Guarding our legacy

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India’s history and culture have been constantly under threat over the centuries. However, the new India is proud of its history, culture and heritage and will do everything possible to retain it despite the surge from motivated lobbies, writes Gajanan Khergamker.

It has been widely reported in sections of the media, that Lord Macaulay said the following about India in 1835 in British Parliament.

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

Now, that he said the above or not is hugely debatable, with sections of the media putting up statistics and figures to quash the claim. That apart, the fact remains that the British, like the Mughals and the Portuguese did perpetrate ‘conquests of sections of the subcontinent’ that went on to be known as India. That a conquest of any land would be incomplete without the ruin and rape of its culture, people, place, heritage and common property is also a given. The British have, all over the world, colonialised masses using the same means, not too diverse from the others like say, Genghis Khan and Alexander. But, given that the methods of invasion were mostly bloodless, ‘trade’ was the front and the ‘apparent interest’ propped up by the British through the East India Company, the modes of invasion were new, and the narrative made permissible, even enviable, sanctioned by the new ‘rules of history’ laid down by the British.
So, the old gave way to the new and structures were brought down; religions were classified, and Christianity given the edge through legislation that permitted missionaries to spread their faith with wild abandon, even as the others were restricted in practice and reach.

Why, Somnath Temple, which witnessed myriad attacks and subsequent ruination over the years, was finally rebuilt in 1951, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad performed the consecration ceremony with the words “The Somnath Temple signifies that the power of creation is always greater than the power of destruction.”
The present-day construction of the Somnath Temple was completed on December 1, 1995, and the-then President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, dedicated it to the nation. The Shree Somnath Trust even recently declared that non-Hindus will not be allowed to enter the temple premises. The Chairman of the Shree Somnath trust is former Chief Minister of Gujarat Keshubhai Patel and its trustees include Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, former Chief Secretary of Gujarat P. K. Laheri and former Deputy Prime Minister of India Mr. L.K. Advani. There could be no better example of how India’s culture and heritage has been systematically attacked and subverted by cultures to assert their identity. Now, all of that would stop.

India remains resilient
The Elephanta Island, known in scriptures as Gharapuri, houses rock carvings of Lord Shiva that were systematically destroyed by the Christian Portuguese soldiers who purposely defaced and damaged the cave temples by using the surfaces as a firing range and target practice.

History is often subjectively portrayed to suit one’s convenience. So, contrarian writer Wendy Doniger maintains that “it was the Marathas who tried to remove that plaster and they caused damage to the artwork in the 17th century.” And, as is the case, there are takers for that theory too. Takers do not resist the theory claiming it to be foreign and mischievous in face of a long-existing theory even backed with historical evidence of the Portuguese having demolished Hindu temples and structures wherever they went.

Try Goa, for instance, the theory of proselytising 15th Century Portuguese colonials who have been historically known to have destroyed Hindu temples across the state was rubbished by the Roman Catholic seminary and associated leaders who claim that by painting pre-colonial Goa as Hindu territory, “there is a direct attempt to turn the historical facts about conversion against the Church and the Christians of today”.
“This political motive of appropriating Goan history is highly reductionist and distortionist in its approach. I have described these attempts as Hindu-ology. In fact, even the word Hindu does not exist in the entire sixteenth century Indo-Portuguese historiography,” said Fr. Victor Ferrao, a dean at the Roman Catholic seminary in a paper, titled The Other Orientalism and the Challenge and Opportunities for the Church in Goa.

Goa, India’s smallest state, has thousands of structures that are associated with Hindu mythology and history. Right from a cave that the Pandavas used during exile at Keri Beach in North Goa, down to Petroglyphs (rock carvings) that are 40,000 years old located at Usgalimal in South Goa, the state is on the way to earning the fame she deserves. And, not for cheap alcohol and drug-laden beaches, sadly associated almost always with Goa.

India’s history and culture have been constantly under threat over the centuries. And, rightly so. The world’s oldest culture isn’t exactly easy to dismiss. It has resisted a surge of demolitions, deadly genocides from the very beginning of time ranging from Muslim attacks to the Jallianwala Baug massacre, and the Bangladesh war. India has remained resilient and every attempt to crush the nation has met with failure.

So, with the recent attention the Taj Mahal has received following motivated propaganda about its selective elimination from the list of Uttar Pradesh’s must-visit sites and the uproar that came along with it, coupled with the insistence of Taj Mahal being as ‘Indian’ and any attempts to delink it from India’s history would be met with vitriolic fervour, is not surprising in the least.

Why, breaking the law, even in contempt of a High Court ruling to prevent coverage and transmission of a skewed, lop-sided, malicious documentary like BBC’s ‘India’s Daughter’ became a fashionable pursuit. The law of the land is now stricter as times have changed, and despite the world media’s feisty reportage, on how India has tackled illegal NGOs, even cracked down on those without FCRA licenses and those that refuse to file their income tax returns, is given the silent treatment it deserves.

The New India is proud of its history, culture and heritage and will do everything possible to retain it despite the surge from resisting motivated lobbies. The emergence of the Ganga and its strategic cleansing through legislation and action; the first-time recognition of River Saryu during Diwali after CM Yogi’s taking over as Uttar Pradesh supremo; the initiation of the Sardar Patel monument dedicated to India’s Independence; the foundation of the world’s highest Shivaji Maharaj memorial; the inclusion of Ahmedabad as India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City and more bear testimony to the fact that India is in safe hands. Hands safer than most others.

The best indicator of a future is past behaviour. And, India has learnt her lessons well. Aware that buckling before anything foreign will sound the death-knell for her culture, she has learned to fight back…and fight hard to retain her history!


Gajanan Khergamker

Gajanan Khergamker is the chief editor of DraftCraft – a media-legal firm that tackles offbeat issues and subjects the mainstream media tend to overlook for want of space and initiative.

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