Note: This beautiful saga, written by our columnist Sri Varghese Pamplani needs a word of appreciation. Only a man with a wide reading experience and a balanced mindset can write similar articles. He has beautifully drawn the internal transformation this Nation was going through in different phases of time. It was our open mindedness that threw us for the mercy of foreign religions, which came to India with attractive philosophies and perceptions quite matching with that in the land.
All Christian sects and Rites kindly meditate on what Sri Varghese has pointed out. In the west, when people asked, 'Man know thyself' here we asked, 'Man be thyself'. Well in the spirit of the Nation, Sri Varghese asks everybody to review on a daly basis – Who am I? This question contains both the Western 'Know Thyself and the Indian 'Be Thyself'. This certainly could be the shortest and complete history of India. Joseph Mattappally Asso. Editor CCV.
I am born and live in the land of India that stretches from the snow clad Himalayas in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, where the waves of three oceans embrace the shore, a land that stretches from the Bay of Bengal in the east to the Arabian Sea in the west, a land that is watered by holy Ganges, released from the matted hair of Lord Siva, and the rivers of Yamuna, Indus, Brahmaputra, Sabarmati, Krishna, Godavari, Periayar, Pamba and many more. The earth of India is the sine qua non of my very being and existence. From the wombs of this earth I came out, the very earth nourishes and sustains me and to this very earth I will return at the end of my life cycle.
Into this land, migrated the humanoids 1500,000 years ago. The modern humans arrived in multiple waves over tens of millennia past, beginning with the Southern Coastal dispersal (c.a. 60,000 ) from the Rift Vally in Africa for making a living by cultivation of crops and domesticating of animals. The Dravidians, the Mundas, the Tibet-o-Burmese the Indo-Europeans and others found home and hearth in this land. The Romans, the Jews and others from the Middle East came to its shores for pepper, as valuable to them as gold dust, and other spices to make their food palatable, for ivory and calico cloth. Some of them settled down here for good enamoured by this land and it’s ethos. In came people fleeing persecution of Roman and Persian rulers for sanctuary and survival. All were welcomed with open arms. With them came their gods and beliefs and in course of time they assimilated and absorbed the local ethos.
Lured by the fabulous riches of this land, the Arabs, the Turks, the Mongols and the like trespassed to it and indulged in wanton slaughtering of the defenceless, pillaging and razing places of worship and looting their wealth. Many of the invaders were marauders, religious fanatics. They forcibly converted the local population at the point of the sword to their religion. They raped the land and its people and left after plundering its treasures The Mughals too invaded my home land and stayed over here after establishing their hegemony. Except a few like Akbar, they were generally fanatics bent upon spreading their brand of religion.
The paradigm shift happened with the arrival of Europeans. The Portuguese were the first to land in the shores of India looking for monopoly of spices trade. Their avarice and hunger for power led to battles that disrupted the prevalent political set up and civic life especially of North Malabar. The expansionist monarchical Church of Rome presided by power hungry popes, in tandem with the colonial ambitions of Portugal embarked upon colonisation of India. The means adopted to achieve suzerainty were resorting to force of arms and conversion of the indigenous population to the religion of the occupier. This nefarious enterprise results in uprooting of the moorings of the native people and leading to their eventual subjugation. Conversion was generally achieved by inducements, false propaganda, brainwashing and coercion. The Portuguese could achieve conversion of a segment of the population of Goa. They wantonly destroyed prominent temples in the region and looted their riches. The atrocities of the Portuguese rulers, egged on by the Jesuits left no choice for a significant segment of the local Hindu population to flee from the homes with only the cloths on their backs. The bitter memories rankles the minds of the decedents of the uprooted even today.
By resorting to dubious and devious means, the Portuguese caused split among the followers of Jesus of Nazareth who had been living for centuries in the Malabar region in harmony with their Hindu neighbours after assimilating the local ethos. The Portuguese introduced idolatry by making the Nazarani Christians to worship the statues and images of European saints.
The Dutch did not get any foothold in India. The French could achieve only a tenuous hold.
But the British, who came as traders, became the masters exercising near total hegemony over India. They took advantage of internal dissensions, divisions and antagonism wide spread among the rulers of the multitude of states. If we dispassionately look at the events it will be crystal clear that the inherent fissiparous tendencies allowed the “island of shopkeepers” to have iron-clad grip over economic and political sphere of India. It is the bitter truth no Indian should forget.
Indian religions, whether it is Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism have no Book or a Pope who rules his Church under the Divine Right theory and claim of infallibility or an Ayatollah? Nor do the religions of India have the compulsive obsessive zeal for spreading their faith by resorting to every trick in the trade.
The history of India shows that it’s people generally absorb seamlessly ideas of those who came in peace and with good will. Since India has a rich heritage, none could achieve too much perch or sway in matters of religion or culture, or philosophy. The Indian thoughts are the outcome of the ever going churning in the crucible of ideas and ideals. Those who could, by and large, integrate themselves, in the general milieu without claiming superiority of their faith and religion and way of life are doing fine. Those stand out like sore thumbs some times face the music.
In the crucible where ideas are churned constantly, synthesis and syncretism takes place paving the way for balanced view of the world.
The hurt and pain made some sections bitter and unforgiving. But bygones be treated as bygones for the sake of sanity and the survival of the idea that is INDIA. The rule of the jungle is not the civilised way. Retribution may help someone in the power game, but ultimately rent our society asunder. Power play helps the mighty and the advantaged and the “haves"; they loose nothing; theirs is a “win win" situation always. The losers and sufferers will be the marginalised, the disposed, the poorest, the lowliest and the lost.
The rules of the power game are bizarre, quirky and lopsided. Then who cares?
It is dangerous to open festering sores. It may be better that wounds are healed and forgotten, for everyone’s good. Tranquility is required so that we can march ahead for a better destiny for every one.
Let me return to my basic dilemma . Who am I and what is my relevance? What is my genetic profile? Which God I should worship, the gentle ones with humane aspects, shaped and reshaped in the process of contemplation and deliberation?Am I required to pay obeisances to Gods that took shape in the delta of Euphrates and Tigris, got mingled with those that emerged on the banks of the Nile, the Olympian mountains, the seven hills of Rome, in the Persia of Zoroastrians? What about the gods of Amazon and Africa and elsewhere? Should I be compelled to worship the fiery wrathful God of the strife torn deserts of the Middle-East with its ever quarrelling people? Ultimately does it matter whether I worship or not, pray or beseech to any Deity who is supposed to be without form or substance, who may not be operating in the realm of human logic and who theoretically is beyond the human reach. Is it not possible that He would consider the animate and the inanimate, the physical and natural world, the innumerable verities of flora and fauna including the algae, the flesh eating plants and trees, the multifarious living things in water, land air, seen and unseen, creatures of the seas , and finally the ape and the naked ape (means the hairless ape) called the human, in the same domain and perimeter. Is not God present in the Yosemite and Niagara Falls and at the pinnacle of Everest and Kilimanjaro and in the nearby brook and puddle of water; in short in the nature around us.
And then so long as I can live without much friction with my neighbour and at the minimum recognise his right to exist and tolerate his pursuit of happiness; so long as I can breathe the air and drink the water that nature provides and have adequate food and nourishment for survival, have shelter from the extremes of weather, get enough rest and sleep, I should be a contended person. In this ideal situation, I can get up in the morning refreshed to face the living of another day.
This environment will provide me with opportunities to enjoy the cool breeze brushing my body, listen to the pitter – patter of rain drops falling on my roof, sing with the birds, run with the wind on the meadows, the ups and the downs, enjoy the beauty around me in the ferns and the flowers, the green grass and and the foliage of trees, gaze at the rain-bows in the yonder horizon, see glow worms flitting across and look at the stars shining in the clear blue sky.
To me, ultimately the purpose of life is life itself and my minimum role is to survive and pass on my genes as nature has envisaged. Given a choice, not for me disequilibrium and chaos, incessant quarrelling, wailing, beating of the chest and all pervading distress, purulent curses and gnashing of the teeth. This life is all that I have, living is the realty for me and after life is not what I look for.