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My Reflections on “The Battle for Sanskrit”

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Ever since the superimposition of Westphalia concept of nation state on a formerly colonized state or newly liberated territory (i.e., India) from colonial subjugation, the debate whether this land is a single nation state or a state of many nations was kept alive by some forces. Such questions have always helped entrench the alien rule in India primarily by pitting one Indian against the other in the past. These false notions were cleverly constructed by the invaders and were spread systematically through their proxies.

A nation, whose populace is psychologically weak and is a victim of inferiority complex can be enslaved easily. Islamic & Christian subjugation of other cultures was done with relative ease, but when it came to India the foreigners could not apply the same methods with this civilizational state which they have applied elsewhere successfully. Hence, the Christian invaders systematically studied Indian civilization to manufacture perverted interpretations of sacred traditions and prove that Hindus were/are a bunch of barbarians and such barbarianism is inbuilt in their tradition.

The sacred tradition has been a single focus of attack for both the invading Abrahamic faiths since their arrival though the means employed by both of them is different. Leftists have joined the forces only recently and are doing a good job indeed. Islamic invaders employed a more violent method, mainly converting the local population through threat & coercion, or simply eliminate them if they resisted conversion to Islam. Swami Chinmayananda in one of his interviews to a group from Australia said that, “for 400 years Muslims have been demolishing temples in their attempt to destroy Hinduism but they have only grown their biceps and could not destroy Hinduism”.

But the missionaries developed sophisticated methods specific to Indian scenario. Missionaries have realized that if they ever have to destroy this tradition they first have to appropriate its important language which is central to their civilization, i.e., Sanskrit. Hence, a large group of scholars were sponsored by British to understand India’s culture through learning Sanskrit.

Even though the foreign colonial masters are no more in effective political control, their manufactured histories and vulgar interpretations have been continuously used by anti-national forces to disrupt India’s growth and unity. Among such groups, the political left is a peculiar one. Ever since the death of soviet empire their focus has been to divide India on some pretension or the other to make sure that their broader ideological goals are met. It is these communists who have helped Muslim league in partition of India in 1947. They have learnt from the erstwhile colonizers that to destabilize a healthy civilization it is required to understand the central components of its culture and tradition, only then it is possible to attack it.

Shelden Pollock is considered as a pioneer of a peculiar type of leftist school in which India’s so called liberals are active members. This school’s main task is to prove through their interpretations of Sanskrit texts that Hindu Civilization is inherently backward & primitive which encourages barbarism. So, they prescribe a special type of cleansing and claim that only they can do it.

It is in these trying times, Shri. Rajiv Malhotra – Indian-American researcher & scholar has mounted a formidable defense through his well-researched new book – The Battle for Sanskrit countering the arguments of a powerful leftist lobby. I have just finished reading it and cannot explain the sunshine I have experienced in words. Thanks to him, we now have a clarity on the subject.

Shri. Malhotra sets his agenda by posing a list of questions he is going to address in this work as a part of the title itself. So, reader has a clear idea and proper motivation to read it further.

Is Sanskrit:

Political or Sacred?

Oppressive or liberating?

Dead or Alive?

While outsiders like Shelden Pollock want to prove that it is political, oppressive and Dead, insiders are not doing enough to respond that it is sacred, liberating and alive. This work is primarily to awaken traditionalists (or Insiders) to rise up to the situation and provide intellectual responses to questions raised by the opposite side and highlight inconsistencies in Pollock’s scholarship.

Before delving deeper it is fundamental to understand the difference between term/s insider and outsider. In my reading it is clear that whoever believes Sanskrit is Sacred, liberating and Alive shall be considered as Insiders. It is entirely possible that the insiders can be foreigners and outsiders Indians. Outsiders share some other common characteristics, they are predominantly atheists, secularists and Communists (actually hardcore believers of Marxism). If we have to assess their commitment to the ideology, i.e., Marxism or communism they are no less than Jihadists or ISIS (Islamic State), just that Jihadists employ murderous violence whereas leftists employ subtlety and obfuscate their ulterior intentions behind liberal notions like democracy, human rights etc., when not in power. But don’t hesitate to indulge in violence when they command absolute power, China (Cultural Revolution) & Stalinist Russia are couple of examples of the recent past.

Shri. Rajiv Malhotra has done a great service by coming up with this work at a crucial time to provoke traditionalists to take up the task of doing Purva-Paksha, in which they were once experts. Though author identifies some 18 issues at the end of the book on which traditionalists ought to focus, I have picked a set of points that shall be of a great interest to all. All positions of outsiders on these items shall be intellectually challenged. Here they are:

The insistence to fit Indian civilization in to European experience: Scholars who are trained in western political thought superficially apply it to Indian civilization. Hence they are forced to uncritically use modernity, medieval, post-enlightenment & secularism and other irrelevant terms to explain historical events occurred in this civilization, which often leads to wrong interpretations.

Pitting Buddhists against Hindus: It is a lie which British colonialists manufactured to pit one group of Indians against others, to deepen their rule. Often Ambedkar is quoted as an authority and his experience & scholarship is cited as example to say that Hindu civilization encourages violence against Shudras. The million dollar question is why Ambedkar chose Buddhism instead of Islam & Christianity? Leftists feign ignorance on this topic.

Aryan-Invasion theory: Among a bunch of lies East India Company perpetuated to create a conflict between North and south Indians, this had a lasting effect, especially in the politics of Tamil Nadu. As a result of which a hate campaign was carried out by some political parties against a group of citizens. This theory has been scientifically debunked by many mainstream scholars, the foremost among them in my opinion is Shrikant G. Talageri who nails it completely, point by point. Pollock school continues to harp on this false theory for its convenience. The Word Dravida is used in Soundaryalahiri. Adi-shankara described himself as Dravida-shishu when he visited North, i.e., child of the land that is surrounded by water on three sides. No literature of India of thousands of years in any vernacular talks about this Aryan-Invasion theory. There is no corroboration from any other sources outside India to this effect. The argument that Aryans came from Central Asia and driven out Dravidians from north to south is a blatant lie.

Discounting the violent impact of Christianity and Islam on Hindu civilization: The genocide which Christian missionaries committed in Goa and a systematic elimination of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh in recent times offers us a glimpse of impact Christianity and Islam had on our civilization. When Pollock says that Muslim or Islamic invaders should not be blamed for India’s cultural degradation, it only highlights his prejudice against Hindus and selective blindness among other things.

Recklessly determined to discover barbarism in Sanskrit texts: This is an important plane on which our Home team has to engage outsiders thoroughly. Socialization of these outsiders in a different setup or simply because of being a victim of some ideological dogmas they could not or they don’t want to see the residual sacredness in Sanskrit texts. Let’s consider an example to understand what I am saying. How the death of Karna in Mahabharata can be interpreted by two groups? One could use it to inculcate values to all, this is a sacred approach whereas the others, i.e., outsiders would say that it encourages violence against Dalits and shudras. Sri. Saibaba of Puttaparthi describing the importance and values of good company says that “ it is only with good company you will come in contact with good qualities not with a bad company” he further says that “bad company is deadliest than a venomous snake, a snake would only bite when you step on it accidently or try to tame it, but a bad person injects venom every time you come in to contact with him, look what happened to Karna – The MahaYoddhha who is more powerful than mighty Arjuna, it is just because of his bad company ie., Duryodhana and sakuni he met a tragic end” (This is a loose translation of his speech that is published by Sanathana Sarathi monthly, Hindi edition, December 2015) But the same event will be interpreted by outsiders to say that since Karna was from chariot riders class Arjuna and Krishna killed him due to prejudice again lower class or castes. Hence, Mahabharata encourages violence against lower castes and Dalits etc. It is against lopsided interpretations such as these the insiders have to mount a collective defense. After all in a globalized world, how others think about us also matters.

Labeling the efforts to revive Sanskrit as Hindu revisionism: It is incorrect to say that Sanskrit encourages violence against minorities. There is a very big hypocrisy here. If we have to accept the arguments of Pollock school that any attempts to underscore the violence carried out by Islamic rulers for centuries against Hindus, it might turn Hindus against Muslims in the current day, because Muslims of the day have got nothing to do with those who have actually committed violence, then is it also not the case that the leftists effort to unearth atrocities of the past or blowing certain events out proportion will turn Dalits against Brahmins and other social groups within Hindu fold? If this is not hypocrisy then what else is?
It is important to show that Politics & sacredness are intertwined in Sanskrit and samskriti: The emphasis of sacredness is only to highlight the importance of morality & probity in conducting politics. If Gandhi says that he cannot imagine politics without religion he is essentially referring to sacred aspects of our Samskriti that is embedded in Sanskrit. It is important to note that barring few bare minimum things there is no insistence on following instructions, it is left to the choice of follower or seeker. Shri. Rajiv Malhotra says in Hindu civilization there is no central authority like Pope in Christianity and Caliph or Mullah in Ummah to enforce religious dogmas. Such an independence only proves that our Samskriti is not only sacred but also politically progressive and liberal.

It is important for the insiders to realize that they need not fear English language: It can be self-taught through focused study in short period. It is an underdeveloped language and relatively weak in vocabulary. Forget Sanskrit, it is not even qualified to be compared against some of the vernaculars of India which are highly evolved and rich when it comes to vocabulary and literary strength. For eg: Tamil and Bengali are such powerful languages, if learnt fully the beauty of expression by using them would put Shakespeares of the world to shame.

I totally support the author’s view that we should engage outsiders with all the respect they deserve, which is true to our tradition. It is only through a sustained dialogue we shall be able to fight the powerful cartel of outsiders who occupy a significant space in academia, media and other outlets that controls means of expression and act as gatekeepers of Indian knowledge.

Finally, insiders should learn to read between the lines, and understand true intentions of outsiders. If Pollock refines his responses to a specific audience and praises Sanskrit we should be able to comprehend as to what he really means. In the age of Kali, the fight between Dharma & Adharma is a constant one. Like a relay race if one has completed his lap the other followers of Dharma should pick up the mantle and do their bit. My concern is who will uphold the legacy of Shri. Malhotra and continue with the tradition of Purva-Paksha after him? This is a question all insiders should ponder over. The fact that insiders have not risen to such a standard so far is a matter of serious concern. The hope is that at least now insiders will heed to the clarion call of Shri. Rajiv Malhotra.