History and the Dharmic mind

Sharva Last Modified Saturday, 10 September 2016 (17:17 IST)
India that is Bharat is a great repository of literary, oral and cultural tradition. It is a veritable Darwin’s Galapagos for anthropologists, linguists, archeologists, etymologists and historians. The greatness of India does not rest in the sacred dimension alone (as is predominantly claimed by Indians), though rightly it is held as the keystone for right understanding; in sheer antiquity, diversity and colossal magnitude of experience it remains indispensible. India despite innumerable contradictions, insurmountable divides, overlapping time lines, varied space matrices etc. all bound by an ever-elusive ‘otherworldly’ unity, holds something very crucial for human beings.

The concept of for such geography, culture, civilization- Nation is bound to have some peculiarities. Diverse space, time and causations that India offers is too great to ignore and too difficult to compartmentalize and digest. It challenges very notion of history, which (as we shall see later) is an extrapolation of a narrow exclusivist ideology to a universal scale. By questioning the identity, India poses nothing less than an existential threat to it.

That history as a discipline is culture dependent. It is not possible to have some ‘objective’, ‘universal’ historical narrative. Neither is it possible for history to remain unaffected from contemporary power structures and their appendages. During and industrialization there arose a strong bias towards ‘scientific’ treatment of history. It was peculiar to that age. Man, who had never ever enjoyed such powers, brimming with a confidence endowed by science was out to play God. This man subscribed to faith, which has some very typical views about man and history. As a result a narrow -Universalist, linear, unidirectional conception of history came into global currency. At its core this history was an outcome of queer intersections of polity, colonial expansionism, philosophy, and academics.

The reasons behind the success of this thought were historical, geo-political, social, and religious; that made them eminently fit to take a position of dominance. This historical perspective was powered by the colonial battery. A worldwide network of missionary school, college and universities, governmental archives, museums, books, periodicals, newspapers and popular culture that was working round the clock to popularize these new thoughts among natives across the globe. New beliefs, values and social realities together were out to create ‘new, rational and enlightened’ beings out of ancient people. The native was to undergo a necessary metamorphosis.

Prior to Renaissance, people were living in varied histories; Histories that were diverse, multi-layered, textured, varied and often with conflicting versions. The universalist-exclusivist claims of Abrahamic religions were restricted to theology and jurisprudence. Such claims were often balanced by realities of internal divides and differences with external ‘others’. These shaped the roots for people. These histories were often not free from the mythical content. Histories and myths were closely interwoven. There was a happy marriage of magic and rationalism, secular custom and revealed laws, profane and sacred and so on; And of course at that time there was no universal category in force; no unique homo-sapiens or anything called human civilization.

While the values were deeply attached to the Abrahamic roots, the science that freely took from the Indian, Greek, Chinese, Iranian and other tradition sources on the other hand was secular in its approach. Thus science came as a rude shock to these religious traditions as it concerned about the truth in no less an exclusivist manner than what these religions claimed about religious truths. Thus the clash between the church and the state was natural.

With Renaissance two processes started simultaneously. 1) There was a codification if systematization of science and other subjects in a non-local hybrid sense 2) On religious-cultural level, a new universal civilization narrative was under creation that was typical and peculiar to the Abrahamic religious understanding of history and creation.

Thus came into being a permanent divide in the psyche of people of Abrahamic religions, adversely affecting the moral and spiritual dimensions of their personality. Its effect on art, culture and life is yet to come under scanner, but eventually it will have to. The people of non Abrahamic religions also had their own share of misery in this development. The modern state/nation that came into being among the non-abrahamic religious people was based on alien assumptions and values that were often antagonistic to the local region, people and religious traditions.
[ Click : Anurag Vats ]
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