Consider the impeccable Gurukula system of lore through which the fields of astronomy, mathematics, language, architecture, medicine, chemistry, physiology, technology, spirituality and philosophy saw advancements, which, dare I say, advanced humanity’s evolution by many years! The culture that provided a conducive atmosphere for scholars from across spectra to fairly contribute and study these intricate and complex subjects when the rest of the world was still living in caves is now but a figment of history.
The British and the Islamic hordes had their deeply vested interests in altering this environment upon their arrival. The advent of Islamic rule in any land is characterized by complete adoption of Islam (often by force), but India braved the storm on account of its deep rooted and well founded culture that has always been associated with the land. The Islamists were blatant and relentless in besieging, looting and demolishing any existing places of knowledge and spirituality. While some were left to ruins, some others were built upon and advertised as measures of inclusiveness. Some historians would argue that India under Islamic rule strided forward in all fields, but are often dumbfounded when asked to compare the same with the strides made priorly.
As for the British, they were aware from the start that dominance over India was possible only upon the ruins of its existing culture and the absolute dismantling of the education system that promoted the culture. Some of Macaulay’s dishonest and deceptive opinions inside and outside the British parliament regarding Indian education system like “..teaching what is best worth knowing; that English is better worth knowing than Sanskrit or Arabic..”, “..neither as the languages of law, nor as the languages of religion, have Sanskrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our engagement..” or “..I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India..” caused the enactment of English Education Act of 1835 and ultimately, the undiluted enslavement and subjugation of the people of this once great land.
While the Islamic rule subjugated Gurukulas by restricting access (read demolishing) and diverting funds to Madrassas, the British outright outlawed the system and introduced the “modern education system” with blurred, if not entirely altered versions, of facts and principles of India’s own culture to suit their needs. This undoubtedly led to the systematic subjugation of India’s pride and the seepage of Stockholm Syndrome so far deep into our systems that we now comfortably rely on western philosophers and linguists for the interpretations and translations of our cultural texts. It is a matter of greater shame and agony that the crowning measure of India’s subjugation over a millennium continues even today and I provide the following as an example. The history curriculum prescribed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), India, is vastly limited to glorifying and portraying early Islamic invaders and then the Mughals as hallmarks of India; but absolutely none, save perhaps a rare mention, has been included of the glories of the Hindu rulers such as the Rajputs of the west or the Marathas of the central provinces or the artistic kingdoms of the south that were beacons in the same
We’ve been independent of both for nearly eight decades now. What have we done to appraise our past? Absolutely nothing! The first leaders of independent India are meritorious of all the blame for this. They committed greater injustice in 60 years than the British or the Islamists in all of history by audaciously ignoring the power to reset the course to the future of the country; the cowards succumbed to selfishness and what I can only ascribe to the Stockholm Syndrome.
Too many of our people have been indoctrinated since then to elevate the western and middle-eastern cultures and belittle our own. English, I hypocritically offer as an example. A language with whims and fancies in place of grammar enjoys greater authority than some truly masterful languages such as Sanskrit. The trend is not limited to just languages. Examples on similar lines may be provided for every single aspect of life in the subcontinent. This practice of glorifying the west has scaled such insurmountable heights that those today that embrace and practice Indian culture are belittled and ridiculed (and may soon be reprimanded too) by these (to use the term popularised by Vivek Agnihotri) “Urban-Naxals” and “Internet Intellectuals”.
However, things are not all dark; it seems there is a glimmer of hope. Over the past few years, there has been substantial movement in renewing, excavating and bringing to light the buried pages of Indian history (and not without resistance too). This can be ascribed to the advent of social media in this past decade and then a half. Were it not for social media, the vested group that continues to obscure the past and keep the country enslaved as in the past millennium would be successful!
I accept and wholly subscribe to the greatness of our practices and culture. However, for reasons known and unknown, all the greatness and achievements remain in the past. I must remark rather bleakly this: as beautiful as our culture is, we are basking in the greatness of an erstwhile glory and may do this for only so long before the shadow of the present obscures it. Now, unlike a thousand years before, the west is pioneering the sciences, philosophy and technology while we are looking to live in caves.
By Bhanutej Ravilla, Prithvi Bhat