After Jallikattu, Sabarimala, Shani Shignapur, Kerala Temple elephant ban and Ganesh Chaturthi, Dahi Handi is the latest Hindu tradition to be attacked by an NGO-PIL system in conjunction with the able help of the Indian judiciary. This is not an accident. Rather, this is aligned with an evangelical strategy of death by a thousand cuts. While the verdict is still out on the specific actors behind Dahi Handi, it is worth understanding the historical erasure of pagan traditions and how this has been critical to a monopolistic establishment of Christianity. These attacks cannot thus be separated from evangelical interests in the Conversion War.
When the Roman Empire turned Christian: Banning the Olympics
In 380 CE, the Roman Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the official state religion of the Roman Empire. His “Edict of Thessalonica,” also called the “Cunctos Populous,” declared all those who didn’t believe in the Nicene Creed to be “heretics” and subject to both “earthly and heavenly” punishment.
Everyone in the empire shall be part of the religion that believes in God as a single Deity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity, as taught by St. Peter to the Romans, and now taught by Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria. Only those following this rule shall be called “catholic Christians.”
Meeting places of those who follow another religion (including heretics of a Christian variety) shall not be given the status of churches, and such people may be subject to both divine and earthly retribution[i].
Theodosius also embarked on a persecution of the pagan rituals and festivals, including banning the Olympic Games that were seen to be associated with the Greek gods and seen to be “too pagan.”
This is a quote from Christianity Today:
“Under the emperor’s direction, fanatical Christians closed and later tore down ancient wonders of the world, most notably the Temple of Zeus built in Olympia and the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria…Theodosius’s successor, Theodosius II, ordered his Roman army in 426 to demolish the impressive stadium of Olympia, which could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators at its peak.[ii]”
I deliberately use the Christian site “Christianity Today” for the quote above, since they later proffer apologia for this behavior of Theodosius and his successor. The games needed to be banned because they were violent and they injured Christian sensibilities by paying respect to the Greek gods.
“That feast, held on the third day of the Games, was marked by a procession—priests scooped up glowing embers from the fire of Hestia, goddess of the hearth, then carried those embers past spectators singing a hymn to Zeus.”
According to Christianity Today, the banning of pagan rituals was due to the Bishop Ambrose’s influence on Theodosius, which “fanned the flames of Theodosius’s Christian faith and conscience.” And what does this Christian faith and conscience make Theodosius do?
“And so, on February 24, 391, the emperor began issuing a series of decrees that effectively outlawed Greco-Roman paganism and all the rituals that accompanied it. First, he prohibited pagan sacrifice, including—for the first time—the state ceremonies still practiced in Rome. Then came the closing of all shrines and temples: “No person shall approach the shrines, nor walk through the temples, nor revere the images formed of mortal hands.” Next came a law forbidding apostasy from Christianity to paganism, and finally, on November 8, 392, Theodosius declared all sacrifice and divination punishable by death. That meant destroying private altars, domestic idols placed in hearth and kitchen, hanging garlands, etc.”
It is easy to map this to Hindu rituals, murtis placed in the home, garlands of flowers at the entrance, the temples and shrines and use of jyotishya (“divination”). Theodosius outlawed all this on the penalty of death, destroyed the temples, and banned the festivals and sports associated with paganism.
Xavier and after
In the 16th century, the Catholic Saint, Xavier undertook a similar exercise, when he called upon the Inquisition under Portuguese rule in Goa, which led to killing, torturing and skewering of both non-Christians, who had not submitted to the Christian faith, as well as Christians, who still continued some Hindu pagan festivals or kept murtis at home. The Inquisition killed thousands, many with brutal torture, including burning at the stake. Hundreds of Hindu temples were destroyed and many Hindu practices prohibited, including “greeting people with Namaste, wearing sandals, removing of the slippers, while entering the church, and growing of the sacred basil or Tulsi plant in front of the house.[iii]”
Fast forward another few centuries. In 1894, Canada passed an amendment to the Indian act, criminalizing many native festivals including the ceremony of the potlatch.
“Every Indian or other person who engages in or assists in celebrating the Indian festival known as the “Potlatch” or in the Indian dance known as the “Tamanawas” is guilty of a misdemeanor, and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than six nor less than two months in any gaol or other place of confinement; and every Indian or persons who encourages, either directly or indirectly, an Indian or Indians to get up such a festival… shall be liable to the same punishment.[iv]”
By the 19th century, even though the suppression of native festivals was due to Christian theological fixations of other religions being Satanic, it started being couched in more secular reasoning.
“The (Canadian) Federal government’s decision to interfere in potlatching was rationalized in economic terms. It was argued that potlatches were not conducive to fostering notions of “thrift” and “personal acquisitions” among Indians.
“Other reasons given for this prohibition was the “extravagance”, the “loss of time” associated with these activities.[v]”
While Christian missionaries were often at the forefront of banning these festivals, secular administrators were not far behind, often using the argument of progressive values.
“Scott, Halliday and a number of others say the potlatch as a…symbol of resistance to their authority, and ‘therefore, as the great stumbling block in the way of progress.’[vi]”
But, haven’t Christians changed now and acknowledge they were mistaken in the past? As I write in “Dead Peoples Tell no Tales”, Western scholarship about Native Americans starts to be more favorable only after they have been practically eliminated:
“The interesting point is when does “oops we were mistaken” scholarship emerge. It emerges when the civilizational genocide of Native Americans is complete. Christianized, confined to reservation and dis-armed the Native American poses no threat. There is no danger in extolling his civilization. In fact, praising him helps in reinforcing the self-image of the contemporary enlightened non-prejudiced liberal academic, no longer consigning the other as Satanic. Except for the next civilization that is not yet quite dead.”
For his destruction of pagan Roman and Greek traditions, Theodosius was labeled “The Great” by Christian historians. That “next civilization” is India.
Contemporary India: The Joshua Project and Project Thessalonica
Why did we go on this journey into Christian history? Whatever does this have to do with the Dahi Handi restrictions or with Jallikattu or Sabarimala entry?
We have to understand two things. Firstly, India is the biggest target of the Christian conversion war in contemporary times. It is the only non-Christian society that is open, plural and allows unhindered access to missionaries at this scale. Further, it is a key strategic and civilizational target. The Joshua Project aiming at the 10/40 window is part of the overt plan for Christianizing the world with billions of dollars of resources deployed to target India[vii]. If you think any of this is a “conspiracy theory,” I would urge you to visit the Joshua Project website first.
Lesser known, and far more secretive than the Joshua Project, is Project Thessalonica. Recall that the emperor Theodosius’ edict, aimed at destroying pagan Greek and Roman temples, rituals and festivals was called the “Edit of Thessalonica.” Modern day missionaries have the same aim but their methods are more varied. In India, in states like Nagaland, where they are in the majority, they can indeed work by edict and ban and destroy native traditions and temples (with not a peep from Indian mainstream media). In other parts that have an unconverted majority, they have to use more stealth. Let us first look at Project Thessalonica (PT).
“Project Thessalonica is a sub-project of Joshua Project II. Joshua Project II set the scope and strategy for converting the “heathen” of the world in 10-40 window (regions that lie between the latitudes of 10 and 40 degrees north) whereas project Thessalonica (called PT) prioritizes the tasks to be taken. Joshua project II strategized the methodology called ‘Adopt-a-peoples’ wherein every mission agency or church adopted a ‘people group’. Tribals were the first and easy missionary targets. Unfortunately the missionary activity didn’t weaken Hinduism as the church strategists had anticipated- many of the converts still celebrated and attended Hindu festivals and continued to follow Hindu traditions. As a counter measure Project Thessalonica was started in 2004.[viii]”
Just like the “Edict of Thessalonica” attacked Greek and Roman pagan festivals and traditions, PT aims to do that in contemporary India.
“Project Thessalonica aims to stop or limit Hindu activity by converting people who form the pillars of Hindu culture, festivals, traditions and activity…
Missions want to ensure that no new temple construction activity starts. With this objective they are converting masons, craftsmen and others involved in temple construction activity. The First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee adopted towns where the annual Kumbh Mela takes place and has been actively converting the locals so that visitors face extreme hardship during their next visit trying to find services and supplies. Another mission group is adopting boatmen of Kasi where Hindus drop rice balls in river Ganges as an offering to their forefathers. The boatsmen are being trained in other fields so that they abandon this profession.
They are making environmental groups raise the voice so that Ganesh processions, Kumbh Melas and Jagannath Rath Yatras are limited. One big worry seems to the extremely popular Hindu television programs. Christian agencies have decided on buying these prime slots at a premium and are actively working with programming sources. Over the past 20 years, missionaries also appear to have invested a lot in handling the political leadership. So much so that their activities appear to be almost immune to the ruling political party. It seems that a good section of media is also on their side to such an extent that any group opposing their activity finds itself identified as a militant or extremist group in the news media. “(Emphasis added)
A caveat here. All references to PT point to one single source, an article attributed to Alex Pomero. It is difficult to ascertain its authenticity directly. However, whether the specific reference is correct or not, we can see similar results on the ground and trace many of these backwards. We know for instance that the media cover for missionary activities is true. We also know about the steady attacks from diverse groups on Ganesh chaturthi, Kumbh Melas and the like. The intrepid Twitter user @sighbaboo had traced the attacks on the ban of the Temple Elephants in Kerala to NGOs with FCRA Christian funds. Also See-  
The strategy to affect a Thessalonica-like killing of Hindu festivals is clear.
First, create a network of Foreign-funded NGOs, often with “progressive” names and objectives. Note that there are billions of dollars being poured into this, which can buy a lot of people in India. Communists and the Indian left have already been programmed into Hindu-hate, so they make for very easy pickings for a destroy-Hinduism project, plus the NGOs offer very lucrative options for Social Sciences graduates, so they are easy to staff up.
Then, a particular target is fixed, say Jallikatu or Sabarimala or Dahi Handi and NGOs are charged with creating “secular” objections to these, whether it is “animal rights”, or “women’s rights” or “children’s safety.”
Festivals and rituals are the glue for native traditions. Relatively abstract higher-level teachings like Advaita may appeal to the intelligentsia, but they are not what bind the common people to the Hindu traditions. Ultimately, for the masses the attachment and link is via diverse folk traditions, pilgrimages and rituals, not any centralized “theology.” Christian evangelicals have recognized this through the ages. Thus, an emphasis on destroying festivals and rituals, which are associated with “pagan religion.” Jallikatu or Sabarimala or Dahi Handi may seem specific and local to one area and remote for many Hindus. But, this diversity, which has been the strength, is now turned into a weakness because of the inability of a consolidated protest.
The NGO Attack Route
While PT has many different attack strategies, as outlined, including attacking key bearers of traditions, such as temple builders and boatsmen, the NGO-based strategy is fairly clear now.
Once an attack strategy is picked, an NGO is set to the task and it would, then, file a PIL. In the case of Dahi Handi, the NGO filed a PIL in the Mumbai High Court during the time of the Congress government in Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government itself argued in favor of the PIL. An easily persuaded Court imposed the restrictions, while the affected community was not even a party to the decision. Theodosius would be proud.
Just like in the potlatch, some native resistance continues with people celebrating despite it being illegal. But, eventually the state would win and the tradition would be killed off.
Major NGOs with very “secular” credentials and secular-sounding names are part of this circuit. For instance, Ranjana Kumar is Director of the “Center for Social Research” that does extensive work in “Women’s and Girls issues.” If you trace the funding of CSR though, you will find that over 90% of its funding is from foreign organizations. What kind of Foreign Organizations? According to research done by The Male Factor, the largest donor is the “Interchurch Cooperative (ICCO), Netherlands” giving CSR about Rs. 3.6 crores since 2006. That buys a lot of paid “activists” in India. ICCO is an explicitly Protestant Faith based organization, which is also funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other major donors include the “Hans Siedel Foundation”, a right-wing Catholic organization also believed to fund the shadowy Catholic arm, Opus Dei[ix]. (The Wikipedia entry on this also states that the Foundation financed Italian right-wing neo-fascist terror, though the corroborating link to this has mysteriously disappeared.) Note that Hans Siedel Foundation also has an India chapter, which also works on women’s issues and lists CSR as a partner organization.[x]
Why are these Christian organizations so keen to “save” Indian women, especially when Christianity itself has a horrendous track record of misogyny? Some decades ago, evangelicals identified Hindu women, who were seen as upholding the Hindu traditions, as the major obstacle to conversion. Thus, a conscious process was put in place to attack their links to the culture using the “feminism” trope, the same feminism that many of these conservative Christian organizations opposed in their own countries. Male-god Christianity, using a secular cover of feminism, could thus attack the Hindu traditions of the Divine Feminine with impunity.
CSR works extensively with women’s group and Ranjana Kumari is an active television personality on “women’s rights”, pushing for temple entry into Sabarimala and Shani Shignapur, for instance.
In her advocacy of the so-called “right to pray,” Ranjana Kumari uses loaded Christian terminology and links it to a laundry list of “Hindu atrocities” on women bordering on hate:
It is a divine experience for a devotee between herself and the god, if she is a believer. However, women have been discriminated from entering the holy places by the religious clergy who consider themselves as the mediator between people and the god.…such extreme discriminatory practices which leads to extreme form of cruelty and suffering for women. To name a few of them, sati, defacing and dehumanising widow, dowry killings, witch hunting, female genital mutlilation, debarring women from right to property, not allowing women to perform last rites, keeping women as devadasis to serve temple authorities, child marriages, female foeticide and many more[xi]. (Emphasis added)
Does this sound like an essay of a person who is concerned about Hindu women being able to go to temples? Is it for their deep concern for Hindu women to “pray at temples’ that Christian organizations bankroll this effort? Are Christian organizations massively funding Ranjana Kumari to “improve Hinduism” (why would they?) or would they be interested in killing it? It is hard to believe that the same evangelical Christianity, which considers temple worship to be Satanic and “idol worship” to be the greatest sin are funding advocacy for Hindu women to go to temples. Clearly, the interest is not that Hindu women are able to go to the temples, but to use different pretexts to attack Hindu temple traditions that are the anchors of popular local faith. After the forced entry into Shani temple, for instance, it was reported that local villagers stopped going to the temple, since they believed it had lost its power. Whether or not we consider this “superstition,” you can be quite sure the Christian organizations have studied these different beliefs and understood the points of attack.
As in the entire history of Christian persecution of pagan festivals, the fig-leaf reasons given for the bans are absurd. Jallikattu is apparently “cruelty to animals”, never mind that unlike bull-fighting, animals are not killed, but merely wrestled with and far more cruelty happens in the killing of animals for meat which evangelicals sometimes forcefully feed beef for conversion. Jallikattu bulls are also raised with care, like family, and support an ecosystem of local breeds. There is news though that after the “Hindu” Jallikattu being banned, a Church sponsored event is starting to take its place, much like the pagan feast of Mithra was replaced by “Christmas” and passed off as the day of Jesus’ birth.
In the 1950s, an enquiry report found a Christian group responsible for the burning down of the sacred Sabarimala temple[xii]. The attack on the faith of believers using a feminist pretext is a more subtle way of accomplishing similar objectives. Similarly, the forced women’s entry into Shani Shingnapur was an orchestrated affair, causing locals to start doubting its power. These restrictions on “no children” and no more than 20 feet height, will likely kill Dahi Handi as a popular folk sport.
Currently, the Dahi Handi is a world class human pyramid formation, egged on to greater heights and challenges by competition. An Indian Govinda group holds the Guinness World record, international teams from Spain come and study them. Current heights are over 40 feet, a 20 feet height limit effectively kills the sport. Imagine, if pole vaulters in the Olympics were forced to be limited to heights of only half of what they can do. Finally, the pyramid relies on weight differential and would not compete at world records without children. I had personally observed pyramid competitions in the city of Barcelona in Spain. All of them use children, younger than even the 12-year earlier limit that the court increased to 18. [Also see this]
How to counter this?
There is the legislative path and the non-legislative path. Because of the utter apathy of the BJP government, a legislative path appears unlikely. But if so, it would reiterate the principle of religious freedom and raise the bar to curbing of native practices. It would strongly cut down funding to these NGOs and restrict the operations of foreign-funded NGOs to exclude all field-level activities. It would also control the PIL system, restricting it to the legal principle, where only one who has suffered harm may bring suit, not third parties with a mission to “civilize” others. Finally, any person or organization receiving foreign funds may not bring a PIL, just as they cannot contribute to a political party. Also ordinances can be issued overturning many of the draconian Court decisions.
The non-legislative way starts first and foremost with a massive awareness building. The attacks on the Hindu traditions are not unrelated. They form part of a systematic strategy being executed on a war footing. Unfortunately, only those attacking know that a war is even going on. If the other side doesn’t wake up from its slumber, it is unlikely to offer any resistance to this cultural genocide.
[iii] Newman, Robert S. (1999), The Struggle for a Goan Identity, in Dantas, N., The Transformation of Goa, Mapusa: Other India Press,
[iv] Pettipas, Katherine (1994), Severing the Ties That Bind: Government Repression of Indigenous Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies, Univ. of Manitoba Press
[vi] Hawker, Ronald W. (2007), Tales of Ghosts: First Nations Art in British Columbia, 1922-61, UBC Press
[ix] CONSERVATIVE CATHOLIC INFLUENCE IN EUROPE AN INVESTIGATIVE SERIES Opus Dei: The Pope’s Right Arm in Europe by Gordon Urquhart from: Catholics for a Free Choice http://www.population-security.org/cffc-97-01.htm
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Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, author and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays in the book “Invading the Sacred” contested Western academic writing on Hinduism. He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents. His latest book is “The English Medium Myth.” He blogs at sankrant.org .