If you are a teacher, school official, or perhaps even a student or parent in California, you have probably heard about the controversy that has raged for a decade about how India and Hinduism are depicted in California’s History lessons.
You have probably seen two very different aspects to the whole debate. On the one hand, you might recall the faces of anguished parents and children coming to testify before officials in Sacramento year after year about how demeaning, discriminatory, and inaccurate the depictions of their identity and culture is in the books (watch some of these children’s testimonials on this video here).
On the other hand, you have probably heard something very different too; that the demands for changing these depictions is part of some sinister campaign to offer a “revisionist” history of India by “Hindu Nationalist” groups. You might have seen phrases like “Hindu extremist” and “Hindu fundamentalist” being used, and allusions to various notorious instances of other religious fundamentalist groups eradicating science and truth from the curriculum from around the country and the world.
Let us examine some of these alleged “Hindu fundamentalist-extremist-revisionist” changes being sought in middle school history lessons:
1) Are Hindus asking that California should teach middle school children that the world was created by Lord Brahma? 2) Are Hindus asking that history lessons should say that Hindus are God’s chosen people and the non-Hindu groups are inferior? 3) Are Hindus insisting that California give special treatment to Hindus and say only nice things about them and then say harsh things about other religions?
Are they really pushing some kind of unscientific, fundamentalist, supremacist, agenda into California schools?
I have been following the controversy for ten years now, and the answer to these questions is clearly “none of the above.”
What exactly then are many diverse organizations, parents, and scholars asking for? Having read through most of the requests considered (and almost entirely rejected) by the Instructional Quality Commission in its recently concluded review of the History Social Science Frameworks draft, I can say that there are only three broad types of requests (you can examine several edits proposed by Hindu groups and parents in the document linked in this paragraph; the India/Hinduism parts start around edit number 2400):
1) Can you stop perpetuating the colonial-era myth about Hindus being the invaders of India and at least note that the Aryan Invasion Theory is no longer accepted as uncontested truth? 2) Can you stop ignoring several millennia of Indian and Hindu history, thought, philosophy, art, architecture, astronomy, math, science, yoga, Ayurveda, statesmanship, ethics, and cultural expression and can you stop carrying on with your condescending, colonial-era fancy of the sort that deems all non-European people as having no agency and accomplishments at all? 3) And can you please stop singling out California’s Hindu children for condemnation as somehow being innately casteist and sexist because of their very identity while the role of other religions in worldwide genocide and imperialist is sanitized?
If you are wondering why something so straightforward has become so complicated, it is because of one of the most vexing and bizarre town-gown problems in recent times. A group of South Asia Studies professors continue to think that none of the above concerns are valid, and an entire mass movement of parents, students, and scholars that has lasted one whole decade now is nothing more than a Hindu nationalist “revisionist” conspiracy. What, specifically, do the professors say (read all their submissions and other documents here)?
1) They say that it is true no scholar takes the Aryan Invasion theory any more, but they still stand dogmatically by something called the Aryan Migration Theory (not even allowing a mention of reasonable scholarly challenges to it). So, by implication, Hinduism sort of isn’t Indian, and “migrated” into India and sort of “colonized” everything (the tone of the History Social Science Framework narrative as it is now).
2) They say it’s revisionism and an injustice to India’s marginalized communities and women to change any references to how caste and gender are depicted in the curriculum, even if these references aren’t exactly precise, and even if these changes might actually help elevate the role of lower castes and women in India’s past!
3) They say Hinduism wasn’t really an organized religion till the 13th century and is probably not an organized religion even now. So they have recommended, and the commission has accepted, that Hinduism in ancient times will be referred to henceforth as “religion of ancient India.” (But even though they say Hinduism didn’t really exist, they will reject any changes that suggest that caste wasn’t rooted in religion).
4) Finally, and this is a somewhat startling bold and new position, they say that India didn’t really exist before 1947, so they prefer to have students use the phrase “South Asia” for lessons about India before that time. So the lesson on Ancient India will now be called Ancient South Asia (except when they read about Hinduism in ancient South Asia now it won’t be called Hinduism but religion of ancient India).
It is not my intent to make my colleagues’ positions seem more absurd than they are. But even after acknowledging their good intentions of fighting revisionism, it does seem that they, and the commission which has accepted 62 changes to the History Social Science Framework from them, 36 of which simply have to do with eliminating India are about to create a long nightmare of endless absurdity in California’s history classrooms.
Who is being revisionist here? A community trying to fight off colonial-era myths about it being taught as fact and history, or a group of scholars deploying the privilege of their positions to assert a dogmatic theory about India never having existed before 1947 over children?
Another cruel irony here is that despite all their uninformed slandering of the Hindu school children, parents, scholars and volunteer-activists as Hindu nationalists and revisionists, and despite all their claims that they are doing this for the sake of “lower caste” groups, the South Asia scholars’ campaign has left us with some very unpleasant losses as far as the representation of lower-castes and women actually go!
For example, the names of Valmiki and Vyasa; the two names every Indian school child knows as the authors of the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha, respectively, will be deleted because the line had noted they were not Brahmins by birth and that would have contradicted the South Asia scholars’ beliefs about the role of caste and birth (see edits 2482 and 2511 here). The scholars, it appears, would rather lose the chance for thousands of children to learn that the two greatest epics of Indian civilization were written by people born into lower-caste all in the name of empowering them.
And it may be noted that this, and several such changes about expanding the representation of lower castes and women in the lessons, were actually made by supposed Hindu nationalist organizations!
All the facts in this situation suggest that there is a very basic misreading of positions by a part of the field of South Asia Studies today. For them, it is not really any extremist, supremacist, or fundamentalist claim that makes someone an extremist or “Hindu nationalist” but just the mere act of subscribing to the fact of the existence of India and Hinduism!
Why are the South Asian Scholars out of touch, despite their learnedness, with reality? One reason is that they have failed to engage critically with the way they have been dealing with questions of power and identity. They study orientalism and colonialism when it comes to the past, but when it comes to the present, they do not try to see how much a long-colonized people can still be suffering from its legacies. They do not see a need to fight orientalism in their own academic paradigms, rooted in the privileged halls of Western academia, and crushing the hopes and dreams of a postcolonial people in a minority situation again and again. Instead, they fantasize that somehow Hindus are the colonizers and orientalists, and set out to destroy every little bit of goodness we struggle to still keep alive in this world.
Please see and sign the petition against the removal of India which has been signed now by over 17,000 people in less than five days, here
Nevada (USA), March 24, 2016: Hindus, upset by the reported anti-Hinduism display at a Dairy Queen (DQ) restaurant in Texas, are asking the International Dairy Queen Inc. CEO John P. Gainor Junior to issue a formal apology and arrange to remove the displays.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that DQ should not be in the business of disparaging religions. Posters reportedly displayed at its Kemah store in Texas were highly inappropriate and trivialized the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a highly philosophical thought.
Rajan Zed pointed out that DQ seemed to have even failed to follow its own “Mission Statement: To create positive memories for all who touch DQ” by allowing such derogatory signs at one of its restaurants.
International Dairy Queen Inc.; based in Minneapolis; is a subsidiary of Omaha headquartered Berkshire Hathaway Inc.; serving treats and food in over 6,600 locations in USA, Canada and 28 other countries since 1940. Warren E. Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Australian citizens Matthew Gordon and his girlfriend Emily Kassianou were allegedly mobbed, harassed, and illegally detailed for 3 hours by the Bengaluru police on Saturday afternoon after a group of people found Gordon sporting a tattoo of Hindu goddess Yellama on his shin. It has been further reported that they were let go by the police only after he wrote an apology letter.
Gordon, in his Facebook post says that he was forced to write the apology letter. He writes: “I should not have to apologize for what is on my skin and be put in a traumatizing situation where it is apparently acceptable to be harassed, threatened and mobbed.”
He further adds that: “She (his girlfriend) does not deserve sexual abuse both physical and verbal.” He asks for people’s support “to bring awareness to crimes of injustice.”
In answer to his calls for support, Social Media has come out in full support to him and has vehemently expressed opposition to the regressive mentality of these attackers who have turned India into a fundamentalist country.
But before jumping on the wagon in calling out the regressive mentality of certain sections of Indians (read Hindus), let us first look at the other side of the issue.
Physical harassment or Simple attempts of convincing?
Gorden says in his Facebook post that he had to physically defend himself and his girlfriend was sexually abused physically and verbally.
But, a one-minute video of the incident posted in Youtube shows no physical manhandling. In fact the person in the video, a local BJP leader, Ramesh Yadav is repeatedly asking Gorden only to wear pants and not expose the Goddess tattoo in public.
Further, Ramesh Yadav stated in his interview to India Today that there was no harassment from their side. He said that, they only asked Gorden to either remove the tattoo, or cover them with pants. Yadav further alleges that, the Australian couple used abusive language against the people when they tried to convince them. Hence, Yadav had called the police.
Yadav has re-iterated the same in his interview to The Hindu, where he clearly says: “When we came to know that it was a permanent tattoo, we only asked him to wear a pair of trousers and cover it, for his own safety. We noticed it fine…..if some mob notices and takes objection to it. It is for his own good that we told him and convinced him about this.”
Further, the account given by Yadav has been supported by other eyewitnesses as well. One eyewitness told TV9: “When a few people noticed the Australian national Mathew sporting a tattoo of Yellamma on his shin, they requested him to wear a trouser and cover it. They explained……it might hurt the religious sentiments of the locals especially during Dasara….Suddenly, a local person wearing shorts appeared and created a scene.
“He (the friend) told the Australian couple to make it an issue….the friend instigated Mathew and his girlfriend to make it an issue and told them to post comments on their Facebook page.”
Though the exact details of the incident will come to light only after a detailed investigation, prima facie, it appears that there was no harassment or sexual abuse against the couple as alleged by them.
Further, the couple themselves may have been involved in using abusive language and a friend of the couple may have been involved in instigating the couple to make an issue and post it on Facebook. The fact that Gordon has mentioned in his apology letter that he had used inappropriate language only strengthens the account given by the protesters.
Respect or Insensitivity?
Gordon on his Facebook post says that he “respects India and Hinduism completely.” But, one is left wondering what kind of respect is Gordon talking about that made him call his apology letter as being forced? In the apology letter he had stated: “I am sorry for hurting Hindu religious beliefs by my tattoo….I will make sure to cover it up while I am in India.”
Now, by saying that the letter was forced and that he has nothing to apologize, he is effectively saying that he does not care for the sentiments of Hindus or about the symbolism of Hindu icons. Is this the way to show respect?
As a proof for his respect for Hinduism, he further points out in his Facebook post that he spent 4 hours getting the Goddess tattoo on his shin and spent 35 hours getting Ganesha tattoo on his back.
But, the question is how does getting a tattoo translate into showing respect towards Hinduism, when one is not even apologetic about misusing symbols from a culture that is alien to them? People get tattoos simply because they like those symbols, or because they consider it as decorative icons.
Let this be clarified that, there is neither any disrespect nor anything wrong in getting any tattoos. But, it is definitely wrong, in appropriating the symbol of another culture and then dictating back to the people of that culture about how they should perceive their symbols. That exactly is what Gordon is trying to do.
It is true that many westerners are indeed ignorant about Hindu religion and symbols. Hence, they find Hindu deities and symbols as exotic and wish to own them by getting those symbols tattooed on their body. But, this ignorance cannot be an excuse for insensitivity and cultural appropriation. And in this case, Gordon himself has said that he is not ignorant about Hinduism.
He has told The Hindu, that he had studied in India for three years. He further states that he is well aware of the values and mythology of the gods that he got tattooed on his body.
The question that now arises is, how come he was unaware of the fact that Hindus in general consider keeping feet on paper (considered as Goddess Saraswati) as disrespectful? Similarly, tattooing Hindu Goddess on feet or wearing slippers with Goddess drawn on it, or undergarments with Hindu symbols on it are all perceived as offensive. Hindus have repeatedly expressed opposition to such portrayals in the past.
Was Gordon really unaware of the Hindu perceptions about the issue? Or did he simply not care about how Hindus felt? From his Facebook posts at least, it clearly appears to be the latter. The couple is now trying to hide this insensitivity and cultural appropriateness by playing victim.
Many foreigners have accepted India as their home. They have not only blended well with the Indian culture, but have also become an inseparable part of it. But, what Gordon has done does not fit the category.
If, he really had genuine love, respect, and devotion to the deity and the culture, he would have never got it tattooed on his legs as a mark of respect for Hindu sentiments. Secondly, even if his argument is accepted that no other space was left on his body and hence he was forced to get the tattoo on his shin, he would have covered his leg while staying in India. Thirdly, He would have at least felt genuinely sorry when his error was pointed out by others. But, his actions have been one of contempt for the sentiments of Hindus and Hindu culture.
Claims of Racism and Sexual harassment
Gorden further posts in Facebook the views of his girlfriend Emily. She says: “there has been a wave of blatant racism and intolerance that has been a constant struggle. You hear horror stories about India, this is one.”
She further says: “Two weeks ago, I was groped and sexually assaulted at a concert. After being aggressively fondled, I thought to myself ‘surely this is my Indian horror story.’…Every day, I defend myself from people who are intolerant of western women…but what is more concerning is the cacophony of insults that is thrown at me, on a daily basis.”
If, one were to take this post at face value, it appears as if Emily is facing harassment, physical and verbal almost every day of her stay in India. If this were true, why did the couple not file a police complaint before? Why was Emily silent even after being groped by someone?
And most importantly, how is it even related to the incident that happened on Saturday? What is the couple trying to achieve by making claims of alleged racism and groping in an issue related to them being detained over their tattoo?
Is this an attempt to smear “India” as a racist, rapist country? There is no denial that many cases of sexual harassment of foreigners as well as discrimination against them have been recorded in the past. But, that does not make India itself into a rapist, racist country. The so called “India horror story,” she refers to is a clear case of branding India in a negative light.
Thousands of Indians have been victims of racial violence in Australia, so should the country be branded as racist then?
Giving a political color
Emily’s statement on Facebook further tries to twist the issue by giving it a political color. Her post says: “vicious assault by members of the BJP right wing political party….with police bending backwards to please them.”
Firstly, to suggest that police bend backwards to BJP when the state government is being headed by the Congress is funny to say the least. But, more importantly, the issue is nowhere related to politics or any political party. It is a pure case of couple hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.
Emily’s attempts at whitewashing genuine Hindu concerns by giving it political colors and making it an issue of so called Hindu-fundamentalism, clearly points towards ulterior motive behind the whole issue. Even if the couple themselves are innocent, they are at least being influenced by people and narratives that are biased and inimical to Hinduism.
Their efforts appear to have already started bearing fruits. A search in Google reveals, how newspapers have grabbed the issue with both hands. In a Facebook page- Indian Quotes, one can see people calling India as most racist country, or equating India with countries having Sharia laws.
The issue is not about whether Gordon was right or wrong about tattooing the image of the Hindu Goddess on his shin. It may not have appeared wrong to him. He may even cherish the icons placed his body.
The issue is that despite of him knowing that rightly or wrongly, such a depiction is disrespectful and offensive to Hindu sentiments, he neither made attempts to cover his legs, nor made attempts to genuinely feel sorry and offer apologies. Instead, he has not only retracted on his apology letter by calling it “forced”, the couple is also branding Hindus as being racists and sexual assaulters.
The issue is also that, the incident which is otherwise a small issue, is being used to portray India as racist and Hinduism as regressive.
Is this another attempt to portray India and Hinduism in bad light? Is there any ulterior motive behind the couple’s actions? It is not clear at this moment. But, what is clear is that, there is more to the issue than what meets the eye.
This year India is celebrating its 69th Independence Day. It is a very special day for all Indians, as India finally became a free republic on this very day. The dream of “independent India” is the result of efforts of hundreds of freedom fighters who laid down their lives. Balagangadhar Tilak had made a clarion call “Swaraj (self-rule) is my birthright and I shall have it.”
In 1947, India achieved its Swaraj, but till today, we are yet to make a transition to “su-raj” (Good rule). Hence, our Swaraj has remained incomplete. Though India has become free, though it has attained Swaraj, but still the mind of Indians is still colonized. Indian politics, religion, culture, education, arts, science, and every other aspect of Indian life are yet to attain “Swaraj”. A “su-raj” is possible, only when people are truly free and they have “Swaraj” in their body, mind, and soul.
Let us look briefly into various aspects of Indian life and how they have been colonized by western narratives and western thought process.
Politics: The present political discourse is completely dominated by western terminologies and western understanding of politics. The concepts like secularism, communalism, socialism, communism, fascism etc. are all rooted in Western political system.
“Secularism” is the concept of separation of religion from politics in particular, arose in European situation where the Church was interfering with the State. This division between the religion and the State, between Secular and the Sacred that has engulfed every aspect of Indian life is superficial in Indian context and it has harmed Indian understanding of life and society.
Further, in the political scenario, the concept of secularism has been completely twisted, and what was separation of state from religion, has been conveniently turned into appeasement of the minority, at the expense of majority. Same is the fate of the concepts like “communalism”.
In the dictionary sense, “Communalism” simply means having allegiance to one’s own community. This by itself has no fault in it. But, in Indian political scene, communalism is placed at the opposite pedestal of secularism and has been twisted to mean, being reactionary, violent, and opposed to minority community.
But, the fact of the matter is that, both these terms, their dictionary sense, as well as their twisted Indian sense, have no relevance to purely Indian worldview of politics. Another example can be that of the usage of the term “democrats” and “fascists”. Democrats are those who support democratic principles. On the other hand, fascists are those who believe in authoritarianism and use of violence, hence completely opposite of democratic principles.
But, in Indian context, people who adhere to communist principles that are opposite to democracy are called as “democrats” and those in camp opposite to these communists are called as “fascists” inspite of adhering to democracy. This is true about other terminologies and concepts used in Indian political parlance as well.
All these concepts and their twisted Indian versions have been borrowed from the west and superficially implemented in India. On the other hand, the Indian principles of politics, were based on “Dharma” (duty and righteousness). The people were governed based on these general principles of dharma and their specific applications in various contexts. The modern politics is rooted in the concept of “rights” without much emphasis on duties. On the other hand, the dharmic politics was rooted in the concept of “duty”, which ensured that every person enjoyed his/her rights as well. The tenets of dharma like non-injury, truth, compassion, etc. formed the foundation of dharmic rule. Unlike the present democratic system, where any incompetent person can decide what is good for whole society, in the dharmic system, a person had to be competent on multiple counts of personal integrity and professional knowledge and capacity in order to govern people.
This is not to suggest that, democracy is bad and we should return back to royalty. Instead, we should implement the democracy and rule of law by rooting it on the foundation of Indian principles of dharma and not on the foundation of western principles like secularism, communism, communalism etc. The whole political set up must be de-colonized, the political discourses should be Indianized and the modern systems and political institutions must be re-organized based on dharmic principles. Only then, India will be able to deliver a “su-raj” which is truly free.
Religion: To begin with, the term religion itself is western in origin. It basically means faith in a personal God, or that which unites people through faith. These definitions arose from Abrahamic religious theology of monotheism- One God, One Book, One path to Salvation. But, when the Europeans landed in India, the concept of religion was applied to Indian dharmic systems as well and to this day, this has continued.
It is from the worldview of monotheistic “Religion” that the British in the past, the Western people and academics along with Indian liberals and seculars in the present, analyze various Indian dharmic traditions. This makes them to categorize various aspects of Hinduism into various categories like polytheism, animal worship, pantheism, monotheism, monism, idol worshipers etc. Many in academia even go on to suggest that, Hinduism itself is a modern day, British era construct and there was no religion, no spiritual unified system before that.
The monotheistic view of religion, has resulted in sometimes branding each different Sampradaya (lineage) as different religions i.e. faith systems and considering different dharshanas (worldviews) as different schools of thought. This categorizing of Hinduism into isolated, non-related elements based on faith and philosophy makes the present day scholars to brand various Hindu teachers into various exclusive categories. For example, many scholars find it hard to accept that Adi Shankara who wrote Brahmasutra-Bhashya can also sing praises to Goddess in Soundarya-Lahari.
Further, Monotheistic concept of religion is rooted in faith. Faith in God, in Book, in prophets etc. are central to their worldview. On the other hand, faith called as “shraddha” is only one among the various tenets that are central to dharmic religions like Hinduism. Faith and reason, shraddha and viveka are equally important in dharmic religious path. Hence, there is no artificial separation of faith and reason, religion and science.
The narrow and incorrect view of Hinduism has been further complicated in recent decades by the application of Freudian psychoanalysis to Hindu people and symbols. Some of the conclusions of these psychoanalysis like Ramakrishna was a gay pedophile, Kali is a Goddess with phallus, Ganesha’s trunk is actually his phallus etc. are outright derogatory to Hindu symbols and philosophy.
Today, the Hindu records of history like Ramayana and Mahabharata is considered as myths, the Hindu Puranas are considered as fairy tales, and these views are also taught to children in Indian schools as well. The recent issue of a High court judgment that equated Jain practice of Sallekhana with suicide must be seen in the same light.
The root cause of these incorrect and sometimes derogatory discourse on Indian dharmic systems, be it Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism, lies in the fact that the current religious discourse is dominated by western religious worldview, the western lens that applies various western frameworks like psychoanalysis etc. to interpret Hinduism and tell Hindus what their religion means.
There is an urgent need for Indians to decolonize themselves in the religious field and take back control of religious discourses regarding Indian spiritual and religious traditions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism etc. The dharmic worldview and knowledge system must be revived and must be used to not only analyze our own traditions, but also to critique western and other outside traditions. The dharmic perspective must become dominant in religious discourse and practice in India, only then will India be truly “Swaraj” and “Su-raj”.
History: The narrative in Indian history is not different from the scenario in religious and political discourse. The history taught in school textbooks usually start with repetition of age old colonial theory of Aryan Invasion, though many recent discoveries have more or less disproved the theory. Secondly, there is a complete whitewashing of the history, where the atrocities of invaders, as well as the achievements of the native Indians are deliberately suppressed. Historical achievements of Indians in science, arts, religion, culture, politics etc. are given only a passing mention.
Further, the discourse on Indian history is always carried out from the outsider perspective. The textbooks teach the history of Alexander, of Ghazni, of Khilji, of Moghul, of French or of British, It glorifies the invaders and ignores the Indians.
The current Indian historical narrative is completely dominant by the leftist/Marxist world-views which are in-turn rooted not only in the British colonial narrative of Indian history, but also in the current western India-phobic and Hindu-phobic narratives. It is this dominant leftist narrative of history that portray India as a country of barbarians, losers and snake-charmers.
It is this India-phobic dominant narrative that has allowed modern academics to brand Sanskrit as dead and Indians as barbaric Aryans. The current population of India are completely unaware of its past social, political and scientific achievements. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for India to undertake unbiased historical investigations into her own past and create authentic records of Indian history, free from colonial or modern leftist biases. The authentic unbiased history thus compiled should be then taught in schools and colleges and should be used to create a Grand Indian Narrative.
Science: The fate of Indian system of sciences are worse than history or religion. Not only are the historical achievements of Indian scientists not highlighted, but the Indian system of science and mathematics has no takers. Scientists usually build their research on previous work done by others in the past. But, not many are concerned about Indian scientific works done in the past. No one is taking up and building up on the past scientific works like those of Kerala School of mathematics.
The Indian system of Jyotishya, combined both astronomy and astrology. But, today, Jyotishya has been branded as a superstition and not many people are there to research deeply into it. A similar fate has been given to Vastu as well, that has been reduced to a blind-belief. The Yoga and Ayurveda are thriving, but they are being analyzed using modern psychological frameworks instead of exploring them independently from their own standpoints.
Further, there is a gross ignorance among people about their scientific past. Also, there are no attempts to highlight the Indian contributions. For example, the Pythagoras theorem was propounded by Baudhayana much before Pythagoras. Yet, even today, it is largely taught as Pythagorean theorem and not as Baudhayana theorem!
It is high time that Indian scientific geniuses are employed not only in modern scientific researches, but also in building up on ancient Indian researches, so that India can attain a position of making unique contributions to the world of science.
Education: The less it is said about education, the better. The concept of secularism which in the case of Indian education has been interpreted as separation of education from cultural, spiritual and ethical tenets of Indian life, has produced illiterate students who are ignorant of their own national narrative and devoid of any affinity or identity towards the idea of Cultural and Spiritual India.
The Indian concept of education was again rooted in dharma. Its aims were not only to make a person professionally successful, but also make him an ethically and spiritually an elevated person. The education was aimed to make each person to understand their own svadharma (personal duties) and lead life accordingly, so as to attain material as well as spiritual merit.
The present education system has reduced the society into a rat-race, where people are gaining skills to make a living. The secularism has resulted in de-culturization, de-spiritualization of education. This has in-turn made people morally, ethically, and spiritually handicapped.
Further, the present education is deeply rooted in India-phobia and Hindu-phobia, which frowns at every positivity about India, and about every elevating thing related to Indic spiritual traditions.
The history, the arts, the science, even the moral classes that are taught in schools are completely de-Indianized. Further, the Indian knowledge systems like the Sanskrit, Vedas, Yoga, Ayurveda, Vedanta, Tarka, Meemamsa, Darshana, Purana, Jyotishya etc. have no place in mainstream education.
Therefore, the very important key to make India truly free, is to first fix its education system. The education system must be based on dharmic worldview and the Indian knowledge systems must be taught along with modern subjects. A proper unbiased, India centric history and social sciences must be taught. Spirituality and ethics rooted in dharma must be made part of the education system.
Art: Indian art is very rich in its depth and very wide in its coverage and diversity. Yet, today, the kind of art that is being taught and exhibited in India are not only rooted in western theory of art, the theory rooted in light and shadow, but also conforms to various forms of art created in the west. The categories like Realism, modern, abstract, impressionism etc. are all rooted in western concept of art and painting. There is nothing wrong in practicing them per se, nor is it wrong to teach and propagate them. But, it should not be at the cost of Indian theories and forms of art. The truth is, the western narrative has become a dominant narrative in the field of art as well.
The Indian concept of aesthetics, rasas (tastes), shilpa-kala (sculpture), chitra-kala (painting), nrtya (dance) etc. are slowly fading away. The Indian art was very well equipped with paintings made for the worldly utilities as well as paintings based for spiritual purposes. In fact, the whole system of art was designed to take one to spiritual emancipation.
But, the current practices of art aims only at mechanical creation of artworks, there is rarely any spiritual element. The traditional Indian paintings like Mysore style and Tanjore style paintings, as also the Buddhist Thangka paintings, have to be created only after meditating on the deities based on their dhyana mantras. But, no such procedures are followed today. Indian art has ceased to be a creation of vessels for deities to fill. Instead, it has been reduced to a mere pictorial representation of mythical figures
Further, Indian artists and artisans were having in-depth knowledge of Indian Puranas and other sacred texts, but no such knowledge is present in large number of artists today. In fact, Indian traditional art forms are slowly dying. People indulging in western art forms like abstract, modern, realism etc. are in the majority.
Therefore, even in the field of art, Indians are suffering from colonial hangover. India should recover from this hangover and revive its traditional art-theories and art-forms so that Indian traditional art system can to freely flourish again.
Women, sex, and morality: The discourse around women’s issues or the issues of sex and morality are also dominated from western perspective. The modern feminist movements often ignore Indian sensibilities and worldviews. The argument that women are equal to men is at times taken to such an extreme that the basic fact that women and men are different, biologically and emotionally, is completely ignored. The result of such extreme feminism is disaster for both women and the society.
The Indian concept of gender, view men and women as being non-different at the highest level of Atman (Innermost Self/Brahman). Climbing little low from that ultimate state, each jiva (Individual soul) is different from one another, but the soul has no gender. The jiva is only different from another jiva in its Karmas (actions) and not on the count of gender, race etc. And this jiva, based on its Karmas takes birth as male sometimes and as females sometimes. It may also take birth as various creatures as well.
Therefore, the difference between a man and a woman is strictly limited to the physical body and to some extent to the subtle body. These differences manifest at biological, emotional, social, and psychological levels. The Indian tradition gives each person, man and woman, their own position and responsibilities according to their own inherent nature. So, men and women are different but having equal standing, having equal importance, in-fact, both complete each other.
But, these nuances, are completely missed in the present discourses on women. The present discourses on women in India is dominated by various influences. There is a definite influence of feminism. Other than that, the western treatment of women, including objectification of women is also dominant in Indian narrative. Further, the Victorian-era colonial treatment of women (like restricting women and her actions) is present as well.
These different colonial and modern western influences has largely shaped any debate or discussion on the issue of women. The concept that “fair is lovely” is the outcome of commercialization in the last few decades. Otherwise, “Krishna-varna” or dark complexion was always associated with beauty in the past.
Some women, believe wearing modern dresses, speaking English, and imitating the western women makes them independent and powerful. They look down upon other traditional folks as being backward and poor. This view is clearly due to the western influence especially through media, which portrays everything American as being good.
On the other hand, the mentality of the so-called conservative people, who beat couples on Valentine Day, or have problem with couples holding hands in the public, are colonized completely by the Victorian morality about sex and relationship. Hence, both these trends have origins in outside influences that are not rooted in Indian tradition and as a result the Indian perspective and worldview has become sidelined.
Therefore it is high time that, the Indian concept of dharma is revived and discourses on all issues be it politics, history and education, or women, sex and morality, are taken up on the foundation of dharmic philosophy and value system.
Such discourses rooted in Indian tradition and worldview will go a long way in finding solutions to various social problems that are unique to India. This will further free Indians from mental chains of western worldview and will make them confident, assertive and well-rooted in their own tradition. This in-turn will lay the foundation for a “suraj” (good governance) that will be truly “swaraj” (independent).