Monday, July 22, 2024

Indic civilisation- a force for good

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In the intellectual circles in India and globally recently, the term ‘Indic civilisation’ has been in vogue and is considered by many social scientists to be a buzzword for the votaries of right-wing Hindu nationalists. Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the term, it is necessary to understand what it means and what are its components.

Indic civilisation refers broadly to the religious-cultural and social institutions, customs and religions that emerged in the Indian subcontinent over the centuries, since the time of the Indus valley civilisation of around five thousand years ago. Indic civilisation includes, within its fold, the indigenous ways of life that characterizes the very social fabric of Bharat over the centuries. It, according to Indic scholars like Koenraad Elst, Sitaram Goel, Jakob Roover inter alia originated from the Indus valley civilisation emerged around 3200-3000 BC. This is evidenced by the uncovering by Indian and foreign archaeologists since the 1920s of the Pashupati seal, the renowned bronze statue of the dancing girl, image of the mother goddess etc. Linguists claim the yet undeciphered Indus script is essentially Tamil Brahmi script. Following the decline and disintegration of the civilisation, the Vedic age rose. Over the centuries, religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism (these originated in the 6th century BC to reform Hinduism), Sikhism etc emerged within the Indian subcontinent highlighting the distinct nature of the Indic civilisation and its distinct way of life.

However, Indic civilisation is not only about indigenous religions and institutions. Foreign religions and ways of life are equally an integral part of the cultural discourse.

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This is particularly true of Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. Judaism and Zoroastrianism can be legitimately called Indic religions owing to their assimilation in the broad Hindu fold in general and Indic fold in particular. Zoroastrianism faith people came to India as refugees in the early 9th century from Persia (now Iran) to escape persecution and death at the hands of Arab Muslim invaders who were hellbent on expanding the newly found Islamic caliphate around the world in the name of spreading the only ‘true faith’.

Christianity, however, has a long and controversial history, it has for long been associated with the way of life of European colonisers- Portuguese, British, French etc. Britain was the torchbearer of Christian and European supremacism in India, its devious way of operating in India and the impact it had on the Indic consciousness, in areas such as education, religion, customs and social fabric was brilliantly exposed by J Sai Deepak in his book India, That is Bharat- Coloniality, Civilisation & Constitution. Nevertheless, over time intellectual and mass level contacts between India and other European countries led to the Indianisation of Christianity in states like Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra etc.

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Islam- the elephant in the room

The Indic civilisation faced and continues to face its greatest threat from Islam, particularly radical Islam. Islamism is fundamentally anti-ethical to the idea of Indic values, because it pledges itself to establish a global empire in the form of the Islamic caliphate. Henry Kissinger notes in The World Order that what Islam did in Persia in the 9th century still holds true for the rest of the world.

The division of the world into infidels and believers or kafirs and momins is an anathema to the very accommodative spirit of Indic civilisation. While it is true that Sufi Islam did promote the Bhakti movement in the Northern and Southern parts of India from the 15th to 17th centuries. Yet, the politicisation by successive theologians like Ibn Tahamayya, Shah Walliullah Dehlavi precludes Islam from being accommodated within the Hindu fold.

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It is imperative that people of Muslim faith, particularly the educated Muslim youth of Bharat reject the Arabian values and pledge their allegiance to India and acknowledge their Hindu roots and culture. That way, perhaps, Islam can truly become Indian in the near future.

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