because without it their claims to historicity are threadbare indeed.
In conclusion, Hopper states:
The narrative grammar of the Testimonium Flavianum sets it sharply apart from Josephus’s other stories of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. The most likely explanation is that the entire passage is interpolated, presumably by Christians…
In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate. – Examiner, 9 February 2015
» A longer and more in-depth analysis of Paul J. Hopper’s work on the Testimonium Flavianum can be found at Josephus’s Testimonium Flavianum Examined Linguistically: Greek Analysis Demonstrates the Passage a Forgery In Toto. See also Jesus passage in Josephus a forgery.
» Dorothy M. Murdock, also known by her pen name Acharya S, is an American author and proponent of the Christ myth theory. She writes books, and operates a website named Truth be Known. She argues that Christianity is founded on earlier myths and the characters depicted in Christianity are based upon Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other myths.
“A word of caution. We [must] all stop thinking and articulating in speech and writing words and phrases like ‘false realm of mythology.’ It is absolutely Romilla Thapar. Mythology like pagan is [a] derogatory description of non-Abrahamic worship, cultures and worldview. As tho Jesus alone or Mohammed alone are historical while Hindu devas and devis are all mythology” – Radha Rajan
It is good to see resistance is offered to this idea. I will extend this to put this resistance in a certain framework. Indians who find “science” in Vedas or historicize Ramayana or Mahabharata or Puranas, actually end up demeaning our culture and civilization. It is akin to dumbing down a horse to the level of a donkey, so that the horse can fit into a herd of donkeys.
In their classical definitions – “Science” and “History” are disciplines that are contextual to the Western civilization. The evolution of classical “Science” in the West is not an intrinsic development, it is in response to the Abrahamic colonization of the West that began with Emperor Constantine. After 17 centuries, this colonization has been internalized no doubt, and now the then colonized have became the “new” colonizers, but it is colonization nevertheless.
Thus the Science/Philosophy/Knowledge development during Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic pre-Christian era has a certain philosophical disconnect with Renaissance and post-Renaissance “Science”. While the Graeco-Roman knowledge development had a natural rhythm, the post-Renaissance science evolved in the backdrop of earlier Dark Ages that was a direct consequence of Christian colonization of the West.
While it may be true that Renaissance thinkers did rely, inter alia, on (for example) Cicero’s De Natura Deorum for inspiration in their quest for new knowledge, they never did escape the outer orbit of Christianity. Thus, it explains the formation of now discredited “sciences” such as craniometery, which became the basis of racism and genocide later. There is a certain amount of “irrationality” (or I call it unnaturalness) in the Western “scientific rationalism or temper”. That is – “it” is limited to the cartesian plane – and it is not allowed to look beyond it – transcend it, because the Christian God is waiting on the other side, to save the souls.
The efforts like the so-called Noetic Sciences are still disjoint in their conceptualization. Western Science can make giant strides, but it cannot do one thing – it cannot see beyond the “Edge of the Universe” – it does not have the means to – and most importantly it does not have the will to do so. The limitation is provided by the Christian worldview. One can see that the notion of secularism, protects Christianity, God and Jesus business from scrutiny.
On the other hand Vedic Rishis have no such handicap. The material and non-material transcend. Hence the sciences that evolved in Ancient India were in tune with the natural rhythm of human civilizational development. The Vedic epistemology established the scope for a Rishi to explore the worlds beyond the “Edge of the Universe” if his/her inquest pointed in that direction. The system never posed any problem in this regard. A student of civilizations can see that harmful sciences like craniometery would have had no chance of forming in a naturally inquisitive culture like India. Thus, Vedic knowledge system is much more comprehensive than Post-Renaissance “officially secular but Christian-nevertheless sciences.”
Therefore, finding such (Christian-European) “science” in Vedas is demeaning to the Vedic culture.
It is the colonized Indian mind that sees the (Christian-European) “science” as virtuous, and due to its deep-seated inferiority complex, seeks validation from the West
Ditto with “history”. Again, post-Renaissance academic discipline of “History” is also a false benchmark to aspire to for Indians. Western discipline of History also exists in Christian framework, whose evidentiary parameters are limited to a set that disables a researcher and an academician to go prior to the dates of Genesis. It is made to sound rational, but in essence it is highly irrational. If Indians were to re-write their history based on Christian parameters, all they would get is a molehill and never discover the mountain that they have.
Then, there is another problem that is even more severe. The authors of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Puranas never intended to tell legends for the purpose of “modernist” historical validation. The purpose of this corpus of literature is adhyatmic (spiritual). These are tools for a human to know his larger Self (capital S). Valmiki never intended for the shrota of Ramayana to start digging graves to find cartesian evidence of existence of Rama or Sita. Ramayana serves only one purpose – viz. spiritual empowerment for the purposes of upholding Dharma. Ramayana serves as a living kernel of the Indic/Hindu civilization. Not a cartesian history book.
I am not against finding historical evidences for the Indian past. But that needs to be a separate discipline. I am not for dumbing down Ramayana and Mahabharata to “fall” to a pseudo-benchmark that our colonialist has set for us.
Ultimately, Western Science will self-destruct and will become extinct, just like the Neo-neanderthal man, because of its own limitation. Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic, Chinese and Vedic Knowledge Systems have a better chance of survival and growth, because of their natural rhythm.
Let us not dumb down our horses to the level of donkeys.
When the term “scientific temper” was inserted in the Indian Constitution, good ole Panditji had no clue that the West had hoodwinked him into a herd of donkeys.
- Abrahamic Vs. Dharmic Systems: Unique Characteristics & Comparative Analysis – Rajiv Varma (A PDF Presentation)
“It was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brilliant, irascible Aunt Mary, a ‘prototypical American eccentric,’ who first introduced her nephew and intellectual protégé to the concepts and iconography of Hindu mythology after she met ‘a Visitor here from India’ in 1822. Their correspondence on these and other spiritual matters would inform Transcendentalism and in turn the Eastern-infused philosophies of generations to come.”- Laura Miller
As Peter Manseau, author of “One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History,” would have it, nothing has done more damage to the ideal of American religious pluralism than the “stubborn persistence of words spoken more than a century before the United States was a nation at all.” Those words are “a city upon a hill,” preached by the Puritan John Winthrop to his fellow colonists as they prepared to leave their ship at Massachusetts Bay in 1630. Most strenuously invoked by Ronald Reagan, the city on the hill, according to Manseau, has for the past 50 years “dominated presidential rhetoric about the nation’s self-understanding, causing an image borrowed from the Gospels to become a tenet of faith in America’s civil religion.”
The incessant citation of Winthrop’s metaphor — which envisioned the fledgling colony as a shining example set up to inspire the world but also to invite its comprehensive moral scrutiny — keeps reinforcing the assumption that the United States is fundamentally Christian. There’s more behind that stubborn belief than just rhetoric, of course, but when even ostensibly pluralistic presidents like John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama conjure up Winthrop’s biblical metaphor, it starts to take on the aura of an unquestioned truth.
Well, Manseau certainly questions it with “One Nation, Under Gods,” an unusual work of history meant to revive the idea that the U.S. is a “land shaped and informed by internal religious diversity — some of it obvious, some of it hidden.” Most key points in our national narrative involve a non-Christian element if you look closely, he maintains. “One Nation, Under Gods” is less a continuous narrative itself than a series of isolated snapshots, each chapter telling the story of a person considered a heretic, blasphemer, atheist or heathen, who nevertheless helped in some way to shape the course of American history.
A few of Manseau’s examples are familiar, particularly Thomas Jefferson, the founding father often branded an atheist in his own time and whose Deism today’s Christian conservatives strategically overlook. In a deft move, Manseau captures Jefferson’s heterodox status by relating how, as an old man, the third president offered to sell 6,000 volumes from his own personal library to the nation. (These books remain the core collection of the Library of Congress.) It was a controversial proposal, as some critics complained that Jefferson’s library “abounded with productions of atheistical, irreligious and immoral character,” and some were even “in the original French”! In examining Jefferson’s own cataloging system, Manseau finds evidence of the Sage of Monticello’s conviction that “religious systems inevitably and necessarily interact with each other in ways at once contentious, intimate and transformative.”
Some of the stories in “One Nation, Under Gods” are more surprising. “It is perhaps the greatest of forgotten influences on American life and culture,” Manseau writes, that some 20 percent or more of Africans living in America around the time of the Revolutionary War were Muslims, a quantity that “dwarfed the number of Roman Catholics or Jews.” The majority of enslaved Africans did practice such Western African religions as Yoruba and Obeah, all of which contributed to the distinctive customs of African-American Christianity. But we also have a handful of stories of African Muslims abducted to the U.S., where, as in the case of one Omar ibn Said, they astonished the natives by writing fluently in a strange alphabet (Arabic) and impressed, if also bewildered, everyone with their abstemious piety.
Tituba, a slave, was the first person accused in the Salem Witch Trials, and although often depicted as African, she was most likely an “Indian” from South America, by way of Barbados. She had made a “witch cake” (a nasty concoction of rye flour and urine) for divinatory purposes, and in doing so was probably tapping into multiple folk traditions, including those of the colonists’ own native England. Manseau believes such practices, though forbidden, were anything but rare in the colonies and should be thought of as “a kind of spiritual equalizer, providing religious authority outside social structures that were inevitably defined at times by class and gender.” Tituba herself quickly figured out that the best course of action when called up before the court was to “confess” every lurid detail the magistrates wanted to hear, including the visits she received from the devil, his commands that she serve him, and the culpability of her two co-defendants (unpopular village women) in casting spells on children. As a result, Tituba was the only one of the three to escape execution. Long before the advent of modern-day spin doctors, she grasped the advantage of getting ahead of the story.
Then there is the network of Jewish merchants extending from Pennsylvania to Amsterdam by way of the island of St. Eustatius, in the Caribbean, a major conduit of supplies and funds through the British blockade during the Revolutionary War. One Polish Jew, Haym Solomon, gave so much money to the cause of independence that he died penniless. He and his co-religionists, driven from one European nation to another in a roundelay of persecution, hoped and believed they could finally find refuge in the fledgling nation.
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s brilliant, irascible Aunt Mary, a “prototypical American eccentric,” who first introduced her nephew and intellectual protégé to the concepts and iconography of Hindu mythology after she met “a Visitor here from India” in 1822. Their correspondence on these and other spiritual matters would inform Transcendentalism and in turn the Eastern-infused philosophies of generations to come. (Manseau provides a survey of Hindu beliefs and stories cropping up in the work of Thoreau and even Melville, as well as a persistent interest in Indian religion on the part of American feminists like Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Margaret Fuller.)
But perhaps the most fascinating chapter in “One Nation, Under Gods” explores recent theories about the influence of a syncretic Native American revival movement on Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon. The young half-brother of a Seneca chief, Handsome Lake, was an aging, ne’er-do-well hunter who experienced a revelation during a near-fatal illness. What was revealed to him fused Iroquois mythology with Quaker-like morality into a reimagined creation story explaining how the Iroquois had fallen so low in their own land. Handsome Lake died when Smith was 10, but a Mormon scholar has pointed out that only weeks before Smith’s own visions commenced, Handsome Lake’s nephew spoke at a public gathering in Smith’s town of Palmyra, New York.
The Code of Handsome Lake, like the Mormon story of the Native Americans as a lost tribe of Israel, is “a tale of white and Indian unity interrupted by evils brought across the sea.” Both creeds stressed sobriety and involved the manifestation of three angelic presences charged with guiding the inhabitants of the New World to a better future. Both were born during a period of intense, innovative religious activity known as the Second Great Awakening and arose in a region of Western New York state dubbed “the Burned-Over District” for the fervor that seemed to consume everyone in the vicinity. Shakers, utopian communities, millenarians and spiritualists were just some of the unorthodox and fractious believers who flourished there.
But even the idea that Winthrop’s little community represented a unified city on a hill is an illusion, as the Puritan dissidents Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson could testify. The Pilgrims might have all called themselves Christians, but some differences among them were seen by their theocratic leaders as profound threats to the spiritual survival of the community. Both Williams and Hutchinson were cast out and created communities of their own. There was literally never a point in the history of the colonies or the U.S. when all or most Americans genuinely shared the same faith. “The true gospel of the American experience,” Manseau writes, “is not religious agreement but dissent.” – Salon, 3 Februsry 2015
» Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of “The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia” and has a website, www.magiciansbook.com.
“Killing Gandhiji was a great tactical blunder. If Gandhiji had not been killed, he and Congress leaders would have been held answerable for their failure to avoid partition. … Hindu nationalism would have occupied the centre of our polity as a logical consequence of partition. … Today, the Hindu Mahasabha is all set to repeat that blunder by seeking to glorify Godse. The move for Godse’s temple betrays the same recklessness as the act that it seeks to glorify.” – Virendra Parekh
Ever since the BJP’s ascension to power, attempts have been made to eulogise Godse as a sterling patriot who committed an outrageously bold act in national interest. Hindu nationalists are understandably eager to present an alternative perspective to the momentous event whose consequences haunt them till date. True to style, the Hindu Mahasabha plans to erect a temple to the memory of Nathuram Godse.
For decades, we have seen the visceral hatred heaped by the secularist establishment on Godse and, by association, on all Hindu nationalists. “Mukh mein Ram, bagal mein Nathuram,” Congressmen chanted during the Ayodhya days, pretending as if the slogan had clinched the issue. More recently, in the debate on the issue in the winter session of the Parliament, Godse’s name was struck off the records for being ‘unparliamentary’. He has been placed in the august company of Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin and Ravan whose names cannot be mentioned in the hallowed precincts of democracy. Lenin, Stalin and Mao, of course, face no such bar.
The Congress version of Gandhiji’s assassination is deeply ingrained in the public psyche. It is a myth, according to it, that Gandhiji was pro-Muslim. He accommodated not only Muslims but all strands of political expression in the hope that eventually they will all be subsumed in a broad-based national identity. It was not capitulation, but far sightedness of a national leader, affectionate indulgence of a father figure. It is wrong, we are told, to blame Gandhiji for Partition. He opposed it till the very end. On the contrary, Hindu leaders like V. D. Savarkar, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar and M. S. Golwalkar provided Muslim League with ample material to work up Muslims.
This version of Gandhiji’s assassination, put out by Congress-Left-secularist combine, still dominates the public debate and textbooks. It blames the violent act on frustrations of narrow-minded Hindu activists who neither shared Gandhiji’s all-inclusive liberal concept of Indian nationalism nor could prevent his ascent to the top in political life during the freedom struggle.
Several decades after the event, the chinks in the secularists’ armour are glaringly visible. If Gandhian thinking represented the national consensus among masses, why was the country partitioned? Muslims as a group were clearly not impressed by him. Even among the Hindus, the reaction to Gandhiji’s assassination was NOT universal condemnation. In fact, a lot of Hindus agreed with Godse at that time and were emotionally with him. As proof, we have the famous oft-quoted testimony of none other than the judge who heard his appeal and sentenced him.
“Godse ended his peroration on a high note of emotion, reciting verses from Bhagavad Gita. The audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs…. I have, however, no doubt that had the audience of that day been converted into jury and entrusted with the task of deciding on Godse’s appeal, they would have brought the verdict of not guilty with an overwhelming majority,” wrote Justice G. D. Khosla, member of the three-judge bench of the Punjab High Court that confirmed death sentences for Godse and Narayan Apte, in his book Murder of the Mahatma and Other Cases.
Godse’s deposition before the court was in fact a political charge sheet against Gandhiji whom he accused of consistently sacrificing national interests to appease Muslims. The climax came with Gandhiji’s fast to force payment of Rs. 55 crore and Hindu refugees being driven out of abandoned mosques in Delhi’s winter.
Long before Gandhiji entered India’s political scene, the British rulers had laid a trap. Faced with the rising tide of national resurgence, they started saying that while they appreciated the legitimate aspirations of ‘the majority community’ they could not leave the minority community at the mercy of the former. The minority on its part started protesting that institutions of parliamentary democracy were not suited to the peculiar conditions of a country divided into rival communities and that the Muslims could not view with equanimity the prospect of the British leaving the country till the majority community had succeeded in winning the trust of the minority. As can be expected with hindsight, the price of the ‘trust’ went on increasing in direct proportion to the effort mounted to secure it.
The details need not detain us. As Arun Shourie has observed perceptively, at each stage the national leaders thought that the onus of finding a solution that would satisfy Jinnah was on them and since the previous concession had not satisfied him the new one must bend more his way. It was a blind alley from which there was no escape.
Gandhiji made it worse. He converted a political compulsion into a moral obligation. Communal amity became an article of faith for him, to be pursued independently of cost-benefit analysis. The more it eluded him, the more doggedly he chased it.
He met with a comprehensive failure. Muslim League leaders concluded that their advantage lay in remaining cross with ‘Hindu banias’. Gandhiji’s attitude to and treatment of the communal problem embittered Hindu nationalists no end and led many of them to keep away from the freedom struggle. In the post-independence period, this idea of communal amity at any cost (to the Hindus, of course) reincarnated in the Nehruvian secularism and led to political emasculation of Hindus in spite of their majority. Indian nationalism came to be reviled as majoritarianism and Hindu communalism. For this Gandhiji is heartily despised by Hindu intellectuals.
Voices of warning were not missing. Many leaders of impeccable credentials had expressed doubts about the wisdom and efficacy of Gandhiji’s policy of winning over Muslims through appeasement, as Sita Ram Goel has documented meticulously in his Muslim Separatism: Causes and Consequences. (Voice of India, New Delhi.)
“I am sorry they have made a fetish of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day Hindus may have to fight Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean subjection of Hindus. Every time, the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow Hindus to organize themselves and Hindu Muslim unity would take care of itself.”
Who said it? No, not Dr. Hedgewar. Sri Aurobindo said this on 18 April 1923 (Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo recorded by A. B. Purani, Second Series, Pondicherry, 1974, p. 48). He was more explicit a little later (13 July 1923): “You can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live with a religion whose principle is ‘I will not tolerate you’?” (Ibid, p. 50)
Similar sentiments were expressed by Sarat Chandra Chatterji, Lala Lajpat Rai and Ravindranath Tagore. All these warnings fell on deaf ears. On the communal problem, Gandhiji steadfastly stuck to the beaten path throughout his career. His support for the alien and retrograde Khilafat Movement, his defence of the Moplahs who perpetrated unspeakable atrocities on Hindus in Malabar, his kindness to the murderer of Swami Shraddhanand and above all and his treatment of Jinnah and Muslim League were all motivated by an earnest quest for communal amity. But it kept eluding him.
A keen observer of men and matters like Gandhiji could not fail to see the consequences of his policy. “My own experience confirms my belief that the Hindu as a rule is a coward and the Musalman as a rule is a bully,” he wrote in Young India on 24 May 1924. That did not prevent him from behaving like a bully to the ‘coward’ and like a coward to the ‘bully’. Like most Hindus, he did not trace Muslim gangsterism to the tenets of Islam which remained a ‘noble faith’ to him till his own life was consumed by the flames lighted by that faith.
Yet it is also a fact that despite all the rhetoric of Hindu nationalists, it was Gandhiji and not they who could stir the masses and inspire them to rise above their petty selves and make highest sacrifices. He knew that Hindus value spiritual qualities far above political fervour. He realized in his personal life all the spiritual ideals that the Hindus had cherished through centuries and they in turn poured their hearts out on him.
India’s tragedy during the freedom struggle was that those who could see the danger could not carry people with them. People chose to go with Gandhiji who refused to learn from experience.
Gandhiji’s failure to avoid partition holds important lessons for us.
One, there is a hard core at the heart of Islam which even a man of oceanic goodwill like Gandhiji could not melt. That should open our eyes to the hollowness of slogans like secularism.
Secondly, it shows that in real politics good intentions and even good behaviour is no guarantee of good results. We must understand the enemy’s mentality and put him out of the harm’s way.
That brings us to the final question. Was Godse justified in killing Gandhiji? Godse called it ‘vadh’ (slaying, typically of a demon). But that is stretching the language and mythology too much. Neither Hindu ethos nor modern sensitivities endorse suppression of political dissent through murder. Having said that, it may also be pointed out as Koenraad Elst did, that the proper target for Godse and those who share his methods was Jinnah and not Gandhiji. Anyone who killed Jinnah in the run up to the independence would have instantly become a Hindu hero, though it is impossible to predict the consequences of such an action.
That apart, killing Gandhiji was a great tactical blunder. If Gandhiji had not been killed, he and Congress leaders would have been held answerable for their failure to avoid partition; and that would not have been easy. Hindu nationalism would have occupied the centre of our polity as a logical consequence of partition.
Gandhiji’s assassination changed all that. It put Hindu nationalists in a dock from which they have not yet been able to come out. The plaintiff became the accused, and the culprits became the plaintiffs. Godse killed Gandhiji because in his estimation the latter had become a great liability for the Hindu society. But his own cruel act became an even greater liability for the cause for which he was ready to kill and die.
Today, the Hindu Mahasabha is all set to repeat that blunder by seeking to glorify Godse. The move for Godse’s temple betrays the same cussedness and recklessness as the act that it seeks to glorify. Presenting an alternative view point is one thing, elevating an assassin to the status of a god is an altogether different thing. Such an action can only revive the martyr’s halo around Gandhiji at a time when India has already dumped him into dying institutions and meaningless ceremonies. It can only lower Hindu nationalists in the eyes of their countrymen and Hinduism in the eyes of the world.
Today, jihadi zealots and suicide bombers are educating the civilized world about what Islam has in store for non-Muslims and the kind of life it offers to the believers. The reservations expressed by Hindu leaders in last century about Islam and Gandhian methods are surfacing in the minds of independent observers all over the world. The West is asking itself how long and how much it should bend to accommodate Islamic diktats. Godse believed that honest writers of history would judge him more favourably. His supporters should await the verdict of history, and not presume to write it.
- “Hindustan is the land of the Hindus. It is, therefore, the duty of the Hindus alone to liberate it from the shackles of foreign domination. Muslims are sitting with their faces turned towards Arabia or Turkey. Their heart is not in the land of Hindustan. But when it is not there, it is no use lamenting over it. We need not be unnerved by counting the heads of Muslims. Numbers are not the supreme truth in the world. In freedom’s battle in any country, do all the people of that country take part? When the Americans fought for their freedom, more than half the people of that country were with the British. In the Irish freedom struggle, how many were actually involved in it? Right or wrong is not decided by the counting of heads. It is decided by the intensity of tapasya or the single-minded devotion to the cause. The problem before the Hindus is not to devise ways and means of bringing about an artificial unity. The problem before them in how to organise themselves.” Quoted in The Tragic Story of Partition by H. V. Shesadri p. 252.
- Lalaji wrote as follows in a confidential letter to Deshbandhu C.R. Das: “I have devoted most of my time during the last six months to the study of Muslim history and Muslim Law and I am inclined to think that Hindu-Muslim unity is neither possible nor practicable. Assuming and admitting the sincerity of the Mohammedan leaders in the Non-Co-operation Movement, I think their religion provides an effective bar to anything of the kind. There is no finer Mohammedan than Hakim [Ajmal Khan] Sahab, but can any Muslim leader override the Koran? I can only hope that my reading of the Islamic Law is incorrect and nothing would relieve me more than to be convinced that it is so. I do honestly and sincerely believe in the necessity and desirability of Hindu-Muslim unity. I am also fully prepared to trust the Muslim leaders, but what about the injunctions of the Koran and the Hadis? The leaders cannot override them”. Quoted by A. Ghosh in Making of the Muslim Psyche in Devendra Swarup (ed.), Politics of Conversion, New Delhi, 1986, p. 147.
- “Another very important fact which according to the poet was making it almost impossible for Hindu-Mohammedan unity to become an accomplished fact was that the Mohammedans could not confine their patriotism to any one country. The poet said that he had very frankly asked many Mohammedans whether, in the event of any Mohammedan power invading India, they would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. He could not be satisfied with the reply he got from them. He said that he could definitely state that even men like Mr. Mohammed Ali had declared that under no circumstances was it permissible for any Mohammedan, whatever his country might be, to stand against any other Mohammedan.” Rabindranath Tagore in an interview to The Times of India published on April 18, 1924. Ibid p. 148.
» Virendra Parekh is the Executive Editor of Corporate India. He lives in Mumbai.
“Debate about Indian contribution to science must not be seen as jingoism,” says Dr Joshi – Navtan Kumar
“Joshi cites the statement of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, during the Infosys Science Prize ceremony in Kolkata, in which he said Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject. ‘But there was no specific mention of what India has given to others. There should be an objective view as far as sharing of knowledge is concerned,’ says the veteran BJP leader.” – Navtan Kumar
Senior BJP leader and former Union minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is peeved that all talk of ancient Indian science is being branded as jingoism by a section of the “intellectual” class. He says there is no doubt that India has learnt many things from the West, but wonders why there is no talk about what India has given to others.
Speaking to this correspondent, Joshi says the time has come for a “reappraisal” of the history of science. “This is the responsibility of the academic institutions, authors and thinkers to ponder over this issue. The government can only act as a facilitator, which can encourage people to explore space and time and compare that with rest of the world,” he says.
Joshi cites the statement of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, during the Infosys Science Prize ceremony in Kolkata, in which he said Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject. “But there was no specific mention of what India has given to others. There should be an objective view as far as sharing of knowledge is concerned,” says the veteran BJP leader.
He says that there is plenty of evidence, mainly documentary, to suggest that India has made significant contribution to science in the past. “And this is not me (talking), but many Western experts and academicians have said this for a long time. Please have a look at their writings in several books.”
He points out that according to Jean Filliozat, the trigonometric “sine” is not mentioned by Greek astronomers and mathematicians. But it was used in India from the Gupta period onwards: the Surya Siddhanta gives a table of sines, which the Arab astronomers picked up from their Indian contacts and passed them to Europe in 12th century. The only conclusion possible is that the use of sines was an Indian development and not a Greek one, he adds.
John Playfair, in 1789, referred to certain astronomical tables received from the East Indies by European scholars at an early stage in their contact with the East. Some of these tables were received from Siam (Thailand) and their “epoch” corresponded to 21 March 638 AD. But interestingly, the “meridian” of these tables was not Siam but Benares, now Varanasi.
Other tables received from South India had one thing in common. Their epoch coincides with the era of “Kali yuga”, that is, with the beginning of 3102 BC. Playfair finds that the positions of the planets given in these tables is close to the positions calculated with the help of modern integral calculus and the theory of gravitation. So, for him, the inescapable conclusion is that these positions were observed by the Brahmins and it is rather a wonder that the Brahmins could do so rather precisely at so distant a past.
Similarly, E. J. Urwick has said that Pythagoras accepted the most popular Indian theories of the time. Almost all the religious, philosophical and mathematical doctrines ascribed to him were known in India in the 6th century BC. According to Urwick, the transmigration theory, assumption of five elements, the Pythagorean theory in geometry etc., have their close parallels in ancient India.
Seidenberg, while discussing the origin of geometry, argued that the Babylonians knew the algebraic aspect of this theorem as early as 1700 BCE, but they did not seem to know the geometric aspect. The Shatapatha Brahmana, which precedes the age of Pythagoras, knew both the aspects.
Joshi feels that there should be an “academic debate” on the issue. “I am saying this as a student of science. No political colour should be attached to it,” says Joshi, who did his PhD in Spectroscopy and then taught physics at the Allahabad University.
Asked to comment on the papers presented by some scientists at the Indian Science Congress, suggesting things like aeroplanes existed 7,000 years ago, and thus creating much controversy, he says, “That is not the issue. The issue is whether there was scientific tradition in India or not; whether or not India made original contribution. What were the landmarks in these areas? Sadly, nobody is discussing this. As a result, people are taking extreme positions. Some say it was developed while others say it was under-developed. But there is a need to take an objective view on the issue. While talking about Western contribution, we should also discuss what India has given to others.”
“We have also made ample contribution in science. Talking about India’s contribution should not be taken or misunderstood as ‘jingoism’ or ‘distorted nationalism’. There is always a case to be studied objectively. Rather than condemning the Indian view all the time, we should discuss how others got ideas from us, like how Pythagoras got the Buddhist concept,” he says.
On the role of the government, he says, “The government should create conditions so that India becomes the ‘principal contributor’ to science once again. For this, there should be a proper vision and encouragement. Science should have no monopoly for the rich or affluent. Rather, it should be used to work for the overall well-being of civilisation.”
He says, as Minister of Human Resources Development, he started the process. “I tried to discuss ancient Indian science, traditions, context and level of scientific theory. We should talk about these things.” Joshi also defends Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that plastic surgery existed thousands of years ago. “When he said this, he basically highlighted the achievements of Indian science. Sushrut had done it 500-600 BC,” he says. – The Sunday Guardian, 18 January 2015
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This is a summary of the talk by Dilip K. Chakrabarti given at Lala Diwan Chand Trust in Delhi on 27 November 2014 and sponsored by the Centre for Policy Studies and the Diwan Chand Institute of National Affairs. Dr. Chakrabarti is Emeritus professor of South Asian Archaeology, Cambridge University, and Dean, Historical and Civilizational Centre, Vivekananda International Foundation, Delhi.
A number of points regarding the present state of ancient Indian historical studies deserve consideration. Out of the few hundred universities and university-level institutions, only a few offer courses in ancient India. Even among this handful of institutions, the places where the subject is taught with some kind of competence and expertise are very few. Why is the study of ancient India in modern Indian educational system so limited and so poor? The answer is rather unpleasant: we Indians are not seriously interested professionally in our ancient past; there is no prestige in its study and at the end no job. More unpleasantly, there is also some hostility from the vested interest groups of historians of “modern India.” To give only two examples, Nalanda International University, in which the Ministry of External Affairs is directly involved, is known to have recently filled the posts in its “school of historical studies.” The selected professor/dean is an anthropologist with specialization in Rajasthani folk literature. The academic credibility of another professor recruited to this school seems to be his knowledge of the Korean language. He has done some translation work but his research credentials in history are not at all clear. A third person recruited on a junior level seems to have done primarily de-construction work so far; detailed empirical research does not seem to have played any major role in his research record. Although the other recruits have something to do with history, none of them has anything to do with ancient India. Secondly, Presidency College University in Kolkata does not have any ancient Indian historian among the people recently recruited for its Department of History. For the last 50 years at least historians of the West Bengal universities have shown profound contempt for ancient India. This has taken different forms, one of which is that the MAs in Ancient Indian History and Culture, and Archaeology are usually not recruited for history teaching in the undergraduate colleges of the state.
The third point is that ‘”Hindu-baiting” is also a feature of many of the current studies on ancient India. Upinder Singh, a Delhi university historian, criticizes R.C. Majumdar by saying that he equated ancient India to Hinduism. She forgets that Buddhism and Jainism, two other visible religions of ancient India, were offshoots of Hinduism and that historians like R.C. Dutt had no hesitation to equate ancient India to Hindu civilization. When it comes to the study of the religion of the Indus civilization, a good number of Indian and foreign scholars are rather disturbed by the mention of Hinduism in that context. Hindu-baiting is also manifest in the way the status of Hinduism as a religion has been denied by various scholars. Their idea is that if the census operators of British India had categorized people not as Hindus but as adherents of Siva, Vishnu and others, Hinduism would not have emerged as the majority religion of India.. It would have emerged as an agglomeration of different sectarian groups. Western scholars have consistently argued this ignoring the overarching principle of unity that one finds in the Upanishads and they have been joined by Indian scholars like Romila Thapar.
The fourth point is that there is very little sense of nationalism among the Indian ancient historians and archaeologists of the post-Independence generation. The situation has deteriorated so much that any claim of high antiquity for anything Indian is viewed with suspicion. It is this almost endemic attitude which prevented people from looking at Indian history in proper historical perspective. H.D. Sankalia’s influence on Indian archaeology has been enormous — he was a kind of archaeological guru in the Deccan College, Pune, but according to him the sun of civilization for India lay always in the West. This is a bizarre opinion, but it is this attitude which still persists in the institute where he spent many years.
The fifth point is that most of the teachers and students of ancient India feel no affinity with the history and culture of the period because they do not have much clue to the language in which the ethos of the period manifested itself. There was a time when Sanskrit was more or less compulsory in Indian schools. As most of the Indian languages are rooted in different forms in Sanskrit, the sense of alienation between the past and the present was much less. A Bengali of my generation could fall in love with the Sanskrit-inspired passages of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, among others. Not many Bengalis of the modern generation can read them in original. I consider that a calamity for Bengali culture but we cannot do anything about it unless the study of Sanskrit is made mandatory in schools. – HPI, 1 December 2014
» This report prepared for Hindu Press International by Dr. J. K. Bajaj, Center for Policy Studies, Chennai.