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Why We Need Swadeshi Indology

Why We Need Swadeshi Indology

A few weeks back I saw a news story pouring scorn over the subject of Swadeshi Indology, as if it is utterly ridiculous. That’s when I decided to present my views on the subject. 

I don’t claim to be an expert or someone who knows everything there is to know about it. This article is just my attempt to understand the problem as I see it and I welcome others to also share their thoughts, for or against it, of course based on reason and logic. 
So the big question is, why we need it? 

Short Answer 

Why not? 

After all, Indology is the study of Indian history, literature, philosophy and culture. And who can study those things better than we ourselves? And who can have a bigger right?

Also, is there any other country in the world that thinks it’s a better idea to let outsiders do the job? And blindly attribute to their country the good or bad that outsiders see in it? Such a country would be a poor one indeed, because its own children didn’t love or care for it enough. 


Long Answer

After giving this much thought I realized that the reason we feel the urge to do anything for our country is because we identify with it. So it becomes important to define what we identify with

Why Definition Is Important

I am female and I won’t accept someone else telling me otherwise. People in general don’t eat things that aren’t considered edible, because food is defined. Our relationships too are defined because there are specific people we value as mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, etc. 

Definition therefore makes us more secure as individuals and as a nation, automatically creating a feeling of brotherhood, a feeling that we need to stand by each other. Conversely, a lack of definition makes it difficult for us to relate to our motherland, thereby reducing our desire to protect it. 

In case of India, our point of greatest unity is the Hindu tradition. Some say this theory is contentious, but it’s important to note that even after multi-dimensional attacks for a thousand years, 80% of the population still identifies itself as Hindu. 

Compare this with Germany, which with 59% Christians is considered a Christian country.  Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, stressed the Christian roots of Germany and urged the population ‘to go back to Christian values’. In 2012, she postponed her trip to the G-8 summit for a day to address the German Catholic Day. In September 2011, the Pope was invited to address the German Parliament. Two major political parties carry ‘Christian’ in their name, including Angela Merkel’s ruling party. Government agencies even collect the Church tax (8 percent of the income tax) and pass it on to the Churches. [Maria Wirth, May 2013].

So if we are ashamed to call ourselves a Hindu nation even with such a huge Hindu population, this becomes a stumbling block to our unity as a nation. Particularly since Hinduism is embedded in Indian culture (sankriti), something we have inherited from our Hindu roots. 

Consider these words of English theosophist Annie Bessant -

“After a study of some forty years and more of the great religions of the world, I find none so perfect, none so scientific, none so philosophic, and none so spiritual as the great religion known by the name of Hinduism. The more you know it, the more you will love it; the more you try to understand it, the more deeply you will value it. Make no mistake; without Hinduism, India has no future. Hinduism is the soil into which India’s roots are struck, and torn of that she will inevitablywither, as a tree torn out from its place. Many are the religions and many are the races flourishing in India, but none of them stretches back into the far dawn of her past, nor are they necessary for her endurance as a nation. Everyone might pass away as they came and India would still remain. But let Hinduism vanish and what is she? A geographical expression of the past, a dim memory of a perished glory, her literature, her art, her monuments, all have Hinduism written acrossthem. And if Hindus do not maintain Hinduism, who shall save it? India alone can save India, and India and Hinduism are one.” 

While this observation makes us Hindus proud, it’s also a bit like a guideline to those wishing to break up the country: break Hinduism and you will break India, because they are one, because India’s endurance as a nation depends on the survival of Hinduism and without it she is as a tree torn out from its place. Her literature, her art, her monuments, all have Hinduism written across them, so you need to destroy these things if you want to break India.

What Makes India Unique

Some people are uncomfortable with difference, but every attempt to describe uniqueness necessarily includes points of difference.

Difference in Language: Indian languages are unique to India. So there is a great need to preserve, protect and respect Indian languages in the interest of preserving our identity

The modern education system is built around the colonizers’ language English, so Indian children grow up thinking it superior to Indian languages. We have somehow managed to wipe out from our consciousness the fact that the English colonization of India was degrading for Indians, thereby hindering our ability to learn from the experience and deal with similar encounters in the future. This also makes us vulnerable to further exploitation.  

The preference to English in the education system permeates to other areas as well. So a person who can read and write English is considered more educated and is capable of getting higher-paying jobs, further weakening the position of the vernaculars. Even an English-speaking beggar can hope to earn more (as I have seen from personal experience)!

Also, because most of our literature and scriptures are in Indian languages, a reduced focus on them makes us less capable of understanding our own history and culture, so we have to depend on the opinion of others. This makes it easy for them to misrepresent our past to us, thereby making us less proud of our heritage and less inclined to protect it.  Renowned Western Indologists like Sheldon Pollock can thereby get away with writing papers called “The Death of Sanskrit”, while his fellow Americans study the language for scientific breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and nanotechnology (for example).

Difference In Script: All Indian scripts have matras for instance, which carry psychological connotations of sustenance. The ancient Indian rishis were masters in psychology and lot of the breakthroughs in the field originate from Indian thought, both Buddhist and Hindu.

Difference In Music: Traditional Indian music has a unique character because it manages to sound different from everything else. We have the largest number of unique musical instruments in the world and despite its tremendous focus on rhythm (taal), tune (sur) and lyrics (pada), Indian music remains largely an oral tradition. We don’t have shorthand to represent the sounds as in Western music but that hasn’t prevented it from developing a life of its own. 

Difference In Dance: In Hindu tradition, dance is a system of showing respect to the deity so it’s like a form of worship. Deeply embedded in this art form is a sense of belonging with the Supreme, such that His/Her appreciation and enjoyment is the source of enjoyment for the dancer. This is distinct from other dance forms that developed solely for the purpose of socializing or the enjoyment of one’s own body as an entity not directly connected to the Almighty.

Difference In Cuisine: Indian cuisine also sets it apart from everyone else and while the West often derogatively refers to us as “curry”, their own research is increasingly telling them the benefits of ingredients we use daily. One example is Haldi that the West recently discovered has a positive effect on brain tissue. But haldi is an essential part of Indian cuisine, common to all Indian states. It also plays a role in traditional Indian marriages. They are also discovering benefits of the different spices we use daily in solving problems such as inflammation and diabetes. Our traditional diets don’t talk about protein, fats etc as building blocks, but talk instead about matching elements of cuisine, indicating a grand scheme of things where the parts of the diet balance each other. Our cuisine is one of our greatest treasures and it defines us

Difference In Thought Processes: People these days appear more health conscious, mainly because they talk about health more, although most of the writing I come across feels like marketing to buy pills or join exercise classes of some sort. But in all this I sense a lack of holistic knowledge about the human body and how it works, in the sense that the system seems more reactive than proactive. For instance, if you have a problem with the body, you are given a pill to tide over the situation.

The Indian systems of Yoga and Ayurveda study the body holistically. Currently, the West is also studying these concepts (eg. studying the body as an energy system and appropriating elements of Yoga). They are also documenting the medicinal knowledge of Indian adivasis so this knowledge can be appropriated and exported back to us at a high price. In the Bhagwad Gita, plants have been referred to as aushadham, indicating that the medicinal value of plants was known and recognized in ancient times. The Gita also describes the digesting factor in the human body as a “fire”.

Ancient Indians also sought to study the impact of planets on people, nations, groups, activity and so forth. Thus they developed astrology and palmistry, which predict the tendency for some things to happen given certain planetary configurations. The study bears strong correlation to Hindu texts and concepts and one wonders about the volume of data the rishis must have studied to arrive at the conclusions they did.   

Difference in Sanskriti: The one defining factor that I see in our culture, that seems to define everything else, is respect. So you would normally find a lot of respect in any traditional Indian (towards Ishwar, parents/elders, spouse, animals, nature, sun, moon, work and duty). Respect stems from a desire and ability to understand the other rather than change it and this is what defines our national character

Difference In Religion: Most of the religions of the world believe in some ultimate authority with jurisdiction over everything that happens on earth. But that doesn’t make them the same.

As David Frawley says, Western religion is faith-based as opposed to Indian religions that are knowledge-based. 

Faith-based religions can’t be reasoned with, i.e. their truth claims can’t be verified. That’s because they believe that certain representatives of God that appeared on earth at certain specific times were the only ones capable of communion with God. So the proliferation of these religions is based on the number of followers they can accumulate, thus leading to their politicization. To deal with the resultant chaos in society, church needed to be separated from state, leading to the concept of a secular state. 

“Secular means worldly and is opposite to ‘religious’. Now ‘religious’ in this context refers to Christianity, i.e. to a well-organized, dogmatic religion that claims that it is the sole keeper of the ‘truth’, which God himself has revealed to his Church.” [Maria Wirth, 2014]. 

Knowledge-based traditions like Hinduism on the other hand believe that faith is a choice and one is able to use experiment, logic, reasoning, philosophy and any other machinery to reach it (or not). It is therefore the exact opposite of the dogma found in Western religions.

Without Swadeshi Indology…

Since India is unique in practically every way, it can be difficult for outsiders to our tradition to understand it unless they spend a lot of time in India and immerse themselves in Indian traditions enough to become a part of it. Sanskriti is encoded in every aspect of Indian life and it would take a lot of tapasya not to misrepresent it. So it makes sense to visit the difficulties we will encounter if Indians don’t have a system of studying India.

Transfer Of Intellectual Property: This is perhaps the greatest concern because any developments in modern science by the West or financed by the West will become the intellectual property of Western countries, irrespective of the fact that the concept may have originated in India and/or remains in use in India. Consequently, Indians have to pay a huge amount to import these products despite the fact that Indian knowledge was used in their development. So we need to have our own labs to study and build on the knowledge documented by our ancestors. 

Being Misunderstood: This can be best explained through an example, for which I am reproducing an extract from a research paper called ‘The Bloodthirsty Tongue and the Self-Feeding Breast: Homosexual Fellatio Fantasy in a South Indian Ritual Tradition’ by Sarah Caldwell (Western Indologist): 

“we will show that themes of eroticism and aggression in the mythology are male transsexual fantasies reflecting intense preoedipal fixation on the mother’s body and expressing conflicts over primary feminine identity. The essential rituals of the Bhagavati cult all point to the aggressive and fatal erotic drinking of the male by the female, the infamous orgy of blood sacrifice of male ‘cocks’ at the Kodungallur Bhagavati temple; the male veliccappatu’s cutting of his head in a symbolic act of self castration . . . [Kali] is herself, first of all, a phallic being, the mother with a penis . . . she is the bloodied image of the castrating and menstruating (thus castrating) female . . . In this type of analysis the phallic abilities of the goddess disguise castration anxieties ultimately directed toward the father as well as homosexual desire for the father’s penis. Following Freud, such analyses stress the father-son polarity of the oedipal conflict as the central trauma seeking expression.”

Most of us would get a headache reading through that but what it boils down to is a highly sexual psychoanalysis of something we consider holy. But this is what passes as scholarship in America. Caldwell even won a prestigious prize for this.

Being Misrepresented: Divya J observes in her comment on Pollock’s essay on the shastras: “Some of the specific biases of western culture that he imputes upon the Indians are the following: (i) that knowledge is textual; (ii) that values are normative; (iii) that authority (shastra) is some sort of truth that cannot be challenged; (iv) that theory precedes action; and (v) that there is a divine realm starkly different from the secular realm that humans must obey. These are, in fact, the defining prejudices of western civilization, but Pollock cannot see the forest for the trees.” She goes on to say that “In order to act correctly they believe they must know what the right thing to do is. Not so in Indian culture where action (karma) generates knowledge”.

In one of the publications of the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) where Pollock is the general editor, Wendy Doniger says “In this world of ever-shifting puranic sands, the Skanda Purana is surely the shiftiest, or perhaps the sandiest, of all. The longest and most sprawling of all the puranas, though it was usually grouped with the Maha -rather than the Upapuranas it was regarded even by the native Indian tradition as a scrap-bag; its name forms a pun to this effect in Tamil, where it is the “scrap” Purana (Kantal-Puranam)”. 

One reader says: “Kantha-Puranam in Tamil narrates the birth and story of Kantha. Kantha is another name for Muruga/Karthikeya, the son of Shiva and it's common meaning is "The Beautiful One". And, “Skanda purana is massive and there are so many Khandas and Samhitas that comprise the Sanskrit body of the purana. Its subject matter is diverse. Kantha puranam is a Tamil work that was inspired by a specific Khanda of a specific Samhita from the Sanskrit version. It is much smaller in size and has a more focused subject matter. All the more reason why it makes no sense why Tamils would call it a scrap bag.”

Of course, Doniger’s translations are renowned for their uniqueness: She translated ‘aja eka pada’ in the Rig Veda, which means ‘aja’= unborn and unmanifest, ‘eka’ = one, ‘pada’ = foot or measure, representing the Rg Vedic world of possibilities where only geometries live without forms. Doniger’s translation was ‘the one footed goat’ because ‘aja’ in Hebrew means goat. 

Becoming The Garbage Dump: When we don’t define and re-inforce at all times who we are, all the world’s problems can be dumped on our shoulders. 

Sheldon Pollock for example has used advanced English language skills to de-historicize the Nazi torture of Jews and “prove” that the Nazis learnt this from Indian Brahmins. Somehow, dark-skinned poor Indian Brahmins assumed white skinned Anglo Saxon appearances in his imagination, perpetrating untold miseries on the “original” inhabitants of India. 

Professor Gopinath, one of the signatories to the petition asking for the removal of Sheldon Pollock as editor of the MCLI says that according to Pollock, “there is inequality in the Indic tradition (no where else?), German Indologists (using the cooked up theory of Aryan race to score brownie points over other Europeans) fell for this inequality and Nazism followed.” Also, “The deep antagonism between Christians and Jews (esp repeated pogroms against Jews) for 2 millennia, is conveniently glossed over.” Also, “The historical and well documented pogroms against Jews by the Church all over Europe and Russia just disappears from the discussion…What is striking about SP (Pollock) is the almost complete erasure of the “elephant” in the room: British and US role in not stopping the Nazis till the war was forced on them (for eg. Chamberlain’s Munich treaty in ’38; this is also a credible allegation by the Communists of that era) and active collaboration by Vatican with Italian and German fascism. Instead, he spends 10’s of pages looking at obscure sources from “deluded" German indologists who are hoping to use Indian (Sanskrit) materials to show their superiority over other Europeans or provide some cover for Nazism! Or, find one (obscure) Indian author with prejudiced views (Bhatta Lakshmidhara) out of the many and make him the spokesperson for all Indians!” 

Threat To India’s Sovereignty: Sheldon Pollock says, “Indeed, a stable singularity called ‘Indian culture’, so often conjured up by Southeast Asian indigenists, never existed. What did exist was only a range of cultural and political codes and acts, many recently developed…All cultures participate in what are ultimately global networks of begging, borrowing, and stealing, imitating and emulating…and it is false to claim an indigenous origin. Indian civilization or culture becomes nothing but an arbitrary moment illegitimately generalized, a freeze frame in a film taken for the whole story”. 

This patently baseless dismissal of Indian culture and origin is a serious threat to India’s sovereignty, as Pollock injects his views into mainstream education.

His recent advice to change American text books are as follows-

  1. instead of “Northern India”, “Indus Valley Civilization” 
  2. add “Pakistan” so the line reads “Indus Valley River in India and Pakistan”
  3. Arabian peninsula, India and equatorial Africa should be changed to “Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean littoral and equatorial Africa”
  4. Change India to the Indian subcontinent
  5. “The early civilization of India” should be changed to “The early civilization of South Asia”
  6. Change Harappa to Indus
  7. Delete reference to Hinduism and replace with religion of Ancient India


(Interestingly, soon after I first mentioned this in a blog, the website I got it from was erased.)

On the other hand, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati on the strength of Manusmriti and other scriptures, says that the geographical boundaries of Arya Vrat, or the land of cultured people, lies between the boundaries of the Himalyas in the north and mountains called Vindhyas stretching right up to Rameshwaram in the South. (This could be one reason for the persistent attempts to denigrate Manu Smriti.) Also, Dr. Deen Bandhu Chandora in the book 'Vedic Marriage Ceremony, Sanskaar/Sacrament' (published by Greater Atlanta Vedic Temple Society Inc) Ed.2012 says "Marriage is one unit that creates and sustains the nation, therefore, in Vedic marriage ceremony the couple is reminded about their responsibilities towards sustenance of the nation."

Bottom Line

When you give people the right to define your character (Indian Sanskriti), they assume the authority to determine your rights (eg India’s sovereignty).

Author: Sejuti Banerjea

Published: March 17, 2016

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. Jagrit Bharat is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Jagrit Bharat and Jagrit Bharat does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. 

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