Archive for January 11th, 2012

Old and terminally ill Mulla Nasruddin knew days were coming to an end. To his astonishment he had a visitor all the way from Hindustan. Munshi Abdel Khader spoke about Golgonda and fantastic features of Moghul India. ‘I am a scholar and I am paid from the State treasury by string of pearls,’ Mulla asked if he prayed in the direction of Mecca. The Indian visitor said with emphasis,’I pray of course to the west’ On second thoughts he added,’ but I am conscious of my surroundings.’
‘Because of pearls?’
‘No my papoosh!(felt slippers),’ the visitor said,’ I have often lost them under my feet.’
Mullah laughed and the Munshi also could not help joining in. The mulla said, ‘Oh yes we are not among angels. So we look direction and count number of bows.’
(This story is not part of the Mulla Nasruddin stories recently published.)

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Epics are a fair indication of national character. The Iliad and Odysseus of Homer give the reader the wider arc of Greek civilization in touching the entire western world: geography of the people touches their way of life and in the case of Greeks added to their martial prowess and hardiness. If their city-states cut up by mountain terrain left no room for expansion they would expand outwards and populate Asia Minor and beyond. The exploits of Achilles or Odysseus made them look beyond themselves. In India we see it was just the opposite. The sub-continent, which we call India hemmed in north by Tibetan Plateau and surrounded by the sea was the repository of ideas, innovations as a result of innumerable invasions of people. And as such we grew ever inwards. Except in the case of Buddhism we as a people never thought it worth the while to influence outside the sub-continent as the Buddhist monks spread the teachings of their Buddha. Why we never then thought of closing the gap of people scattered across this vast sub-continent? Were we fatalists or uncharacteristically become immune to changes? This begs an answer.
Was not there a thought that could meld all under as one? Unfortunately there was none. Why?
Even as practitioners of a set of beliefs and form of worship we were receivers than originators. Different influences brought with successive waves of migration were assimilated. Notions of a belief-system of Aryan race having to do with Indian sub-continent are more conjectural than the National Socialists claiming ‘racial superiority’ on their superficial characristics to blond hair or blue eyes. Let us say they were part of mass migration of people during which one went over in the direction of Northern West Europe while another veered to the east. From the Fertile Crescent of river civilization the mass exodus carried influences that have impacted India.
By the way Hinduism is more a way of living than a religion with any set of creed or liturgy.
History of India is that of the Indian sub-continent. The way of primordial life in the ancient geographical sub-continent was superimposed time and time again by the attitudes and beliefs of those who came to settle down. Those who lived were animists and worshiped manifestation of Nature. If the concept of Trinity came later into acceptance was it not working of nature in terms of clear concepts? Manifestation of nature mirrored in its regenerative power,- Brahma, physical laws that explained it,- Vishnu or destructive power,- Shiva are merely the result of man’s thought setting down the original Principle in certain form. Such ideas were the result of mass migrations of people. Animism or Nature worship may have undergone sea-change having absorbed over eons of time the characteristics of regions as far as Fertile Crescent or the Caspian Sea. How much was to the account of the foreign influence and how much of it homegrown? Does it really matter in the absence any clearcut archaeological evidences?
History of unrecorded period however reflects Indian epics and if there be bias we might also point it as the position of the conquering race.
Does the war of Pandavas and burning of Sri Lanka adhere to historical facts? Was Ravana vilified as contemptible since history we get to read is one-sided version? In whichever case we may associate the case-system taking root in the sub-continent after Indo-Aryan people settled in this part of the continent. If Brahmins were at the top in the social hierarchy provided with all the privileges we need not look elsewhere for reason.
The successful Brahminical caste laid down law.
In the Indian epic Mahābhārata, Ekalavya is a Bhil youth aspires to study archery in the school of Dronacharya. After being rejected by Drona on account of his caste( of lower status) Eklavya embarks upon a program of self-study in the presence of a clay image of Drona. He achieves a level of skill superior to that of Prince Arjuna, Drona’s favorite and most accomplished pupil. Drona eventually comes to know this and demands that Eklavya turn over his right thumb as gurudakshina. The loyal Ekalavya cripples himself, thereby ruining his abilities as an archer. In my opinion this story encapsulates what defied India from taking her rightful place in the forefront of International community.
In the Happiness Index (www. Forbes.com) China has advanced while India slipped several places down(#115 below Iraq!).
If Indian society was splintered right along the caste lines( up to the coming of the British) what unity different states with different rulers,- each jockeying for power, could have been talking? We were not united under the Mughals and nor were we anywhere near knocking down age old and man-made barriers of caste under the British Raj.


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