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By Nithin Sridhar
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.
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.
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.
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).
Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.
The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:
#1: Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. In addition to three high-altitude passes and five river valley crossings, this is the only trip in the Himalayas that includes seven alpine lakes, each of which is a stunning shade of green, blue, or turquoise. The extravagance is limitless and breathtakingly stunning every day: infinite blue sky, a larger-than-life backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, colourful meadows overflowing with wildflowers, river crossings are just a few examples of what you will encounter during the trek.
You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. | Photo by prayer flags on Unsplash
#2: Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora Trek: The Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora trek is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into Kashmir's undiscovered regions. Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey that is the perfect experience for anyone looking to get away from the frantic tourist rush. This trek is a fascinating journey that allows nature enthusiasts to bask in the splendour of nature's grandeur. The trek goes over many high mountain passes, some as high as 4000 metres in elevation. The hiking route, in addition to providing breathtaking views of the magnificent Vishansar Lake, provides visitors with the chance to see more than 50 alpine lakes.
Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey. | Photo by YASER NABI MIR on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Top 10 Beautiful Sights To VIsit In Kashmir
#3: Tral-Narastan-Marsar Trek: The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. The hiking trail passes past a waving saffron field, beautiful meadows, and several streams. The path also crosses the Dachigam National Park, where there is an opportunity to see various animal species. Trekkers may take in spectacular views of the high mountains running parallel to them as they cut and pass through Narastan, a Hindu pilgrimage place.
The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. | Wikimedia Commons
#4: Chhatargul-Mahlish-Gangabal: The journey, which passes through beautiful locations such as Chattargul, Mahlish, Kolsar, and Trunkul, provides a peek into an utterly uninhabited wilderness of Kashmir. There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one trek into the alpine wilderness. Trekkers can also enjoy fishing in the crystal clear lakes, camping, or just seeing towering snow-capped mountains while on their journey.
There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one treks into the alpine wilderness. | Wikimedia Commons
#5: Kolahoi Base Camp Trek: The Kolahoi Base Camp trek in Kashmir has been famous since the early 1900s and has been a goal for many seasoned hikers from across the world. While Srinagar serves as the beginning point for the trip, it is in Aru Valley that the actual hiking begins. The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. The breathtaking sight of the peaks rising into the sky on the horizon of the Pirpanjal and Karakoram ranges is certainly worth capturing. It is considered to be one of the most popular treks in the Kashmir valley.
The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. | Wikimedia Commons
Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere. Trekking through various valleys and peaks while taking in the scenic beauty is something that always calms the heart and provides us with memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Keywords: Kashmir, Lakes, Alpine, Hiking, Trekking, Treks, Sonamarg, Gangabal, Kolahoi, Chhatargul, Mahlish, Tral, Narastan, Marsar
The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.
It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.
For fifteen days, prayers are offered in temples and rituals are performed to help the souls get free from the cycle of birth, life, and death, and attain salvation.
At the same time, the Pitru Paksha is also an important period for people with Pitru Dosha, which means the curse imposed by the ancestors. Hence, in order to ask forgiveness, people perform Shradh rituals and offer food to the crows, who are considered as living beings that represent the dead. It is believed, if the crow eats the offered food, the ancestors are happy and pleased. But, if the crow doesn't eat the offered food and flies away, the ancestors are not happy.
The event of Pitru Paksha is widely observed by Hindus from all over the world, and they perform prayers and rituals in order to gain their ancestors blessings.
At the heart of Bangalore city, a large 300-acre space of lush greenery and heritage stands as a symbol of the city's past, present, and future. Cubbon Park is every child's favourite park, every Bangalorean's haven of fresh air, and altogether, the city's pride.
It stands testament to the past, in terms of the diversity of flora it houses. Bangalore traffic in the recent past has grown into a menace, but the stretch between MG Road and Cubbon Park is always a pleasurable place to stop and wait for the signal to turn green. The gust of wind that blows here, and the smell of mud, coupled with floral scents instantly transports citizens to Old Bangalore, where the weather was fine, and the trees loomed over roads with thick canopies that did not even allow rainwater to penetrate. Cubbon Park is also a historical site, and one of the few remaining monuments of colonial heritage in Central Bangalore. It houses many statues and among them, the most famous is that of Queen Victoria, which faces the St. Mark's Square.
The stretch outside Cubbon Park is cool and well-shaded from the canopy of trees over it. Image source: wikimedia commons
At present, Cubbon Park is known for the cultural hub that it is. It houses Jawahar Bal Bhavan, which is a large theatre that hosts film festivals through the year. Festivals, poetry open mics, and other such shows are conducted on the lawns every Sunday. A small stream runs through the park, where boat rides are held occasionally when the water level is high enough. There is a children's park on one corner, and a government-maintained aquarium, two-storeys tall, with exotic fish.
The Park has been renamed many times in the past. It was originally named Meade's Park, after Sir John Meade, the acting commissioner of Mysore in 1870. It was later changed to Cubbon Park after Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the longest-serving commissioner of the Mysore state. In 1927, the park was renamed after the Mysore Maharaja Sri Krishna Wodeyar, to celebrate his silver jubilee, since the park was developed during the reign of his ancestors. Even though it is officially named Sri Chamrajendra Park, it is still known as Cubbon Park all over the city. In fact, Bangalore was alluded the sobriquet of 'Garden City' because of the rich botanical diversity of this park.
Art Installation at Cubbon Park Image source: wikimedia commons
In many parts of the country, governments have renamed structures, places, and cities to remove traces of colonialism. But, in a city like Bangalore, there is too much evidence of the British rule. Many of the most prominent attractions of the city are known by their British identities despite the change in name. Even the city's name continues to be Bangalore, despite having been changed to Bengaluru. Last year, the British era and its achievements were celebrated in Cubbon Park when Sir Mark Cubbon's statue was moved from the grounds of the Karnataka High Court and placed in the Park.
Keywords: Cubbon Park, Mark Cubbon, British Colonialism, Cultural hub, Garden City