Category Archives: Hindu Nationalism

A History of Buddhist India

Written by Randeep Singh

The Buddhist period of India’s history (c. 273 BCE-646 CE) refers to a time where Buddhism shaped India’s culture, religions, social and political institutions and its relations with other countries. The Buddhist emperors below ruled over multi-ethnic and multi-religious empires, and not over the monolithic Hindu nation India is imagined to be.

Ashoka (r. 273-232 BCE)

Ashoka was the last major emperor of the Maurya Dynasty (321-185 BCE). He unified most of the Indian subcontinent and helped spread Buddhism throughout his empire. His empire included Buddhists but also Jains, Brahmins and followers of different sects. His policy of “dharma” exhorted religious tolerance and expressed his concern for the welfare of his subjects.

Kanishka (r. 127-150 CE)

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Above: Map of the Kushan Empire

Under Kanishka, the Kushan Empire encompassed Bactria, Afghanistan, the Punjab and the Indo-Gangetic plains. Ruling from Purusapura (Peshawar), his empire was home to Zoroastrians, Brahmins, Jains, Buddhists, Greeks and other pagan cults. He connected India to the Silk Road and his patronage of Buddhism helped it spread to Central Asia and China.

Harsha (r. 606-647)

Harsha was the last great “ancient” emperor of northern India. He patronized Buddhist universities like Nalanda and established benevolent institutions throughout his empire. He established relations with China and welcomed monks like Hsuan Tsang (602-664) to his court. He was also, incidentally, a patron of Sanskrit literature and himself wrote plays.

nalanda

Above: Ruins of the Nalanda University. Nalanda was founded during the fifth century. Its subjects included Buddhist philosophy, logic, grammar and philology and medicine.


Dharmapala
(r. c. 780-820)

Dharmpala was a ruler of the Pala Dynasty (750-1174). His empire spanned Bengal, Bihar and central India. He founded the Vikramshila University which attracted students from across India, China, Tibet and South East Asia. The Buddhist architecture and iconography of his reign would influence styles found in Burma, Java, Tibet and Nepal.

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Filed under Buddhism, Hindu Nationalism, History, India, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized

India’s Terror

India Terror Raid

Written by Randeep Singh

In “India’s Silent Terror,” Jill McGivering looks at the rise of Hindu nationalism in India and the terror it is wreaking across the country.

In this India, children are recruited into the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (India’s Hitler Youth) to keep their country safe from its enemies. The cow-protection[1] movement scours the land in search of transgressors. Muslims live in fear, Christians are attacked, student activists are charged with sedition and history books published by those in higher education are banned.

There has been an increase in killings and violence against Muslims, Christians and members of other minority groups in India since the election of Narendra Modi in 2014. McGivering underlines the zeal of right-wing Hindu political activists in remaking India and the unease felt by minorities.

When she addresses these concerns with Dr. Hitesh Bajpayee (Madhya Pradesh) and India’s Minister of Education, Prakash Javdekar, McGivering is told that the remarks of those concerned are politically motivated. Javedkar even suggests that such remarks are used by the West to bash Modi and malign India.

I agree that the remarks of Shahid Muhammad Khan,[2] the student activist Kanhaiya Kumar and the NGO worker Ram Chand are politically motivated. They are political in that these people are claiming their basic rights to life, liberty and security and to freedom of thought and expression. They are political in that these people are demanding a respect for their basic dignity.

The remarks of the BJP Ministers are no less political. Javedkar describes the JNU protest led by Kanhaiya Kumar as a threat to the nation. Students must be taught the “right perspective” says Javedkar, a perspective which is also politically defined and one that the Hindu Right prefers not be subjected to scrutiny or debate.

The Hindu Nationalism project is tearing away at India. It is leaving a bloody, despotic and terrorizing trail as in the pogroms in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli,[3] the crackdown at JNU and in the growth of self-censorship. This is a different India, says one professor, across which a new juggernaut is rolling, flattening the country culturally and squashing those who get in the way.

BBC Radio 4: “India’s Silent Terror,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b084zk77

[1]  A symbol of the modern Hindu right.

[2] Khan has sold newspapers for a living for over forty years. He was more recently by a Hindu leader with defamation for selling a certain newspaper containing an article critical of that leader.

[3] Districts in Uttar Pradesh.

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Filed under Freedom of Expression, Hindu Nationalism, India, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized

The Politics of History

mohenjodaro_sindh

Written by Randeep Singh

The Times of India recently reported, based on the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India, that the Indus Valley Civilization may be more than 8,000 years old. This would make the Indus Civilization several thousand years older than the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

This is an important discovery, but one that in contemporary India will likely be misused, skewed and distorted. No sooner had the Times of India reported the discovery, did its writer, Nitin Mehta,  muse over whether this meant that the Aryans were indigenous to the subcontinent.

Many Hindus believe that they are descended from that the Aryans. Hindu Nationalists, however, go further. They hold that the Aryans were indigenous to the subcontinent. This makes them natives on par with the Adivasis (aboriginals), entitles them to speak for the nation and puts them above those other perpetual outsiders, India’s Muslims.

But this discovery does not make the Indus Valley an Aryan civilization. Nor does it mean that the Aryans were native to South Asia. The latter theory has lost credence thanks to books like Frawley and Kak’s, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, which sought to prove its hypothesis through astrology, astronomical evidence, and dates from the Puranas. 

There is no history though in Modi’s India; only, ideology in the garb of the Ramayana. History texts by scholars like Wendy Doniger are pulped. The head of the Indian National Historical Council heads an RSS chapter. In California, Hindu groups are pushing for the revision of history texts. How we react to events like these, and the Indus Valley discovery, will either lead India further into the forest of delusion or out into the open.

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Filed under Hindu Nationalism, History, India, Politics, Randeep Singh, Uncategorized