Vibrancy of Indian traditions

The discussion about re-accessing the vibrancy of the Indian culture and the question whether or not to legislate against conversion, are best treated separately. An answer to the latter does not necessarily count as an answer to the first. In fact, the tendency to counter the proselytising drive of Christianity and Islam by voting laws against conversion is itself an indication of India’s cultural weakness. Hence, it cannot be a means to re-kindle the flame of India’s pluralistic tradition. 

It strikes me that now-a-days Indians feel very comfortable with the terms of the discussion when it comes to the problem of ‘Christianity/Islam versus Hinduism’. It has not always been like that. As we all know, the British were not the first to colonise India. The Mughals had done so before. What is very interesting is the way in which the Indians absorbed this foreign power and its religion. When you take history writing (or historiography) as an example, it is very striking that the Mughal power was presented within the Indian mythological framework. (As scholars never grow tired of pointing out, Indian history writing differs from the western ‘scientific mode’ in that it mixes facts with fiction. However, for the point I want to make here, this discussion is irrelevant.) As a result, the Muslim emperors, for example, turned up as incarnations of Indian gods. Or, that their birth was foreseen long ago and, and as such, they became part of India’s history, etc. The point that I want to make is that the Indian history writers never experienced the Mughals and their Islam as a foreign religion threatening the religion of the Indians. One could say that religion was not an issue. The Mughals, from their part, were able to maintain their power – at least partially – by adjusting their behaviour and acting like native Indian kings. The most striking example, of course, is that they granted lands to build temples and financially supported their construction. However, when European history writing took over, the idea of a great divide between the period before the Muslims and after was generally accepted. 

In this sense Hermione  is right when she says that the beauty of the Indian civilization is in it’s immense capacity to absorb outside influences without succumbing to them. But she is wrong when she infers Why do we seek to change our strategy now? The problem is that the strategyhas changed, and it has changed in the sense that the Indian intelligentsia conceptualises the problem in terms that do not resonate with India’s capacity to absorb alien influences. The conceptualisation is at odds with what makes India’s culture differ from the West. As a result the knowledge that was there to cope with extreme differences is no longer accessible. What is needed, therefore, is a reflection about India in terms that restores access to India’s cultural features. 

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