History and Nationalism: Excerpt from Hinduism and the Clash of Civilization.

One of the main purposes of history books, as taught in different countries in the world,…

One of the main purposes of history books, as taught in different countries in the world, is to instill a sense of national pride and honor—in short, to inculcate a sense of patriotism and nationalism. Whether it is the United States, Great Britain, Russia, Germany or China, this is certainly the case today and has been so as long as these countries have existed as modern nations. The lives of great leaders, particularly the founders of the country are highlighted, the continuity of the nation’s history is emphasized, and the importance of the nation in the history of world and the greatness of the national culture are stressed. Students are expected to come away from reading accounts of their history with a sense of national greatness and purpose, not only for the past but also for the future.

However, India is a strange and unique country in which history books are often anti-national in nature. India has largely kept intact the British approach to Indian history devised in the colonial era. Students of such textbooks come away apologetic or confused about their country and its traditions. Textbooks in Marxist ruled states of India like West Bengal and Kerala leave their students with a sense of the greatness of Communism and Communist countries like China or even Russia which is no longer Communist, rather than any real regard for India and its great traditions.

An early 19th-century manuscript of Rigveda (padapatha) in Devanagari.

History books in India try to ignore the dominant Hindu ethos of the country and its history before the Islamic period. India’s greatest historical and cultural document, the Mahabharata and Ramayana are hardly given any attention in the schools. So too, the Vedas, Puranas, Buddhist Jatakas and other prime historical and cultural documents of the country are ignored because of their religious overtones. If they do address India as a nation, it is only India of the independence movement that they acknowledge, as if prior to 1947 India did not really exist. While Nehru is made important, older kings from the Rigvedic Bharatas to Yudishthira of the Mahabharata period to the Marathas of the eighteenth century are hardly mentioned. There is no real sense of any historical continuity to the culture, much less to the country. While Mahatma Gandhi is emphasized, the greater spiritual traditions of India and its great teachers from the Vedic rishlS, Vedantic Buddhists and Jain sages to modern savants like Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi are not given much attention.

It is true that history should not be a mere instrument of a destructive nationalism and should avoid instilling aggression against other lands and peoples, even when upholding what is valuable in a nation’s history. But this does not require that the national value of historical studies is negated altogether.

The question, therefore, is how the history accounts in India made to reflect and instill a genuine nationalism and sense of the country’s history and destiny. India, after all, is one of the great civilizations of the world, with cultural traditions that have much value for humanity. Such historical accounts must reflect the richness and diversity of Indic civilization, but they cannot ignore its unity and continuity either.

The fact is that you cannot build a nation without creating history books that instill a positive nationalism, particularly in the youth. The real danger in India is not the arising of a chauvinistic nationalism like that of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy—which are foreign to the mentality and ethos of the country—but a lack of national spirit and historical consciousness that keeps people alienated from their roots and the country divided.

India needs a real nationalism and for this a national sense of history, pride and purpose is required. A true Indian nationalism will be rooted in an Indian ethos of dharma, spirituality and pluralism, but this does not mean there can be no national or historical pride without encouraging communalism in the country. On the contrary, a greater sense of national identity would be the best thing to counter the disintegrating influence of religious, castist and regional interests that are bringing the country down.

Therefore we must ask: Why can’t Indians connect India’s traditional ancient literature, the Vedas, with its archaeology through Harappa and the many sarasvati River sites? Why can’t Indians find national pride in their own history both on literary and archaeological levels? Why should history in India be used for national shame, rather than National pride? Why should history of India place Indic civilization out of India? These are questions that must be answered.

Western and Indic Views of History

The subject of history in the Western context is very different than in the Indian context. In the Western view, history is mainly an account of political events and economic progress, a purely outward affair. In the Hindu view, history is a means of teaching detachment, showing how great kings and kingdoms come and go in the course of time. It has an inner value as a spiritual teaching about the nature of human life and the need for liberation from worldly concerns. In the Western view, history is progressive from the crude beginnings of agriculture and village life moving forward to the present day urban culture. In the Hindu view history is cyclical, with various cultures coming and going over time as the soul seeks liberation from the phenomenal world.

The Western progressive account of history is quite flawed. For example, the first civilizations of the ancient world that we can document—including Egypt. Sumeria, India and China—did not regard themselves as the first but were aware of many cultures and kingdoms before them, particularly prior to a great flood. The civilizations that we regard as the first saw themselves as very old with many antecedents! Yet we pretend that there was nothing before them!

Mauryan building in the Barabar Mounts. Grotto of Lomas Rishi. 3rd century BCE.

In addition, the civilizations of the Third Millennium BCE, like those of Egypt and Harappan/Sarasvati India, had better urban and architectural achievements than those that followed for many centuries. Even Europe had its Dark Ages after the Roman period in which much knowledge was lost. This idea of history as linear progress is clearly not the case. While humanity has progressed scientifically, this is mainly over the past five hundred years.

On the other hand. we see a spiritual decline since ancient times and over the last century we can note a decline in culture, art, music and philosophy in Europe itself, coinciding or even caused by great advances in science.

 

As India is the only civilization of antiquity to survive the onslaught of time, it is the special responsibility of Indians to discover not only their own history but also that of the entire ancient world. Just as there are unquestioned distortions of ancient India, similar distortions of other ancient cultures also exist. For example, the religion of ancient Egypt, which like that of the Vedas demonstrates much occult and spiritual significance, is similarly dismissed as polytheism, idolatry or henotheism (worshipping different Gods as the supreme God), exactly like the Vedas.

Revamping the way history is taught in Indian schools would be a major step in the direction of a more authentic and spiritually sensitive history of the world. It is a scientific and spiritual imperative, not only for India but for all countries.

[Excerpted from the David Frawley’s book Hinduism and the Clash of Civilization. ]

  • Saurabh Rao

    Lost credibility the moment he mentioned Yudishtir as a historical figure.

  • Premnath.Thayyan Murkoth

    informative

  • Liked the above comments…. But not satisfied with any of them. 🙂 …. The proper reason and answer to the article is… Sanatana Dharma is only religion which is full of strangeness and this has came to our DNA naturally. Our religion is the only religion to the entire world who said us… Leave with peace and let other to peace.. Unlike Islam or Christianity who’s most of the time goes into the effort of describing their religion to others and trying to disobey the other religion believes. Sanatana Dharma rather than religion…. Its a understanding community who knows their strength but don’t show to outer world, because other religion s who are trying very hard to call themselves superior may get distract like how a small kid do. Rather being small kid we Hindus are behaving like Parents who knows their strength but doesn’t show to their loving kids. This doesn’t mean that we forgot our heritage and rich culture.. Its just within us and will go to our future generation as it is… If our text books not consisting our Vedas or Ramayana just because not to make angry our kids… As parent we hindu knows if kids got angry they will create destruction. Which will be then against our culture and learning’s from ancestors and Historical values. In short we believe in “vasudhev kutumbakam” means entire world and religion is our family….. Tolerance is the synonym of #HINDU

  • I have been reading Dr. David Frawley / Vamdeva Shastri since school days. His book, “Arise Arjuna” inspired me to become more active during school and college days. I feel a pity that many very well educated people of India are not even aware of him and his great work. I had the fortune of meeting his and his wife Swamini Sambhavi Chopra in the Dharma Conference in New Jersey few months back. He is a modern day Rishi for me.

  • RamRani Yvette Rosser

    For centuries, the history of India has been held captive by ideological camps. Since Indpendance, the intellectuals in India are theoretically grounded in their own points-of-view: Leftists, Marxists, neo-Marxists, former Marxists–now called Progressives, secular-nationalists, socialists, Indian-nationalists, Hindu-nationalists, internationalists, and “Saffron” scholars. Many historians labeled Communist, said to be writing from a Marxist perspective, deny they are Marxists, preferring to say they are social progressives, fighting adamantly against, what they label, an obscurantist, right-wing communal slant to the interpretation of Indian history.

    Others, branded as representatives of the Sangh Parivar, often initially did not consider themselves to be in the Hindutva camp, but were colored Saffron simply because they were not Red. Ironically, they were vilified for harboring “Hindu sympathies” in a predominantly Hindu country. They were accused of writing distorted Hindu-centric history whereas their claim was that they wrote non-ideological history–correcting narratives whitewashed by the jargon of what they saw as
    pseudo-secularism, or inherited colonial paradigms. The Hindu-centric scholars claimed that a didactic enforcement of dialectic materialism had dominated the field of history, denigrating Hindu culture and projecting an anti-nationalist discourse.

    In fact, this anti-patriotic orientation was so institutionalized that until 2002, the common Indian citizen was not allowed to fly the tri-colors. For me, having grown up around flag-waving patriotic Americans, this fact was astonishing, that a nation would
    actually prohibit the ordinary citizens from proudly flying the national flag! It as certainly an intriguing detail of governmental policies revealing the interface of ideology and politics

    The word “nationalism” means something quite different in India than it does in Pakistan. In Pakistan the “Nationalisms Problem” means fissiparous tendencies pulling the nation apart, secessionist tendencies of Balouchis and Sindhis to break up the nation. The government in Islamabad vehemently and often violently discourages such sub-national separatist tendencies. In India, the phrase “Nationalism Problem” was coined by Marxist intellectuals, to describe the tendency towards too much patriotism among the far-flung peoples of the states of India, and the strong orientation of many Indians towards Nationalism, patriotism and love of country. Needless to say, the Indian Marxists’ version of nationalism or patriotism is very different than the manner in which it is viewed by most nations in the world, who encourage nationalistic tendencies and feelings of patriotism. The Pakistani interpretation is based on fear of sub-national separatism whereas the India Marxist view is that too much patriotism will impede their vision of a worldwide proletariat. In India since the sixties, Indian Marxists have dominated the writing of history and social studies textbooks. Non-Marxist Indians do not share that fear of patriotism.

  • Prashant S.

    May true Consciousness emerge unobstructed from the darkening debris of the Ego.

    Europe saw ‘Enlightenment’ when they separated the State from the suffocating constructs of the Church.

    India saw Darkness when it separated from the wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads and the vast Knowledge Systems that emerge from higher states of Consciousness that exist in Man and every Living Being.

    The European separation was necessary. The Indian separation was wholly unnecessary. India has to be in touch with its true legacy as deserving inheritors who progress the stream of Consciousness ever forward.

  • Sujay Rao Mandavilli
    • Karan Gupta

      Stay away you Christian Stooge nobody is interested in your fictionalized history

  • matthayichen

    Either he doesn’t have a clue or he is in bed with the fascists when he says the chauvinistic fascists are not a danger in India.

  • Suresh Rao

    I have enjoyed David Frawley books and articles. Those who are talking about intolerance today in India cannot reconcile with our past history of India. These pseudo-secularists in India want to drive India towards a Marxist State.

  • Yes yes all very interesting, but why divert from the REAL issue facing India – why is only around 50% of the population made up of women?? And why are some roles in our twisted society exclusively only taken up by woman-hating Hindoo men, such as fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandfathers etc? Why no women fathers and uncles? For Marx’s sake, this terrible injustice towards women MUST STOP! Let’s discuss these issues instead of whining about other cultures who don’t have these problems!

    Jobs for women, and cages for Hindoo men – that’s our holy grail!

    http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977.aspx

  • M Sharma

    Just think this through for a minute: We have foreigners (foreign researchers, journalists who are in India or researched Indian culture living in India etc) – telling us that we are messed up in writing our own history.

    Unfortunately Nehru and his cronies and communists are still in “Denial” Mode. Wake up people
    History should be based on facts and balanced. Not HIS-STORY (That is author’s biased story and is paid for by Congress/Nehru/Gandhi/Communists).

    Battle for truth is fought over blogs, Facebook, social media, new books, pravchans – “I am all in” for INDIA

    • KP

      One foreigner who happens to be a Hindu and a researcher on Hindu religion says something silly, and you think that proves everything?

      This foreigner has no background in real history; his version of history is no less silly than some Young Earth Creationist claiming the earth is only 6,000 years old because his holy book says so.

  • M Sharma

    I have several books from this author who is based in USA. He also trained under Dr BV Raman (Famous astrologer from Blore). He loves Indian tradition. He packs lot of information in this books. I think he got some award also recently.

    Here is my take on one his books (Amazon review)
    Mantra Yoga and Primordial Sound
    Author gives lots of info in this book with ample evidence from hindu
    and vedic tradition sources. A fundamental problem is that English
    alphabet cannot mimic Hindu names (Ex Devi Kali is totally misspelled).
    He should not (and cannot according veda shastra) give out Gayatri
    mantra and other beeja mantras and he has done so (and are 100’s of
    Hindu and western authors who gave it out, perhaps are trying to
    popularize it). Mantras mean nothing to anybody if you do not understand
    the tatwa (essence) behind it. This is obtained not just blindly saying
    the 5 word mantra or some beeja mantra. One needs to understand the
    story, reasoning, logic behind the mantra, from Puranas and various
    vedic literature.

    IMHO whatever religion or philosophy you follow, if one uses the mantras in this book, he or she is following principles of sanatana dharma (hindu culture).

    Overall this book packs lots of highly sophisticated information that is hard to decipher
    without a proper guru or context of vedas, upanishads, vedangas, sutras,
    and puranas and tantra and mantra shastra. Note all are inter-linked.

    Another concept that so called pseudo secularists of modern India and
    West spread/propagate is that we do not need Puranas, and that we can
    directly jump to Upanishads, Gita and Vedas, and Tantra and Mantra. But
    that is not correct. Puranas are the way to go first. You cannot climb
    Mount Everest starting from 15,000 ft, chances are that you will falter
    trying to attain the summit. Practice first from a lower altitude and
    understand concepts via stories in Puranas and Itihasa. Build stamina
    and endurance first. Start from sea level and move up. To fly, an
    aircraft needs two wings and the two wings are gnana (knowledge) and
    bhakti (unadulterated love/devotion to supreme.

    Without knowing how to pronounce the actual words (mantras) this book is just a
    reference book. It you want to get the best out of this book start from
    Step 1. And this Step 1 is learning basic Sanskrit akshara (alphabets).

  • K T Thomas

    It may interest readers to know that the author of this article, Dr David Frawley, is also known as Vamadeva Shastri. He is a great scholar of the Vedas and runs the American Institute of Vedic Studies.

    • Bharat

      Nope, it doesn’t interest me. I’m more interested in the message than the messenger.

      • Gimp

        Do you feel smart now?

    • suru

      I too have heard of Dr,Frawley from some people who have mastery over vedas and puranas. Seems he liked Vedas and puranas so much that he has mastered them and changed his name to Vamadev shastri. His sentences “India’s greatest historical and cultural document, the Mahabharata and Ramayana are hardly given any attention in the schools. ….., as if prior to 1947 India did not really exist.”””

      Hats off when he suggests that “”Revamping the way history is taught in Indian schools would be a major step in the direction of a more authentic and spiritually sensitive history of the world..”””

    • Krispy K

      The implication being what? That he is not a Christian, and therefore should not be taken seriously?

    • KP

      Very good point. Mr. Frawley’s / Mr. Shastri’s expertise is in Vedas, his doctorate (the “Dr.” tag inserted to his name) is in religious studies.

      He has ZERO background in real sciences or history or any serious academic discipline, with the exception of religious studies.

      So, it’s no wonder that his views on “History Books” are so silly. He basically wants modern history books to be replaced with mythology and religious books. His views are no different from Young Earth Creationists in the US, who want history and science books in the US to be replaced with silly fantasy books based on the Bible. Basically, Dr. Frawley is confused between mythology and history.

  • subodh1945

    these leftists and nehruvians have totaly twisted indian history , excellent read

  • sbangarp

    Great article.Its time history books are revisited and re-drafted.