I came across an excellent video recently of a talk by Professor Raj Vedam of the SriJan Foundation (do watch on You Tube or below).
In it, he presents comprehensive facts and data about ancient India and how the false narratives of colonising powers led us to believe very different things about our history. He convincingly debunks the Aryan Invasion Theory (as has been done by others before him in recent years) which imposed a false discrimination upon the Indian people of two races – the Aryan and Dravidian and further created the narrative of a race-inspired caste system.
As the talk elucidates, there’s a lot we’ve been led to believe about the history of India and unfortunately continue to teach our children that is absolutely false. These fanciful theories include myths like:
Myth: The Aryans (Indo-Europeans from Central Asia) brought Vedic culture to India around 1500 BC and dominated the indigenous Dravidian population who were then driven southward.
Reality: The distinction between Aryan and Dravidian is a false imposition. There was never any Aryan invasion but instead there was just one race of Indians whose civilisation goes back, without break, at least 10,000 years with a cultural memory of about 24,000 years. This is supported by archeo-genetic, archaeological and astronomical data. Traces of a 8-10,000 year old civilisation are found in different parts of the Indian subcontinent – be it the remains of what is called the Indus Valley Civilisation in Mohenjodaro and Harrappa or in southern Indian states at places like Keezhadi in Tamil Nadu and Jwalapuram in Andhra Pradesh.
Myth: The Age of Reason of 18th century Europe and the scientific revolution it ushered in was a turning point in the evolution of human intelligence and we owe rational and scientific thinking to the West.
Reality: Indian knowledge systems pertaining to both outer and inner sciences are amazingly profound. Texts like the Surya Siddhanta (conservatively dated between 700 BCE – 400 CE) and Vedanta Jyotisha show that ancient Indians not only knew the structure of the solar system but also made complicated calculations about precession, diameters of other planets, the distance between the earth, moon and sun etc. (We all also know about the fact that the zero, the concept of infinity and the decimal system were discovered by Indians.)
There are other many great achievements that several scholars like Subhash Kak, David Frawley, Stephen Knapp and many others have written and talked about for years.
Sadly, Indian schools don’t teach this. Most of us have grown up accepting that the caste system was an oppressive construct imposed by the Aryans on the inferior indigenous Indian race, the Dravidians. Many of us don’t know that the original ‘caste system’ had no racial or other discriminatory dimension but was instead a way of giving direction and organisation to society by way of a construct that was open and harmonious and based upon an understanding of human nature and competence.
School children are presented with Pythagoras’ theorem without being told that he took this knowledge from India. They’re taught about ‘Socrates the wise’ but not the Vedantic knowledge he was inspired by. Our biology classes don’t leave time to mention that the ancient Ayurvedic texts reveal a profound understanding of the human body as well as of nature and herbs and that even surgery was developed and practiced in ancient India. We are forced to memorise and recite Shakespeare but not the over 2,000 year old Kalidasa. Even talking about this is often met with a laziness by those who do understand the problem – “who’s going to re-invent the wheel? We’re getting by fine as we are.” By which they generally mean that they will ensure their children are able to leave the country at the earliest possible opportunity and build a better life elsewhere.
Personal and Social Responsibility
Thanks to about a thousand years of invasion and foreign occupation, we seem to have completely lost our sense of personal responsibility as can be evidenced by the common-ness of offences ranging from littering to tax evasion. That there are people who line up to beg for a meal at my neighbourhood temples every evening (my neighbourhood being one of the most affluent of the country) is something I am simply unable to get used to. How can there be people dressed in tatters and begging for a meal living alongside others getting sick from overeating? The centuries of invasions seem to have made us so thick-skinned that we can scarcely think beyond ourselves and our own families.
On a recent long-haul flight I had a fresh opportunity to experience the ugly Indian traveller who litters the airport, reclines his chair all the way back with a jerk without any warning, talks loudly while the entire plane is quiet and resting, turns on the light above your head while you are sleeping, rushes to grab his luggage before the plane has come to a stop on the runway, etc. etc.
This being a country noted for its gentility by ancient travellers like Marco Polo and Huen Tsang…only shows how steep has been our fall from the ladder of good and conscious living. Personal and social responsibility can only be activated either by activating our humanity and conscience at an individual level or by instilling a sense of national pride.
Need for a Strong National Self-Image
Despite the fervent attempts by outside forces to create a division between North and South India (based on the Aryan-Dravidian narrative), any Indian knows simply by experience that there is absolutely no hierarchical relationship between the north and south or any feelings of alienation between the peoples. In fact on some of my own visits to South Indian temples, I have often felt that the rituals and sanctity are better preserved there than in many North Indian temples and I feel like I get a more accurate picture from them about what Vedic culture looked like than from the invasion-ravaged North.
As already noted above, Indian culture on the Indian subcontinent dates back thousands of years, if not tens of thousands. In more ‘recent’ times, as far back as about the 8th century CE, Adi Shankaracharya set up four matths (monasteries), in the four directions of India: Dwarka (West), Puri (East), Sringeri (South) and Badrinath (North). As he was born in Kerala, it seems odd doesn’t it that an oppressed Dravidian was able to mark out almost the entire territory of India for his work? In any case, my broader point is that the Indian culture and civilisation has been a unified one spanning the Indian sub-continent for many millennia.
Yet we seem to have forgotten that today and therefore often fail to function with pride in a national identity. This has been reflected in our political system and been the cause of the significant ‘brain drain’ which leads our best and brightest to seek their fortunes abroad where there are better opportunities.
Possibilities for a Greater Humanity
Wouldn’t it be better for humanity as a whole if the huge law-abiding, educated and talented Indian youth was working to better the prospects of the second largest cluster of humanity on the planet i.e. India? There is much that Indians can do that will not only benefit India, but actually the entire world.
While the world is trying to find ways of living with less and in a more sustainable way that doesn’t harm the planet, we already have an innate understanding of how to flourish as a species without destroying the planet and accumulating material things. We know how to live peacefully with diversity – racial, religious, economic, etc. We know how to create the conditions for human genius to flourish. We know how to access the highest potential of being human – the inner dimension – through the largest variety of spiritual methods than anywhere on the planet. We know how to teach people to access the joy of life within themselves. But right now it seems we’re too captivated by the consumerist lifestyles imposed on us from outside and are reluctant to abandon the survival mode mantras of ‘me and mine’.
What is missing?
Understanding our history and culture
We need to shake off the false constructs imposed on our minds by foreign forces that had neither the will nor ability to properly understand our history and culture. We’ve been given to identify ourselves as Hindus in religious terms when actually ‘Hindu’ is a culture, not a religion. A religion requires ‘believers’ whereas Indians have never been told by their (genuine) spiritual leaders to simply ‘believe’ in anything. Instead, our spiritual traditions have emphasised logic and thinking for oneself.
By confining Hindu culture to a religion, we are intimidated, in the name of secularism or progressiveness, into abandoning our traditional practices that are actually not about religion but about ‘conscious living’. We also concomitantly resigned all our history to ‘mythology’ because of course religions are constructed on belief and faith, not historical facts.
Many Indians today think that the Ramayana and Mahabharata are ‘myths’ while actually they are historical records but written in such an awe-inspiringly unique way as to be compendiums of living history i.e. relevant to the life of a reader at any point in time. These texts also have deeper, spiritual meanings for those who are able to access that dimension (more on that some other time). For others, they serve to teach important lessons about human nature and how to live a useful life.
As historical documents, they tell us a lot about our own history as a race of people but also about the history of the planet. There hasn’t been much interest in the West for exploring the ancient Indian civilisation (for obvious reasons) and neither have Indians seriously taken up the task. For instance, it was a complete surprise to me to find out about possible ancient links of India with Australia (where I’m currently visiting): from Ganesha and other deity idols unearthed at Gympie pyramid, to links between the Tamil language and Australian Aboriginal languages. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to explore this topic in more detail sometime.
From understating India to ‘realising’ India
We have only just begun to seriously explore our history and culture and often get into all kinds of intellectual debates and sometimes that is needed. But we mustn’t overlook the most important thing that made Aryavrata or Bharat great and that is the spiritual dimension. We cannot simply understand India intellectually, we need to ‘realise’ India i.e. the spirit that enabled our forefathers to scale the heights of human potential. Sadly we don’t currently have the intellectual and spiritual organisations working hand-in-hand. The intellectual forces that work on unearthing historical facts and fighting intellectual debates about religion often miss the spiritual dimension or mistake the religious for the spiritual. Sure, the ancient Indians had great achievements in science and art but their greatest achievement was in knowing the nature of reality and life – realising the Self beyond names and forms. They perceived the source of creation in the depths of meditation – “that by knowing which all becomes known” (Mandaka Upanishad). In reading all the great books of the Vedas and Upanishads, we mustn’t forget that the rishis were really saying to read the book of ourselves.
Spiritual masters/gurus are able to guide us and perceive what we cannot. I recall seeing for example a video in which Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev visited the Delphi temple in Greece and was able to perceive that it had been constructed by yogis many thousands of years ago. In other talks, he has even spoken about the Sapt Rishis going to various parts of the world (South America, South-East Asia, Central Asia, etc) to spread yogic knowledge. Such information from the yogic lore should form part of our holistic understanding of the roots of our culture.
Merely an intellectual understanding of the Vedas and Upanishads does not do justice to it. Instead sadhana must be emphasised to make the knowledge come truly alive. Knowledge must become experience. Otherwise it will be misinterpreted and lead to greater darkness.
Make India Bharat Again
In the whole of Rama’s realm there was no one who suffered from bodily pains, ill fortune or evil circumstances. Every man loved his neighbor and, contented with the state of life to which he had been born, conformed to sound morality and the teaching of scripture.
The four pillars of religion were established throughout the world. No one even dreamt of sin. Men and women alike were devoted to Råma’s worship and enjoyed the blessings of highest heaven.
There was no sickness and no premature death. Everyone was trim and sound of body. No one was in poverty, in sorrow or in distress. No one was ignorant or unlucky. All men and women were naturally good and pious, clever and intelligent. Everyone appreciated the merits of his neighbor and was himself learned and wise. Everyone was grateful for kindness and sincerely prudent.
दैहिक दैविक भौतिक तापा। राम राज नहिं काहुहि ब्यापा।।
सब नर करहिं परस्पर प्रीती। चलहिं स्वधर्म निरत श्रुति नीती।।
चारिउ चरन धर्म जग माहीं। पूरि रहा सपनेहुँ अघ नाहीं।।
राम भगति रत नर अरु नारी। सकल परम गति के अधिकारी।।
अल्पमृत्यु नहिं कवनिउ पीरा। सब सुंदर सब बिरुज सरीरा।।
नहिं दरिद्र कोउ दुखी न दीना। नहिं कोउ अबुध न लच्छन हीना।।
सब निर्दंभ धर्मरत पुनी। नर अरु नारि चतुर सब गुनी।।
सब गुनग्य पंडित सब ग्यानी। सब कृतग्य नहिं कपट सयानी।।
दो0-राम राज नभगेस सुनु सचराचर जग माहिं।।
काल कर्म सुभाव गुन कृत दुख काहुहि नाहिं।
– Rama Charita Maanas, Uttara Kanda (21); translation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
It seems hard to imagine today that such a peaceful and fulfilled society existed at one point on this land we call India. We need to find our own ideals and idols once again. In traditional terminology it would be ‘establishing Ram Rajya’. In modern, it would be Making India Great Again. Or, perhaps Making India Bharat Again.
Happy Ugadi, Gudi Padwa and Navratri and look forward to a most auspicious Ram Navami.
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