This is a one-and-a-half hour long lecture delivered on 20 March 2018 at the iconic India International Centre in New Delhi.
RM has often talked about grand narratives of other civilizations but more as a side note. The central thesis of this lecture, which is a sneak preview of an upcoming book, is the Indian Grand Narrative. Anyone new to RM should start by watching this lecture as, I think, it provides the context to all of RM’s work so far.
Now, some of my comments:
- The bits of the early romantic phase of Indology was quite interesting, especially the french prisoner of war; Initially German indology scholars did not want to create trouble for India. But later Max Mueller (1823-1900) did. After all he was sponsored by the British East India Company!
- RM’s comments on new documents from Columbia University related to Ambedkar’s study there are troubling. These documents are apparently not in public domain but Ananya Vajpayee, Sheldon Pollock’s protege and now faculty at CSDS, New Delhi may have access to them.
- Based on RM’s and other thinkers and the current state of affairs, I am convinced now that at the core of all of India’s issues is the lack of a clear and positive grand narrative. A grand narrative which holds a country together is not simply about being patriotic (nothing wrong in that!) or just about having a sense of pride in one’s heritage (nothing wrong in this too, there are plenty of reasons to be proud) or India trying to become a global super power (also, nothing wrong!) or about Hindutva (nothing wrong with that too .. reminder – this is not right wing!).
- The Indian Mahakatha should have been developed and institutionalized within the first decade of independence. The fact that a lecture like this is a crying need 70 years after independence is itself a symptom of the problem. If you reflect on this lecture for sometime and connect the dots with the news (of course, not the NDTV version), you would realize how big the stakes are — not just the integrity of India but also the very existence of the world’s oldest continuous civilization. You would also realize that we are very close to the tipping point. Current and the next generation will determine whether the Hindu civilization ends up like the Greek, Roman and Mayan civilization – in the museum. RM hints at this when he says that I am afraid that we may not have enough time.
Hope that is enough motivation not just to watch the lecture in its entirely but also to reflect on it.
Came across this article titled A Vandalised Civilisation (published 01 Dec 2017) by PR Ramesh on the destruction of Hindu symbols by muslim rulers during medieval times, particularly in north India.
The wanton acts of vandalism and desecration by conquering hordes in evidence across north India is reminescent of the 2001 demolition—under orders of the then Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar—of the globally-renowned Buddha statues at Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan, 230 km northwest of Kabul.
This is the right modern analogy for the ruthless destruction of Hindu symbols in medieval times. Ironically, instead of acknowledging this as a fact of history ..
… the argument over this aspect of history has got sidetracked to whether claims of the count of Hindu shrines demolished by Islamic rulers are backed by evidence or have been overblown.
This is the power of narrative and the distortion that the leftists historians have propagated. The article is worth a read. Plenty of specific historical references for anyone to dig deeper on the Mughal period.
Starting from ancient times, history of India from every period needs to be revisited, but nothing is more relevant today than the British period. In that context, Shashi Tharoor’s book Inglorius Empire on the British Raj is a must read. In some places, Tharoor’s political leanings do seems to color his narrative, but the research is of RM standards.
Barkha Dutt’s new incarnation is as the host of a talk show #openmind. Ah, the irony of Barkha Dutt being associated with an openmind!
In this video she asks Amish all the usual libtard questions on caste, tolerance and women’s rights.
Amish gives quite thoughtful and well articulated responses with which I almost completely agree. He seems to get the idea of Indian Grand Narrative. Got to read his books.
He made one insightful remark on the secularism and tolerance debate
Indian society is and has always been inherently secular, but post-independence Indian state has never been secular.
Glad he mentions RTE and government control of temples as examples of state not being secular. Got to read his new book Immortal India.
Indian embassy in Washington DC kick started their Third International Yoga Day (2017) celebration with the below lecture by Rajiv Malhotra. The main theme of the talk was appropriation and digestion of Indian ideas and techniques by the west. It charted the developments in Mind Sciences in the West since Swami Vivekananda’s trip to the west. In one-hour Rajiv Malhotra mentioned all the people (in yellow), institutions (in red) and techniques/ideas (in blue) in the image above! That should be reason enough to watch the lecture!
Every time I hear RM speak on this topic, I realize something that I was overlooking earlier. Digestion clearly violates the ethics of academic and scientific research since the references are not properly cited and acknowledged. By weakening Indian culture and tradition, digestion also facilitates various Breaking India forces. I appreciated all this earlier.
However, all that is a problem for the Indian government and Swadeshi scholars. Should the aam aadmi care? How does it matter whether one gets the authentic version of a technique or the digested one? In other words, should it matter whether you learn Vipassana or it’s digested version of mindfulness; yog nidra vs lucid dreaming, Transcendental meditation vs relaxation-response? Rajiv Malhotra argues that it does matter because the digested versions are usually just a small subset of the source body of knowledge, and often are also substandard. He mentions that authentic Vipassana is much more advanced than mindfulness, yet mindfulness is projected as the “new and improved” version and is all over the town today! In a few generations, people may not even know that something called Vipassana even existed. I can easily imagine this. Indian scriptures and rituals can be very complex with many layers of meanings and symbolism. Same idea can often be interpreted and implemented in many different ways and combined with other ideas in numerous different ways. Once the source has been reduced to one or two digested forms, such experiments will no longer be possible. Paraphrasing from the talk:
digestion effectively plucks the fruit on a tree and leaves the tree behind to atrophy thereby eliminating the possibility of future harvests.
Another thing I realized is the difference between the way rest of Asia treated knowledge from India and how the west did it and is still continuing. Buddhism spread to China, Japan and south-east Asia over millennia and steadily became less prevalent in India. Yet, Buddhist scholars and practitioners in those countries even today respectfully acknowledge their Indian roots. Western appropriators, on the other hand, go out of their way to avoid crediting India. RM gives a powerful analogy to illustrate this point:
it is like you run 100m faster than any one before and the credit goes to the guy with the clock who timed you and reported it to the world!
RM mentioned that he is writing seven books based on this talk. I can’t wait for it!
Watch the below speech of PM Modi on the occasion of 1000 year birth anniversary of Sri Ramanujacharya, one of the great philosophers of Hinduism, in the same league as Ādi Shankaracharya and Madhvāchārya.
PM Modi presented a biography of Sri Ramanujacharya most of which I was not aware of. Particularly interesting was the fact that Sri Ramanujacharya’s guru was a non-bhrahmin! This was a big deal then. Removing caste-based discrimination was one of the big themes of Sri Ramanujacharya’s life. And this was duly acknowledged by Ambedkar in an editorial to which PM Modi heavily refer to in the speech. [Readers, if you find the soft copy of Ambedkar’s editorial, please share.]
So, two points:
This is a very important talk by Rajiv Malhotra delivered in Feb 2017 in New Delhi at an event organized by IGNOU. It addresses the question – what is the Indian counterpart of American exceptionalism?
The answer is – Bhartiya Exceptionalism. RM defines it, lays out the need for such a thing and compares it with the Grand Narrative of other nations. Of course, the sad thing is that there is need for articulation of Bhartiya Exceptionalism 70 years after independence!
For any student (this is, an honest student – not the Pollockian variety!) of Indian history and Hindu philosophy, it would be clear that Bhartiya exceptionalism would derive from Hindu heritage and philosophy.
The immediate next question, most likely from a confused Hindu, would be – what about the non-hindu minorities? Is there room for them? How can you right wingers be so intolerant?! First, let me remind you of the name of this blog: this-is-not-right-wing! Second – calm down. These would be non-issues in a society built on Hindu principles. That is because mutual respect (watch this short clip, ideally read Being Different) has always been a defining characteristic of Indian civilization. It has not just been an abstract idea but a ground reality and has actually facilitated integration of multiple immigrants over the ages.
So, how would we go about implementing Bhartiya exceptionalism in today’s India? Towards the end of the talk, RM clearly lays out there requirements that minorities ought to meet in order to integrate in a nation built on Hindu values. These are :-
1. Mutual respect should be a two-way street
2. Minority religions should disown foreign authority (apparently China has done this)
3. Minorities must accept the history of violence and oppression perpetrated in the name of their religions (think Aurangzeb).
I think these are perfectly reasonable requirements.
On the third point, note that no apology is being demanded from the minorities today. What is being asked is a recognition that, just like Jewish holocaust is a fact of history, so is Hindu holocaust. Anyone denying the Jewish holocaust in the west is promptly labeled fringe. But in India, Hindu holocaust deniers can easily be found writing for The Hindu, appearing on NDTV and, of course, raising slogans in JNU!
And there it is again – an article on scroll.in with an animated map of nonsense complete with ominous music in the background! Not to forget the customary hinduphobic section predictably titled “The Hindutva out-of-India myth”. It was first published on Jun 10, 2015 and updated on Jan 03, 2017. The author Shoaib Daniyal has solid hinduphobic credentials as evident from his regular contributions on scroll.in.
As for the present article Dr Koenraad Elst‘s response below sums it up perfectly –
Dear Mrs./Mr. Editor,
“While I don’t 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 (AIT) merely shows that he is quite unaware of the state of the art.
“So he equates the rivalling Out-of-India Theory (OIT) 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 OIT. Even Harvard professor and AIT champion Michael Witzel admits that no material evidence of Aryans moving into India has been found “yet”, i.e. 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?
“A year ago I was participating in a Delhi conference on the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization. While there, I received an e-mail from one of the world’s foremost specialists on the linguistic aspect of Indo-European origins, HH 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 AIT are hardly more numerous. As I have verified at several specialist conferences, most concerned linguists don’t 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 BB 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 still cited till today in favour of t”he AIT, at least in India. But in reality, Lal himself has renounced that hypothesis decades ago, realizing that his posited link with Aryan invaders was itself based on a tacit acceptance of the omnipresent AIT. Today he emphasizes 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 AIT. If the OIT has been associated with Hindutva (wrongly, for VD Savarkar, who launched this political concept, was an AIT believer), its alleged political use is at any rate only a trifle compared to the AIT. The OIT has been upheld mostly in one country for a few decades by a few scholars without any political power. By contrast, the AIT 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 BR 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 AIT, not the OIT.
“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.
“Dr. Koenraad Elst”