‘The Indivisible unity of Bharat-India’

published on January 20, 2013

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

In recent days there has been talk of Bharat-versus India. In commenting on the tragic rape and murder of the young New Delhi woman, Jyothi ( as she has now been named) Shri Mohan Bhagawat of the RSS was reported by the liberal media as having said that rapes don’t occur in Bharat, they occur only in urban India. It is still not clear whether Shri Bhagawat actually said that. RSS spokesperson have come forward and clarified the statement.

Journalist Swapan Das Gupta has written about the question of Bharat-versus India clarifying the situation further. I have myself written briefly on the topic. Shri Bhagawat was most likely raising important concerns that many Hindus have today about the negative aspects of modernity and Westernisation which are most visible in urban centres.

Whatever the outcome of that specific controversy, the present writer believes that the issue that Indians might want to think about is not Bharat versus India, but Bharat-India. India is the anglicised name for the river Indus, which is in Hindu nomenclature, the Sindhu river. The Persians could not pronounce the s in the word and changed it to Hindu. The British anglicised it to the river Indus (using the Greek references).

But no less an authority (at least for Hindus) is the Rig Veda which mentions the river Sindhu. And in the last two to three decades Indic scholars have written definitively about the Sindhu Sarasvati Civilisation (formely called The Indus Valley Civilisation), thus reinstating the importance of the origins of the word India and as well as the word Hindu.

Hence, the word India should not be abandoned to the splittists, even those who talk about India’s diversity. We shall come to that issue presently. Bharat, ofcourse, derives from the famed King Bharata, who ruled over India. It also finds resonance in the words Mahabharata, the ancient epic. And the Indian Constitution speaks about India that is Bharat.

This writer had the opportunity to view two interesting but contrasting views about Bharat-India. At an IDRC event in 2010 historian Ramachandra Guha spoke in an impassioned manner about what is wrong with India today. He cited ten points, the corruption, the environmental degradation, politics as a one family firm, the baleful effects of globalisation etc. He was genuinely anguished about the breakdown of the post Nehru consensus.The talk itself was called ‘Ten Reasons why India cannot, should not be a superpower’. He did wonder aloud  why the country had survived several millenia and continues to do so. This question mark seems to hover around of much of Guha’s work. To date he has not been able to grapple with this question.

Then there was Yogendra Yadav’s talk at the same centre in 2011 titled ‘ Diversity and Democracyin India’.

His manner is in contrast to Guha’s, quite calm and composed, and bringing to light what he called the ‘deep diversity’ of India. He refers to it as a miracle (meaning that democracy should co exist with vast  diversity) even when highlighting the problems facing the country.

Both men bypassed Hindu history, as if Indian history began only with the modern era, in Guha’s case with the rise and fortunes of the Indian National Congress and with Yadav also the well known figures of Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar. Yadav, in fact, could not explain why the modern contribution could be explained as specifically Indian, even when it wrestled with the input coming in from the West. Indeed, neither men seemed to have a coherent explanation for the ‘miracle’ of the unity of the country despite the many centrifugal forces that could potentially tear the country apart. Both, ofcourse avoided the word ‘Bharat’ or ‘Hindu’. It should be added that both men delivered brilliant talks, despite the limitations of their world view.

The unity  in diversity of this Bharat-India can best be appreciated by those who are familiar with India’s ancient history. This unity in diversity of Hindu civilisation started with the Rig Veda, which the Rishis handed down to succeeding generations. Sanskrit, the language of the Rig Veda was special in that it was put together quite self consciously by the Rishis as a unique language  according to historian and scholar Dr. N. Rajaram who has explained the unique origins of Sanskrit in his articles in Folks Magazine (Indo Europeans : The Natural History of Languages) basing his evidence on population genetics and the occurrence of natural events.

The present writer would add: the hymns (sooktas) of the Rig Veda were most likely the expression of the sighting by the Rishis of the Devas and Devatas(gods and goddesses) on the Indian subcontinent. They were anxious that this should be preserved and transmitted to future generations and indeed the unchanged permanent nature of the Rig Vedic heritage is there both in the Veda and in the Agama.

What then of the Harappans of the Sindhu Sarasvati Civilisation that preceded the Rig Veda ? Many scholars have recently written about it, most notably  Dr. S. Kalyanraman (Director of the Sarasvati Research Center). His book Indus Script Cipher (2011) is encyclopedic in its scholarship and reads like a reference book, but its importance lies in the meticulous way in which he has traced the real connections between Harappan artefacts, etc to the later specifically Hindu civilisation :

       The Indus script reveals ” that artisans -the lapidaries, masons, carpenters, miners and smith – of the civilisation working with stones, wood, ivory, shells, minerals, metals and alloys of metals, created the Indus writing system to record 1)the characteristics of artifacts produced by them and 2) techniques used. . . . (p.6).

       The principal thesis of the deciphering of the Indus script by the rebus method is that “in the Indian linguistic area, artisans of the proto-Indic language families Indo Aryan, Munda(Kol) and Dravidians interacted with one        another, absorbed many glosses and structural language features from one another. . . . given the fact        that the three language families are a sprachbund (language union), with cultural contact situations and history of phonetic changes, of semantic expansions, the glosses common to two or more of these language families that constitute the Indus language lexicon.” (6-7)

The reader is requested to examine this remarkable and fascinating compendium of material relating to the intimate connections between the Harappan civilisation and the Veda Agama.

Dr. Rajaram and other scholars have also written about the links between the Harappans and the Vedic peoples. These are relevant questions which every Hindu must acquaint himself/herself with to have a better understanding of the origins of Hindu culture and civilisation so that they are not misled by the confusions generated by Western
scholarship and their Indian camp followers.

The picture had been confused and the waters muddied by earlier Indian scholars and historians who followed the conventional theories of the invasion of India by Aryan invaders coming from the Caucasus or via Iran and so on.

Along with these erroneous theories was the splitting of Sanskrit Veda from the southern parts of India, called Dravida. Dr.Rajaram and other Indic scholars have argued conclusively that Gauda (Sanskrit) and Dravida (from the south) were a seamless entity born out of the migration of humans from Africa several thousand years ago. Hence, even the dating of the Veda has been pushed back some 10,000 years. Their research is based on population genetics and what is called the natural evolution of languages which is connected to natural events like the Ice Age.

(The reader is directed to the articles by Dr. Rajaram mentioned above, and which are a precursor to his forthcoming book on the subject).

For our purposes it is important to focus on the Veda Agama, which is Hinduism. The worship of deities, the sacrificial homa, the worship of Agni both as the messenger of the gods and as a god himself/herself, all of this passed on to the Agama which started the worship of the gods and goddesses in the temple. Attempts to sever the connection between Veda and Agama have been made repeatedly by many forces hostile to Hinduism. The present writer has written about this in the article ‘ Attacks against the Vedic Agama Connection’ (Vijayvaani, July 24, 2012).

Why is the Veda Agama link important ?

It is the abiding permanent feature of Hinduism which gathered many elements into its fold as time went by. While the Veda itself has been interpreted as the worship of the gods/goddesses, it has also been subsequently interpreted in the Vedanta as the worship of the unmanifest divine prinicple. There have been theists, atheists, agnostics in the Vedic tradition. Agama, the worship of deities inside the temple (unlike the Rig Vedic worship under the skies) is also a continuation of the worship of deities, even though new gods and goddesses have been introduced. And the overarching philosophical principle  of both Veda and Agama is Dharma.

This unity remains unbroken despite the rise of other Dharmic faiths such as Buddhism and Jainism and the latter has in fact become closely linked to the Veda Agama. The majority population of Bharat-India is Hindu. Historically, the barbarian invasions started from the 8th century onwards and the arrival of the Christian proselytisers in the seventh century onwards and British  rule since the coming of the East India Company in the 1600s. But the resulting demographics only led to the description of Hinduism as being syncretic, but not changing from its Veda Agama.

The Rig Veda and the Vedas in general continue to intermesh with the daily practice of Hindus and although the local dialects and languages are also used sometimes in daily worship, Sanskrit remains the central feature of both homa and pooja. Thus, the sighting of the divine presences can be called (and is called) apaurusheya, not of human origin. The Rig Veda, then is not simply an address to the deities but a record of their sighting.

Historian Romila Thapar wrongly identifies this as Hindutva. Her argument is that the British paid attention only to the texts of Hinduism (mainly the Sanskrit texts and their derivatives) and identified this as Hinduism. The Hindutvadins of today continue this, acccording to her. She is mistaken in this attribution. Hindutva is simply Hinduism as practised daily by the Hindus of India and elsewhere. Veda Agama remains the backbone of Hindu practice and it is silly to make an artificial distinction. It is the foundation for Hindutva which presents itself as a defence against hostile forces, inimical to Hinduism.

Likewise Yogendra Yadav continues to refer to Hindu majoritarianism as if it were a demographic reality only.And so while he basks in the glow of Hindu Bharat-India’s ‘deep diversity’ (as he calls it) he simultaneously dismisses it as a mere issue of numbers ! Even the phrase ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ is a misnomer when he refers to Hindus.

He and others of his persuasion fail to understand that it is the unity of Bharat-India that upholds its deep diversity.To understand that, it is not enough merely to see the surface of contemporary life or the history of the last 150 years. One has to relate inwardly to the vast millenia of Bharat-India’s history. Any attack on this unity, then, whether intentional or unintentional is an attempt to strike at the very unity in deep diversity.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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