Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The incurable Hindu fondness for PN Oak

Countless Hindus nowadays swear by the historical and linguistic theses of journalist and self-styled historian PN Oak. Twenty years ago, I expected his star to wane and get eclipsed by more sensible voices of Hindu historical revisionism, but the opposite has happened. In NRI/PIO circles, at least, he seems to enjoy a lasting popularity. What a pity.

Purushottam Nagesh Oak (1917-2007) was a soldier in Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army. That much should endear him to Hindus, fair enough. But he is better known and revered for his theories on history and etymology. And these are best put aside and forgotten, instead of being parroted by Hindus on ever larger forums.

In the main, three lines of argument have been pioneered or promoted by P.N. Oak. One is that the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and a few other well-known Indo-Muslim buildings were really Hindu temples, not built but only usurped by the Muslims. The second is that Vikramaditya (1st cent. BCE) ruled Arabia, a claim that is then linked with the more widespread belief that the Kaaba was originally a Hindu temple featuring a Shiva Lingam. The third is that names of places and people around the globe are of Sanskrit origin and thus testify to the omnipresence and omnipotence of the ancient Hindus. All three are fanciful and totally unfounded. We will consider them in reverse order.

Donkey etymology

Etymology is the science of the original, or at least oldest traceable, forms of words. It is a tricky field and requires knowledge of older stages of a language and of related languages. You may find that seemingly similar words are unrelated while totally dissimilar words may prove to be related.

Consider e.g. the French word feu and the German word Feuer, quite similar in appearance. Moreover, they are identical in meaning, viz. “fire”. So are they cognate words? No, Germanic f- is evolved from Indo-European p-, and Feuer is related to Greek pur, meaning “fire”, whence English pyromaniac and (funeral) pyre, ultimately from IE *péhur. By contrast, French f- generally preserves an Latin f-, which in most cases evolved from IE th/dh- (compare Latin fumus, “smoke”, to Greek thumos, “spirit”, and Sanskrit dhumah, “smoke”). In this case, feu is from focus, “hearth”, and fovere, “burn” (related to Sanskrit dahati), ultimately from IE *dhegh, “burn”. (The forms marked with asterisk* are not attested in writing but reconstructed from younger attested forms.)

Or consider e.g. the English words let. Yes, word-s, for there are two identical-looking words let. Here we don’t need to move up as far as the dim Indo-European past to find their seeming identity deceptive. One is the verb meaning “to allow”, “not to prevent”. The other is less common but known in the expression “without let or hindrance”, where let is a synonym of “hindrance”, meaning “prevent”, “block”, or the very opposite of the other let in the sense of “allow”. How can that be? It becomes clear when we look back only a thousand years, to Old English, or even closer, to its nearest cognate, Dutch. In Dutch till today we have on the one hand the verb lat-en, “let, allow” and on the other the verb be-let-ten, “prevent” and the noun be-let, “hindrance, objection”. In English the distinction between the sounds of the two stems has eroded and they have ended up coinciding. The identical form conceals different origins.

This caveat against trusting appearances is systematically violated by P.N. Oak. To him, similarity proves a common origin. And that common origin is always a one-way street: any word resembling a Sanskrit word must have been borrowed from Sanskrit, never the other way around. Some fifteen years ago, I received a letter from him in which he proposed to collaborate. That proposal made no sense to me as we were working along very different lines and from radically conflicting premises, I suppose he hadn’t even noticed that. There is only one version of history approved by the Nehruvians, with which both of us disagree, but there are many alternatives, some sound and others nonsensical. In passing, he claimed that my native tongue, Dutch, is “the language of the Daityas”. A dubious compliment, for the Daitya-s are demons, kind of opposite to the Aditya-s or gods.

Similar etymological claims have been made by Oak and his acolytes in large numbers. Thus, England, named in reality after the Germanic tribe of the Angles (whence East-Anglia, Anglo-Saxon), is explained as originating from Angulisthan, which happens to mean “finger-land”. Arabia is derived from Arvasthan, “horse-land”. In fact, the name has a Semitic root attested since the Akkadian empire in the 3rd millennium BCE. Horses have nothing to do with Arabia but originate in the Eurasian plain, stretching northwest from Bactria, thousands of miles from Arabia, where they were imported only in the 2nd millennium BC. Rome is said to be derived from Rama, and Vatican (actually from vates, “inspired poet”, cognate to the Germanic theonym Woden/Odin, hence "poets' hill") from Veda-vatika, “Veda park”, incidentally “proving” that Christianity is an offshoot of Vedic dharma. In cases where a foreign name coincides completely with a Sanskrit word, such as the Amerindian ethnonym Maya and Shankara’s philosophical concept maya, there is simply no stopping the euphoric eureka-s in the Oakist camp.

I will not take the easy route of amusing the readers with a long list of Oakisms. Let us only note that this line of thought has caught on in broad Hindu circles. A textbook introducing Hinduism to UK schoolchildren, Hindu Dharma (at least the first edition, perhaps it has been corrected since) claims that the Tibetan title Lama, “ordained monk”, is derived from Rama, the hero’s name. Firstly, this is not true: Lama is pure Tibetan, belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family, unrelated to Indo-Aryan. The word was originally pronounced, and still written in Tibetan as, bla-ma, of which the first syllable means “upper”, as in bla-dakh, “high mountain-pass”, better known as Ladakh. Secondly, how would it make sense? Why should a community of celibate renunciates name itself after a romantic warrior-prince? Likewise, what is gained by deriving foreign names from Sanskrit? Proving that the ancient Hindus were big losers who once dominated the world and were then chased from all those lands except for India? It seems that a lot of Hindus, when glimpsing a mirage that flatters their collective ego, suspend their critical sense and go ecstatic.

King Vikram and the Arab ghost

On quite a few Hindu websites, you find the claim that king Vikramaditya, presumably the one whose name is linked to the Vikram Samvat calendar (starting 58 BCE, so that 2010 CE roughly coincides with 2067 VS), ruled over Arabia. One can understand where the idea originates: in confusion over genuine data, viz. his proverbial defeat of the Yavana (“Ionian”, i.e. stemming from the lands to India’s northwest) or Shaka (“Scythian”) invaders. “Defeat” can be read as “conquest”, hence conquest of their homelands, hence conquest of all the lands who armies have been labelled by the Indian defenders as Yavanas or Shakas, i.e. Central and West Asia. This could be reckoned as including even Ionia (the formerly Greek west coast of Anatolia) and definitely Arabia, land of origin of invaders like Mohammed bin Qasim, and of the religion of India’s numerous Turkic and Afghan invaders.

So, the shift from Vikram as defeater of northwestern invaders to Vikram as conqueror of the lands to the northwest is understandable. But it is unfounded all the same. There was plenty of literature in West Asia in Vikramaditya’s time, in Greek, Latin, Egyptian and various Semitic dialects, yet none ever mentions Vikramaditya. Conversely, in what little reliable historical testimony of Vikramaditya that we have, we find no recognizable description of Arabia nor a narrative of its conquest.

But, according to those Hindu websites, there is an Arabic record of Vikramaditya’s glorious presence in Arabia, the Sayar-ul-Okul, “memorable words”, said to be available in the Maktab-al-Sultania (Royal library) in Istanbul. But none of them has ever cared to go and see the book. And all of these references can be traced to P.N. Oak, apparently the only person in the world who has ever seen this spectacularly revisionist source of history. This reminds us of the manuscript purportedly left by Jesus in a Ladakhi monastery, where a late-19th-century Russian adventurer claimed to have seen it, without ever being confirmed in this finding by a second eyewitness, yet successful in setting millions of Hindus and New-Agers jubilating that “Jesus lived in India”, thereby only strengthening the missionary claim on India and on Hindu souls. For neither claim is there the slightest serious evidence. Believers who take Oak’s bait do so at their own peril: they take the risk of being outed as fools.

As for the Kaaba being a Shiva temple, this is untrue but it has a serious kernel of truth. Typologically it was of course Pagan “idol” temple. Muslims recognized Hinduism as essentially the same kind of idol-worship as the native Arab religion. The Kaaba’s presiding deity was the moon-god Hubal, similar to Shiva in that the latter is depicted as carrying the moon on his head. His three goddesses Al-Lat, Uzza and Manat, were believed by the Muslims to have taken refuge in the Somnath (Shiva) temple on the Gujarat coast. This is the reason why more than any other, that particular Hindu temple was singled out for destruction upon destruction.

Paganism has thrown up similar deities in widely separated parts of the globe. The Arabs could easily think up a moon god and a triple goddess without ever having heard of Shiva and his Parvati, Durga and Kali. And if at all there was a Hindu influence at work here, it can easily be explained through the well-attested trade contacts rather than through a fairy-tale of King Vikram.

The Taj Mahal a Shiva temple?

In autumn 2009, one Dr. Radheshyam Brahmachari posted an article series, “Distortion of Indian History For Muslim Appeasement” to various Hindutva lists and to the vanguard Islam-critical website, e.g.
(where it seems to have been pulled sometime since, probably under the impact of the kind of criticism that I will now formulate). The message he develops is entirely based on PN Oak’s influential thesis that the Taj Mahal is a Shiva temple usurped by the Moghuls. Other mighty instances of Indo-Muslim architecture including the Red Fort are likewise claimed to be originally Hindu structures.

In fact, Hindu tradition has handbooks on temple-building, and none contain the groundplan and features of the Taj Mahal. Nor is there any Hindu temple past or present that looks like the Taj Mahal even remotely. The building may well stand on the site of a Rajput pavilion expropriated by or gifted to the Moghul, but it never ever was a Shiva temple.

In defence of his thesis, Brahmachari challenges the sceptics to explain one particular inscription dedicating an unspecified marble temple in the area to Vishnu. It is not clear from the inscription as given by him that one of the temples stood at the very site of the Taj Mahal. According to his own data, at any rate, the inscription is from ca. 1150 AD. That is well before the destruction of just about every temple in North India by Ghori and Aibak in 1192-94 and by their successors in the Delhi Sultanate. Especially in Agra, lying on the main route of Muslim advance and a sometime Muslim capital, no sizable temple could have been left standing in that orgy of iconoclasm. So there is some 500 years between the destruction of the said marble temples and the appearance of the Taj Mahal.

At any rate, even if standing on a Hindu site, the Taj Mahal is absolutely no Hindu building. It entirely follows the conventions of Indo-Saracenic architecture, with domes and arches borrowed by the first Muslims in West-Asia from the Byzantines, with no Hindu connection in sight anywhere. As a grave, too, it is wildly contrary to Hindu sensibilities. Only accomplished (jivanmukta) sages are buried, other human bodies are cremated or, in related (Parsi, Tibetan) traditions, left to disintegrate under the impact of animals and the elements. The idea of keeping decomposing human bodies close to human centres of habitation in graveyards is repulsive to the Hindu mind. It is a sign of Hindus’ estrangements from their roots that they insist on claiming this un-Hindu site, probably because (Brahmachari writes as much) it is applauded world-wide. Well, proud Hindus don’t care for the poor taste of Western tourists and may point out that the Taj Mahal is bland and vulgar when compared with Ajanta and Ellora, the Meenakshi temple or the Elephanta caves.

The typical Oakist argument exemplifies some flaws in the Hindu nationalist mind. In his very first sentence of his Taj article, Brahmachari falsely claims that three Western authorities have confirmed that the Taj was built in the Hindu temple style. None of them, however, is quoted as explicitly saying so. I won’t accuse Brahmachari of lying; the far more common source of untrue claims is self-delusion. Misreading bonafide documents, like a child misunderstanding a text by and for grown-ups, is probably the most common source of Hindutva misconceptions. Every reader who checks with the original, or who even only knows the field in general, will see through these false claims, the main exception being some even sillier fellow Hindus egged on by their eagerness to find some soothing delusion to indulge. At any rate, if a Westerner or anyone else can believe that the Taj is in the Hindu temple style, he clearly has never seen a temple. And hence is not an "authority".

The appeal to authority is one particularly harmful Hindutva trait. Rather than thinking for themselves, Hindutva polemicists prefer to latch onto some all-knowing Guru and unwisely expect everybody else to be equally taken in by this mindless reliance on authority. It's like in the crisis in the BJP, where most arguments are not about: "What line should we, the BJP membership, take?", but rather: "Which big man can come and save us from this mess?"

Dr. Brahmachari’s and Mr. Oak’s own writings exemplify yet another eyesore trait of Hindutva polemic. When a Hindutva history-rewriter uses logical connectors like "this proves", "therefore", "this provides another evidence for...", you'd better watch out. Invariably, a non-sequitur or other logical fallacy is following.

In the Oakist case for the Red Fort as a Hindu building, we get the following instance, among others. The whole case is built on the presence of Hindu motifs in the Red Fort. Part of this claim is simply false. The so-called Aum sign next to the sun wheel in the gate is just a flourish, distinctly different from the real, Aum sign (e.g. vertically symmetrical, which the OM sign is not). But even to the extent that the claim is true, it doesn’t prove what Oak deduces from it. Firstly, the building was built by a Muslim ruler, in the sense that he ordered it built, but in actual stone it was built by Hindu masons, who slipped a few Hindu elements in. There are numerous instances of this in Moghul architecture. But they couldn't go too far, so you don't see any Hindu deities depicted, or emphatically Hindu symbols. The presence of elephants, cited as distinctly un-Islamic, is a borderline case in Muslim sensitivities, but not off-limits and in fact fairly common in Moghul Indo-Saracenic art (indeed, even humans are routinely depicted, at least in the Moghul school of painting).

Secondly, a certain amount of Hindu presence was a deliberate part of Muslim building policy. Theologically, it made good sense to Muslims to incorporate recognizably Hindu (but non-deity) elements in their architecture as a sign of the submission of Hindus to Islam, vide e.g. the parts of the Kashi Vishvanath temple visibly present in the mosque that forcibly replaced it. Orthodox theologians like the Wahhabis did indeed reject this syncretism, and took it as a sign of the Islamic laxism that in their view caused the downfall of the Moghuls,--- thereby implicitly testifying to the presence of non-Islamic elements in Moghul art. So, even if some Hindu elements could be discerned in the Red Fort, it still does not deny its belonging to the Indo-Muslim building style.


In my close involvement with the Ayodhya debate, I noticed how excellent Hindu historians and archaeologists were very successful at finding evidence, but rather poor in presenting a coherent picture of where exactly their findings fit into the argumentation (a job with which I busied myself). If that is true for real historians, it is all the more true for amateurs like Oak and Brahmachari. For even if their case that the Red Fort was built by a Hindu rather than a Muslim ruler were true, what would it prove? That even when in possession of such a mighty stronghold, the Hindus were too incompetent to retain Delhi in the face of aggression by the militarily far less sophisticated Muslims? That Muslims were incapable of building forts of their own, though the Muslim world inside and outside the subcontinent has quite a few? PN Oak and his followers are not only unable to prove their points, they are also totally confused about why perforce they should want to prove those specific points.

This self-defeating Quixotic exercise can only compromise the credibility of its authors, and of all those trusting enough to convey it. That is why it is grimly irresponsible to contaminate with this nonsense a spearhead website in the struggle for the hearts and minds, That website was created by ex-Muslims who try to help Muslims break free from the mental prison of Islam. Its only weapon is the truth, factual data presented in a scholarly manner, the light of reason that alone is able to defeat Islamic obscurantism. The enemy will love it if such a centre of truth gets tainted with the eager but silly delusions peddled by the Oakist crowd. If Dr. Brahmachari were perchance an enemy agent, he would do exactly what he has actually done in this case. Hare-brained Hindutva polemicists are ten a penny, but one who is in a position to drag down with himself a quality entreprise, that's exceptional.

The popularity of PN Oak’s theses is a sign of gross immaturity among contemporary Hindu activists. It indicates confusion regarding the facts of religious conflict in Indian history, along with a narcissistic greed, a morbid desire to lay ludicrous ownership claims to all manner of precious objects produced by outsiders (as if Hindu Dharma’s genuine achievements weren’t enough to be proud of). In that respect, it is of one piece with claims that Hindus in Rama’s age already used helicopters. But helicopters would at least be a more progressive and scientific achievement to show off than a mere grave, no matter how embellished. No, the best thing to do here is to take the advice of genuine Hindu historians like R.C. Majumdar and Sita Ram Goel, which is to ignore the P.N. Oak school of history. Let it pass gently into the night.

(The author welcomes reactions, here or at, and may consider a sequel if warranted by the feedback.)


Sandeep said...

Well, proud Hindus don’t care for the poor taste of Western tourists and may point out that the Taj Mahal is bland and vulgar when compared with Ajanta and Ellora, the Meenakshi temple or the Elephanta caves.

I don't know if this sounds flippant, but as far as architecture and literature are concerned modern Hindus, even proud ones, have grown up to have western tastes (including myself) and I don't see that changing any time soon. Westerners sympathetic to India are seen admiring the grandeur, but never the taste of Hindu temples, where as Taj Mahal and Mughal buildings do get praise for the "refined taste" of its builders. Many of them (including Paul Brunton, the devotee of Ramana Maharshi) use words like "gaudy" to describe sculptures in south Indian temples - I believe they are saying so without the slightest desire to slight India.

I don't know the reason for this difference. Perhaps there was greater interaction between the Islamic and Christian civilizations and they developed similar tastes? But then traditional east Asian architecture seems to have greater compatibility with modern tastes as well.

RJ said...

Indians are generally clueless today. They will believe that India is shining while the economic capital of the country is a stinking garbage dump with an infrastructure worse than a small town in Vietnam. The national anthem is forced onto everyone in all cinema halls (a cheap animation of a waving flag that I could teach a two year old to improve on) and everyone must stand up as a rule. I refused to once and an old man behind me found it 'highly offensive'. I told him that its a democracy and not a fascist state and I can do as I choose but he wouldn't buy any of that. Indians are happy with illusions of past grandeur and readily accept the terrible conditions they live in today. If the Times of India says India is a superpower then it just has to be true. Brainwashed fools. It will take quite a few generations for people in India to really change. Indians today are ill mannered children.

sfauthor said...

Do you know about these Sanskrit books?

sunaath said...

I appreciate your arguments. I appreciate the term you have coined: oakism!
But I do not understand why `Hindus' should be proud of Oak being in Azad Hind Army. Any Indian
does appreciate any other Indain being in the Azad Hind Army!
A few Indains are certainly mistaken in thinking that the entire world was dominated by the Indain Aryans and Sanskrit! Also they do not know there were/are both good and bad points in the Indian culture.
Please do not call the anceint Indian culture as Hindu culture.
That implies that the Indain Muslims are not inheritors of their
ancient culture.

峻龍 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Apuleius Platonicus said...

It looks to me like a case of "normative inversion."

Simply negating anti-Hindu versions of history doesn't really sound like a bad approach for generating interesting hypotheses. But such hypotheses must still stand or fall on the basis of how well they correspond to actual evidence.

Koenraad Elst said...

@Sunaath: It is the Muslims themselves who introduced the term "Hindu" to designate native Indian culture, including its ancient phase. Islam is a stated repudiation of the pre-Islamic past, which Mohammed denounced as an Age of Ignorance. Such is Muslim opinion on ancient Indian culture. If they hadn't repudiated it, they wouldn't be Muslims now, but follow some native Indic tradition.

Pranav said...


I think it's pretty clear that the Taj used to be a Rajput palace that was converted by Shah Jahan. As per Badshah Nama a grand palace "Ala Manzil" was purchased from a Rajput king, and Mumtaz's body was buried there just a year later (too short an interval to build the Taj from scratch). See

江婷 said...


Right Angle said...


I will leave off the etymology part here and focus on other..

While i dont agree fully what P.N. Oak has said, i have my own questions related to it.. before that let me clarify that i dont recognize the word Hinduism or Hindus in the present sense it is used.. Hindus and Hinduism is an identity first created by muslims and then officiated by British..

So in my opinion, instead of Hinduism, i would better call it eastern religions, or eastern culture..


Its common known fact that rulers of hindusthan has ruled up to Afghanistan, and have intensive interactions with persia even before the Christian era.. We see, that alexander had heard about india and marched towards it crossing Persia..

So what's the probability, that the rulers who had gone up to ruling afghanistan, would not have reached persia or baghdad or the arabia?

I do agree with your points based on the trust, that there are no references to vikramaditya in arabian literatures or in greek literatures..

But we do find references about chandragupta in megasthenes accounts.. and that lot other records have been destroyed both in greek, and in arabia, we have to accept the possibility (Only the possibility) that references might have existed but lost..

Khaba as Shiva temple:

I think Oak would have said based on the phallic symbols.. (i may be wrong)..

The fact that khaba was a pagan temple is true.. and on those days, before christi or islam, there is no organised religion except of budhism..

So, almost all cultures in eastern religion were also paganic and have similarities with the european pagan.. for eg, the black magic, the tantric worships etc have many relevance to tribal cultures of almost the entire world.

So what P.N. Oak might have said may be mis-leading.. but the core truth cannot be denied..


I feel, you have a weak argument in this aspect.. Most of the detailed arguments provided by Oak is not confronted by you..

We may not accept that tajmahal may not be a shiva temple.. but the fact that it is NOT a mughal architecture or NOT a tomb cannot be refuted..

Why dont the mughals did not build such structures later on? or atleast the similar kind of architecture?

The argument that there was no mention of construction of tajmahal by travellers of that period seems to be very logical.. and you havent mentioned about that..

If such magnificient strucutre spanning over 22 years is constructed, how come it is NOT mentioned by any of the travellers?

We may not accept it as shiva temple.. but the possibility that it may be a palace fort, which might have contained a shiva temple as it used to be in any other forts..

Right Angle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ramas said...

Dear Shri Elst,

I need to write to you on your article about Karma which appears in another site. How should I do it? Do you have an e-mail id?

Apologies for posting an irrelevant comment here.


B.N.Gururaj said...

Very enlightening. I knew only about Oak's outlandish arguments about Taj Mahal and Red Fort, but not about Arabia having been conquered by Vikramaditya! Such exotic claims will erode the credibility of genuine historians who attempt to unearth hidden Hindu elements from the past, whitewashed by leftist historians. It is time that learned Hindus attempt to know something about true preachings of Islam as seen in Koran, and Islam's history, before proceeding to defend Hindu tradition against Islam. Thanks, Dr.Koenraad Elst!

B.N.Gururaj said...

Very enlightening. I knew only about Oak's outlandish arguments about Taj Mahal being Tejo Mahalaya and Red Fort, but not about Arabia having been conquered by Vikramaditya! Such exotic claims will erode the credibility of genuine historians who attempt to unearth hidden credit worthy Hindu elements from the past, whitewashed by leftist historians. It is time that learned Hindus attempt to know something about true preachings of Islam as seen in Koran, and Islam's blood-soaked history, before proceeding to defend Hindu tradition against Islam. Thanks, Dr.Koenraad Elst!

Bhuvan said...

Dear Dr.Elst,

I think the Taj Mahal refutation by you does not confront many of the arguments given by proponents like Oak. A pointwise summary, along with photographic evidence, is given on Stephen Knapp's website -
Stephen Knapp relies on sources other than Oak and Brahmachari. So it would be proper if you post a follow-up to this blog post by discussing the important points raised by the Taj Mahal was a Temple lobby, for example, Aurangzeb's letter requesting repairs and the points raised by the American architect Marvin Mills.


Incognito said...

>>>" This is the reason why more than any other, that particular Hindu temple was singled out for destruction upon destruction."
(On Somnath Temple)

Temple destruction was carried out every where. Somnath Temple was rebuilt by the people each time and got destructed again.

In this article, while taking Oak to task for assuming many things and drawing unsubstantiated conclusions, aren't you too making the same mistake wrt Somnath Temple, bringing in the reason of 'manat' ?

Why was Ram temple of Ayodhya brought down ?

Why was mosque built in Kashi ? Was 'manat' supposed to be in all those places too and in every other thousands of temples that were razed to ground ?

While describing the word 'hindu' as creation of muslims, you are yet quick to brand a lot of people as 'hindu' and indicate, through the title of your blog, that they have some 'incurable hindu fondness' for PN Oak and through the rest of the blog you attempt to paint 'hindus' as unreasonable and given to fanciful assumptions.
This is a deplorable attempt to paint a lot of people, the majority of India, in negative manner and reveals the western influence in you, of caricaturing natives, the 'others' as lesser, illogical, irrational beings.

PN Oak's mistakes should be pointed out separately. Even if some people may consider Oak's suppositions in favorable light, to brand them, and through them every other Indian, as being fanciful, is unacceptable.


Manas said...

"...very successful at finding evidence, but rather poor in presenting a coherent picture of where exactly their findings fit into the argumentation..."

>>So true.

Indian and Hindu history as is taught today is an amalgamation of gargantuan negation and titanic manipulation by the cabal of communist pulp fiction historians in India and the Donizelites in the west. To their credit they have made an art out of distorting the truth and presenting it without batting an eye. Of course they are ably helped by the sepoys and Macaulayites in their deception. A very good example is the great Aryan (invasion/migration) hoax which has overwhelming genetic evidence loaded against it. However, due to a near complete lack of any organized scholarship to coherently present this, the commies and the Donizelites have been able to keep this hoax alive.

While what PN Oak claimed may or may not be true, I do agree with Elst'ji that an organized scholarly and erudite response is necessary to counter and eventually defeat the communists, Donizelites, sepoys and their ilk.

Jagmohan Singh Khurmi said...

Of course, Taj Mahal DOES NOT look like a hindu temple as some have wrongly attested. But it does look, almost exactly look like a....GURUDWARA !
This can be a very good plot for a new sardarji joke

ramesh said...

Thank you for writing this. At one time I had started reading oak but found it absolutely ridiculous. His writings (very disturbingly) actually fit into the same category as those produced by a whole bunch of Nazi writers to justify their ridiculous race theories -- half baked theories or outright lies written by a bunch of criminals and quacks passing themselves as serious scholars / historians / anthropologists etc. It’s a pity many people tend to fall for this rubbish. Actually Hindu history has been so badly mauled since the nineteenth century by a whole bunch of vested interest ranging from western colonial historians & Christian missionary scholars to the modern day pseudo-secular /Marxist crowd, that’s it now seems to be an open field for everyone.

Koenraad Elst said...

@Ramaswamy, and all: you can always write to me on

koenraadelst at

I.M.Sharma said...

I liked your scathing criticism of Oak and the advice to be scientific and methodical in any sort of critiques. If I want to reproduce your this article or any articles in your blog, I hope you will have no objection. I will acknowledge your courtesy. Kindly mail to me your reply at Also visit our weblog: Thanks.

Desikottam said...

Dear Dr Elst
You have touched upon an interesting cahpter. I for one had not even thought that Taj could have been anything else. However,your blog and earler comment by Bhuvan made me look at particularly the paper [The Question of the Taj Mahal,
By P. S. Bhat and A. L. Athawale
(from the Itihas Patrika, Vol. 5, pp 98-111, 1985)]. Their arguments seem to have a lot of merit. It would be good to get your views on that.

~rAGU said...

I have met many who are new to rediscovery of their past alluding to PN Oak. But most of them realise it is very close to nonsense sooner; some later. Those that don't, do so when some one whom they believe is sensible, explains it to them. I have not met anyone seriously arguing his theories. I usually shake my head when I see those old emails circulate! Thank you.

Navarasa Concoctions said...

At first I had always believed that debate and scrutiny might lead us to find answers, to find that what we might call with many names, Rama, Jesus or Allah is, in essence, a search leading us to a truth that it was humanity, no the whole of ecology that needs to be worshipped as God placed on pedestal. But as is clear from this blog and many others by discussing religion and history from the available resources we have only managed to hurt egos. It is quite right that silence is golden.

Navarasa Concoctions said...

I think the whole Oak issue is way in the past. A lil out of track but, I read books on Partition and i really don't get the sentiment of why it still hurts on the Indian side. People should want to belong to a nation not forced to, and not the least in a democracy. Islam and many other religions are practised way different than they are in different parts of the world, it is the conglomeration that is exciting, which is what I have realised after meeting people from other countries. As long as I am also allowed to experience my share of Islamic legacy inspite of being born Hindu, I don't care what these historians or politicians say.

Capt. Ajit Vadakayil said...

dear mr elst,

pl punch into google search the following--




I am posting this comment only because Zionist Wikepedia, egged on by people like you, says that Hindus have an "inferiority complex".


capt ajit vadakayil

girdhar007 said...

@Koenraad : Here you'll find more criticism to your article

girdhar007 said...

@Elst : This guy Arjun on chakranews says he ordered you to write this article?

शंकर शरण said...

Thanks, again, for writing "Taj Mahal is bland and vulgar when compared with Ajanta and Ellora, the Meenakshi temple or the Elephanta caves." for I too felt so even when I saw it first as a very young person. Even then I felt many a Hindu temples and other pilgrimmage places more attractive in the sense that I wanted to be there for longer time and come again and again, though I was not a concious Hindu devout then.

But I am more thankful because YOU took trouble to write about the silly Oakism, with so much serious scholarship, which was a duty of an Indian. But then, you know our state...

girdhar007 said...

A counter perspective to Elst's thesis on Yoga and PN Oak

Vashisht said...

u branded oak guilty of not presenting any scientific or logical proof but what have u done in ur own article .
u are not able to confront any argument of taj mahal to be a hindu temple logically
instead of beating round the bush u should have presented something logical
but alas .. ur prejuidice doesn't allowed u so

Druv said...

Taj Mahal was a Shiva temple ( Pictographic Evidence )

Pn Oak was correct, and We know that who really drives your efforts. let me assure you that Jesuits and Zealots will not win in their dark agendas.

AVADHOOT said...

Thank you. I am not a historian or archaeologist. But one of my friend keeps pestering me with such conspiracy theories. I never believed them, but couldn't answer him. This article will probably shut him.

PN oak and such conspiracy theoriests are every where. he is no different that Erik von Dineken. But when they get followers and get their claims in media it becomes bad. History channel showing documentary on chariots of god, and indian news channels showing such bullshit lose their credibility to aware and intelligent public. But more wide spread effect is it starts mass cultural euphoria leading to chauvinism.

I wonder what are the deep motives of such people and such media. It clearly beyond money and TRP.

Aniruddh said...

All the comments - for and against "oakism" are well taken. However, I am curious to have your take on some of the following points.

1. Why does the 'Mosque' in the Taj complex (alongside the main edifice) not face Mecca and instead is aligned to the cardinal West.

2. Why does the 'Mosque' have no 'Minar'? The main edifice which is actually a 'tomb' is surrounded by four towers described as minars which would serve no purpose for a tomb but the structure which would actually have the use of Minars i.e. the mosque is surprisingly devoid of any !

3. Traditionally, the islamic minars are asymmetrical with one being the highest from which the 'azaan' is read. Also a Minar is the tallest structure, the highest point in a islamic building. In the Taj why are all the four minars symmetrical. Further, why is the minar not the highest or the tallest structure and instead it is the central dome of the main edifice that is the highest point? Moreover, as mentioned earlier how is it that the tomb has minars (that too in contradiction to islamic traditions) whereas the actual mosque has none !

4. Why is it that when the tomb i.e. the marble edifice is so grand with delicate designs and is magnificent, the mosque is completely sans of any such grandeur? Is it that the Mughal Emperors believed that 'Mumtaz' deserved a higher status than 'Allah'?

5. It has been historically and scientifically proved that the path of the river Yamuna was diverted so that the water from the river does not flood into the Taj complex. Even in present times even when the Yamuna is overflowing, the water does not enter the complex. In the 16th century, sans the modern technology and equipment, this feat was far more superior and a much much much greater accomplishment than the building of the structure itself. After all whoever managed to do this had actually managed to defeat Mother Nature !! Yet surprisingly none of the chronicles of the Mughals including the Badshahnama nor any of the accounts of the innumerable western travellers, in fact not even the 'history' as is being taught today, remotely mention anything about this marvelous feat ! One would have expected at least a single line 'verse' in praise of this godly achievement of the 'great' emperors !!

There are ample such unanswered discrepancies; some are visible to the eye while some come knocking hard on the doors of logical reasoning ! Let's hear on these few for starters.

ysv_rao said...

Many of them (including Paul Brunton, the devotee of Ramana Maharshi) use words like "gaudy" to describe sculptures in south Indian temples - I believe they are saying so without the slightest desire to slight India. "

As a South Indian Hindu I am inclined to agree with some caveats. I think the Chola bronzes are some of the elegant designs in world art.
What I do find gaudy are the colors painted on the temples and statues-bright,primal and garish.
I think we can take some consolation in the fact that this color palette is a new development over the last hundred years or so.

It is not known if these were the same colors are originally painted or if they were painted at all.

Granite and bronze sculptures(especially chola) are far more tasteful due to the minimal use of color. This is not neccesarily a modern preference as the Cholas thought the same way as well otherwise they wouldnt have fashioned them so.

It is noteworthy that most Westerners gravitate towards Chola bronzes if they admire Hindu aesthetics.

We can see the Western preference in a restricted color palette in their admiration of clean white marble statues of the Classical era and the stone statues adorning magnificient cathedrals of the Gothic and Renaissance era.When in reality Greeks actually painted their statues in probably colors as garish as used by the Madurai artists.It is time and erosion that created a stark and minimal look.Michelangelo was under the mistaken impression that white was the original color as intended by the Greeks when he sculpted David.

It is noteworthy that the much vaunted Islamic architechture is really an adaptation of Byzantine structural norms ,best symbolized by the transformation of Hagia Sophia and the Damascus church with John the Baptists head into mosques.

I personally like the Taj Mahal but apart from the grandeur and engineering feat of the Yamuna et al, it is really not all that exceptional.Shah Jahan (or anonymous Rajput prince for the Oak enthusiasts/paranoid Ajit Vadakayil subscribers among us) just took some pre existing template of Indo Saranic architecture and built it on a grander scale and in marble.

You can build pretty much anything in marble ,it will look attractive.

ysv_rao said...

The national anthem is forced onto everyone in all cinema halls (a cheap animation of a waving flag that I could teach a two year old to improve on) and everyone must stand up as a rule. I refused to once and an old man behind me found it 'highly offensive'. I told him that its a democracy and not a fascist state and I can do as I choose but he wouldn't buy any of that."

Amen brother, it is really frustrating that Indians are more likely to be pretentious scolds about such ill concieved etiquette when it comes to displaying patriotism.
We have no shortage of flag wavers, slogan shouters and chest thumpers, we also are not lacking in public defecators,urinators, litterbugs, bribe givers/takers ,thieves of public resources such as electricity and water,grovellers to the powerful and tyrants to the weak, patrons of temples dedicated to movie stars, individuals falling over themselves whenever a foreign(ie white) celebrity comes to visit, persons making complete asses of themselves when they travel abroad.

There is something fundamentally deficient in the Indian character-an utter lack of morals,self respect,dignity and gravitas.All those hyper patriotism is but an ill fitting fig leaf which strains to cover such serious shortcomings(no pun intended).In my naivete and foolishness, it thought the cause of this was poverty and surely the economic liberalization would unleash a healthy hidden side of their character and heal their soul.I was wrong , Indians have managed to be more gauche,clueless,vulgar and tyrannical than before.

Indians are happy with illusions of past grandeur and readily accept the terrible conditions they live in today. If the Times of India says India is a superpower then it just has to be true. Brainwashed fools. It will take quite a few generations for people in India to really change. Indians today are ill mannered children."

We know what caused it -more than a 1000 years of combined Muslim,British rule, but I have no idea what can cure it in a non violent fashion.
Historically peoples had to endure trials by blood and fire to forge an independent character- hence Moses spent 40 years in the desert toughening up the slavish Hebrews and killing off the weak of mind.
Americans spend nearly 20 long years fighting the British on ideological and battlefield grounds and driving off the "treacherous" loyalists off to Canada where they formed the English speaking core.

Apart from partition which affected a small part of the population(which perhpas not so coincidentally is the most dynamic-Punjabis and Sindhis) ,there have not been any major upheavals to test our mettle and resolve.

Will that be a joint Chinese Pakistani invasion?

ysv_rao said...

re Vikramaditya and Kaaba, I dont think he had conquered the Arabs as Arabs have a pretty rich oral tradition that date back millenia and they wouldve recorded such an event.

However it is possible that there have been cultural and religious between Hindus and pagan Arabs. It is also possible that they may have been trading colonies of Hindus back then who got Arabized and assimilated(a good number of Saudis,Qataris and other GCC arabs resemble Indians in appearance).

Perhaps prophet Mohd was lumping together Arabized Hindus and Zoroastrians when he spoke of Sabeans.

Although the above is conjecture,it is not outside the realm of possibility. If indeed it is proven historically that Hindus constituted Sabeans then Muslims are forced to consider Hindus as ahl al Kitab(people of the book along with Jews and christians) instead of kafir.

Of course to a self respecting Hindu ,neither is an acceptable designation,but it lead to a lot of awkardness and unanswered questions for Muslim fundamentalists and that is always a plus.

sleeping8 said...

Dear Koenraad Elst, google for Concordance - Maya of Meso and South Americas and Bharath - India Languages kedarnath jonnalagadda

this work was inspired partly by Shri.P.N.Oak's works. satyam eva jayate

Ravichandar said...

I completely agree with what you have said here. To Mr. Oak's credit it must be said that he has noted many theological and iconographic similarities between Indian and foreign civilizations but his inferences are wholly wrong.

If Raja Vikramaditya did rule over Arabia, then what happened to the powerful Sassanian Empire which lay between India and Arabia. There is no literary or epigraphical evidence that Sassanid Persia ever faced an invasion from India. Oak cites an example to support the existence of Indian influence over Arabia. He says that the Islamic term "Namaz" is related to the Sanskrit term "Namaste". This is partly true, because the term "Namaz" is of pre-Islamic Persian/Zoroastrian origin and is cognate with the Indo-Iranian word "Namaste". Oak, perhaps, gives us a layman's perspective of the world, for when he mentions "Durjas", he is in fact referring to the pagan "Druze". Also, he relates Marseilles to a Sanskrit term "Marishalayam" because he is unaware that Marseilles originated as a Greek colony Massilia and that Massilia appears less similar to Marishalayam than Marseilles.

puneetcompany said...

Dear KE,

Look at you.....
You have not touched the most important arguments fo PN Oak before writing this article...

your language shows your superiority many places you have used confronting language against hindus...which is unacceptable

All i can say is You have absolutely zero knowledge of what Oak has worked on....

it will take you many to understand the Vedic culture...

You are a straight forward an agent of Christanity which is a baseless religion with mention of world as flat and the world craeted 4500 years ago....stupid followers of hypothetical notions..

It was a waste of time to read you idiotic article....


houdini said...

Now that off Gujarat they have discovered this sunken civilization DWARKA,[] it is very possible that some conquest by a Hindu King of Arabia had taken place.

Mecca itself was off any real trade route:
"Mecca is located in the Hejaz region of what is today Saudi Arabia. It is portrayed by traditional belief as a wealthy trading center, full of merchants trading goods by caravan from Yemen in the south and Syria and the Byzantium empire in the north. Crone shows that Mecca was in fact way off the incense route from Yemen to Syria, which bypassed where Mecca is today by over 100 miles. Further, there is no mention whatever of Mecca in contemporary non-Moslem sources:

"It is obvious that if the Meccans had been middlemen in a long-distance trade of the kind described in (traditional Islamic) literature, there ought to have been some mention of it in the writings of their customers... who wrote extensively about the south Arabians who supplied them with aromatics. (Despite) the considerable attention paid to Arabian affairs there is no mention at all of Quraysh (the tribe of Mohammed) and their trading center (Mecca), be it in the Greek, Latin, Syraic, Aramaic, Coptic, or other literature composed outside Arabia ." (p. 134)"

houdini said...
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charlo49 said...

just come across this blog. so far as the Taj is concerned, it clearly never was a mausoleum. it's got seven stories and many rooms and a deep well that would have no purpose in a mausoleum, not to mention the boat moorings and so on. i'm convinced Oak was right and this is a shiva temple.

the British tried to undermine the vedic culture for political purposes. Cunningham deliberately assigned structures to the moghuls that were clearly vedic.

JS RAWAT said...

Elst starting his argument with "self-styled historian PN Oak", shows the intent of his writing is just to malign Oak. "he seems to enjoy a lasting popularity. What a pity"; Oh so Oak's popularity coxed the writer to disprove his theories. The second para starts with condemning the Hindus. On Etymology, Elst says "any word resembling a Sanskrit word must have been borrowed from Sanskrit, never the other way around". And why NOT as Sanskrit is the Oldest of all scripts. This is the first fallacy of Elst's arguments.
Elst has conveniently ignored many crucial facts like Vikramaditya’s inscription found in Kaaba , Shaving heads & wearing seamless clothes (prescribed before entering Kaaba) are remnants of the old Vedic practice, Muslim pilgrims in Kaaba temple go around it seven times (A Vedic practice) which is NOT practiced in any other mosque in the world and other practices in Islam based on Vedic rites. Pl see the link here for the sake of making this short.
Regarding Taj Mahal & Red Fort, Elst has demonstrated his Historical skills by giving frivolous arguments like "the presence of grave" (which might have been constructed after later), "The so-called Aum sign next to the sun wheel in the gate is just a flourish", "it was built by Hindu masons, who slipped a few Hindu elements in", "a certain amount of Hindu presence was a deliberate part of Muslim building policy" (Where the hell did Elst found this "Policy"), "it made good sense to Muslims to incorporate recognizably Hindu elements in their architecture as a sign of the submission of Hindus to Islam" (That's the perfect example of a Cock and Bull story), "even if their case that the Red Fort was built by a Hindu rather than a Muslim ruler were true, what would it prove?" (Shows that Elst knows his rhetoric would not cut ice even with a layman and hence the caveat), "Hindus were too incompetent to retain Delhi in the face of aggression by the militarily far less sophisticated Muslims?" (Far less sophisticated!!!).
Elst spares no words to denigrate "Hindus" throughout the article. I don't think I have to elaborate on that as the article itself bears witness to it. Elst is a racist, narcissist and a megalomaniac Historian who vomits his superiority over others right through the write up.
And the final nail in Elst's coffin (read article) is the mention of BJP which is totally irrelevant to the subject proving the article to be more political in nature than historically relevant.

nirupam das said...

Taj Mahal was a Hindu Temple and here is the proof

Rationist Atheist said...
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Rationist Atheist said...
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Rationist Atheist said...

As an atheist, rationalist Hindu, it pains me so much to see PN Oak’s ridiculous crankery circulating on Hindu Nationalist blogs. Oak has done more damage to Hindu Nationalist cause than many Marxist historians. His crackpot theories are being used to discredit Hindu Nationalism. Googling his name results in two kinds of results (with the exception of this article on your blog on the fifth spot). First, blogs by misguided, deluded Hindus who believe in his crankery. Second, Islamist/leftist blogs discrediting Hindu Nationalism by ridiculing his crank claims and pretending that PN Oak is the only alternate to their whitewashing of Islam's violent history in India. They want readers to believe that Hindu Nationalism is entirely based upon P N Oak's "work". For an outsider, this does exactly what they want. Dr Elst, I request you to write more articles denouncing PN Oak and his types. We desperately need a Hindu Nationalist rebuttal against him that shows up high in search engine results.

Navaratna Rajaram said...

Oak is not taken seriously by Hindu historians like myself. Oak's linguistic acrobatics is no worse than that of Indo-European creations like PIE, OIT etc of which Elst is a prominent practitioner.

I am no admirer of the Taj, which cannot be compared to South Indian temples. But if there was a great school of Islamic architecture in India, can Elst or anyone explain the complete absence of texts on Islamic architecture like those on Vastu, Shilpa, etc? Also name hereditary architects and families like Vishwakarmas. And where are units and dimensions?

There is ample evidence to suggest that the Taj used to be a Rajput palace appropriated by Shah Jahan in exchange for other property. Please see review article by Pratt Institute by Marvin Mills, a recognized architect which Elst is not.

Elst's article is the latest exercise in his latest habit in taking potshots at Hindus for not worshipping him as their guru and sage. Elst has done valuable work but has now nothing new to say. He was always always a polemicist in search of a target. Hindus are his latest target.

N.S. Rajaram

Navaratna Rajaram said...

Oak may be basket case, but for for Elst to paint all Hindus with the same broad brush shows his intentions to be malafide.

No serious scholar uses Oak as a source. He is used only by the likes of Elst bent on attacking Hindus.

N.S. Rajaram

S.Elizabeth said...

RajaRam Sir,,
Pls visit khamakya and tell me if that shakthi petom is as per vastu or shipla shastra
north india there are many temple that is not as per south-indian architecture.
howmany such huge structures can you point out in the north as opposed to south.

Pramendra Pratap Singh said...

ताजमहल पर विस्तृत लेख

ताजमहल एक शिव मंदिर
ताजमहल नही तेजोमहालय : एक प्राचीन शिव मंदिर तथ्य और चित्र
ताजमहल नही तेजोमहालय: शिव मंदिर होने का मिला साक्ष्य
ताजमहल का इतिहास - ताज मकबरा नही अग्रेश्वर महदेव शिव
ताजमहल के इन दरवाजों में दफन हैं कई रहस्य
मक्‍का मे विराजित प्रसिद्ध मक्‍केश्‍वर महादेव शिवलिंग

sleeping8 said...

Koenraad Elst is one of those ignorants blinded by light of his studies of sanatana dharma "The incurable Hindu fondness for PN Oak" is standard red herring illogic and fallacies and

The World Vedic Heritage by Shri.P.N.Oak is an eye opener and lays bare the hoaxes of history. The moot point is not so much the muslim, christian, buddhist jain vs hindu - (sanatana dharma) - but who loses most - and that is the Americas.

We are led to believe the "'Red' Indian" was a stupid misnomer by ancestors of discoverers of America ! ( The western culture is highly prone to disrespect parents grand parents and and ancestors ) Not true - the world travellers saw astounding similarities and intellectuals were astounded ... Not only the language had Sanskrit origin (Near complete concordance of Mayan of South and Meso America with Bharah Sanskrit and Indian Languages - and Language Concordance Cherokee Language

What does this language concordance mentioned by PM Oak and verifiable any idiot show - 1) Sanskrit (precursor to what is known now is the language fundamental to human (probably other species too) 2) When you compare Llamas and mangos it appears illogic but when you compare the biochemical make up of llamas guts and mango seed IT IS NOT ILLOGIC (you could have purpose for export of probably fodder mix for llamas or wahtever) . This is the paradigm of Panini's dhAtupATha and works of many since the veda was knowm . So - given this language and vocabulary concordance what is next? ASTRONOMY - ARCHAEO ASTRONOMY - and Surya Siddhantha (the oldest told by MAYA ASURA) . When a - different yuga - Rama Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya is the truth - from a different yuga - not the hogwash Babar and muslims and friends christian forever trying to sav my soul that they can go to heaven. Sorry I refuse and so did PM Oak - a great grand man -

Now to shut Konraad up for some time (these types pipe up again and again) in different garbs of knowledge fooling their own selves. Pick up any Mayan English Dictionary - Cherokee - Aleutian name it Dictionary - Take a word split it up into dhatu - Take Monier Williams a Sanskrit Dictionary 1899 - you will be able to reconstruct (and probably get more meaning)

hp said...

Bottom line is .. either you believe Lord Rama is a person, or you don't. Period.
This underlies all arguments, discussions, competitions, etc. stemming from the histories, philosophies and yogas of the Vedas, and, by natural extension, India.

Mark Twain said .. "In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire"
That much, surely, can be agreed upon.