Bharat has an enviable civilizational continuity that dates back beyond the reaches of any cultural memory of the middle east or the west. Whenever an ancient relic is discovered anywhere in these parts of the world, scholars and archaeologists struggle to identify it, and mostly hypothesize over the possible cultural significance of it. But, whenever any ancient artifact is discovered in the subcontinent, they are mostly socially relatable with their cultural significance unchanged over the ages. It doesn’t need a scholar or an archaeologist to identify an ancient Shiva Lingam, an idol of Ganeshji, or Narasimha Avatar.
Any sculpture on the ruins of an ancient temple, Kalash or Lotus motifs does not look alien to the eye of a Bharatiya. But if a figurine from pre-Islamic era is discovered from the deserts of Arabia or a pagan site of worship is discovered dating back to pre-Christian Europe, the details of their origin, name, cultural significance is limited to a handful of history buffs, scholars and archaeologists. Those are little more than museum pieces to be researched upon and displayed for the public who mostly fail to identify it, let alone culturally relate to it.
The important question that needs to be asked is Why?
Why do they fail to identify something that was of reverence to their ancestors? What has caused this lapse in memory? I will try to briefly address this issue.
The answer to these lies in history centrism. It means that a distinct event of the past makes the core of an ideology. In case of Christianity or Islam, it is the resurrection of Christ and divine revelation by Jibril respectively. A very characteristic feature of such doctrines is dogmatism. Anything before the event is looked down upon and is considered worthy to be destroyed. Giving all the importance to the important “event” means all those who believe it are considered pure and chosen by God while all the others are heretics or Kafirs. Therefore it becomes a natural responsibility of a believer to spread the “message of God” and ensure complete surrender of the non-believers by any means possible.
Obviously, any cultural or social practice which does not fall within the purview of “revelation” is considered man-made and therefore lower in status than the ones revealed by God or his messenger. Therefore for a believer such practices are unworthy and must be stopped, if necessary by force. It is because of this reason that wherever Christianity or Islam has managed to achieve political power, the whole region has been converted into respective religions. And the most important aspect of staying in power is to ensure the upcoming generations are indoctrinated into their respective faiths. It becomes obvious that the indoctrination involves purging. All the traditional belief systems, cultural and civilizational wisdom becomes unworthy and therefore are never passed down to the next generation.
Any part of the world that has seen Christianity or Islam achieving political power, have completely been converted within a couple of generations. It has ensured that the civilizational ties to the past are purged and only “believers” are raised. It is only expected that any relic of the original culture like places of worship or centers of education have usually been the primary targets for destruction.
Places like Europe and the Middle East have suffered these societal upheavals and therefore have lost touch with their past. The indoctrination is so thorough that many of these places do not even speak the language of their ancestors or remember the original name of the region. For example, the land of the Pharaohs was called “Khem” by the original inhabitants, is called Egypt now and no one speaks the ancient language today after generations of Christian and Islamic indoctrination.
Bharat has faced similar attacks starting from the 7th century AD. After many unsuccessful attempts, when Islam was able to reach the heartland and managed to achieve political power, similar attempts were made to spread the “message of God”. Attack on temples, associated learning centers, ancient libraries or universities became the order of the day. Every attempt was made to convert the masses as soon as political power was consolidated. The present day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, once the centres of indigenous culture, have a dwindling population of non Muslims and lost the ancient places of worship in ruins. The images of “Kafir-Kot” are a case in point.
The attempt to destroy our ancient civilization was so thorough that hardly any temple structure is standing in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana etc that was built during the pre-Islamic era. The extent of iconoclasm was such that the whole north Indian cultural landscape was flattened. No ancient temple structure stands which were built before 17-18th century. The temples surviving today are contemporary structures built at the same place where they were torn down by fanatic hordes. And in other parts of the country, almost every surviving ancient temple has multiple stories of fanatic attempts to destroy and valorous defence by Bharatiyas to tell.
Ayodhya, being the birthplace of Lord Rama and hence considered to be one of the seven most holy cities in India has also witnessed similar destruction. Bharatiyas have historically felt a strong cultural association for millennia to this place. When an invader from Uzbekistan named Babar reached the heartland, the ancient city was attacked. It was under his order that the ancient temple was razed and a dome structure was built on its site in order to humiliate the non-believers. This should not only be looked through the lens of religious struggle but as a clash of civilizations. The invader brought forth a history centric ideology that foment an eternal “us vs them” divide. For the non-believers, this ideology was a political force that attempted to destroy everything an indigenous Bharatiya held sacred.
The force was exercised in the form of war. It was a completely new phenomenon for the Bharatiyas as war has never been fought to spread the “word of God”. The wars between Bharatiya kings had minimum or no civilian casualties and no harm was done to the standing crops and livestock. But with these invaders came a new form of “all out war” attempting to destroy not only the opposing army but also the way of life of non-believers. And the invaders did it without remorse or a sense of guilt because they believed they were fighting for greater good and God. According to Prof KS Lal, at least 80 million Bharatiyas were slaughtered by the Islamic invaders over a period of 500 years. The era of Islamic occupation in the subcontinent bore witness to the biggest genocide of the world that is yet to be acknowledged.
Our ancestors rose up to the challenge and fought countless battles for centuries against the invaders. Stories of valor and ultimate sacrifice can be found from every nook and corner of the subcontinent. In those bloody days of monotonous struggle for survival, the indigenous belief systems played a major role in helping the victims cope up with untold torture and humiliation. The sense of duty instilled in our ancestors by traditional knowledge inspired them to fight on against insurmountable odds. Though we have kept civilizational continuity alive, we have had to cope with numerous traumatic experiences. The destruction of ancient learning centers, temples and libraries have left deep scars into the conscience of Bharatiyas. According to an estimate, over 40,000 prominent temples were destroyed by Islamic invaders. This same exercise is visible all across Europe as well where prominent Churches stand on ancient ruins of pagan sites.
Even in parts of the subcontinent where Christianity managed to attain political power, attempts were made to convert the population and churches have been built by destroying ancient temples. This shows that Christianity and Islam have a distinct political aspect that aims to destroy the indigenous culture of a region. Therefore reclaiming a prominent site of reverence by ‘non-believers’ after decades of political and legal battle is a civilizational statement. The connection to our ancient past is intact even after innumerable attempts by invaders to destroy it. Whereas all other cultures have prostrated in a generation or two, Bharatiyas have resisted, sacrificed and survived one invasion after another. The reclaiming of this ancient site and building a grand temple is a civilization accepting the challenge of the competing invasive cultures and declaring in one voice that we are here to stay.
Bharat Mata Ki Jai.