[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap] want to talk about Swadeshi Indology. Now Swadeshi Indology is a term that we have coined and the purpose is to combat and counter ‘Videshi Indology’. Indology is a name given by the Europeans for a discipline to study India. It is a study of Indian civilization, languages, history, philosophy, archaeology, all the different disciplines. It was started to understand the subjects that are being ruled by the British. The British wanted to understand who are these people we are ruling. They seem very smart, very learned, we should know more about them. The more we can learn about them, better we can rule. We can seem to be very fair, we can speak in their language, learn their customs, wear their clothes, eat their food, negotiate with them, know their strengths and weaknesses; know how to play one against the other, make one fight against the other, how to make them happy and proud, how to pull them down, all that we can do if we know them. So Indology started like that. And I call that Videshi Indology.
Actually there’s no left-wing or right wing in our system, people are either colonized or free-thinkers.
Now, Swadeshi Indology is not race oriented, it’s not that if you are an Indian you are doing Swadeshi Indology, and if you are a Westerner you are doing Videshi Indology, it’s not true. It has to do with your Drishti (दृष्टि). So, Swadeshi Indology is a certain Drishti, a certain approach to the subject regardless of who is doing it. So, for example, Videshi Indologists would include some people like Romila Thapar, Amartya Sen and many Indians. They are Videshi Indologists. In fact, a very large number of people in India, they have views about India and our civilization, that are not from our own tradition. Those are imported views. So they are actually carrying Videshi views. So they are colonized.
Few days ago, I was discussing with somebody who is organizing one of these very elite literary festivals that keep happening and they wanted to know if I am Left-wing or Right-wing and all that. I am always asked if I am right-wing and all that. Actually there’s no left-wing or right wing in our system, people are either colonized or free-thinkers. The term itself left-wing / right-wing is a colonized term. So I asked him – Is Gandhi left-wing or right-wing? He had no answers.
So people just memorize parroted vocabulary but really, there are colonized people and there are free-thinkers. Those are the two categories.
So I have four parts to this talk.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]F[/dropcap]irst, I want to give you a historical perspective on Indology, because the field has gone through many stages, and we have to learn and understand each of them in order to deal with it. Suppose a Doctor is treating an infection. He cannot say – Since you have infection, this might be the right medicine. He has to know what kind of infection you are having because the treatment depends on different kinds of infection. He’s a lazy Doctor who says I don’t need to check the kind of infection – it doesn’t matter. Even if the person has cancer, there are many kinds and you have to treat each one accordingly. So just like different diseases must be diagnosed very precisely in order to counteract them, so also you must know which school of thought some particular Indologist is using. They are not all the same. There are many kinds of schools of thought. If somebody wants to study Indian Philosophy, he must know Advaita, even within Advaita, there are so many thinkers that you must know. There’s Vishisht Advaita that you must know. Abhinav Gupta you must know. You must know Buddhism, within Buddhism, Adhyamikas and so many kinds of other Buddhism. So you can’t just say Indian thought is one thing. Similarly, the Indologists bring with them many kinds of schools of thought and I will tell you what some of the major ones are.
The study of India by these western scholars has made a difference to our life.
Now some people say, why do we need all this? Why are we worrying about all this?
Well it has made a difference to our life. The study of India by these western scholars has made a difference to our life. We did not have the Aryan-Dravidian problem until Western Indologists created these categories. There’s nothing in the history of Tamil Nadu or North India or anywhere referred to this divisiveness. So it is a product that we are living with. South Indian politics is filled with that. It is a product, it’s a very practical reality today.
Another one is Caste. We have Varna, we have Jati but only in the late 1800’s onwards, when they were doing the census of India, Lord Risley and others created this concept of Caste, in a hierarchy, fixed them and unfortunately our Constitution made it a permanent law, rather than saying that this a colonial construct, let’s get rid of this and do something our own. So the Constitution is colonized because the Constitution has these colonial categories.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]hat’s a fact we have to accept. Then you look at this feminist view of Ramayana or feminist view of various things in our culture; this is also an imported Indological idea. Even the construct of minority is important because, we have so many Paramparas and Sampradayas, all of them are minorities. There is no dominant Sampradaya or Parampara.
Intellectually, we are still colonized.
Unlike the church that was homogenous and was dominating everybody, we have not had the tradition of uniform society with something dominating. So there has not been a dominant Jati. There are so many Jatis. Thousands of Jatis and they are all minorities. So if you want to talk about minorities you have to say we are all minorities. There’s no majority!
Within Hinduism also, there’s so many kinds of different points of view. So this idea that there is majority, minority, dividing the majority or oppressing the minority, minority needs special this-and-that, all this causes violence to our society. These are all examples of how much damage has been done by Indology. It is not something that came from the grass root, its not the ‘Aam Aadmi’ that came up with the ideas. These ideas were dropped down. They are all imported ideas. So people who say: Why does it matter? I say: This is why it matters.
We did not respond to these issues. At that time, there was a good reason we were colonized, we didn’t had rights to stand up and talk back perhaps but today for 70 years nobody stops us but we have not decolonized properly. Intellectually, we are still colonized. I will explain it to you. Also, if you look at India, people keep saying – we are safe for 5000 years. We are not!
1500 years ago when the church started, because Christianity didn’t started with Christ. It started with Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. So around 1500-1600 years ago, when Christianity as we know started, till then, Bharat was from north Tibet also you may say indirectly but certainly Afghanistan, Pakistan all the way to Bali. All these have been a part of our civilization. From Afghanistan to Bali, from Sri Lanka and if you include Buddhism as part of our civilization then it would also include much of Asia. So we have shrunk down to 20 percent.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]Y[/dropcap]ou can’t say we are very safe and successful if 80 percent has been lost. I mean only a very naive person would say that and the two largest religions that comprise almost half of the whole Earth population, they are very young, they didn’t even exist at that time. So, we have lost share and they have gained share. How can we say we are safe? And even with what we are now left with, we are not safe. We have so many internal issues and disputes and territorial claims and what not, we are not safe! So we have to admit, we can’t just be complacent that “Everything is fine”, or “Don’t worry about it”.
I neither accept the premise that Indology makes no difference, because it has and nor do I accept the premise that everything is so good, we don’t have to worry about it. We have to worry about it!
I would say of the Indian population today, 25 percent are solidly, securely Dharmic, Vedic in their identity and in the Public / private positions that they take. Another 25 percent are exactly anti-Hindu. I call them Hindu Phobic. Middle 50 percent are confused. They zig-zag this way that way, they are neither here nor there. They are not sure about the content they talk about. One day they will support this, another day they will support that. They are not very grounded in our civilization. So we cannot feel very secure. There is confusion. Our books are confused, our media is confused and so on. I neither accept the premise that Indology makes no difference, because it has and nor do I accept the premise that everything is so good, we don’t have to worry about it. We have to worry about it!
Then another point I noticed is, I studied how the other civilizations are treated. In fact, one of the books that I haven’t published, but I did survey on how Harvard treats Chinese civilization compared to Indian civilization. Very interesting comparison. Respect for business, corporate deals and what not is very new, in the last 10 years. But study of Ancient civilization, Chinese will not take any nonsense. The study of China is controlled by the Chinese, not by Westerners. Westerners are bowing down, requesting visas, happy to get permission. Chinese say: If you want to come, come else we don’t want you. We don’t need you, if you don’t come, fine! The study of China is done on Chinese terms. They control the journals, they control the conferences, most of the prestigious centers of learning are in China. In the case of Japan, it’s the same way. Japan controls the study of Japanese civilization. Russia control its civilization and studies. France controls its civilization and studies. US of course controls its study of civilization. Islamic civilization is controlled by respective countries. They have so many scholars, so many universities that are doing research. They are pumping out, at least their own people hear their point of view. Now when it comes to Indian civilization, the most prestigious place to get a Sanskrit degree and if you go and have an assembly of Sanskrit scholars and you ask them where would you rather have your degree from? They would say Harvard, Chicago, Columbia, Oxford, Heidelberg are the top places for Sanskrit Ph. D. So that’s a shame. You don’t find the same slavish mentality in any other civilizations. So this is the reason why I am telling you that the subject is important.
Part 2 of this post can be accessed here…
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