Monday, February 26, 2007

CAPE TOWN -A WORLD TRAVEL DESTINATION PART-1

CAPE TOWN- A WORLD TRAVEL DESTINATION- PART-1

OUYTHOUSoiiNNsuth Africa, India and an old sea route
South Africa India and an old sea-route

Who was the first European that landed in India?’
‘Vasco De Gamma from Portuguese’
‘Which route did he take?’
‘The sea-route from Portugal rounding the Cape of Good-Hope’
‘Why did he come to India?’
‘To promote trade between India and …’
‘Was he?’
Was it for that, he pioneered that route risking his life and of his fellow sailors in the rough seas of Atlantic and Indian? I was remembering my history classes in a remote Kerala village school, many years ago, when I was a fifth grader, where our teachers used to impart knowledge about things perhaps they did not know much or perhaps in the way the writers, publishes and the politicians wanted
A map of Cape Peninsula
to purport them?

I was standing at the peak of the Cape Point, a cape adjacent to the Cape of Good Hope.

The sea below more than 1000 meters was rough and the wind howled in fierce animosity. The attraction at the top of the mountain was an old lighthouse. Prefabricated in London more than three hundred years ago, it was brought over there, a script embedded on a metal disk inside it read.

It looked like a shrine, by age and the solemn-ness that lurked in and around it interrupted only by the howling wind. The wild shrubs that filled the rest of the mountaintop spilled an exotic cent into the air.

Travelers from all around the world, moved in and around it in awe apparently lapping up the history its monuments displayed or not displayed. I noticed the gentleness on their fingers and faces when they touched on those monuments, a metal plaque or a wall inscription, out of excitement.

Sitting inside it, somebody once controlled the sea traffic between the two halves of the world and the destiny of the people in them dawned onto me as a fleeting thought. At one spot, inside the lighthouse stood a spiked metal pole with each spike indicating the direction and distance to the most important cities in the world.

India and South Africa were the two key links in the proliferation of European colonialism. Traffic along the Cape route was once heavy. Ships stuffed with India’s natural and human resources moved forth to the various European colonies and back with the finished products. The place value of South Africa at the initial stage in the colonial equation was to offer transit facilities to those long traveling sailors. Later when South Africa’s natural resources were discovered it became an excellent enterprise zone.

By the later part of the 1900s when colonies turned democracies and technologies were developed the colonial sea-route between East and West rounding the Cape of Good Hope diminished and was abandoned. The whole area is now a national heritage and human dwelling is nowhere in the vicinity.

Blue Rock cable water, a funtastic ski resort with mountains and wine

At the feet of the Cape Point that forms the Southern tip of the African continent and of the South African nation, meet the two prolific oceans: the steely cold Atlantic and the warm bubbly Indian. Cape Maclear and Cape Point are two other adjacent capes at their meeting region.

Beyond the feet of the Cape Point, traveling by vehicle is prohibited except for the trams run by the State Tourism Department. To climb up to the roof of the sharply escalating mountain on foot is like a pilgrimage without rituals. Among them were children, youth, old, male and female. Along the side of the neatly paved walking route are varieties of natural vegetation that form parts of the 7750 hector Table Mountain National Park surrounding the Cape Mountain.

We went there as a family. The excitement about the city never ended. It goes on….

Friday, February 23, 2007

Appology For Hindu Untouchability

APPOLOGY FOR HINDU UNTOUCHABILITY

The following is an apology forwarded by ‘Navya Shastra Organisation’ to the untouchables (avarnas) of India, as I found in the Hindu Press International (HPI), December 21, 2006. Navya Shastra Organization Apologizes for Untouchability - http://www.shastras.org/ www.shastras.org

Hindu reform organization, has issued an apology to the Dalit communities of India. The organization issued the apology after consulting with Hindu activists and its own Dalit members. It reads:We, at Navya Shastra, deeply regret and apologize for the atrocities committed on the sons and daughters of the depressed communities of India, including the tribals, the "untouchables" and all of the castes deemed as low. We shamefully acknowledge that the ideals of varna and its practical manifestation in castes (jatis), promoted and encouraged the notions of inequality, lesser and greater, high and low, superior and inferior among human beings. An ideal that does not aspire for equality of human beings is not worthy of being an ideal. Caste and varna have relegated many to a degradingly low status. This was a divisive, inhumane and a ruinous social construct. Navya Shastra fully recognizes this and rejects unequivocally as heinous and despicable varna and caste together with all Shastras and theories that endorse them or support the unjust and demeaning social hierarchy that these imposed on the Indian society. Navya Shastra understands that all Hindus cannot be equals when such theories are still amidst us. We ask for forgiveness for what our forefathers did in the past to directly and indirectly contribute to any and all indignities heaped by one human being upon another in the name of Dharma and God, and which some among us continue to do even in this enlightened era. The depressed and lowest castes have been the keepers and protectors of our oldest and most ancient traditions and wisdom. They have kept in practice the traditions that have become foundational to what we call "mainstream" Hinduism today. Some of the tribal languages, spoken even today, have provided the substratum for many of the spoken and classical languages of India. Most of our mainstream indigenous medicinal, agricultural, craftsmanship and other knowledge systems owe their origins to the knowledge and practices that have been propagated and retained within these castes over millennia. The folk performing arts were and are the main sources of input into the classical and popular art forms. We want to celebrate and fete all these traditions on this day, and pay homage to them. These traditions form the very foundation on which the Indian civilization stands today.


Navya Shastra(NSO), apparetnly functions in the west as a neo-Hindu organization is trying to come clear off an age-old Hindu uppercaste legacy, to denigrate India’s majority as ‘untouchables’. As the first of this kind, the apology deserves attention and the offer should stand until the untouchables of India find this proposed change of heart felt in their real life.

The following are some of the concerns in this regard:

NSO is apparently an academic reformation waged on the electronic and print media. How can it bring a change of heart in those who have no access to such gadgets and opportunities? Both the perpetrators and the victims mostly live in Indian villages where such gadgets have little access. Even if they have access, how can the NSO's academic appology-call make a change in their thinking?

The following recent news-clips are proof that the uppercaste's discriminations against Dalits (untouchables) in India are still live.
Educated Dalits Speaking Out ( http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/dec/06spec.htm):
Dalits All Set To Enter Orissa Temple (http://www.ibnlive.com/news/dalits-all-set-to-enter-orissa-temple/28195-3.html)
Orissa High Court Rules for Dalits http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEQ20061205115441&Page=Q&Title=ORISSA&Topic=0
Dalit Statue Attack Sparks Hindu Riots in Mumbai (today.reuters.co.uk)
Dalits Threaten to Convert After Being Denied Temple Entry (http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1061243)

If Navya Sastra Organisation should be taken seriously, then their reforms should show results. For that they should have foot soldiers to carry out their reforms, where the discrimination is still live and kicking: in the minds of millions of Indians.

.

Hinduism a Brahmin-European Discovery.

In the following essay, I try to explain the meaning and purpose of this 'discovery' and how it affects the existence of the Indian majority, based on an article 'The Invention of the Hindu' written by Pankaj Mishra. (http://www.axess.se/english/2004/02/theme_inventionhindu.php). However, I do not agree with everything Mr. Mishra mentions in this article.

Though I have heard about this Hindu discovery before, Mishra’s is the first article I read on it. Among other things he writes, “Hinduism is largely a fiction”, an 18th and 19th century creation of the colonial Europeans and their Sanskrit learned Brahmin intermediaries in India.“Together, the British scholars and the Brahmin interpreters came up with a canon of sorts, mostly Brahmanical literature and ideology, which they began to identify with a single Hindu religion”.

Before going further, I suggest to read this article from the above link

If anybody feels the news shocking, that is natural. In the more than the five generations passed by since this creation, Hinduism has come to represent on the one hand a monolithic religious institution of India and on the other a cultural and national identity for the Indian majority. And to admit, all of a sudden that, that identity is a fiction jointly created by a people who pause the cultural leaders of India and of a foreign people is not easy.

And when one says, Hinduism is a creation of the Brahmin-European alliance, what does that mean?

Does it mean that traditional India’s knowledge and wisdom, its holistic philosophy, enterprises, industry, civilization, religions etc. that we find in the current Sanskrit Brahmanic Hindu texts are creations of a 19th century Brahmin-colonial union? No. They only ‘interpreted’ those knowledge and wisdom, preserved in India's oral traditions and peppered them with a few stories of their own, to appear as theirs.

However, this kind of interpretation of Indian tradition by foreign migrants was not a phenomenon that started in the 18th century. It started much earlier than that; the Brahmanic puranas and even the Gita are apparently such interpretation of earlier Indian traditions.

How those migrants later became Brahmins has a twist. Original Brahmins of India were not foreigners. The Kuchela Brahmin narrated in the Brahmanic text Bhagavatha was a poor, learned, humble, person. He was the representation of the typical average traditional learned Indian. How the Kuchela Brahmin was coerced to join a tardy, greedy pack of foreign migrants who played second fiddle to a villainous migrant ruling class and how he finally traded off his ideals for material as engineered by ‘bhagavan Krishnan’ is the story of the avil-puranam in the Bhagavatha. Once the true Brahmin tradition had gradually collapsed, the migrants cut and pasted that tradition and clan-name on them and they better be called the neoBrahmins (nB).

And why didn’t the Indian majority know anything about that Brahmin fiction and did nothing to protect themselves from its shame?

The reasons could be:

Once the neoBrahmins (nB) stepped into the scene, they displaced the majority from the mainstream using racial/caste apartheid. That led to the majority’s traditional enterprises, industry and quality of life deteriorating at rapid pace. The nB also prohibited the masses from educating and learning, which left them with little grasp of the devastation inflicted on their tradition. Neither it was easy for them to prioritize the issues of freedom and dignity, while worried about subsistence. As time went by their young generations slipped into poverty and ignorance and it became impossible for them to dwell into existential quests.

Why was it invented?

On the other hand, the nB with the wealth and property expropriated from the majority, embarked on a new existence in India (Kerala) and elsewhere. Long before the colonial period, the role changing between the nB and the people of India-nB taking the role of the enlightened Indians and the Indians taking that of the subverted migrants- was in full swing.

And once the colonials struck, an instant rapport was found between the two. Though the chemistry between the two activated unthinkable equations and formula in to the various aspects of Indian life the deadliest of them was found in the religio-cultural field.

Invention of Hinduism was one such. Mishra argues that in the British rational this invention was to impose a ‘uniformity’ or to ‘fix a single identity for such diverse communities as (they) found in India ..’. However, in my understanding, beyond this superficial rational, both the nBs and the British had hidden agendas. The invention fabricated an Aryan racial connection between neoBrahmins and the Eropeans. This authorised the nB the sole custody of Indian religions and civilization and in turn the British got to lay a claim on to a civilized Aryan ancestry.

Serious contradictions

And how much of the above claimed ‘uniformity’ and ‘single identity’ by Misra have the Indian majority achieved by way of inventing Hinduism? It only trapped them into an outside abstract religious identity/label with which their inner Being that was deeply entrenched in traditional religions came into sharp contrast. To some extent they were not even conscious about those inner attributes though their actions were guided by them.

And a kind of such contrast Mishra observes in his aunty which surpises him (please read Mishra’s article).

But contrary to the Indian majority, Mishra’s aunt was unconscious about her inner being. She was more conscious about her outside religious label and the prejudice it imposed.

In most cases the Indian majority rationalizes the outer and let go the prejudices it invites using their inner beingness. That is why the passive chanting of a nB or the political ranting of a Hindu fundamentalist makes little impact on their day-to-day life. Ideals of secularism, universalism and human values are their religion and ways of life which they easily practice. But they are not articulate about them like the westerners.

This non-articulation has been greatly exploited by the inventors of Hinduism. Mishra points out ‘most Indians then knew nothing or very little about the hymns …or the philosophical idealism of the Upanishads that the British and other European scholars took to be the very essence of Indian civilization’. That is, by western definition, only those who could make the outward academic expressions of Hinduism, the right chanting of Vedic hymns in Sanskrit, are true Hindus. Very few among the Kerala majority can read the Gita or the Upanishads in Sanskrit, but they do practice the exact ideals purported in them. But for those go pedantic about Hindu definitions they are heathens. But, how much of the nB who chant Sanskrit hymns in right ways follow those ideals in real life?

Hinduism, as an invented Brahmanic label and as the traditional religious ways of life are two mutually evasive theologies. The latter can never meet with the former.

Hindu temples?

Converting India’s traditional reigious centers into Hindu temples was an organized part of Brahmanic institutionalization that might have started much earlier than the colonial arrival. Traditionally India’s sciences, art and architecture were developed around those temples, which were then secular than religious. Once converted into Hindu temples, neoBrahmins denied the majority access to them and became the sole owners of their property and possessions. Evidence of them tampering with the old temple structures and deities are evident in all present Hindu temples.

Conclusion

In conclusion:
· Contents of this article are not aimed at upsetting anybody. Misconceptions in the west that Indian majority are not proper Hindus for they lack its formal knowledge is taking a toll on their dignity and existence. To Deal with every unfair decision taken in the parlour of human history is the responsibility of the generations that follows.
· Present generation of India (Kerala) may be innocent of the doings of their forefathers. However their dignity is very much in question when they still continue in the path of their for-fathers.
· Indians (Keralites) who tend to ignore this issue out of shear modesty or arrogance are making huge mistakes. A culturally conscious Kerala Hindu youths, at home and abroad are growing disgruntled about complacency with the deliberate damages on their cultures. They need education to purge out the dirt inflicted on their religion and to embrace the truth hidden beneath it.

· In this regard, the invention of Hinduism as a religious label is not simply a religious issue. It is, I believe, an issue of Indian culture and civilization. So it is the business of every Indian who is genuinely concerned with these matters whether they live in India or elsewhere.