Sunday, August 28, 2022

Jainas and Buddhists in Ayodhya

(Pragyata, 16 August 2022) The recent upheaval about a Hindu temple for Thalaivetti Muniyappan (“Muni Baba with the broken head”) in Salem TN, apparently a patched-up and restored Buddha statue, and therefore taken away from its worshippers by Court order with the prospect of giving it to the Buddhists (see ch.25), reminds us of a similar line of argument in the Ayodhya debate of 1990-91. Then, the anti-temple party claimed that, if at all there had been Islamic aggression against Hinduism, surely the Hindu repression against Buddhism had been no better. Some even argued that the destroyed Rama birthplace temple had itself been built in replacement of a Buddhist temple. This was just the typical tactics of the Eminent Historians or their less scholarly followers in those days: absolutely any claim (including mutually contradictory claims) that could serve as a hurdle to the Hindu rights to the site would do. They never mustered any evidence for a Buddhist or Jaina presence at the contentious site. The wealth of archaeological evidence dug up on multiple occasions since then does not contain any such evidence either. The resulting picture is that Vaishnava, Shaiva, Jaina and Bauddha places of worship existed peacefully side by side. And all of them were destroyed on the same footing by the Islamic invaders. Thus, one of the main Jaina sites, the birthplace temple for Ādināth, the first Tīrthaṅkara, was destroyed by the general who had conquered the city in 1193, Shah Zuran Ghori. For Islam, all non-Muslims, whatever the fine distinctions between them, are equally fodder for Jihad and hellfire. This stark equality in the Kāfir (unbeliever) status and the concomitant treatment is another fact that the mendacious nitpicking about a Brahmanical-Buddhist conflict seeks to cover up. The Jaina and Buddhist sites in Ayodhya are largely the topic of a book by archaeologist Lalta Prasad Pandey: Ayodhyā, the Abode of Rāma and the Dharmakṣetra of Lord Buddha and the Jaina Tīrthaṅkaras. A Historical and Critical Study. Published in 2009, it never received the attention it deserved. So, inspired by recent events in Salem, we will now look into it. As an expert, Pandey is aware of the limitations on our knowledge of the city: "Archaeology depends also on chance discoveries. Therefore, without having the entire city of Ayodhyā dug on a larger scale, its antiquity and full period of life can never be known. Archaeological excavations of the bed of the Sarayū are also required, because the city, situated on the bank of a turbulent river like Sarayū, may have been washed away. (...) An aerial view of the site and its surroundings gives an impression that the course of the river has certainly shifted from its old site inundating the city situated on its bank." (p.6) Indeed, “it is difficult to prove the exact place where Rāma was born (…) As a historian, the author would not like to stress upon this point too much. Rāma was born no doubt in Ayodhyā (…) different localities of a city move from one part of the city to the other. Constructions are destroyed by time and they are rebuilt, but they may change their places.” (p.90) So, don’t conclude too fast that this cannot be the city that contained the Solar Dynasty’s palace, where prince Rama must have been born. There’s still so much to discover in Ayodhya. From the Śatapathabrāhmaṇa onwards, when the Vedic horizon widens from Haryana into wat is now eastern Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar, the late Vedic literature regularly mentions the kings of Kośala (Ayodhyā and Śrāvastī), starting with Para Atnāra and Kṣemadhanva in the sixty-eighth Solar/Aikṣvāku generation after Manu, or seven generations after Rama. But the city of Ayodhya itself is already mentioned in the AtharvaVeda 10:2:32 (quoted p.83, repeated in the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka), where it seems to function as the city par excellence, here serving as a model for the human body: “Nine gates (navadvārāḥ) and eight crossings (aṣṭacakrāḥ) has Ayodhya, city of the Gods.” For this proverbial usage, it already must have been a prominent city. The Buddhist literature speaks of a flood at the site, causing emigration, and then the construction of a new town on the outskirts of Ayodhya, Sāketa, at the command of the young king of Kośala, Prasenajit, a friend of the Buddha. The renewal of a city by building a new city on its outskirts in a common event in history, e.g. Old Delhi expanded to New Delhi. Once the city was flourishing, “the association of the Buddha with this city is also known. It is stated that he had lived in its garden, called Añjanavana, many times. It is here that he had delivered his sermon called the Sāketasutta.” (p.16) Other Buddhists too lived or visited there, already during the lifetime of the Buddha. It’s where he had discussions with Kakudha Mendasīra, Kuṇḍalīya, Sāriputta Moggalana, Aniruddha and the nun Jaṭilagāhikā. Later Buddhist philosophers who worked there include Aśvaghoṣa, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu. Similarly with the Jainas: “The Ādipurāṇa and the Vividha Tīrthakalpa, texts of the early medieval period, describe it as one of the great centres of Jaina religion” (p.16), locating at least the first (Ṛṣabha or Ādināth, p.68) and the fourth Tīrthaṅkara there, probably five of them, while Pārśvanāth and Mahāvīra visited the town. Jaina philosophers like Acalabhānu also lived there. Prof. Pandey details the town’s general history, like how it was occupied by the Indo-Greeks and liberated by Puṣyamitra Śuṅga, or how Kaniṣka, both I and II, waged war against the king of Sāketa. He also gives all the archaeological information, such as the apparent decline and revival of Ayodhya, or how Sāketa goes as deep as the Northern Black Polished Ware, one layer younger than the Painted Grey Ware characterizing the Mahābhārata sites and Ayodhya proper. For those prosaic data, we refer to the book itself. Let us rather focus on what this says about the interaction between the different sects of Hinduism broadly defined. One thing we learn is how the supposedly superstitious Brahmanism is confirmed by the supposedly rational Buddhism. The Jātaka stories about the Buddha’s past life famously contain his embracing of Rama as an earlier incarnation (as well as an older relative within the Solar dynasty, the Buddha himself being a royal prince) of the Buddha. Here we see, by the way, the origin of the integration of the Buddha into the series of Vishnu’s incarnations together with Rama: far from being some Brahmanical concoction swallowing the Buddha against his will, it is actually suggested by the Buddha himself. If he is a reincarnation of Rama, and Rama is reinterpreted as Vishnu’s incarnation, then automatically he too becomes Vishnu’s incarnation. (p.35) Less well-known is the Māndhātājātaka: the Buddha had also been the Ayodhya king Māndhātā in a past life. This Solar king militarily helped the Lunar Paurava tribe against the Druhyu tribe shortly before the oldest hymns in the ṚgVeda. This is about as deep as you can get into the Indian past. But by the Buddha’s day and later, he had merely become a proverbially powerful king and serves as such in the Puranic literature as well as in the Buddha’s own narrative. Several other kings of Ayodhya also figure in earlier-incarnation stories. This confirms that at least the Buddhist tradition was always in dialogue and interaction with the Vedic and Itihāsa-Purāṇa traditions. To make a long story short, the really striking part of this book is what remains absent. Though Jainas, Buddhists, Vaishnavas and Shaivas lived cheek by jowl here, their debates never spilled over into violent conflict. The destruction that Salar Masud Ghaznavi, Shah Zuran Ghori and Zahiruddin Babar brought to Ayodhya over a mere religious doctrine was new to them. Lalta Prasad Pandey: Ayodhyā, the Abode of Rāma and the Dharmakṣetra of Lord Buddha and the Jaina Tīrthaṅkaras. A Historical and Critical Study, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi 2009.
Read more!

Open Letter to Audrey Truschke

(In late 2020, I promised women’s rights campaigner Prof. Madhu Kishwar a contribution to her debate on Audrey Truschke’s work denying Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu atrocities and temple destructions, which in that stage of the polemic focused on the specific insults she suffered as a woman. But this half-finished Open Letter got lost in my pile of unfinished writings; sorry to all concerned. After my finally sending it in, her website published it on 29 August 2022.) Dear Audrey Truschke, Welcome to the club. Welcome among those who bear the consequences of uttering their opinions. In a paper posted on, published in the Woke magazine The Revealer (14 July 2020), you tell us of your own suffering at the hands of Hindu male Twitterati. It is called Hate Male, a rather predictable pun on Hate Mail. About what happens at your own Twitter account I don’t know much, as you have excluded me from it, exclusively because of my unwelcome opinions (i.e. not because of foul language), but I do know through numerous other channels that you are indeed hated in Hindu circles. Ever since your whitewash of the rock-solid and first-hand evidence of Aurangzeb’s numerous temple destructions (Aurangzeb: the Man and the Myth, Viking/Penguin, Gurgaon 2017), and additionally your recent denial of the rock-solid evidence for Islam’s extermination of Buddhism in South Asia, you are now among the proverbial hate figures for Hindu activists, up there with Wendy Doniger, Michael Witzel and Sheldon Pollock. The effect is not limited to the people who have actually read your book: they are only few and hardly overlap with those who send you hate mail and other criticism. But all of them know a few of your tweets, a quicker way to get to know your thoughts. So they know that you have tried to make Sita call Rama a “misogynistic pig”. They also know that when challenged, you attributed this to the American Sanskritist Robert Goldman’s Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa translation. Goldman himself, though not a friend of political Hinduism, had to intervene and rebuke your self-serving claim, clarifying that he had neither used the slur “pig” nor the anachronism “misogynistic”. You will understand that neither your lie about the Ramayana nor your heartfelt insult to Rama endears you to the Hindus. Your victimhood Then again, don't complain too much about that atrocious victimhood of yours. Compare your situation with the world around you: at the present rate of exclusion for dissidents, with even Nobel Prize winners sacked from their posts for wrongthink, you are very fortunate to have a secure US university chair and the support from your institution. Your enemies are not among the power-wielders whose actions have consequences for your career; they only consist of people you already looked down on, and who have no power to hurt you in any way. They only have foul but impotent words to trade, not good enough for turning your colleagues against you, let alone force your employer to sack you or all other employers to shun you. Even their so-called “death threats” are but verbal outbursts, ten a penny, not the kind of warning that would be given by a genuine revenge killer who means business. There are quite a few people who face direr consequences for what they have said. The Satanic Verses affair in 1989 with death threats against Salman Rushdie and effective assaults on his translators and supporters (including a non-lethal knife attack on a Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz), assaults on the Danish Mohammed cartoonists and the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo editorial board in 2015 showed that the West is not immune from the repression against candid freethinkers. But the problem is far more tangible in the erstwhile Third World. Assuming you are not racist, you won’t look down on those cases just because the “offending” writers weren’t white, right? Recent murders of dissident writers took place in Bangladesh, Nigeria, India and other countries. On Krishna Janmasthami, a Muslim thought it funny to lampoon Krishna in a cartoon, bad in taste but not illegal. (This part you may not find in the general media, where an iron rule is that reporting of Hindu-Muslim confrontations must hide away any Muslim initiative and only start when Hindus react, as if a history of WW2 were to start on D-Day with the Anglo-American “aggression” against Nazi-defended Europe.) A Dalit Hindu reacted in a civilized way: not with rioting but with a counter-cartoon, viz. on Mohammed. Since the local Muslim grievance brigade couldn’t find the ad hoc cartoonist at once, they hit him in the next best way: they attacked the house of his relatives, including a Congress MLA, and set it on fire. To top it all, as punishment for being the target of a murder attempt, not the criminal attackers but the “offending” Hindu was arrested and jailed for “triggering” violence, and in the secularist media he was denounced and lampooned rather than becoming the beneficiary of solidarity. Now if all that had happened to you, with your family home set on fire and you yourself rewarded with jail time, then you would be in a position to complain. So, before you start drama-queening and throwing allegations around, I suggest you imagine going through his ordeal. What a privilege, merely having to imagine it. [Postscript 27 August 2022: the last three months have seen seven Jihadi murders of Hindus who had merely tweeted their support for Nupur Sharma, ex-BJP spokeswoman who had been sacked by the Islam-appeasing BJP for truthfully quoting Islamic scripture. This was the implementation of an Urdu slogan faithfully summarizing Islamic law: Gustāx-i-rasūl kī ek hī sazā: sar tan se judā, “Insulting the Prophet has only one punishment: separating head from trunk”. Time to face up to your privilege that you don’t have to face such fate.] Yours is a luxury problem, and your fury about it will come across as quite pubescent among those who have suffered real exclusion, real cancel culture, real death threats, and in some cases actual attempts on their lives, failed or successful. Thus, you end your paper waxing indignant about having to censor your acknowledgments section in order to protect your informers from reprisals by vigilantes. Well, for thirty years now it’s been a routine for me to consider whom to acknowledge, as I have found out that your Hindu-bashing tribe is very vindictive and unforgiving of dissidence, and this not through impotent tweets (or through the ephemeral blackfacing of a victim you mention, an informer of James Laine’s anti-hagiography Shivaji), but through very consequential exclusions, seconded by a non-committed but intimidated and therefore compliant bourgeoisie. Why they have an aversion for you But alright, let’s commiserate: it is no fun being the target of hate mail. Before evaluating it as morally wrong, or at least contrary to the gentlemanly behaviour that I was taught, let us first note that for a Hindu nationalist, it is also strategically wrong. Your camp can get away with all kinds of misbehaviour, for you will always be shielded by the establishment and the mainstream media. Hindus, by contrast, are in the middle of an uphill battle; they cannot afford mistakes, or anything that could be used against them. It is also very counterproductive: instead of a debate on your Aurangzeb thesis, which for their camp is eminently winnable, they have only provoked a wave of renewed indignation against Hindu nationalism, especially after the public has absorbed your version of their position. Whereas the Aurangzeb skeptics merely uphold an eminently reasonable account confirmed already by prominent historians like Jadunath Sarkar and RC Majumdar, now they find themselves criminalized in the dominant account as ill-behaved trolls. So, hate mail. This is, of course, assuming that it is genuine. Those who follow the news closely, know by now that the most conspicuous hate crimes are self-inflicted and fake. Those who follow it only vaguely are taken in by the initial scandal: front-page news and the ensuing, grimly serious panel discussions to burn the indignation against the alleged hate group into the minds of the audience. But when the truth next comes out, it is only a little article tucked away on page 13, if at all that. Some of the hate mail you cite, esp. your opening shot with a Holocaust photograph, is just too good to be true. In contemporary Western culture, Adolf Hitler is the hate figure par excellence, without competition, and so haters on both sides have their discourse full of him. But that is mostly to paint their enemies with the Hitler brush (so-called Godwins), and thus criminalize them as deeply as possible, as indeed you yourself try to do here and on other occasions; but not to identify themselves with him. And then of all the hateful things a Hindu could have thought up against you, your critic would have chosen to identify himself with Hitler and you with his victims? I hope you don’t mind some skepticism here. But then again, it is not altogether impossible: there are indeed some rare Hindu conspiracy thinkers who used to think up their own stories but who, ever since the internet, are swallowing Western intrigues about the 9/11 false flag operation (which actually exonerates Aurangzeb’s religion as the culprit), the illuminati-controlled “deep state”, or indeed “the Zionist world conspiracy”. So, lacking any more direct evidence, I will assume for now that your story is true. But it remains a strange aspect of your story that this troll called you a Jew. There are some Hindus who know of your Jewish descent, if only because you yourself regularly bring it up. Among American white Christians, with their vicarious guilt trip, it would immunize you from criticism (though not among your woke African-American and Muslim companions, many of whom are brazenly anti-Semitic themselves), and we know how sensitive you are to criticism. But most Hindus situate you in another group, and unlike the Jews, this is a group all of them do mistrust: the Christian missionaries. Indeed, in a Twitter debate about you, someone cursorily called you a Jew, and someone else restated the Hindu consensus: “She is not a Jew at all. Through marriage she belongs to a Baptist missionary family.” The subtlety of ethnic Jewry being distinct from religious Judaism, so that there are Jewish-born Christians, is lost on most Hindus. For them, your ethnic provenance is not important (though you wish you could have blamed their “hate” on that), but your subscribing to the missionary project is. Your actual religious adherence is unknown to me, but among Hindus, you ought to know you are reputed to be part of the Christian missionary lobby. Hindus often are not very clear about these Western denominational issues, e.g. Wendy Doniger was also often accused of Christian missionary links even after she had clarified that she is Jewish. Unlike your ethnic origins, with which Hindus have no quarrel (as Israeli ambassadors to India keep repeating: “the only country where the Jews were never persecuted”), your religious adherence amounts for them to a declaration of war. What have the Baptist missionaries done in the Northeast and other parts of India? Simple: they have destroyed the native religion to make way for Christianity. This is, of course, the obverse side of the coin in which all Christian missionaries take pride and which they gladly communicate to their home sponsors: that they have turned a village or a community Christian. [Postscript 27 August 2022: Once in the business of history denial, you have chosen to extend it to your own tribe, the Christian missionaries and their atrocities against Hindus e.g. “After whitewashing Aurangzeb, Audrey Truschke moves on to downplay the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa and atrocities committed against Hindus”, OpIndia, 6 August 2022] As our king Clovis was told by his baptism father upon his conversion from Paganism to Christianity in 496: “Burn what you worshiped and worship what you burned.” (This was actually Christian self-flattery playing at victimhood, viz. implying that the Pagans had tried to destroy Christianity the way Christianity had been busy destroying Paganism: though not true, this was a common psychological mechanism, viz. projection.) Similarly, Christian missionaries have gone to India to burn every sign of Hinduism: in the past literally, today figuratively, but at any rate to destroy the native religion and replace it with their own. This is really a declaration of war issued by the Christian camp, no way around it, and nothing even-handed about it. If the natives react, as the Odisha tribals did after the murder of the conversion-hindering Swami Lakshmanada and his four assistents in 2008, this is not “hate” but self-defence. But let us return to your Hitler anecdote, where we have assumed for now that what you claim is true. Even then there is not only what you say but also what you hide. Having had a ringside view of the Aurangzeb debate and the rhetorical habits of the Hindu nationalists for thirty years, I know it is a hundred times more common in this debate to hear Hitler mentioned to a very different effect than the one you bring up. The Hindu activists don’t equate themselves to Hitler, as you would like us to retain; on the contrary, they denounce Aurangzeb as a proto-Hitler, and consequently his whitewashers as Holocaust deniers avant la lettre. You do your best to keep your American audience in the dark about this well-attested fact, but in India, the likening of the Muslim atrocities on Hindus to the Holocaust is very common, and so is the likening of Aurangzeb to Hitler. Imagine one of your colleagues defending Hitler in all seriousness, and the indignation you would feel; well, that is what you look like to numerous Hindus. You allege that “Aurangzeb serves as a dog whistle for Hindu nationalists who invoke him to rile up anti-Muslim sentiments and violence”. The name Hitler definitely serves as a dog whistle in many situations, viz. as a call to hate every “new Hitler” of the moment. The hatred against Saddam Hussein or Moammar al-Qadhafi was powered by the indignation about Adolf Hitler’s crimes and it justified invasions, occupations and mass bombings; any doubt about these disastrous policies was derided as a “new Munich”. The regular likening of Narendra Modi to Hitler by the Indian and American Left is not so innocent either. When you regularly make Nazi comparisons, it is to spew hatred and add the extra force of the Nazi reference to it. But the fact that you are a certified hater doesn’t annul Hitler’s crimes; the Holocaust did take place. While your use of that historical reference is malafide, it nonetheless refers to real events. Likewise, whatever motives you ascribe to the Hindus, the reference to Aurangzeb's crimes is and remains correct. And denying them is like denying the Nazi crimes. You are a negationist. Why you don’t convince them To be sure, Aurangzeb was not all bad. By saying that, I break ranks with these numerous Hindus who tend to lose all nuance when his name is dropped. About Aurangzeb’s character, not much negative can be said. Alright, he dethroned his father and killed his elder brother, but so many rulers have done similar things (e.g. the Buddhist emperor Ashoka also killed his brother and many other relatives, generals and ministers to grab the throne for himself) that we will look the other way for now. But unlike his hedonistic and drug-addicted father and grandfather, he was a pious and ascetic man, qualities which Hindus tend to applaud. He chided his father for wasting tax-payers’ money on what Aldous Huxley was to call the “expensive vulgarity” of the Taj Mahal, and gave the good example by earning his own living with making skull-caps and calligraphing copies of the Quran. He also did charity, even in his last will, for his hunger-stricken subjects, or at least the Muslims among them. He was to his own mind a do-gooder in the good sense of the term. Far too often, Hindus attack his character as the reason for his thousandfold temple destructions and his atrocities against the Sikh Gurus. But there is no reason for personalizing the issue, not in the demonizing sense nor in the psychobabble sense of: “Oh, what a paradox: he was a pious man, but also a bigot.” No, his asceticism and his bigotry were not contrasting tendencies, they could be traced to one and the same trait: his commitment to his religion. If that religion had been Hinduism, a pious man like he would still have been inclined to tyaj, to renunciation, but he would have had no reason for intolerance. By contrast, now that his religion was Islam, which e.g. encouraged the inter-Muslim charity that he practised, he was also bigoted and actively intolerant against Unbelievers, at least as soon as he “got religion”. I support attempts by historians to question the received wisdom: historiography in practice is an ongoing revision of the past. You could for example distinguish between different phases of Aurangzeb’s life. In his last years (he died at 91) he had become frail, introspective and full of doubts about his own record; gone was his self-righteousness. Not that he had started feeling for the Hindus, but he repented an unforeseen consequence of his anti-Infidel policies: they had provoked rebellions and thus shaken a hitherto stable Muslim empire. Even towards the Hindus, he was no longer as fierce as he used to be: his invitation to Guru Govind Singh for talks at the court, if not a trap, was more conciliatory than what he had done to the Guru in earlier years (cfr. infra). So there is nothing wrong in principle with your second look at Aurangzeb’s record. Only, an inspection of the data fails to support your whitewash. These unflattering data have not gone away ever since historians Jadunath Sarkar and RC Majumdar drew their less Aurangzeb-friendly conclusions. The Hindu reaction Some of your fans ask why, 4 years after the Aurangzeb publication, no scholarly refutation has been written yet. My position is that, in spite of the reasons that follow, a booklet in refutation is worth being written as a source of ready reference. It need not be bulky for, contrary to what your friends assume, there is little hard evidence in your book, nor even attempts thereto. It is mostly bluff about how generous Aurangzeb was, and exercises in avoiding the extant hard evidence of the opposite. Nor are your rhetorical tricks very sophisticated: whoever has followed the earlier Ayodhya debate can see through this standard secularist rhetoric right away. Admittedly, many of your critics are equally unsophisticated. Yet there is a simple remedy for this problem. Hotheads are not leaders: militant types, instead of staging their own impotent and counterproductive verbal attacks on you and your ideological tribe, would rather have rallied around their champion,-- if there had been one. That champion in this case is whoever takes the trouble of refuting your thesis in a counter-book, full of proper quotes and references. This is what Vishal Agarwal did against Wendy Doniger’s unjustly famous book The Hindus, An Alternative History: write an equally hefty counter-book detailing Doniger’s numerous errors of fact and symptoms of bias: The New Stereotypes Of Hindus In Western Indology (CreateSpace 2015). Hindu historians qualified to refute your work are just not sufficiently impressed with it, having seen variations on it before. I am not going to do it either, because in my life I don’t want to spend much time anymore on a simple topic like Islam. Everything about its theology and a lot about its history has already been said (partly by me), I leave it to a younger generation of historians to earn their spurs by filling the gaps remaining in Islamic history, before graduating to more interesting topics in their turn. Scanning your book, genuine historians soon notice that its claim of giving a fresh look into primary sources and thus overturning the extant consensus on Aurangzeb’s fanaticism is only bluff. They know that primary sources attest thousands of demolitions and now see only rhetoric in your book that cannot possibly be a match for them. There is no more direct documentary evidence than Aurangzeb’s own firmāns (decrees) for temple demolitions, and no more direct evidence in archaeology than the extant temple ruins resulting from these firmans. Your bluff cannot possibly overrule them. Thus, of Saqi Mustaid Khan’s chronicle Ma’asīr-i Ālamgīrī, you randomly claim “a noted tendency to exaggerate the number of temples demolished by Aurangzeb” (p.108), but you carefully hide that number, which is thousands upon thousands, since it is so extremely different from your own “at most a few dozen” (p.100) or even “just over a dozen” (p.107, following Richard Eaton); readers might get suspicious about your cavalier treatment of primary sources. So, a few publications refuting your thesis have finally seen the light of day. VS Bhatnagar’s book Emperor Aurangzeb and Destruction of Temples, Conversions and Jizya (Literary Circle, Jaipur 2017) was written before your name became a household name in India, and published almost simultaneously with your book. It doesn’t address your specific claims, it addresses Aurangzeb’s record that you make claims about. And from Aurangzeb’s own Court Chronicles, it cites many more temple destructions than you would even acknowledge as possible. It wipes your book away without even mentioning it. A long list of certified temple destructions and other acts of persecution was promptly given by Dimple Kaul and TrueIndology: “Aurangzebs tyranny and bigotry cannot be whitewashed. A counterview”, First Post, 6 May 2017. You had no answer. Therefore you were challenged on Twitter on historical specifics by TrueIndology. So you blocked him, then claimed that he had run away from the debate, and took the worn-out pose of pulling academic rank. Like a sophomore and unlike an accomplished scholar, you avoided the actual controversy by merely boasting about your having (and he not having) an academic post. A real scholar would have developed a healthy skepticism of his colleagues’ pretences and of his own knowledge’s limitations. You added insult to injury by alleging that he did not have the academic level to meet you in the debate from which you had blocked him. Details in “Five cases where TrueIndology exposed Audrey Truschke”, MyVoice/OpIndia, 18 April 2018. Not about the evidence itself but about your highly colonial attitude during the debate, Pawan Pandey wrote: “Dr. Audrey Truschke, western Indologists and their hidden motives”, First Post, 23 September 2020. In your woke circles this ought to carry some weight. It is indeed remarkable that the heralds of “decolonization” evince a completely colonial attitude to Hindus who take their own decolonization seriously. Busy-body, know-it-all, telling them what is best for themselves, even teaching them how to decolonize. Among Western Indologists, you, maybe not as a controversial person (“many of my colleagues associate me with public controversy, and I must now contend with my reputation as a troublemaker.”), but at least as an anti-Hindu campaigner, enjoyed a lot of sympathy, the guaranteed reward for any position that irritates Hindus. But even there no one could help you with supportive documents that simply weren’t to be found in the Aurangzeb files. [Postscript, 27 August 2022: Specifically in reaction to your work are: • François Gautier: “Why the fascination for Aurangzeb ? », Sangam channel, 2020; plus the Aurangzeb exhibitions at his Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum in Pune. • “Aurangzeb destroyed thousands of Hindu temples; no, he didn’t rebuild any”, MyIndiaMyGlory, 15 January 2021. • Neeraj Atri: “Aurangzeb: Sufi or tyrant”, Sangam channel, 15 April 1921. • Aabhas Maldahiyar: “Audrey Truschke, stop glorifying killers of Hindus”, Australia Today, 5 August 2021. • Aditya Kuvalekar (Prof., Univ. Essex): interview on Aurangzeb by Arihant Pawariya, Vaad channel, 28 August 2021. • Sandeep Balakrishna: “How Acharya Jadunath Sarkar wrote the majestic volumes of the History of Aurangzeb”, Dharma Dispatch, 23 April, 2022. • Sandeep Balakrishna: “Here it is: a ready reckoner of Aurangzeb’s industrial-scale temple destructions. A partial list of Hindu temples destroyed by the Mughal king Aurangzeb”, Dharma Dispatch, 23 May 2022. • Saurabh D Lohogaonkar: Whitewashing Tyrant, Distorting Narrative, EvencePub, Delhi, July 2022. • Saurabh D Lohogaonkar: “Whitewashing tyrant, distorting narrative”, Sangam channel, July 2022. • Saurabh D Lohogaonkar: “‘Aurangzeb – Whitewashing Tyrant, Distorting Narrative’: New book debunks distortions around the Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb”, OpIndia, 7 August 2022.] The Dhimma Seeing through your twisting of history doesn’t even require a thorough investigation of primary sources, the distortions can be of a general nature, immediately recognizable, e.g.: “Beginning in 1669, Aurangzeb levied the jizya on most non-Muslims in the empire in lieu of military service”. (p.88) This is a very common refrain among apologists: that non-Muslims were not really discriminated against, since Muslims had to render military service just as non-Muslims had to pay jizya. No, serving in the army was prized, because it meant being part of the ruling group, and gave access to the spoils of war. Often it also wasn’t mandatory military service but volunteer armies, with the common characteristic of excluding non-Muslims. In many societies, bearing arms is a privilege of the in-group, forbidden to oppressed groups. Later, Muslim regimes also induced non-Muslims into their armies, most notably the Christian-born Jannissaries in the Ottoman empire, but only after converting and indoctrinating them. Your attempt to whitewash this exclusion of non-Muslims from the army is not so innocent, certainly not for a historian. Under the Dhimma rules for non-Muslims, a non-negotiable rule was that it was forbidden to them to bear arms: this was not a favour to them, a relief from military service, but an element of their exclusion from power. Yours is a projection of modern equations, with conscripts unable to hope for more than to come home alive from the war, therefore trying to dodge the draft, whereas Islamic law provided the soldiers with the right to plunder. As you certainly know (though the trolls besieging you may not), the projection of modern states of affairs onto an ancient world where they didn’t obtain, is the cardinal sin in historiography. Let me remind you: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Anyway, the importance of this passage is that you yourself indicate a cut-off year, 1669. Until then, Aurangzeb largely abided by the compromise instituted by Akbar: the Moghul empire would be a Muslim empire, but less Muslim than empire, avoiding sources of fractiousness such as an all too open oppression that would provoke revolts. It had been decided on because Akbar wanted to get ethnic and sectarian lobbies within the Muslim ruling class off his back by attracting Hindu cooperation, and had more or less been continued by Jahangir and Shah Jahan. They profited from it, for instead of suppressing rebellions they could invest in the economy and in luxuries. Initially, Aurangzeb also continued this policy, and when he later strayed from it, aggrieved parties would remind him of it. But by 1669, he “got religion”, started to observe the Islamic rules more strictly, and therefore got harsher on the Pagans and their idolatry. As proof of his non-fanaticism, you cite a firman from 1659 prohibiting his men from further harassing the Brahmins of Benares. True, but that was still the period of Akbar’s compromise, not yet affected by Aurangzeb’s later Islamic radicalization. It cannot serve as refutation of his later iconoclastic commands. You write about this early period, when Aurangzeb resolved to walk in the footsteps of his “great ancestors”: “In Aurangzeb’s eyes Islamic teachings and the Mughal tradition enjoined him to protect Hindu temples, pilgrimage destinations, and holy men.” (p.102) It is only in your own words that the Moghul practice of turning a blind eye to the flourishing of idolatry, the single worst sin according to Islam, is “Islamic”; you never manage to quote any Moghul as saying this. And indeed, tolerating Hindu practices was part of Akbar’s compromise, not of Islamic teachings; orthodox figures like Ahmad al-Sirhindi saw through it and condemned it. But it was a success formula, it allowed for a peaceful prosperous empire, so Akbar’s successors didn’t really question it, until Aurangzeb did, not provoked by anything the Hindus had done, but convinced by Islamic teachings that wouldn’t be side-lined forever. At the end of his life, Aurangzeb also admitted the mistake which you try so hard to deny, viz. his anti-Hindu policies. This was not because he had suddenly developed pro-Hindu feelings, but because he realized that he had thereby provoked rebellions and thus destabilized a hitherto successful Muslim empire. On balance, he had rendered a disservice to Islam, not because he had disobeyed Islam (as apologists would like us to conclude, arguing that negative features like terrorism and iconoclasm “aren’t the real Islam”) but because in the real world, Islam has to co-exist with other forces, which ended up punishing a too principled loyalty to Islamic precepts. The Sikh Gurus and Aurangzeb Another significant fact about your Aurangzeb book that your more literate critics have noticed, is the absence of any mention of the Sikh Gurus contemporaneous with him: Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Govind Singh. When you ask common Hindus what the name Aurangzeb means to them, it is usually two things: his massive destruction of temples, among which they will notably mention the Krishna Janmabhumi and the Kashi Vishvanath, and his cruelty to the Gurus. He had Guru Tegh Bahadur tortured to death for his refusal to convert to Islam, and he had all four of Guru Govind Singh’s sons killed. Your cosy presentation is simply irreconcilable with what the Gurus suffered at Aurangzeb’s hands. But maybe you mean that those narrations, so inconvenient to your own thesis, are untrue? Your name as a bold historian, without fear of controversy, would really have been made if you had chosen to refute these common narratives about the Gurus, and succeeded in doing so convincingly. It would have made you even more hated, but if your refutation were true, the historians’ admiration would have been assured. However, that is not what you chose to do. Instead, your entire Aurangzeb book does not mention the Gurus at all. It mentions the Sikhs as such, the Sikh rebellions and Ranjit Singh’s kingdom, but strangely not those among them who had to deal directly with Aurangzeb. You can only make your thesis persuasive by being very selective in the primary material you consider: you simply leave out what doesn’t suit you. Very indirectly, though, you do mention Govind Singh. On p.152, you thank Heidi Pauwels (whom I personally knew in the 1980s when we were students at Leuven University) for organizing “the panels on Aurangzeb at the 2014 European Association for South-Asian Studies Conference, held in Zürich, Switzerland”. I attended those panels. They discussed several Hindi poets as writing in praise of Aurangzeb. Of course, many Soviet poets wrote in praise of Josef Stalin, and they’d better. (Your own case can be be compared with the foreign poets like Louis Aragon who, under no compulsion but through ideological blindness, equally wrote in praise of Stalin.) But their crowning exhibit in Aurangzeb’s favour was Guru Govind Singh’s letter to him, the Zafar Nama. In spite of its name, “victory letter”, this letter is here and there quite toadyist in contents. Thus, in order to get away with his message of refusing the emperor’s invitation to the court (calculating the risk of a trap involved), the Guru had to also include some diplomatic flattery: six verses out of a hundred and eleven. So yes, he praises Aurangzeb a bit. But it takes an Islamophile Indologist to read this as a genuine expression of what Govind thought about Aurangzeb. Any normal human being would, when told of what had transpired between those two in real life, have concluded that very obviously, for the Guru, Aurangzeb was the most hated man in the world. This was, after all, the killer of his father and all his four sons. Temple destructions Aurangzeb gave “two orders to destroy the Somanatha temple in 1659 and 1706 (the existence of a second order suggests that the first was never carried out).” (p.107) In the first year he was not so fired up with anti-Infidel zeal yet. He did get it destroyed, though, even at the fag end of his life when he supposedly regretted his anti-Hindu policies. “In 1672 Aurangzeb issued an order recalling all endowed lands given to Hindus and reserving all such future land grants for Muslims, possibly as a concession to the ulama. If strictly enforced, this move would have been a significant blow to Hindu and Jain religious communities, but historical evidence suggests otherwise. The new policy on land grants lacked implementation, especially in the more far-flung areas of the kingdom.” (p.105) In those days, distances counted for something. Officials in far-flung areas calculated that they could get away with taking bribes in return for a blind eye to the continuation of idolatry. Thus, the Jagannath temple in Puri survived a commandment for demolition in exchange for a huge bribe to the Moghul Governor, and when Aurangzeb insisted, it was closed down but still not destroyed. Plus, a military crisis in the Deccan with the Marathas distracted his attention to more pressing matters. That Islamic policies were not fully carried out as decreed by Aurangzeb, does not mean that there is a milder Islam, nor that he had moments of increased tolerance, merely that there exist other factors in the world except ideology. To sum up, you admit that “Aurangzeb also oversaw temple desecrations” and that “there were probably more temples destroyed under Aurangzeb than we can confirm”, adding an estimate: “perhaps a few dozen in total?” (p.107) That’s not what the sources suggest, but for humorous purposes it’s a cute proposal. You really set a new record in apologetics by repeatedly asserting that Aurangzeb not only destroyed temple, but also protected many. From whom did they need protection? No one else is known to have raided Hindu temples under his reign than he or his lieutenants. Anyway, your reasoning is a great hint for trial lawyers: “Yes, Your Honour, the facts have been proven, my client did indeed commit these murders. But! Given the far larger number of people he left alive, all those people he could have murdered if he’d really had the murderer’s nature in him, you will consider his case benevolently.” The figures in historian Sita Ram Goel’s provisional list of nearly two thousand demolished temples in India (Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, part 1, 1990) has been around for more than thirty years already, a standing challenge to your negationist school. No attempt is in evidence to falsify even a single one of all those straightforward claims, not in others’ work nor in yours. By contrast, your claims about Aurangzeb have been challenged, both before you made them, and after. The Ayodhya debate and Indology The success of genuine scholarship in the Ayodhya debate, with the humiliating implosion of the anti-temple “Eminent Historians” on the witness stand during the Ayodhya trial (documented by Meenakshi Jain in her two Ayodhya books, and by Anuradha Dutt and S. Kumar: The Restoration of Ayodhya, 2020, but if you only follow the media, which have kept the lid on this episode, you may not even know about it), has made Hindu activists more self-confident. Around 1990, their Eminences rode a very high horse, making Ayodhya into the last stronghold of secularism and themselves its brave defenders. They already bit the dust in the Government-organized scholars’ debate of 1991 but were secure in the knowledge that, thanks to their captive media’s monopoly on the bottle-neck of the information-flow from India, the India-watchers worldwide would never hear about it, and that the few possible exceptions would not be willing or able to strike a discordant note. In India they continued to dominate the opinion sphere for more than a decade, forcing the political class to toe their line. Yet, their bluff against the scholarly evidence brought together by the scholars (only one of whom was linked to the Sangh, archaeologist SP Gupta) in 1991, gradually added to later and grandly confirmed by the Court-ordered ASI excavations of 2003, was scrutinized by the UP High Court. On the witness stand, each of them (well, the really big names managed to avoid questioning) collapsed and had to admit that their anti-temple posturing was based on no evidence at all. This is what will happen to you too in an authoritative scrutiny of your claims in favour of Aurangzeb and belittling the central passion of his life, the uprooting of Idolatry. The significance of the Ayodhya debate for the larger job of Indology and India-watching has so far been cleverly hidden. Here was a situation where practically the entire professional class was loudly proclaiming that there had never been a temple, lambasting little me for peddling a “Hindutva concoction”, yet being proven collectively wrong. After the High Court verdict of 2010 confirming the temple, two American professors privately congratulated me at the next Annual Conference of the American Academy of Religion; but nobody publicly apologized for misinforming the public on the basis of mere hearsay in their principal field of expertise. You also prove to be a worthy representative of Western Indology with your introductory sketch of India’s political landscape: “The BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, has controlled India’s central government since May 2014, and they have pursued an aggressive agenda of transforming India from a secular democracy welcoming of all faiths into a fascist state meant for martial-minded Hindus alone. During the last six years, anti-Muslim violence has risen sharply, freedom of the press has declined ruinously, and universities have been subjected to relentless assaults. History is a primary battleground for Hindu nationalists who want to rewrite India’s diverse past to justify their present-day oppression and violence, and historians like me get in their way.” This is indeed representative for the counterfactual image of India spread abroad by India-watchers and the media in the West. It is simply not true that the BJP has made India less secular or democratic, let alone “fascist”. While anti-Hindu violence has indeed risen (even more in Bangladesh, Pakistan and marginally the USA), the figures show that there has been no rise in anti-Muslim violence, on the contrary. In Indira Gandhi’s time there were street riots with thousands of victims; the Kalistani violence in the 1980s and early 1990s killed many thousands of Hindus (rarely mentioned in overviews of Indian communalism), many more than the death toll in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom by Congress secularists; Muslims committed an anti-Hindu pogrom in Godhra killing 59 Ayodhya pilgrims, thus triggering street riots killing some 200 Hindus and 900 Muslims. In recent street confrontations like over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019, such death toll had become unimaginable. The press is much freer than under Indira and continues its age-old number of attacking the Hindutva forces unfettered, then getting copied by the New York Times, the BBC and other media you take as Gospel. And no, the BJP had never rewritten the history textbooks. Indeed, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, a dyed-in-the-wool RSS man, declared on this question in 2018 that he was proud of never having changed a single chapter (“Not rewritten a single history chapter in 4 years: Javadekar”, India Today, 27 September 2018) ,-- an expression of the presently dominant ideology that your class hasn’t even noticed: BJP Secularism, distinctly focusing on burying its historical Hindu associations. This complete contrast between India’s reality and the fantasy world of the Indological analysis of the “communal” landscape could be laid at your door and summed up as mendaciousness, and that’s what many of your Hindu critics will certainly do. But I rather have the impression that, in spite of your self-flattery of being an attractor of controversy, you are essentially a herd animal merely swallowing and reproducing the dominant narrative peddled in your academic circles. Your performance as a university professor specialized in Indian communal episodes is dismal, but far from unique. To Hindu polemicists, I often have to point out that their view of the West suffers from anachronism, e.g. they explain the phenomenon of Hindu-bashing (with an infelicitous term: “Hinduphobia”) through the woke category of racism, flattering themselves as bold anti-colonial warriors. In reality, though racism was indeed very strong in the colonial period, anti-racism has meanwhile become the state religion in the West, and Hindu-bashing has other grounds than race. Proof: it does not extend to Indian Muslims or Christians, though they are of the same race. The reasons for Hindu-bashing are more complex than race, but lazy or conformistic minds will prefer the racial explanation. The India-watchers suffer from a similar anachronism. Numerous papers and books keep on appearing that explain the BJP’s policies in the 2020s through some quotes from RSS leader MS Golwalker’s book We, Our Nationhood Defined, written in 1938. In 1948 the police impounded all Hindutva publications (after the Mahatma murder), and Golwalkar himself forbade its republication afterwards. So 99,9% of Hindutva men have never read it (in publishing Golwalkar’s Collected Works in 2006, the RSS even left this book out, on the mendacious ground that Golwalkar had not been its writer), it is never quoted in BJP documents, yet your tribe pompously derives BJP policies from it. By contrast, the BJP’s real ideology, in which party members receive training, is called Integral Humanism (°1964). Because this sounds too innocuous, it is never even mentioned in most of the expert literature on Hindutva; as if the Labour Party were discussed without mentioning socialism. More generally, we could say that academic and media talk about the BJP has at its core of truth the Hindu party founded by Shyam Prasad Mookerjee in 1951, the way it was until his death in 1953. Back then it still aimed for a Hindū Rāṣṭra, but the Hindu content of its politics soon started decreasing. When party leader Deendayal Upadhyaya launched Integral Humanism, this was a correct move, presenting a kind of modern translation of the Hindu concept Dharma; but its main value for new leaders like Nana Deshmukh and AB Vajpayee was that it didn’t contain the word “Hindu”. Former party president Balraj Madhok protested against the party’s socialist and Nehruvian drift, and was thrown out. In 1977 the party merged into the new Janata Party, and when it was reconstituted in 1980 as the Bharatiya Janata Party, it shed its Hindu roots and the goal of Hindū Rāṣṭra. Significantly, it added a green strip to the party flag, an act of Muslim appeasement, the very thing the Jan Sangh had chided the Congress Party for. Then what about the Ayodhya movement, Hindu par excellence? This movement had been started by politicians of the Hindū Mahāsabhā and the Congress Party, and Congress PM Rajiv Gandhi worked towards the building of a new temple. But in 1989 the Eminent Historians came out with an Ayodhya statement that gave cold feet to middle-of-the-road politicians, and for two years the BJP captured the issue, using it to win the 1989 and 1991 elections, and then dropping it. The truth of the relation between the BJP and Hindu agitation was laid out clearly by BJP Justice Minister Arun Jaitley to the American Ambassador in 2004, when he dismissed it as merely an electoral ploy, immediately shelved after the elections. That is why (with the exception of MM Joshi’s clumsy rewriting of the history textbooks in 2002) neither Vajpayee nor Narendra Modi have fulfilled any item of the Hindu agenda. The seeming exception of the abolition of Kashmir’s privileged status (Art. 370) was only possible because this was formally not a religious issue, never mentioning the words Hindu and Muslim. Moreover, on the ground little has changed, contrary to promises, and stray Hindus are still being murdered there. You can check on social media that Hindus express their criticism of, or anger at, the Modi Government for its persistent betrayal of the Hindu cause. The future The political power equation that facilitates the partisan anti-scholarly conduct of your camp will not last forever. One day it will become feasible to do academic research on the strange phenomenon that an entire academic and mediatic guild has systematically disinformed the public about the communal situation in India, consistently for decades. Your own whitewash of Aurangzeb will serve as a significant piece of evidence. But don’t worry. It’ll take some more time (the BJP is not working on it), so you’ll have enjoyed your career and all the perks of your office. Nobody will be interested anymore in the yellowed pages of your negationist books. The dissertation about the India-watchers’ collective decades-spanning disinformation campaign will be read by the jury members and the fresh PhD’s mother, and then gather dust. After all, this is what has already happened: the false claim that the Ayodhya temple was a Hindutva concoction got exploded, yet the entire guild that ought to have been reduced to blushing and apologizing, managed to keep the news of its massive failure out of the information circuit. Conversely, the few of us who were proven right, will never be compensated for the slander, boycotts and cancelings we suffered. And speaking for myself, I also don’t believe in the retributive karma theory: no punishment in the next life for the negationists, no reward for those who held on to the historical truth against all odds. We’ll have to be satisfied with Benedict de Spinoza’s dictum: “Virtue is its own reward.” I certainly wouldn’t want to be in your shoes right now. But let’s not dramatize it. As an ex-Christian, I join you in your Christian belief in conversion. You can leave your negationism behind, it’s easy. From a sinner against the principles of historiography, you can redeem yourself. There will be lots of joy in heaven.
Read more!

Saturday, August 13, 2022

A Buddhist Ayodhya? The curious case of TN's Thalaivetti Muniyappan and secular discourse

(Swarajya, 15 August 2022) (from Wikimedia) During the Ayodhya controversy, the Eminent Historians and their supporters tried everything to counter the ever-mounting pile of evidence that there had been a Rama temple at the site. One stratagem was to claim the site had been (apart from vacant land, a secular building, a Shiva temple or whatever) a Buddhist place of worship. Actually, before the Islamic destruction, there had been quite a few Jaina and Buddhist places in Ayodhya, they were well-known, but the contentious site was not among them. Meanwhile, the archaeological excavations have confirmed that this was not a Buddhist site. But one failure is no reason for giving up. Indeed, now that the denial of Islamic temple destruction has lost all credibility, the attraction of turning Buddhism into a weapon for use in the secularist Jihad against Hinduism has only increased. Out of the blue, a press report appeared about a temple controversy most of us had never heard about, in the far-away Periyeri Village in the district of Salem, Tamil Nadu. The Madras High Court has decreed that the worshippers of Thalaivetti Muniyappan are to be deprived of their temple because the central Murti has been certified to have been a Buddha statue. So we learn in “Idol in Salem temple is of the Buddha, not Hindu deity: Madras High Court” (Prime Times, 2 August 2022); then confirmed in “Madras HC directs restoring temple in Salem to its original Buddhist character – Has an important precedent just been set?” (, 3 August 2022); and “Tamil Nadu's Thalaivetti Muniyappan Temple is Buddhist site, says Madras HC; halts further pooja” (First Post, 5 August 2022). So, no puja for the deity will henceforth be allowed. On Court order, the temple is secularized and entrusted to the Archaeological Survey of India, in expectation of a planned transfer to a local Buddhist society, presumably the Buddha Trust. The verdict is the result of a case filed in 2011 by a local Buddhist, P. Ranganathan, now deceased. The Court had the state’s Archaeological Department take a close look at the Murti, and it found, after cleaning away the sandal paste and turmeric, that it had the so-called Mahālakṣaṇas, the marks distinguishing a Buddha from ordinary mortals, such as elongated earlobes. It was seated on a lotus in ardhapadmāsana (half lotus pose) with its hands in dhyana-mudrā (meditation hand-pose). The High Court concluded that “the assumption of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department that it is a temple is no longer sustainable and the control must go into the hands of some other authority. (…) it will not be appropriate to permit the HR & CE Department to continue to treat this sculpture as Thalaivetti Muniappan. (…) treating the sculpture as that of Thalaivetti Muniappan would be against Buddhist doctrines.” Now, what to make of this? If you were to close a Shiva temple, you could cynically say to the deprived worshippers: “Go to another Shiva temple, there’s enough of them.” But Thalaivetti Muniyappan is a purely local deity. Closing his temple means depriving his worshippers of their focus of worship. Our knowledge of the law is a little vague, but is this even allowed to a Court of Law in a secular state? No question mark is needed when we look into this verdict in the light of the Places of Worship Act 1991, freezing the character of all places of worship as on 15 August 1947. The verdict flies in the face of this Act, it is blatantly illegal. And it opens the door to similar shifts: all the mosques that proudly show off their history of temple destruction by containing a part of the temple in their architecture (such as the already contentious Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi), could readily be forced to re-become Hindu, overnight. Back to this particular case. What exactly is the relation between Thalaivetti Muniyappan and the Buddha? We find more details in a Buddhist article about recovered Buddha statues in South India: “Ancient Buddha Statues of Salem and Dharmapuri” by Yogi Prabodha Jñana and Yogini Abhaya Devi (21 October 2020, published on the website). It explains: “About a hundred years ago, someone found this broken Buddha statue with its body and head separated. The statue also had its nose broken. Someone affixed the head to the body but not in a proper way. The affixed figure looked odd, with its head slanting to the left. The nose that was added to the statue didn’t come out well. The outcome looked a little wrathful, unlike the usual Buddha statues. The eyes were also later painted in a wrathful way. So people consider it as some fierce local god and worship him that way with animal sacrifice. Thalaivetti means with a cut head.” And Muniyappan is a Tamil way of saying: Muni Baba. This is not some mischievous Brahminical cover-up from Ambedkarite mythology, but a very open reference to a well-known Muni: Siddhartha Gautama, the Shakya-muni (“hermit of the Shakya nation”), after his Awakening also called the Buddha (“awakened one”). So this deity is “the Muni with a cut head”. After his material recomposition, he looked wrathful, different from the standard Buddha, so he got a somewhat distinct persona. That’s how it goes in polytheist cultures, like that of these Tamil villagers. This is something the secularists in the media, the Courts and the Dravidianist parties won’t understand. Illiterate in religious matters, through their English-language textbooks they borrow some basic concepts from the Christian worldview. There, the word “religion” means a box-type division of the ideological landscape, excluding any other. Thus, when the Heathen Frankish king Clovis converted to Christianity in 496, his baptism father commanded him: “Now burn what you worshipped.” No compromise or half-way stance is possible, you have to burn all bridges with your former religion. This view was unknown to, of all people, the Buddha, who recommended the continuation of the existing sacred sites, festivals and pilgrimages, and who integrated the Vedic gods and Rishis in his discourse. (The very first “conversion” to Buddhism, and where the converts were to “burn what they worshipped”, was BR Ambedkar’s in 1956; though most of his followers continued to have a variety of Hindu gods on their house-altar.) But it was this view of religion that informed the unforgiving Christian and Muslim policy of iconoclasm: annihilate all reminders of Paganism. Thus, the Islamic destruction of Buddhist monuments from Bamiyan to Nalanda originated in the conviction that the true religion could not tolerate any expression of a rival religion. That attitude, well-attested in Muslim history vis-à-vis Hinduism (including Buddhism), is then projected by the secularists onto Hinduism, or more precisely “Brahmanism”, vis-à-vis Buddhism. After all, “all religions are basically the same”, as even many unthinking Hindus will parrot after them. Well, no, that breezy equation does not stand up to scrutiny. Thus, when the Muslim armies appeared in Nalanda Buddhist University, it was all over in no time; this after 17 centuries when the Buddhist institutions had flourish unperturbed under Hindu rule for 17 centuries. Is that no difference? Let’s listen to another passage in this Buddhist article: In the nearby town of Thiyaganur, the villagers worship a “majestic Buddha statue of 6ft height recovered from a field. We found it placed inside a beautiful meditation hall made by the collective effort of the villagers. A farmer donated the land, and the villagers pooled in money to build the meditation hall in 2013. They also constructed a lotus seat inside and installed the Buddha on that. Here, the Buddha is regarded according to his teachings and not as a God. This new home for the ancient statue exemplifies how to preserve ancient statues most beneficially.” Look, that is how Hindus treat icons: they don’t break them, they worship them. They don’t even ask questions about its identity, and the difference between the formal name “Buddha” and the descriptive name “Thalaivetti Muniyappan” is inconsequential to them. It is nonetheless on this flimsy difference that the whole verdict depends. It is now secularist discourse (and the Court verdict is entirely part of it) to claim that the Islamic treatment of other people’s gods merely follows an existing Hindu practice, equally intolerant. If so, then it shouldn’t be difficult to find numerous cases of Muslims installing statues of Shiva, Krishna or indeed the Buddha for worship. Any takers?
Read more!

Talageri’s RigVeda

(9 July 2022) This article is a very brief comment on the main position of Shrikant Talageri in his review of Jijith Nadumuri Ravi’s digestion of Talageri’s over-all Out-of-India thesis, and on Talageri’s sharpened position on the chronological layeredness of the RigVeda. Both can be found on Talageri’s blogspot: talageri.blogspot. com, on 19 Aug 2020: “The chronological gulf between the old RigVeda and the new RigVeda”; and on 10 March 2022: “A review of Rivers of the RigVeda by Jijith Nadumuri Ravi”. For all the details and references, see there. Talageri emphasizes throughout his work that the RigVeda (let alone the other Vedas and the ancillary literature) contains successive layers, as already pointed out by the late-19-century US and German Orientalists Edward Hopkins c.q. Hermann Oldenburg. This then allows for a chronological classification: with Family Books (2-7) at the ancientmost top, the books 1, 8, 9, 10 at the end, and further subdivisions like books 3, 6, 7 at the older extreme and book 10 at the youngest end, centuries later than the others. So far this seems uncontroversial enough, right? For whomever sees the Vedas as a key to history, a repository of factual data, this type of chronological division is a matter of course. We may still differ on which part precedes which other part, but it is only logical that in such a diverse corpus, age is only one of the factors of diversity. Yet it turns out that two very different groups object to it. One group is very large and its objections already old and deep-seated. The other group is small and its objections opportunistic. Millions of Hindu traditionalists feel very uneasy about this tinkering with their Vedas. Better to leave them in one piece. Even when they learn that for Talageri, this analysis of the Vedas happens to contribute to the demonstration of an east-to-west gradient, with the older parts proving more easterly and the later more westerly, thus disproving the Veda-belittling Aryan Immigration scenario, they still feel uncomfortable with it. In the traditional view, India was central; in the newer Immigrationist view, it was only an expansion zone of a culture centred outside of it; but in Talageri’s view it regains that centrality, or is at any rate freed from the stigma of being a foreign dependency. All true, yet they would rather be free from that modernist Immigrationism, in which they had never seriously believed anyway, without this self-abnegating exercise of cutting up their own scriptures. So, Talageri receives occasional hate mail from traditionalists, not seriously threatening but still unpleasant. Discovering temporal layers in the text means that it was not created at one go. Instead, it implies that the Old Books were already in existence while the final Book 10 was still totally unheard of. For ordinary creations this is but normal but is this also true for the Vedas? Well, the Vedic Sages themselves would not have been uptight about it. They formulated their poems as their own creation, of very human and temporal origin, directed to rather than received from the gods. They were neither believers in nor preachers of the entirely post-Vedic doctrine of a supernatural or Apaurusheya origin. But sclerotic adherents to the post-Vedic and quasi-Quranic doctrine of a divine origin, find it more logical that the Vedas were created all at the same time in heaven, waiting for an eternity until a Mantradrashta, a “seer of Vedic verses’, would captivate them. Just as the Quran has been waiting since creation until God cared to send it down through the Prophet. This belief seems to be a common weakness of the religious mind, which in Islam has made it into the core of the theology and in Hinduism at least in the customary assumptions of many. One can imagine that as the RigVeda got completed, enjoying the prestige of public declamations, institutions guaranteeing transmission, and a surrounding culture of auxiliary sciences (linguistics, astronomy, mathematics), people lifted it ever higher into the sky and started divinizing it. That is why many Hindus insist that there are no historical data in the RigVeda: no personal names, no rivers or mountains, certainly no names of battles. Then again, it is not a history book, but any book will off-hand give some details about its circumstances. This way, the RigVeda is, through its landscape names and technological level, fauna and flora, unambiguously an Indian Bronze Age text. This realization has percolated rather widely, and many traditionalists hold an unstable half-way position. Another consequence is that many Hindus like to trace their own Hindu Dharma back to the RigVeda. They think everything Hindu proceeds from the Veda. One example is yoga, which Western scholars deduce from other, older sources, rightly or wrongly. Here, Talageri strongly disagrees: the Vedic tradition is a creation of the Bharata clan, itself part of the Paurava tribe, itself part of the “five tribes” (two of whom he leads out of India where they become the ancestors of many nations), itself part of the people of the great patriarch Manu, a fundamental Hindu by any account. That is why he objects to Ravi’s attempts to derive all Hindu communities through migration from a Vedic Northwest. This goes down well with Veda-centric Hindus, but there is no indication of it. Not only is there no reason to assume that India was ever empty and in need of migrations, but there was no Vedic conspiracy behind all the Hindu sects either, regardless of where they are. Alright, so much for one very large demographic reluctant to accept the RigVeda as a historical product, resulting from intense human activity in Bronze-Age Northwest India. Another group tries to profit from the common belief in oneness of the entire RigVeda. Consider the chronological implications of the statement that “the RigVeda contains evidence of the spoked wheel”, with spoked wheels not predating, say 2300 BCE. Many still use this as an argument against a high chronology: the book can’t be older that this terminus postquem. So, Talageri makes a distinction: those references are in the tenth Mandala, which as the RigVeda’s youngest book may indeed be limited to that time bracket; but it can’t constrain the earlier books, which may well be a thousand years older. That is incompatible with the Aryan Immigration paradigm, hence the desire among some Immigrationists, otherwise modern and rational, to pretend that the Rigveda is a unit and that conclusions about its last book also count for its first book. Well, that sums it up. Scholars reluctant to face the revisionist consequences, will not keep the acceptance of history within and behind the RigVeda off for very long. The objections of the traditionalists may be a tougher nut to crack. But that has never prevented Shikant Talageri from being candid about where the evidence is leading us.
Read more!