HINDUISM AND SANATAN DHARMA

Hinduism,Cosmos ,Sanatan Dharma.Ancient Hinduism science.

Unity of Ancient India- myth decoded

UNITY OF INDIA

One of the repeated urban myths that sometimes pops-up in conversation even among many educated, well meaning Indians is that India as a nation is a British creation. The argument goes roughly as follows – India is an artificial entity. There are only a few periods in history when it was unified under the same political entity. It was only the British that created the idea of India as a single nation and unified it into a political state. A related assumption, in our minds, is that the developed Western countries have a comparatively far greater continuity of nationhood, and legitimacy as states, than India.

This urban myth is not accidental. It was deliberately taught in the British established system of education. John Strachey, writing in `India: Its Administration and Progress’ in 1888, said “This is the first and most essential thing to remember about India – that there is not and never was an India, possessing … any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious; no Indian nation.”

To teach this self-serving colonial narrative obviously suited the British policy of divide and rule. That it still inanely survives means that it is worth setting to rest. This colonial narrative is demonstrably false. Not only is India a coherent nation but, in fact, there are few countries on the planet that are more legitimate nation-states than India. That some of us don’t see this clearly only reflects how we have accepted the colonial myths as well as failed to study the history of the rest of the world.

The United Kingdom was not really united till the act of Union in 1702 when England (including Wales) and Scotland came together. Even then they retained different laws and (even more crucially in European nationhood) retained separate national Churches. In 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. In 1922, Ireland broke off as an independent country resulting in the present political formation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Thus the UK in its present political state, if that is the criteria to be used, is not even a hundred years old. Across the Atlantic, the picture is even more stark.

The first element of Indian nationhood draws from its unique geography. India is one of the few countries that can be located on a physical map of the world, even when no political boundaries are drawn. Remarkably, the idea of India, as Bharatavarsha or Aryavrata, appears to have been alive for thousands of years in our stories, thousands of years before there was an America or a Great Britain or a Mexico or France. From the Manusmriti, we learn of the land of Aryavrata stretching from the Himalayas and Vindhyas all the way to the eastern and western oceans. Without the idea of Bharata, there could have been no epic called the Maha-Bharata that engaged kings throughout this land of Bharata. Similarly, the story of Ramayana draws the north-south linkage from Ayodhya all the way down to Rameshwaram, at the tip of which is finally the land of Lanka.

This sacred geography is what makes northerners flock to Tirupati and southerners to the Kumbha Mela.

It was this idea of civilizational unity and sacred geography of India that inspired Shankaracharya to not only enunciate the mysteries of the Vedanta but to go around setting up mathas circumscribing the land of India in a large diamond shape. While sage Agasthya crossed the Vindhya and came down south, Shankracharya was born in the village of Kalady in Kerala and traveled in the opposite direction for the establishment of dharma. If this land was not linked in philosophical and cultural exchanges, and there was no notion of a unified nation, why then did Shankracharya embark on his countrywide digvijay yatra? What prompted him to establish centers spreading light for the four quadrants of this land – Dwarka in the west (in Gujarat), Puri in the east (in Orissa), Shringeri in the south (Karnataka) and Badrinath (Uttaranchal) in the north? He is then said to have gone to Srinagar (the abode of `Sri’ or the Shakti) in Kashmir, which still celebrates this in the name of Shankaracharya Hill. What better demonstration that the idea of the cultural unity of the land was alive more than a thousand years ago?

And yet, these stories are not taught to us in our schools in India. We learn instead, in our colonial schools, that the British created India and gave us a link language, as if we were not talking to each other for thousands of years, traveling, telling and retelling stories before the British came. How else did these ideas travel so rapidly through the landmass of India, and how did Shankracharya circumscribe India, debating, talking and setting up institutions all within his short lifespan of 32 years?

The epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata provide a clear example of how the various regions of India were linked by a common culture and awareness. Al-Biruni, writing about India from a place west of the Indus , is aware of the centrality of Vasudeva and Rama to the Indian tradition. All over India we find local versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They may disagree on the details, but not on the essentials. Even the regional variants of the epics show an awareness of the ‘whole’ and not merely of the region they were composed in. The ‘Great’ tradition of the Sanskrit epics is mirrored in the ‘little’ traditions, which are local in their form and yet global in their scope.

Besides this intimate knowledge of the parts, the Mahabharata presents a conception of the whole of India as a geographical unit in the famous passage in the Bhismaparva where the shape of India is described as an equilateral triangle, divided into four smaller equal triangles, the apex of which is Cape Comorin and the base formed by the line of the Himalaya mountains. As remarked by Cunningham (Ancient Geography of India, p 5), “the shape corresponds very well with the general form of the country, if we extend the limits of India to Ghazni on the north-west and fix the other two points of the triangle at Cape Comorin and Sadiya in Assam.” (Mookerji pp. 62-63).

The name Bharatvarsha has a deep historical significance, symbolizing, a fundamental unity. The term was associated not only with the geographical boundaries but also with the idea of universal monarchy. The term was associated not only with the geographical boundaries but also with the idea of universal monarchy. This name together with the sense of unity imparted by it “was ever present before the mind of the theologians, political philosophers and poets who spoke of the thousand Yojanas (Leagues) of land that stretches from the Himalayas to the sea as the proper domain of a single universal emperor”.

This is what is stated in an inscription of King Yasodharman of Mandasor, Successors of the Guptas in the North:

“From the lands where the Brahmaputra flows,from the flanks of the southern hills, thick with grove of palms,from the snowy mountains whose peak the Ganga clasps,

and from the ocean of the West,

come vassals, bowing at his feet,

their pride brought low by his mighty arm,

and his palace court is a glitter,

with the bright jewels of their turban.”

The rulers of medieval India also considered India as one geographical unit and sought to extend their sway over the whole of the land. The song Vandematram embodies that sense of unity.

There is also an under-current of religious unity among the various religious sects in the country. That is partly due to the overwhelming impact of Hinduism on the Indian mind which transcends any other single religion. This is mainly due to the comprehensive and all-embracing pervasiveness of Hinduism. Hinduism is not a mere form of religious approach or system. It is a “mosaic of almost all types and stages of religious aspiration and endeavor.”

(source: Ancient India – By V. D. Mahajan p. 15).

The unifying effect of Hinduism and Sanskritic culture was great. Records dating from the early centuries indicate that shrines regarded sacred by all Hindus were located at widely separated points in all directions. Clearly, some concept of religious and cultural unity already existed. Long pilgrimages to such shrines created for many a connection with peoples in areas under different sovereignties. Then, too, the great body of Sanskritic literature provided a significant bond.

(source: India: A World in Transition – By Beatrice Pitney Lamb p. 32).

Dr. Radhakrishnan: “In spite of the divisions, there is an inner cohesion among the Hindu society from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin.”

(source: The Hindu View of Life – By Sir. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan p. 73-77).

Girilal Jain, late editor of Times of India: ” It is about time we recognize that we are not a nation in the European sense of the term, that is, we are not a fragment of a civilization claiming to be a nation on the basis of accidents of history which is what every major European nation is. We are a people primarily by virtue of the continuity and coherence of our civilization which has survived all shocks. And though inevitably weakened as a result of foreign invasions, conquests and rule for almost a whole millennium, it is once again ready to resume its march.”

(source: Hindu Phenomenon – By Girilal Jain South Asia Books 1998 ISBN 8174760105 p. 21).

Guy Sorman visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new liberalism in France, says that the idea of a nation-state was an 18th century creation of the West. It is the cultural identity that has helped India stay together. The British did not do it for the love of India. It was here that the West started to colonize what was to become the Third World, a shameless process of systematic exploitation without any moral or religious justification.

(source: The Genius of India – By Guy Sorman (Le Genie de l’Inde) Macmillan India Ltd. 2001. ISBN 0333 93600 0 p. 197)

Sri Aurobindo has said: “In India at a very early time: the spiritual and cultural unity was made complete and became the very stuff of the life of all this great surge of humanity between the Himalayas and the two seas….Invasion and foreign rule, ….the enormous pressure of the Occident have not been able to drive or crush the ancient soul out of the body her Vedic Rishis made for her.”

(source: India’s Rebirth – By Sri Aurobindo Publisher: Mira Aditi ISBN 81-85137-27-7 p 158).

Sri Jayendra Saraswati – The Sankaracharya of Kanchi has said:

The British never created anything in India – they merely destroyed. Instead of uniting, they divided; so the question is meaningless. For five thousand years Hindus have chanted in their morning prayers:

“Gange cha Yamunechaiva! Godavari! Sarasvati!

Narmade! Sindhu! Kaveri! Jale asmin sannidhim kuru!”

“Hail! O ye Ganges, Jamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada,

Sindhi and Kaveri, come and approach these waters.”

There has been an explicit and clear geographical area that we have referred to as our land. Adi Sankara not only went to the four corners of this territory, he set up tens of shrines all over the Hindu land to be able to revive and revitalize Hinduism. It is absurd to think that India is a new idea.

(source: Interview with Sri Jayendra Saraswati – by Rajeev Srinivasan – India Abroad March 8’2002).

The states in Latin America, the states which have resulted from even more recent settlement – Australia, and New Zealand – the states in the Middle East – Jordan, for instance are even more the constructs of colonial powers and the rest. Winston Churchill boasted how he had created some of the present states in the Middle East one afternoon holidaying on a beach, by just drawing lines on a map! The British decided that India and Pakistan shall be two, and so they are.

The land, its mountains and rivers are venerated in the Rig Veda, in the Arthava Veda in the very way they are in Bankim’s Vande Mataram or Tagore’s Jana-Gana_Mana. The land is celebrated and venerated from those ancient times not just because of the great bounties it bestows on us but because it is seen as the Karma-bhumi, because it has been the place where the greatest souls revered by the people have performed great deeds – of nobility, of valour – where they have attained the deepest insights. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana describe warring states but they are the epics of one people.

Sir Ramsey Macdonald, at one time Premier declares that India is one in absolutely every sense of the word.

“Political and religious traditions have also welded it into one Indian consciousness. This spiritual unity dates from very early times in Indian culture.”

There is no greater uniting force known among people and nations in the world than religion. This applies with pre-eminent emphasis to India.

(source: India in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom – Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland p. 238-289.

The epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata provide a clear example of how the various regions of India were linked by a common culture and awareness. Al-Biruni, writing about India from a place west of the Indus , is aware of the centrality of Vasudeva and Rama to the Indian tradition. All over India we find local versions of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. They may disagree on the details, but not on the essentials. Even the regional variants of the epics show an awareness of the ‘whole’ and not merely of the region they were composed in. The ‘Great’ tradition of the Sanskrit epics is mirrored in the ‘little’ traditions, which are local in their form and yet global in their scope.

Besides this intimate knowledge of the parts, the Mahabharata presents a conception of the whole of India as a geographical unit in the famous passage in the Bhismaparva where the shape of India is described as an equilateral triangle, divided into four smaller equal triangles, the apex of which is Cape Comorin and the base formed by the line of the Himalaya mountains. As remarked by Cunningham (Ancient Geography of India, p 5), “the shape corresponds very well with the general form of the country, if we extend the limits of India to Ghazni on the north-west and fix the other two points of the triangle at Cape Comorin and Sadiya in Assam.” (Mookerji pp. 62-63).

(source: The Unity of India – By Dileep Karanth )

The unity of India, rooted in her ancient

culture, is of untold antiquity. It may have been divided at various times into smaller kingdoms, but the goal was always

to be united under a ‘Chakravartin’ or a ‘Samrat’. This unity was cultural though not always political. This cultural unity was seriously damaged during the Medieval period, when India was engaged in a struggle for survival — like what is

happening in Kashmir today. Going back thousands of years, India had been united under a single ruler many times. The

earliest recorded emperor of India was Bharata, the son of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, but there were several others.

Some examples from the Aitareya Brahmana.

“With this great anointing of Indra, Dirghatamas Mamateya anointed Bharata Daushanti. Therefore, Bharata Daushanti went round the earth completely, conquering on every side and offered sacrifice.

“With this great anointing of Indra, Tura Kavasheya anointed Janamejaya Parikshita. Therefore Janamejaya Parikshita went round the earth completely, conquering on every side and offered various sacrifices.”

There are similar statements about Sudasa Paijavana anointed by Vasistha, Anga anointed by Udamaya Atreya, Durmukha Pancala anointed by Brihadukta and Atyarati Janampati anointed by Vasistha Satyahavya. Atyarati, though not born a king, became an emperor and went on conquer even the Uttara Kuru or the modern Sinkiang and Turkestan that lie north of Kashmir. There are others also mentioned in the Shathapatha Brahmana and also the Mahabharata. This shows that the unity of India is ancient. Also, the British did not rule over a unified India. They had treaties with the rulers of hereditary kingdoms like Mysore, Kashmir, Hyderabad and others that were more or less independent. The person who united all these was Sardar Patel, not the British. But this unification was possible only because India is culturally one. Pakistan, with no such identity or cultural unity, is falling apart.

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This entry was posted on July 28, 2019 by in HINDUISM SCIENCE and tagged , , , .

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