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.
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.
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!
Rajiv Malhotra today posted the below talk delivered in Feb 2017 at the Foreign Service Institute in Delhi which is part of the Ministry of External Affairs. I must have watched over 50 lectures by RM. This one is definitely among his greatest hits. It is full of deep insights, telling anecdotes and, of course, political incorrectness!
Some of the questions that RM addresses are:
- Why would US and the west destabilize India? Isn’t India, being a democracy, a natural ally?
- Are the Breaking India forces isolated and local? Or, are some foreign “grand designs” also at play?
- How does India studies in the west compare with that of other major civilizations such as Chinese, Japanese and Islamic? Who funds it? Who controls it?
Some observations from the talk that struck me are:
- It is not always the case that Breaking India forces are driven by Western agencies. Indians are far too eager to blame it all on the west. However, now there even are vested interest groups based in India who are duping western agencies into supporting them under the pretext of human rights, etc. It is the responsibility of Indian government to identify and weed them out.
- Islamization of India is often pointed out as a threat to the stability of India. However, RM makes a distinction between islamization and Arabization, and says that it is the later that is the problem. Islam per se is not an issue. He points to Indonesia as a case study since, in spite of converting to Islam, it has retained the Indian civilizational identity. So religion and civilization are two different things – fascinating! He also points to the rise of Urdu in Kerala as a symptom of the problem. Urdu in Kerala – WTF?!
Greatly enjoyed and impressed by Sadhguru’s views and observations in this video. It covers a wide range of topics including who is a good student and a good guru? what is leadership? what is needed for a democracy to work?
The things that impressed me the most was Sadhguru’s take on Indian history. He says clearly that we have been colonized for 1000 years by barbarians who had no respect for the inward looking vedic culture. And the reason that we fell to these invaders was that in the pursuit of higher knowledge we neglected the mundane task of building a good army. He also explains why we did not completely vanish like the Pagans and other civilizations who were demolished by western expansions.
His take on the history of education in India also hit the nail on its head. He correctly points out that the British systematically destroyed our superior education system to create subservient clerks instead of free thinkers. More importantly, he states clearly that the situation hasn’t been remedied after independence. In other words, we are still colonized. He also hinted at the need for Swadeshi Indology.
In short, Sadhguru gets Rajiv Malhotra’s message and is doing an excellent job of propagating it.
Gurus who impart abstract Vedic spiritual and philosophical teachings are important and should be revered. However, sometimes the teachings become too abstract and world-negating. We need more gurus like Sadhguru who bridge the gap between the spiritual and the mundane and take a stand on current issues – politics, corruption (Sadhguru on Demonetization), environment, science, other religions, individual responsibility, identity, and so on. I may not always agree with their stand, but that is a different matter.
By the way, Subhash Ghai’s interruptions in the video were quite dumb!
The Aryan Invasion Theory, although thoroughly discredited, still has deep impressions on the psyche of (confused) Indians. Along with Caste system, it is the poster child for the harm done by Videshi Indology. The most concrete illustration of the harm done by Aryan-Dravidian divide is the current politics of Tamil Nadu.
Dr Nagaswamy recently published a book titled Tamil Nadu: The Land of the Vedas which collects evidence against the Dravidian theory and sets the record straight. The following conversation between Rajiv Malthotra and Tamil scholar Dr. R. Nagaswamy talks about the book and much more.
More on the topic in this article on Pragyata.