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Advisory Board:   Navaratna S. Rajaram, David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri), Swami Mukhyananda, Padma Subrahmanyam, Natwar Jha, Brij Mohan Thapar, Suryanatha Kamath, Shatavadhani R. Ganesh

 

Editorial: Understanding Hindutva

 

   The phenomenon known as Hindutva is likely to prove to be the most powerful force of the twenty-first century. It is manifesting itself first in India, SOON to be followed by other countries of the world, especially in Asia. For people trying to recover their ancient heritage from colonial distortions deriving from Eurocentric perceptions, the rise of Hindutva offers a model. Both these — rise of Hindutva in India and its influence on other countries of the region — were evident during recent conferences held in India and Southeast Asia. The Naimisha Vedic Workshop in Bangalore and the World Sanskrit Conference in Delhi looked at ways of recovering history from colonial distortions. 

     This was soon followed by International Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi of India were two leading figures who participated in the program. “Sanskrit represents a way of life and a sublime value system,” said Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, India’s Union Minister for Human Resource Development, and himself a Sanskrit scholar and former Physics Professor, while delivering the keynote address. The two-day International Sanskrit Conference, organized by the Sanskrit Studies Center of the prestigious Silpakorn University in Bangkok, May 21 and 22. The Conference attracted more than 80 academics, researchers and professors from Europe, America, Australia and India. India and Thailand had the largest representation with twenty delegates each. 

     Among the delegates was Mahachakri Sirindhorn, Princess of Thailand, and herself an academic and linguist with knowledge of six languages including Sanskrit. The Princess fondly remembered her recent trip to Rajasthan, where she seems to have enjoyed everything, from the forts and palaces she saw, to the Indian salwar kameezes she wore. She stated that she was already looking forward to her trip to India next year, with her mother the Queen.

    According to reports, Princess Mahachakri had a short but meaningful discussion with Dr. Joshi. She interrupted her tribute to her Sanskrit professors at the seminar, to state that she had suggested to Dr. Joshi the idea of collaboration among Asian countries in various fields. Dr. Joshi’s speech at the Conference, meanwhile brilliantly encapsulated technology and science, religion and philosophy, economics and ecology. Dr. Joshi’s dynamic speech set the tone for the Conference, which discussed the past, present and future of this ancient language.

    This, one likes to see, as a step towards the East seeing Asia with Asian eyes. "The East is more ancient by thousands of years than the West," observed Sri Aurobindo long ago. "Asia is long-lived, Europe brief, ephemeral. Asia is in everything hugely mapped, immense and grandiose in its motions, and its life-periods are measured accordingly. Europe lives by centuries, Asia by millenniums. Europe is parceled out in nations, Asia in civilizations... Everything in Europe is small, rapid and short-lived; she has not the secret of immortality."

    All this is indeed true, but Asia and its civilizations have lost much of their secret of immortality due to their centuries long colonization by European powers. It was not merely their wealth that was lost, but also their spirit of creativity that gave rise to civilizations. But there is increasing awareness of this loss and that something must be done to regain its lost spirit. India is a prime example. It is now over half a century since India achieved independence from colonial rule. After several centuries of alien domination, during which the ancient civilization of India was struggling for survival, it is at last coming into its own. Its first intellectual manifestations are already here— in the brilliance that Indian scientists and technologists have begun to display in a wide range of subjects in science and technology. But in the field in which India has the greatest to contribute — in spirituality and the humanities — she has yet to break completely free of the shackles of history. India and her civilization continue to be portrayed by colonial stereotypes.

    This situation prevails mainly because the education system established during the colonial period was allowed to flourish even after independence. This has given rise to an intellectual elite in India that has failed to make its mark in the world today. In Western academia, Indian humanities scholars are little more than footnotes to the stereotypes shaped by colonial (‘White Man’s Burden’) and Marxist ideologies. The situation is no different in other colonized countries in the region. India therefore can be studied as a prototype for other countries in the region— both for the spiritual loss and attempts at recovery. This is why the importance of Hindutva goes beyond the boundaries of India.

    Sri Aurobindo had foreseen this long ago when he wrote: “That Indian scholars have not been able to form themselves into a great and independent school of learning is due to two causes: the miserable scantiness of the mastery in Sanskrit provided by our universities, crippling to all but born scholars, and our lack of sturdy independence which makes us over-ready to defer to European [and Western] authority.”

   The only way of eradicating this debilitating weakness is to create an intellectual infrastructure that can lead to the growth of independent schools of thought that can, with confidence and pride, draw upon India’s own ancient heritage, history and culture. This requires a sustained effort that is both national and international in scope, but a strong intellectual infrastructure in India is the first requisite. Building this infrastructure at home and making it part of an international initiative is the first task that confronts the rising Indian civilization. The Naimisha Research Foundation was founded by some leading thinkers with concerned about the problems of India, but also sensitive to other countries of the region, for India's problems mirror theirs. The Naimisha Magazine is a forum of expression for looking at the world through Asian eyes.

   India, as the most populous country in the region, has a special responsibility to Asia and the world to remove the intellectual shackles of colonialism and its associated distortions of history and civilization. Having achieved political independence, India's task is now to achieve intellectual and spiritual independence. The movement that is seeking to achieve this is known as Hindutva. Owing to the presence of residual colonial forces in India and the West, this movement is being bitterly opposed by these vested interests. But it is only a matter of time before they disappear in the clouds of history like the colonial period that gave rise to them. 

    So Hindutva is a force that will shape India in this century, and will serve also as a model for others. We devote the premier issue of The Naimisha Journal.

 

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