Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Jewel In The Crown

Dear Reader,

When you think of India, is your first thought about the poverty that is often found there? That the literacy level is low in many places there?

Is it your impression that India was (and recently was) a backward country and has only recently started to emerge as a world power?

Is your impression that it is a country of a caste system and 100s of gods?

In which case, you may be in for a few surprises, especially when it is taken into account that the Harappan civilisation of several thousands of years BC reveals signs of advanced water supply and effluent management systems.

On literacy, American historian William Durant (1885-1981) declared that:
When the British came, there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools managed by village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities. Instead of encouraging education, the Government encouraged drink.
This observation has been ratified by many: literacy amongst the ordinary people of India was very high if not 100%. The interest of Britain was to make India (and other colonial countries) subservient to Britain's interests and thus Britain progressively instituted an educational system that made Indian civil servants into virtual clones of their colonial masters. The legacy of the British in this regard has only recently started to abate, while ordinary people received little or no education during this period of rule - as, indeed was the case for ordinary people in Britain also at that time. Britain's class system was at its peak during this time.

It has been said that the village schools system had great room for improvement, but that they were very effective and were one of the institutions of local power. When they were superseded by new schools, run by the British bureaucracy using an alien language whose benefit ordinary people could not see, children of the poorer classes simply pulled out. This led to the deliteralisation of the great masses of the Indian population.

Now, onto the economy of India.

The Mughal period (preceding Britain's involvement in India) had some share in the demise of India's culture and economy. But it was since Britain's increasing involvement in the country from 1700 that India's share of the world economy collapsed from 24.4% to 4.2% shortly after the year of Independence (1947). according to British economist Angus Maddison, It has also been said that under British rule, India suffered more famines in mere decades than during the preceding 1,000 years.

Britain imposed central control, which proved to be disastrous for agriculture. In most of the country lay a system of tanks that had existed for millennia and were repaired by village councils. The English disbanded the local councils and instituted a system of canal irrigation even for places where it was unsuitable. Soon, the tanks fell into disuse leading to a fall of the water table. This had disastrous effects on agriculture.

The total matter of misgovernment was so apparent fairly early on that the issue was raised by British politician Edmund Burke who (in 1778) began a seven-year impeachment trial against Warren Hastings and the East India Company on charges including mismanagement of the Indian economy.

This brings us on to the culture of India, and the over-hackneyed view that it is a country of 100s of gods.

The afore-mentioned Edmund Burke observed:
[Indians were] a people for ages civilised and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There is to be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst living, and their consolation in death; a nobility of great antiquity and renown; a multitude of cities; millions of ingenious manufacturers and mechanics; millions of the most diligent, and not the least intelligent, tillers of the earth. Here are to be found almost all the religions professed by men, the [Hindu], the [Muslim], the Eastern and the Western Christians.
British Orientalist Sir William Jones, who translated many important and ancient Sanskrit books, said: "The Sanskrit language [is of] wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either."

The spirituality of India has been praised by many western men of letters, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreaux and Mark Twain, to name but a few.

On the matter of India's caste system, what has been observed in recent centuries is something that has become a misused method of ordering people and is not what was originally implemented. There was no idea in the original system of people taking on one caste or another by heredity, which is what it became. It was originally a simple view of four important strata of society in which each individual took his place according to ability and circumstances. We do that in our own societies.

It is true that many gods in India can be found, but Indian philosophy is extremely deep, with the essential principle being that as God the Creator resides in everything, one may adopt worship of virtually anything as an expression of the one divine creator: their spiritual faith is towards the unity of the Godhead, not otherwise.

This Indian philosophy - of the singularity of the Godhead - was a great influence on the thinking of the world in ancient times, and in India's ancient scriptures is to be found much else beside spiritual injunctions and guidance. They even contain mathematical and scientific formula from which great names such as Pythagoras formed his theorems. In the Indian scriptures, we find the first idea of the number 0. The science of ancient India included medicine that even recently would have been regarded as advanced in the West, with surgery being carried out using the most wonderful devices.

What is more, traces of Indian civilisation and its symbols are slowly being found in many parts of the world, including Russia and the Americas. India's spiritual philosophy has provided the basis for all true faith in the world, with a morality that is second to none.

This is the country that Britain tried to submit to its will, but it was Britain's Empire that went, not the ancient home of philosophy and moral endeavour. And now India is coming back to the forefront.

Significantly, British Historian Arnold Toynbee (1888-1975) stated:
It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way.
Thank you for reading this.