A Few Thoughts About Conquest of India

I think such lies are being taught in Pakistan that Muslims took over India and the Hindus were really benign and peaceful. I think this is a flawed world view. The present-day Indians (belonging to the upper castes) claim their descent from the Aryan race. They migrated to India a few thousand years ago. At that time India was largely inhabited by Dravids, another kind of race thing (now they really might have been peaceful and benign, as the excavations of Moenjo Daro and Harappa show that they were really civilized and not martial). So as the story goes, Aryans overtook India from Dravids and subjugated them as servile lower castes.

Hinduism is not peaceful in its central doctrine. Being a caste-oriented religion, I think that this is the only racist religion in the world. They are only peaceful till the time something mightier is in sight. This could be a great snake or a great army. Look at some of the religious customs in Hinduism, they are not peaceful at all.

Having said this, I have to agree that Muslims also did not overtake India with peaceful mechanisms or morally inspiring motives, as we are taught in our early education. Sometimes the invasions were quite opportunistic. This reminds me of the story of the conquest of the sub-continent by Muhammad Bin Qasim. I think that the version we are sold is not the right one.

But to say that Muslims always encroached on India! Well, that may be true to a certain extent. But look at this story that is extremely commonplace in our country about the invasions by Sultan Mehmood of Ghaznavi. He is really portrayed as a brutal man. However, the truth is that his father was attacked first by the Indian king Jayapaala due to fear of the formers growing power in Ghazni. It was the attack by Jayapaala that led to the famous battle of Peshawar and eventually to the seventeen attacks by the Sultan.

Having said this, Indians claim Indian territory to be as deep into Afghanistan as bordering Ghazni. This is true as well as that at many times during the course of history, parts of Afghanistan were under various Indian dominions. This brings me to the question, what are Pashtuns fighting for (I am talking about the separatists).

The truth is, as George Friedman quoted once upon a time, that there nobody on the planet who can rightfully claim a place to his race. Everyone everywhere is an immigrant.

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  1. Most of what is written here is true, but it is not the whole story and some claims are wrong.

    The idea that caste is based on race seems tantalizing at first. However if you go to South India you’d find virtually all Brahmins are racially Dravidian. The race of a caste-group is base on the distribution of race in India, not on caste. You can find Dravidian Brahmins and Aryan Shudras in India easily just by traveling through the country. Also the idea that casteism is raceism is inconsistent with the Aryan invasion (or settlement) idea. If the Aryan invasion/settlement were true (and most evidence points to it being the most likely theory), who were the lower castes before Aryans encountered Dravids?

    It is possible that the Aryans attacked and/or subjugated Dravids. I don’t know if it was as organized a campaign as you are implying it was. I also don’t see it as different from how legions of other ancient groups attacked and/or subjugated outsiders. This was commonplace and it doesn’t make sense to single out Hinduism as the “only rascist religion” when you could find similar practices in ancient Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere throughout the world. Saying something happened “a few thousand years ago” in Indian history is pretty vague. It could mean the difference between no Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Aryans and Dravids warring with each other, and them living in harmony. Krishna, the most popular modern Hindu deity, is dark skinned. That is literally what his name means in Sanskrit. This is hard to explain in a rascist Aryan religion.

    There is definately a component of racial tradition in Hinduism, old religions tend to be like this (in fact they pretty much all were). Saying Hinduism is rascist is incorrect. Many converts to Hinduism exist in the west that have no Hindu ancestry, there is no rule saying you can’t practice Hinduism if you are a certain race. Hinduism is the most accepting to “outsiders” practicing and appropriating their religion/culture than virtually any other group. Look at all the white people with Aum and Ganesh tattoos and whatnot.

    I’d also have to say it’s messy talking about race and religion in this part of the world when you consider the fact that most of the Muslims in Pakistan and north India come from the same ancestral groups as the Hindus near them. Many Pakistani Muslims have Indo-Aryan paternal haplogroups (haplogroup R). I think it is even more common in Pakistan than north India to be “Aryan”. Race is more of a function of geography than anything else. It is hard to say whether most of the Muslims in this part of the world are direct descendants of converts or invaders. I personally lean toward the former becuase that version of history implies less energy expenditure.

    The best and earliest evidence for Aryan invasion/settlement came from linguistic analysis. Because Sanskrit and Vedic culture were deeply intertwined and Indo-European / Indo-Aryan culutural artifacts have been found throughout the migration pattern from the Indo-European “homeland” (modern day Eastern Europe) to the subcontinent, it is very likely that the roots of Vedic culture came from outside India. This would mean that the Indo-Aryans brought castes with them. Also IIRC no evidence of Vedic culture have been found in Moenjo Daro and Harappa settlements. I think you’d accept that Vedism did not originate in India (assuming you believe in out of India theory).

    The Vedas themselves say there are four types of people or temperaments, it does not say that these transfer based on racial inheritance or inheritance in general. Only a couple of unrepeated passages in the whole Vedas talk about these temperaments. This is signifcant because the Vedas are a very large corpus with lots of repitition in content.

    This idea is one of the major philosophical differences between modern eastern and western religions that is not often discussed. Western religions say that everyone is the same, eastern religions say everyone is different. As much as western liberals love Buddhism, even it adopts the eastern axiom of fundamental differences (including value differences) between people: the noble vs ignoble, the sharp vs dull minded, etc. This changed somewhat with the Sramana movement, adherence to Upanishadic beliefs, and Advaitism which brought the idea that we are all droplets in the ocean of Brahman. However the idea of fundamental differences among people is still a strong undercurrent all over India.

    Many old religions were like this. Look at the other Indo-European ancestor religions for example (Norse mythology, Greek mythology), medieval European / pre Enlightenment era European Christianity (divine right of kings, the priestly castes).

    I agree that Vedism does not take peace as the highest good. This is obvious if you look at Indo-European and Indo-Aryan culture. These cultures started out comfortable with war and violence. Satya and Rta (truth and order) were seen as more important than peace. Indo-European cultures in general not only accepted and justified violent conflict, they glorified it. The ancient Indo-Aryan Rigvedic chief god Indra (no longer worshipped in India) was the “destroyer of enemy strongholds”. He is roughly equivalent to the other Indo European storm gods of Zeus, Perun, Thor, Jupiter, etc. The Rigvedic god Rudra (many Hindus incorrectly associate Rudra with the modern/peaceful Shiva) was another even more violent storm god. There have been many gods that have been worshipped, fallen out of favor, and eventually forgotten in the long history of Indian religion.

    Saying that Hinduism is not peaceful in its central doctrine is harder to say. It depends on the sect of Hindu and what they believe in, Hinduism has no central doctrine. This is why making such generalizations about Hindus does not make sense. Sometimes people try to say that the central doctine of Hinduism (that is, one that would apply to all Hindus) is some Sramanic/Upanishadic idea of how there are many paths to the Divine. While most Hindus would likely accept this, you could probably find ones that disagreed too. The fact remains that no formal central doctrine exists.

    Hinduism is very decentralized and the cluster of what you’d call Hinduism has changed a lot over millenia. You can make claims about Vedism as it was very orthodox, clear, and “by the book”, but 99.9% of modern day Hindus do not follow Vedic orthodoxy. Modern Hinduism and Vedism differ in many ways, and in a number of ways are polar opposites. For example animal sacrifice and beef eating were deeply embedded in the culture of ancient Vedic India (controversial but undeniable when you look at the early Vedas and archaelogical dig sites). Today these practices are the most taboo you can get in most of India.

    There is likely more variation among Hindu sects than differences between Christianity and Islam. I’d say most modern Hinduism is a syncretic mix of Sramanic beliefs, Tantric beliefs, and popular diety (Krishna, Shiva, etc) worship. Sramanic beliefs were very anti-violence, this movement and the cultural conflicts between Brahmanism and Buddhism is where much of the vegetarianism and ahimsa stuff of modern Hinduism came from. I also suspect medieval conflict between Hindus and Muslims pushed Hindus further into vegetarian extremes, that’s a whole different discussion.

    If you look at popular Hinduism (Ramayana and Mahabharata), just war is accepted. I guess in that sense peace is not the most important thing to them. Recall Ramayana and Mahabharata were written during periods of Vedic dominance – where preserving justice was more important than being peaceful. However if you look at actual religious leaders and praxis of the largest modern sects where real moden Hinduism is actually practiced, non-violence is consistently held as among the most important tenets. I don’t really know if you can say Hindus are “peaceful” or not. I think individuals will justify violence when they feel they need to, whether their religion technically allows it or not. Points about ethics or morality are irrelevant when you feel your survival is at stake.

    Hope this wasn’t too long. Love your blog.

    1. Hi Kevin, I am really sorry if I hurt you in anyway. I myself happen to be a descendant of Hindus and hold Indians in high esteem generally. Anyhow, I wonder if you could kindly publish all of this valuable content to your own blog. I would like to link back to it. I think your knowledge about religions is quite immense. People like you can help bring about peace and harmony in the world. Never ever were you disrespectful of any religion in your discourse. This is a very valuable trait that people may lack in our part of the world. And I really apologize if I wrote something that is derogatory. Please point that out to me and I shall remove it.

      1. Hello, apologies for the late response. I got your reply but got busy with some stuff.
        Thank you for the kind words.

        Reading your post, I got the sense that you are expressing your sincerely held view of history and reality based on the facts you have. You are clearly thinking critically about history. You don’t seem to be a mindless partisan. I think we need more people like you.

        It has always been ironic to me that love (of our religion, ethnic group, family, etc) is one of the biggest sources of conflict / violence. If India and Pakistan as nations could merely be neutral towards each other, both countries could advance and progress a lot in objective terms. Both countries have intelligent people and plenty of resources.

        I think not conflating politics and religion is part of that. I am not promoting (or dis-promoting) secularism here, I’m saying we should leave theology out of things where it’s not directly relevant. Too many people on both sides of the border turn theological argument into a proxy war for geopolitical conflicts.

        I’m a free speech guy, I would not ask you to take anything down. I have explained why I believe some of it is based on ignorance. If you want to revise things or make a new post, based on an updated view, that is up to you. As long as I can freely respond, which I was allowed to do here, that is what matters most to me.

        I’ll consider throwing this up on my site. If I were to, I’d revise it to add sources for some of my claims (which means I would have to do some research, which takes time). Also for something that could be controversial to people, I’d have to get around to adding a comment section first. It’s a static site and not wordpress so that part is a little annoying.

        I actually found out about this site when I searched for examples of applying genetic programming / gram evol to financial forecasting. It’s very interesting that you write on such varied topics. It’s not a common thing for technically literate people to do. I found a few of your posts about the goings on in Pakistani politics to be insightful for example.

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