Shyam, a top 500 reviewer has this to say.
Much needed detox. Having been fed the narrative of 'sanskrit is a oppressive language' used by brahmins to oppress others, it was refreshing to read this book. Not many know that (even I didn't 5 years ago) that ~80% of all literature in Sanskrit pertains to non-religious topics like science, technology, medicine, arts, social commentary and poetry. Very little is religious. Yet the leftists in India who had monopolized the discourse (still have) in academia and media have demonized anything of indian origin - just as would a conquering power. One key learning for me is the phrase Rajiv uses 'aestheticization of power' - a way to make power palatable. its used a powerful construct to demonize sanskrit in the guise of praising it as in 'such a great language yet it oppressed so many' that is so prevalent among many modern Indologists - sadly many of them naive Indian students of such Indologists like Sheldon Pollock. I think, rather hope, Rohan Murthy has the right intentions in hiring Sheldon Pollock but wish he had done some due diligence as he would do with any investments on behalf of Infosys. Not sure he is qualified to do that so he should have hired traditional sanskrit scholars to vet the output produced. Hope its not linked to Ford foundation as with his father and if his intention at least is pure, there is a chance he can learn and change - as I and others did.
The postmodernist Western worldview which has been blindly and lazily aped by indian academia and used as a lens to look at Indian history and culture is to blame for the sorry state of affairs that anything Indian has to be fought for - even to get a seat at the table where its being critiqued! Accused guilty without proof and spend all the time defensively to prove innocence.
This blind copying of paradigms is prevalent in other spheres too such as activism as naive and lazy Indian activists just pick what the West thinks as 'cool and feel 'global'. LGBT rights is not as important as food, water, shelter and security - as much as I run the risk of being called 'bigoted' or 'insensitive' for saying it. Such issues can be top priority for Western countries as they have solved these basic problems and have a pretty decent life for all. Sure, go ahead and take up a cause close to your heart but if you were genuinely trying to impact society there are larger issues - thats my point and its become 'cool' to take up such 'global' issues. Its sad to see Indians bashing their own culture to be certified 'intellectual'. Indian Indologists and social 'scientists' remind me of the story of a black kid who was adopted by a White slave owner family and turned out to be a more brutal slave owner when he grew up.
Lets use this detox from Rajiv and pledge to make sanskrit 'cool' as it once was. Suggest you read Michel Danino and Koenraad Elst too. Perhaps being non-Indian they will appeal to our conditioned minds than a Dharampal. Sad but true. its not easy to discard our inferiority complex overnight, I'm happy at least I'm aware I have an affliction and working to fix it.
How deep the 'brahmin, Hindu, Sanskrit' bashing ecosystem is has to be experienced to be believed. I recall an anecdote on UVS (UV Swaminatha Iyer, who is fondly called Thamizh Thatha - 'grandfather of Tamil') who used to spread Tamil village to village. Appreciating his efforts, it used to be written in tamil literature books 'though he was a brahmin, he was a good man' and it never roused anything in me when i read it in school. Such was my conditioning.
Rajiv, grateful for the knowledge. Pranaams.
A nation, whose populace is psychologically weak and is a victim of inferiority complex can be enslaved easily. Islamic & Christian subjugation of other cultures was done with relative ease, but when it came to India the foreigners could not apply the same methods with this civilizational state which they have applied elsewhere successfully. Hence, the Christian invaders systematically studied Indian civilization to manufacture perverted interpretations of sacred traditions and prove that Hindus were/are a bunch of barbarians and such barbarianism is inbuilt in their tradition.
The sacred tradition has been a single focus of attack for both the invading Abrahamic faiths since their arrival though the means employed by both of them is different. Leftists have joined the forces only recently and are doing a good job indeed. Islamic invaders employed a more violent method, mainly converting the local population through threat & coercion, or simply eliminate them if they resisted conversion to Islam. Swami Chinmayananda in one of his interviews to a group from Australia said that, “for 400 years Muslims have been demolishing temples in their attempt to destroy Hinduism but they have only grown their biceps and could not destroy Hinduism”.
But the missionaries developed sophisticated methods specific to Indian scenario. Missionaries have realized that if they ever have to destroy this tradition they first have to appropriate its important language which is central to their civilization, i.e., Sanskrit. Hence, a large group of scholars were sponsored by British to understand India’s culture through learning Sanskrit.
Even though the foreign colonial masters are no more in effective political control, their manufactured histories and vulgar interpretations have been continuously used by anti-national forces to disrupt India’s growth and unity. Among such groups, the political left is a peculiar one. Ever since the death of soviet empire their focus has been to divide India on some pretension or the other to make sure that their broader ideological goals are met. It is these communists who have helped Muslim league in partition of India in 1947. They have learnt from the erstwhile colonizers that to destabilize a healthy civilization it is required to understand the central components of its culture and tradition, only then it is possible to attack it.
Shelden Pollock is considered as a pioneer of a peculiar type of leftist school in which India’s so called liberals are active members. This school’s main task is to prove through their interpretations of Sanskrit texts that Hindu Civilization is inherently backward & primitive which encourages barbarism. So, they prescribe a special type of cleansing and claim that only they can do it.
It is in these trying times, Shri. Rajiv Malhotra – Indian-American researcher & scholar has mounted a formidable defense through his well-researched new book – The Battle for Sanskrit countering the arguments of a powerful leftist lobby. I have just finished reading it and cannot explain the sunshine I have experienced in words. Thanks to him, we now have a clarity on the subject.
Shri. Malhotra sets his agenda by posing a list of questions he is going to address in this work as a part of the title itself. So, reader has a clear idea and proper motivation to read it further.
Political or Sacred?
Oppressive or liberating?
Dead or Alive?
While outsiders like Shelden Pollock want to prove that it is political, oppressive and Dead, insiders are not doing enough to respond that it is sacred, liberating and alive. This work is primarily to awaken traditionalists (or Insiders) to rise up to the situation and provide intellectual responses to questions raised by the opposite side and highlight inconsistencies in Pollock’s scholarship.
Before delving deeper it is fundamental to understand the difference between term/s insider and outsider. In my reading it is clear that whoever believes Sanskrit is Sacred, liberating and Alive shall be considered as Insiders. It is entirely possible that the insiders can be foreigners and outsiders Indians. Outsiders share some other common characteristics, they are predominantly atheists, secularists and Communists (actually hardcore believers of Marxism). If we have to assess their commitment to the ideology, i.e., Marxism or communism they are no less than Jihadists or ISIS (Islamic State), just that Jihadists employ murderous violence whereas leftists employ subtlety and obfuscate their ulterior intentions behind liberal notions like democracy, human rights etc., when not in power. But don’t hesitate to indulge in violence when they command absolute power, China (Cultural Revolution) & Stalinist Russia are couple of examples of the recent past.
Shri. Rajiv Malhotra has done a great service by coming up with this work at a crucial time to provoke traditionalists to take up the task of doing Purva-Paksha, in which they were once experts. Though author identifies some 18 issues at the end of the book on which traditionalists ought to focus, I have picked a set of points that shall be of a great interest to all. All positions of outsiders on these items shall be intellectually challenged. Here they are:
The insistence to fit Indian civilization in to European experience: Scholars who are trained in western political thought superficially apply it to Indian civilization. Hence they are forced to uncritically use modernity, medieval, post-enlightenment & secularism and other irrelevant terms to explain historical events occurred in this civilization, which often leads to wrong interpretations.
Pitting Buddhists against Hindus: It is a lie which British colonialists manufactured to pit one group of Indians against others, to deepen their rule. Often Ambedkar is quoted as an authority and his experience & scholarship is cited as example to say that Hindu civilization encourages violence against Shudras. The million dollar question is why Ambedkar chose Buddhism instead of Islam & Christianity? Leftists feign ignorance on this topic.
Aryan-Invasion theory: Among a bunch of lies East India Company perpetuated to create a conflict between North and south Indians, this had a lasting effect, especially in the politics of Tamil Nadu. As a result of which a hate campaign was carried out by some political parties against a group of citizens. This theory has been scientifically debunked by many mainstream scholars, the foremost among them in my opinion is Shrikant G. Talageri who nails it completely, point by point. Pollock school continues to harp on this false theory for its convenience. The Word Dravida is used in Soundaryalahiri. Adi-shankara described himself as Dravida-shishu when he visited North, i.e., child of the land that is surrounded by water on three sides. No literature of India of thousands of years in any vernacular talks about this Aryan-Invasion theory. There is no corroboration from any other sources outside India to this effect. The argument that Aryans came from Central Asia and driven out Dravidians from north to south is a blatant lie.
Discounting the violent impact of Christianity and Islam on Hindu civilization: The genocide which Christian missionaries committed in Goa and a systematic elimination of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh in recent times offers us a glimpse of impact Christianity and Islam had on our civilization. When Pollock says that Muslim or Islamic invaders should not be blamed for India’s cultural degradation, it only highlights his prejudice against Hindus and selective blindness among other things.
Recklessly determined to discover barbarism in Sanskrit texts: This is an important plane on which our Home team has to engage outsiders thoroughly. Socialization of these outsiders in a different setup or simply because of being a victim of some ideological dogmas they could not or they don’t want to see the residual sacredness in Sanskrit texts. Let’s consider an example to understand what I am saying. How the death of Karna in Mahabharata can be interpreted by two groups? One could use it to inculcate values to all, this is a sacred approach whereas the others, i.e., outsiders would say that it encourages violence against Dalits and shudras. Sri. Saibaba of Puttaparthi describing the importance and values of good company says that “ it is only with good company you will come in contact with good qualities not with a bad company” he further says that “bad company is deadliest than a venomous snake, a snake would only bite when you step on it accidently or try to tame it, but a bad person injects venom every time you come in to contact with him, look what happened to Karna – The MahaYoddhha who is more powerful than mighty Arjuna, it is just because of his bad company ie., Duryodhana and sakuni he met a tragic end” (This is a loose translation of his speech that is published by Sanathana Sarathi monthly, Hindi edition, December 2015) But the same event will be interpreted by outsiders to say that since Karna was from chariot riders class Arjuna and Krishna killed him due to prejudice again lower class or castes. Hence, Mahabharata encourages violence against lower castes and Dalits etc. It is against lopsided interpretations such as these the insiders have to mount a collective defense. After all in a globalized world, how others think about us also matters.
Labeling the efforts to revive Sanskrit as Hindu revisionism: It is incorrect to say that Sanskrit encourages violence against minorities. There is a very big hypocrisy here. If we have to accept the arguments of Pollock school that any attempts to underscore the violence carried out by Islamic rulers for centuries against Hindus, it might turn Hindus against Muslims in the current day, because Muslims of the day have got nothing to do with those who have actually committed violence, then is it also not the case that the leftists effort to unearth atrocities of the past or blowing certain events out proportion will turn Dalits against Brahmins and other social groups within Hindu fold? If this is not hypocrisy then what else is?
It is important to show that Politics & sacredness are intertwined in Sanskrit and samskriti: The emphasis of sacredness is only to highlight the importance of morality & probity in conducting politics. If Gandhi says that he cannot imagine politics without religion he is essentially referring to sacred aspects of our Samskriti that is embedded in Sanskrit. It is important to note that barring few bare minimum things there is no insistence on following instructions, it is left to the choice of follower or seeker. Shri. Rajiv Malhotra says in Hindu civilization there is no central authority like Pope in Christianity and Caliph or Mullah in Ummah to enforce religious dogmas. Such an independence only proves that our Samskriti is not only sacred but also politically progressive and liberal.
It is important for the insiders to realize that they need not fear English language: It can be self-taught through focused study in short period. It is an underdeveloped language and relatively weak in vocabulary. Forget Sanskrit, it is not even qualified to be compared against some of the vernaculars of India which are highly evolved and rich when it comes to vocabulary and literary strength. For eg: Tamil and Bengali are such powerful languages, if learnt fully the beauty of expression by using them would put Shakespeares of the world to shame.
I totally support the author’s view that we should engage outsiders with all the respect they deserve, which is true to our tradition. It is only through a sustained dialogue we shall be able to fight the powerful cartel of outsiders who occupy a significant space in academia, media and other outlets that controls means of expression and act as gatekeepers of Indian knowledge.
Finally, insiders should learn to read between the lines, and understand true intentions of outsiders. If Pollock refines his responses to a specific audience and praises Sanskrit we should be able to comprehend as to what he really means. In the age of Kali, the fight between Dharma & Adharma is a constant one. Like a relay race if one has completed his lap the other followers of Dharma should pick up the mantle and do their bit. My concern is who will uphold the legacy of Shri. Malhotra and continue with the tradition of Purva-Paksha after him? This is a question all insiders should ponder over. The fact that insiders have not risen to such a standard so far is a matter of serious concern. The hope is that at least now insiders will heed to the clarion call of Shri. Rajiv Malhotra.
• Varna is a non-translatable term and attempts to translate it and put it in some rigid frameworks has caused confusion.
• It is a dynamic term and has been constantly negotiated and renegotiated in Indian history.
• A similar analogy is the concept of ‘rights’ in Western history with civil, economic and moral dimensions to that word, and has been repeatedly undergone changes in its meaning.
• Varna cannot be translated into caste, race, or privilege in simple terms.
• There are six levels of differences in the way Varna has been seen by tradition: 1. Historical changes have seen differing interpretations 2. Different texts have differed on the varna view 3. In the same text, varna definition has changed as per the context 4. In the same text, different people have interpreted varna differently as per the context 5. There have been gaps in actual theory and practice 6. There have been many social challenges and reformations throughout history.
• Varna is not a static classification system
• Shudras have built temples in which Hindus of all categories have worshipped.
• Shudras have been rulers and leaders of armies.
• Varna has been repeatedly redefined well within the Indian systems and today does not require foreign intervention to solve its social problems related to the caste system.
• The characterization of Western Indologists and Orientalists of Varna as something rigid, static, canonical, and homogenous is done using inappropriate theories because of their need to digest our civilization.
• MANUSMRITI is the text that has been over quoted and much maligned to make the case of support for discrimination.
• The above text places more emphasis on the duties of various varna rather than their rights and privileges. Duties or professions are used to classify the professions. A Brahmin was required to live simply, receive gifts from worthy donors only, had to be learned enough to receive those gifts, and was supposed to be a non-drinker of alcohol. He was also not supposed to rule. The Brahmins were not supposed to collect taxes on behalf of the ruler much in contrast to the practices in other religions where a priestly and a divine sanction was given to rulers to own the conquered far off lands . Shudras were assigned very distinct benefits. They could pursue any profession except those of Brahmins and Kshatriyas. He was not compelled on any specific rituals, food, and wine consumption. There was no requirement of penances for lapses in following the rules of Shastra.
• Furthermore, one can learn paradharma or the highest dharma even from a Shudra and hence, a Shudra can be a guru too. Adi Shankara in fact learns some highest wisdom from a Chandala. The punishments as per the text were not actually carried out. The punishment of the lapses in fact increases with the varna of the person, with the Brahmins getting the maximum punishment. The higher status was supposed to shoulder greater responsibility. Finally, the text advocates flexibility in its implementation. It allowed giving up dharma if it is denounced by the public. This implies that if the public denounce caste discrimination as is being done today, it should be given up. This implies a fluidity and context importance in the application of varna.
• Mahabharata dissociated itself from birth based varna. Yudhishtra says in the Mahabharata that there is always a confusion of ‘varna by birth’ because of birth from mixing of all Varnas. So, varna can only be from the view of profession and occupation rather than birth.
• There is evidence which shows that the shudras did have access to the Vedas and that the restrictions were contested and not absolute.
Panini did not create the rules of Sanskrit grammar, but only formulated the way Sanskrit was being spoken. There is now a very important and a powerful American Indologist who goes by the name of Sheldon Pollock, who is training an army of people both Indian and foreigners to capture the discourse on Sanskrit language. By posing as an insider and spending more three decades in the study of Sanskrit, he has been able to impress the Indian governments and various funding agencies to get huge grants. But, beneath the surface of superficial praise, there is a strong message undermining the entire culture and tradition of the country. He is using the language interpretations in a bizarre manner to create a sense of negativity amongst us.
Pollock says that Sanskrit grammar was oppressive. The oppression to Dalits, women, and Muslims is embedded in the language structures, he says. He also makes a theory which places Sanskrit as a dead language fit only to be studied. Sanskrit was spoken only by a few royals with the Brahmin followers and was not the language of the common people. Pollock’s theories are speculative and dangerous. He puts forward a theory that Sanskrit was used as a tool of oppression of the Dalits, women, and the lower classes by the kings and the priests. The expansion of Hinduism to far East countries was this strategy using Sanskrit as a major tool. Sanskrit ideology also was supposed to have given rise to Nazism because the roots of Sanskrit is exploitation and racism.
Hitler was influenced by a guy who had no clue about Sanskrit. All these are highly speculative coming from an American Leftist who probably hates the country, does not believe God, but loves the language itself. The love for the language is only for study purposes but is not accepted as a carrier of cultural tradition and spirituality for thousands of years. Ramayana and other poems are seen through his interpretation as a tool of exploitation by the kings and the priests and to rouse the people against the Muslims. The theories are so bizarre, but I am sure, would be loved by our own Left who do not seem to show any love for the country the country and do not know Sanskrit. They now have an English speaking elite American who provides them with all the ammunition to fire at the country. Intolerance seems to have suddenly make a mark in the country in a reverse manner strangely in the minorities and the leftists too. Pollock hates the BJP, RSS, and VHP combine, and in this regard, he makes his stand amply clear. No wonder, he is a darling of the Left in the country.
Sanskrit has been seen as a tool of exploitation by Pollock and blames the forward castes in hastening its demise. He also goes to claim that the British and the Muslim rulers actually helped to revive the Sanskrit language but was firmly opposed by the forward castes. Then, he makes the extraordinary statement that the language is dead and is fit for being studied as a classical language, something like Latin and Greek. Any language develops in the scheme of listening, speaking, reading, and then writing and in that particular order. The grammar comes last. One does not start to learn a language by first learning to write it. It then becomes a burden and cumbersome. By focussing on the grammar first, the natural spoken component of the language with the spontaneity simply collapses in the society. That is what was done by the British colonial rule and the Mughals in the process of ‘helping’ Sanskrit. That was the strategy of the post-Independence education policy thoroughly controlled by the Left wing forces of the country. In such a situation, Sanskrit became more and more separated from mainstream and became relegated to specialised studies. It could not become a language of popular conversation. The people were scared off the language as they were boggled with grammar rules and constructions of sentences. In such a situation, an artificiality creeps in and we have lost five decades in the process. Now, it is an uphill task of the country to get Sanskrit back into circulation and I am certainly glad that the students are eager to learn the language as a direct consequence of the book.
Sheldon Pollock seems to be a hate filled Leftist as seen in the analysis of Rajiv Malhotra. Rajiv Malhotra is like Arun Shourie while taking on the left wing forces. Most of his statements are backed by some real and hard core evidence.
The book is shocking beyond beyond belief and it is indeed a wake-up call to our intelligentsia and the students of the country. The Western forces in the garb of Indology are systematically undermining the cultural and the spiritual traditions of Sanskrit, which should be fought back in no uncertain terms. Buddhism was supposed to have galvanised the beginning of written Sanskrit and the its literature. Before Buddhism, Sanskrit consisted of only mindless rituals and mantras recited orally as per Pollock’s construction of a dim past. The entire evidence of written inscriptions associated with the Harappan and Mohenjo-Daro excavations, and the Saraswati archaeological evidence makes his claims about written Sanskrit as after the Buddhist era completely hollow and baseless. But, Pollock apparently ignores all such evidence.
The Jataka tales are attempted to be placed before the Ramayana, and in fact, the latter was inspired by the former. The rejection of Sanskrit by Buddha in favour of Pali; and by Jains in favour of Magadhi is constructed as being rejection of the Vedas. Buddhist teaching of the four and eight- fold path say nothing against the Vedas, and it is in fact, very Upanishidic in nature. A Ramana Maharishi never taught in Sanskrit, but he is a master. The language undertaken by a holy person is no proof of a rejection of previous systems. But, that is what is the suggestion of Sheldon Pollock and his ilk. Buddhism is constructed to be in stress with the Hindu thought, traditions and the Vedas.
Later on, the Kushana and the Saka kings, supposed to have migrated from Central Asia, were more open to Sanskrit despite being Buddhists, and hence there was a blooming of Sanskrit literature in the early part of the common era. The theories are fantastic and weird to say the least but happen to be mainstream academic thoughts and opinions. These kind of ideas which also posits Ramayana as an example of atrocity literature against women and the lower castes, and later as a galvanizing force against the Muslims are exceptionally detrimental and brutal to the ethos of the country and its culture. The same idea when repeated by the influential coterie in various papers, literature, and academic meets become embedded as a truth in the minds of people. That is what is happening as the secular left liberals are gleefully accepting what is being churned out by such academicians.
Rajiv Malhotra’s book finished with the mind wanting more. Most of the book has been underlined, so now I am seeing prominently the pen and pencil marks, which is a bit unfortunate for future readings. The only criticism I can offer that it is centred only around Sheldon Pollock. The other anti-Sanskrit forces are hardly spoken off. A single man is probably not relevant in the scheme of things, but if indeed he is the main troublemaker preparing hundreds of people like him, then he becomes so. Rajiv is preparing hundreds of Indian and NRI youth in a similar way and hence, the battle lines are drawn.
Nobody has caused more damage to the Indian culture, tradition, and heritage than the Left liberal ideology. It is an ideology which has allowed our generation to grow with a sense of shame regarding ourselves. The Britishers and the Americans and for that matter, the Russians too grow up with a strong sense of pride despite the atrocities and the blunders in their landscape of human dealings. But, Indian history makers peculiarly concentrated only on the warts and always in the process of giving an extremely negative image of our culture, our traditions, language, literature, religion, scriptures, holy books. At every point, the Indians grow with a negative perception about all the above things despite we being the strongest in all of the above. The youth of the country are being led astray by such pernicious attempts. It is thankfully in such a scenario that some authors are coming up, who are taking up the cause of undoing the damage in a balanced manner without losing their cool. Every culture has its flaws and we are the oldest living civilization running continuously for 5000 years. Most of the older cultures have simply wound up. It is important for the present generation to aim for the future rooted in the present with the correct idea about our past and its richness without going into jingoism.
It is a remarkable book which would allow a person to grow proud of his culture and tradition bereft of jingoismand more importantly, without wanting to hate any opposing ideas or cultures This is the book's most wonderful achievement.
According to outsiders, Vedas are equivalent to mumbo jumbo and Kavyas like Ramayan, Mahabharata etc were written by Brahmins to aestheticize the king so that king could hypnotize common people and in turn Brahmins continued to live under king’s grace. This was the way Sanskrit propagated throughout Asia. There is nothing sacred in Sanskrit. It is already dead and it should be kept in museum only to analyse like Greek and Latin. Surprisingly, they are silent about Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, which are also very old language.
Shri Rajiv Malhotra refutes all these propaganda with his razor sharp intellect and provides numerous scopes to do ‘Purva Paksh’ on American Orientalists. Rajivji makes difficult concept of western thinkers like Benjamin, Vico etc very lucid so that we can understand the Kurukshetra. The writing of these scholars is very tricky as they could not be understood easily as it often contains double meaning. By superficial reading one can feel good that they are praising our Sanskrit and sanskriti, but in deeper they are blaming Sanskrit as a weapon of Indian Kings and Brahmins. Rajivji painstakingly explains all these in understandable way.
J.N University, New Delhi event proves the penetration of Breaking India forces. Books of Rajivji expose how from US, Indians could be controlled by colouring our Shastras, Kavyas. Mr.Noam Chomsky writes to VC of JNU, New Delhi asking why VC allowed police inside campus. Many eminent scholars, including Mr.Sheldon Pollock, from various US universities protest against Govt. of India and support JNU students for anti-Indian slogan.
Now this is our turn to reverse the gaze and decide who has the ‘Adhikar’ to control Sanskrit.