15th August- A day to bust some myths about India

The  pedestrian view of real India is changing as we are coming to know more about  Indian heritage. Thanks to some recent archaeological research, discoveries on  linguistics, new satellite imagery and objective historical research that the  last two decades has seen the myths about Indian culture and heritage broken.  While India celebrates her Independence Day from colonial rule, it is time to bust  some myths about India. Can it be the firecrackers needed for our Independence  Day celebration? Isn’t it better to have independence from myths about India’s  heritage rather than a misinformed perception?

In the US, an elementary school student  asked her Indian teacher, “Do you used to ride an elephant to your school in  India?” Obviously this was an innocent and naïve question by the American  student. Brushing aside such juvenile stereotypes, India has seen some deep  rooted colonial myths, which continue to play on the minds of the masses.  Fortunately, a large quantum of scientific research in the last decades is  removing misconceptions.

The validation against the myths comes  from the works of professors, eminent Indic scholars, researchers, historians,  philosophers and Indologists. Some names worth mentioning are Prof B.B.Lāl,  R.C.Majumdar, David Frawley, George Feuerstein, Francois Gautier, Stephen  Knapp, Rājiv Malhotra, Dharampal, Koenrad Elst, Subhāsh Kāk, N.Rājārām,  Shrikānt Thalageri, not to forget Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Sri Aurobindo,  Swami Vivekananda, Sarvepalli Rādhākrishnan, Babasaeb Ambedkar, Dādābhai  Naoroji and Swami Chinmayananda among others. Their work is available is on the  web. These eminent people have only presented the facts and finally ‘truth’.

Here are five myths about India, among  many, which have tainted the world’s understanding of India. These myths are  now kaput, defunct and invalid as they were not only nonsense but debunked  nonsense now.

Myth: Āryans invaded India and ruled  over the indigenous Dravidians.
This theory was one of the notorious  myths that did serious damage to the Indian society, which was used for  political and religious advantage by colonial historians. It was without any  foundation. The respected Vedic scholar, Dr.David Frawley wrote that “one of  the main ideas used to interpret and generally devalue the ancient history of  India is the theory of the Āryan invasion. According to this account, India was  invaded and conquered by nomadic light-skinned Indo-European tribes from  Central Asia around 1500-1000 BCE, who overthrew an earlier and more advanced  dark-skinned Dravidian civilization from which they took most of what later  became Hindu culture.”

At the time this myth was perpetrated,  it was questioned by stalwarts like Sri Aurobindo and Swāmi Vivekānanda. Today  it is now completely discredited among scholars. In his book ‘Demise of the  Āryan Invasion Theory’ Frawley wrote “This idea totally foreign to the history  of India, whether north or south has become almost an unquestioned truth in the  interpretation of ancient history. Today, after nearly all the reasons for its  supposed validity have been refuted, even major Western scholars are at last  beginning to call it in question.”

Myth: India was not a country when the British  arrived
The first definitive mention of Bhārat  as a nation is found in the works of the great Pānini (7th century BCE). According  to ‘Arthashastra’ India can be documented as a political entity as early as the  3rd century BCE and as a cultural entity as early as the 4th century CE per the  Brahmapurān. Has somebody asked the Western nations of today if they were a  nation, politically or culturally, around 3rd century BC. Also, common sense makes one wonder why  Christopher Columbus and the Portuguese travellers came looking for “India”  though at that time India had many kingdoms ruled by different Kings. 

Culturally India was one, despite many attempts by  rulers to give a single political authority. But this did not mean that India  lacked the concept of statehood.  

Simply put, India had a collective  cultural nationalism with long periods of political disunity and that’s not  unnatural according to the American historian C.J.H. Hayes who says in his book  ‘Nationalism: A Religion’ that “If we are to grasp what a nationality is, we  must avoid confusing it with a state or nation… Cultural nationalism may exist  with or without political nationalism. For, nationalities can and do exist for  fairly long periods without political unity and independence.”

Myth: India was always backward and poor
It has now been established that before  the British came, India was one of the richest countries in the world. Samuel  P. Huntington the American political scientist in his ‘The Clash of  Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order’ wrote that “In 1750 China  accounted for almost one-third, India for almost one quarter, and the West less  than a fifth of the world’s manufacturing output.” The tide is turning in  India’s and China’s favor again. Noted Gandhian and historian Dharampāl did  extensive research and destroyed the myth that India was educationally backward  when the British came to India. Dharampāl’s writings have led to a sweeping  re-examination of conventional views of the cultural, scientific and  technological achievements of Indian society when the British first arrived.

Myth: Caste system of India is based on  birth
Firstly there is no such word as ‘Caste’  in any Indian language. The word caste comes from the Portuguese word ‘casta’  which was imposed on the Indian psyche during their first voyage to India in  the 16th century. India had a natural Varna vyavastha system which  followed a natural order of evolution. Nothing is deterministic. Nobody is born  into a Varna by default, just as a Doctor’s son cannot be a doctor by birth.  Evolution is earned and determined by one’s mental framework (guna) and conduct  (karma) as the Bhagavad-Gita confirms. Today this Varna system has degenerated  and knowledge will hopefully dispel the ignorance.

Having said that it is the varna system  that has enabled India to have a large and vibrant private sector unlike say  China. The third varna is the business community. For them doing business comes  naturally.

Myth: There are too many Gods in India
The oriental understanding of God is unique  and universal.  What appears pantheistic  with many Gods reflects the support needed for the minds of people. Noted  scholar Dr S. Radhakrishnan said “Hinduism is not just a faith. It is the union  of reason and intuition that cannot be defined but is only to be experienced.  Evil and error are not ultimate. There is no Hell, for that means there is a  place where God is not, and there are sins which exceed his love". All  major sects and groups accept the Vedic Upanishads as the main authority on  religion and spirituality, which is monotheistic in nature. The Upanishads doesn’t  talk about some elderly God sitting over the clouds controlling everything. The  Vedas confirm that “Truth is one but the wise call it by many names.”
  Hopefully these myths will eventually  die out in the mass psyche and a full recovery will happen to give us a correct  vision about the 5000 year old India. We can draw inspiration from the past,  have to live in the present and earn out stripes every day.

Happy ‘Independence from Myths’ day.

Also  read:
Why did the Portuguese come to India
When Caste was not a bad word
How India became a poor country
Decolonizing the Indian Mind
What if India became the world’s third largest economy
Rediscovering India by Dharampal

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