19 April 2009

A Brief History of Hindutva - 1

A Brief History of Hindutva

For almost the whole of the second millennium, India was invaded, conquered and ruled by people from other lands – the Turks, Mughals and British – who brought with them their violence and intolerance. During this period India, and her soul – Hinduism, was bruised, battered and broken. Indians were subjected to a thousand years of atrocities, massacres, persecution and oppression. The result was they forgot their true greatness, their true history and their true identity. In short, they forgot who they were. Indian society limped along, barely surviving and holding on to its traditions. Then, in the 19th century, when the night seemed to be at its darkest, an awakening began. Seers appeared, telling Indians who they really were and reminding them of their true genius. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Dayanand Saraswati were the pioneers. They were followed by Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh. They all said the same thing. Their message was very simple:

"We are Hindus. Ours is the oldest surviving civilisation on earth. Our way of life is 5000 years old. For almost 4000 years, Hindu civilisation was the greatest civilisation in the world – having attained the heights of both material prosperity and spiritual progress. But we didn't keep our wealth to ourselves; we shared it with the world. We gave the world our knowledge and culture. We gave the world our philosophy, science, mathematics, art and literature. We gave the world lofty thoughts and noble ideals. For centuries this sacred land, Mother India, was the light of the world. But now she is in chains. And you, her children, have forgotten your true nature. Arise, o lions! You are descendants of gods and goddesses, sages and saints, kings and warriors. Arise, free your Motherland! Rediscover your true spirit and lost genius. Take your Mother to the heights of glory she once commanded. And be the shining light to the world that you always were. This is your role, this is your duty, this is your destiny."

Indians woke up and heeded the call. But the awakening was partial. The people did start fighting for their country's freedom. But the other half of the message – the message of Hindu nationalism – was ignored by the leaders of the freedom struggle. They were city-bred lawyers, products of the British education system. They were Macaulay's children: "a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect". They didn't want to have anything to do with the word "Hindu". Only one leader, Tilak, embraced Hindu nationalism.

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