Monday, April 16, 2012

Romila Thapar on Hinduism

I received the following post on a Hindu list: "Finally, Romila Thapar admits: 'Fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan.' Satan (or the irrational fear of an imaginary bogeyman) is the bedrock of Abrahamic cults like Islam and Christianity. So, Romila Thapar actually meant to write this (but was dishonest enough to not admit that): 'The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Abrahamic cults like Islam and Christianity.'"

Let me first be clear about what I reject in this post. First of all, the typically Hindu hyperfocus on persons, viz. on retired History Professor (JNU) Romila Thapar, author of A History of India, part 1. I don't care about her personally opting for Nehruvian secularism and all that goes with it. She is a mediocre person who rode with the tide, and the question is why Nehruvian secularism was the tide.

And secondly, the term Abrahamic, admittedly an improvement upon Semitic, but meant as another word for prophetic-monotheistic. Abraham was the ancestor of the Jews, with whom Hindus have no quarrel because they never tried to convert the Hindus as Christians and Muslims have done. The latter two sects have later tried to appropriate Abraham, the Christians by their theory of them being the "true Israel", the Muslims by their claim of being the vicarious descendants of Abraham's first son Ismael. But according to the Bible, the closest source we have on Abraham's family, Ismael returned with his mother Hagar to her native Egypt after his father had a fully legitimate son with his wife Sara, and never had anything to do with Mohammed's Arabia. It is one more case of Mohammed garbling the Biblical stories which he had heard from Jews around the campfire.

Now, coming to the interview which Romila Thapar gave, and to which the Hindu list's attention was being drawn: . Under the title "A History of India and the Absence of Satan" (About Film, wordpress, 15 May 2008), one Shakila quotes her as saying:

"Wealth in India, as in every other ancient culture, was limited to the few. Mystical activities were also the preoccupation of but a handful of people. It is true, however, that acceptance of such activities was characteristic of the majority… whereas in some other cultures the rope-trick would have been ascribed to the promptings of the devil and reference to it suppressed, in India it was regarded with amused benevolence. The fundamental sanity of Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan."

Indeed, whereas the Christian Middle Ages were bedevilled by fear of the irrational, Hindu civilization learned to cope with it. It had a fundamental sanity where Christian and Islamic civilization were based on a belief in the divine intrusion into history. But Romila Thapar cannot bring herself to seeing this fact and naming it by its proper name: Hindu civilization had a fundamental sanity. It reminds me of Mani Shankar Aiyar, a Minister in the last Congress government, who wrote in his Sunday column some twenty years back to this effect: "There is something in the air here that makes us tolerant"-- but he didn't dare to name that something because it was called Hinduism.


Phillip said...

Actually, there's nothing "finally" about it. This same line appears in the introduction to the first edition of her History of India published by Penguin in the sixties. I too was struck by the perilous hypocrisy of this line when I read that history years ago. So she said it again, perhaps verbatim, in 2008? Well, it won't be the only thing she's been repeating unchanged for the last fifty years.

Karthikrajan said...

Satan does exist in pagan cults in the state of Tamilnadu. ‘chasing-the-devil’ is a routine ritual found in pagan temples, womenfolk being the prime victims. Hinduism has wisely rejected this idea, whatever satan exists, exists only in the mind. But the evangelists on TV haven’t changed one bit, always blabbing about how jesus chased this satan and that saathaan !! True, Mani Iyer is an excellent congress brand secular crook. Watch his debates on NDTV, it is his oratorical skills (non -stop chatter ??) which numbs the opponent than any substance in his speech. He is a master in side tracking main issues. You have raised a very interesting question : “..... why nehruvian secularism was the tide” . Quite possible that because people like you , Sitar ram goel, ram swaroop, arun shourie were not around at that time !!!!!!

Global-Indian said...
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Trailer of Dharma said...

I appreciated the bit, where you emphasized that Muhammad simply tried to appropriate Abraham, even though he is neither a descendant of Ishmael nor was Ishmael an heir to 'God's Covenant' with Abraham that the line of prophets would endure in the line of Isaac and then Jacob.
That is why I refer to Islam as Wannabe-Abrahamic religion.
Satan Concept leads to paranoia and paranoia leads to obsession with control and such an obsession with control leads to imperialist and oppressive tendencies.

Unknown said...

Mani Shankara Iyer is totally wrong. If there is one religion which is noted for intolerance, it is Hinduism. Apart from caste murders, there has been sectarian violence. There was large scale massacre of Buddhists and finally Buddhism was wiped out. Koeenraad Elst is misleading the readers by bringing Satan. Even without Satan, Hinduism itself is a religion of violence and cruelty. Burning of young widows (sati, infanticide, killing of old parents on the banks of the Ganga and so many barbarous rituals make Hinduism a religion of intolerance and brutality. The British brought laws to removde all cruelties in Hindu society. William Jones and other British scholars of Asiatic Society created a neo-Hinduism based on commentaries and inte

ManjunathEMEN said...

BABY ANKITA ASHOK, I LIKE YOUR SPIRIT AND I APPRECIATE UR THINKING! BUT painting my peoples of civilization of Indus in wrong way and brushing in totality is not good thing and thinking. especially as ur name suggests the place where ur faith resolves, at-least if u r not lying! my civilization is not an so called religion which had been by written or uttered by the self proclaimed divine tongues which preach rules and regulations. do not teach us to go and kill who do not believe in our faith or it says to mediate. this land always been tolerant and will be tolerant. eons we never invade a foreign land we did killed each other(its philosophy of olden days, u cant understand atleast with ur doctrine d mind), universally we are tolerant than anybody who call themself country-religion. Buddhism never become extinct or wiped out actually lichchvis built stupas for them. sati was a ritual of families for greed not of religion. may be u are atheist good enough i am also a atheist but do not pittance my people of this region rather religion. the hinduism always stand on footnote that is 'truth is not of constant its resolving by time' . let there be a swastika in ur heart.

white pawn said...

There is something in the air here that makes us tolerant"-- but he didn't dare to name that something because it was called Hinduism.

People like Aiyar who have no shame and are obnoxious and old will never accept their roots and for that matter their ancestor's roots.. I think they have only read "Discovery of India
by Nehru

white pawn said...

@Ankita Ashok ..I think you need to learn a lot about Hinduism and our civilization before thinking in that way..

we are not talking about a "pratha" or caste here.. all these were started by some power hungry people when its clearly written in our Vedas and Gita that "Karma" is supreme and not "Janma" ..just like this basic teaching has been forgotten similarly many social evils came into existence.. but these are social evils and not the teachings of a religion.. unlike in Islam where if you steal your hands can be cut is a social practice of Arabia which became part of teachings of Islam (sharia) ..which is entirely wrong.

white pawn said...

Satans were not there in Hinduism but the concept of Asura or evil people have existed. And unlike semitic beliefs, in Hinduism there has never been an anti-God power (Satan) to challenge God.. there can't be! ..its only good people and bad people

Sujay Rao Mandavilli said...


Please find my two papers below and circulate amongst the skeptics, particularly!

To state the obvious, the Indus script was a logo-syllabic script and a lost corpus did exist.

Published in the ICFAI journal of history and culture, January 2011.

Published in International journal of philosophy and journal sciences , November 2012.

I am also introducing logo-syllabic thesis B in this paper.


The paper is very self-explanatory!

does anybody still beg to differ?

Sujay Rao Mandavilli.

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Anonymous said...

There were many Satan's i.e. enemies, adversaries of god/gods in Hindu stories like Hiranyakashipu, Hiranyaksha, Vritra, and a whole host of adversaries. Hiranyakashipu conquered the whole material worlds and declared himself god and during his reign the prayer was Hiranyaye Namaha ha ha. Many of the "demons" were actually very great personalities, despite their all conquering quest for absolute power. The current King of Demons is Bali aka Mahabali (Bali the Great) ha ha. Credit where credit is due, the man was a great personality and even broke the pyramid of society. Bali gave away wealth to everyone like candy. It is said that humans wept when Bali was overthrown finally by Vamana. There was and is belief in many other lower level demons like Pisachas, Vetalas, Brahmarakshasas, yakshas, guhyakas etc. The difference is, from what I have observed, Indians don't give a fuck in generally, or no phobia or excessive fear in general towards darker forces. Just look at the survivalist jokers in their 60s and 70s piling up stuff in the west ha ha, like what the fuck.

Scion of Kartivirya Arjuna said...

None of the Rakshasas or Asuras were equivalents of Satan. They were just considered as deluded individuals who caused social harm.