a smorgasbord, not a set menu

Part of the lore passed down orally in my family was that Jesus lived in India for many years. That he was an avatar of God, like Rama, Krishna, Buddha and others before him. That he lived in the Himalayas in his youth and learnt about samadhi from Indian rishis. That he was therefore able to survive after he was lifted down from the cross and placed in a tomb. That he returned to India and lived to a ripe old age in the Himalayas. And that his tomb is in Kashmir.

It sounded too far-fetched to me. Surely a young boy wouldn’t leave his home and family in the middle-east to come and learn about spiritual practices here, so far away, through high mountain passes and biting cold? And if he came here as a youth how did he die here at eighty? When did he preach in his own country then? I simply pushed the story to the back of my mind with the rest of Indian folklore.

My actual introduction to Christianity was at the age of nine when I began attending a school run by Christians. A school day started with Chapel every morning, and I learnt a lot about the religion over the years.

Born Hindu, I never had to commit myself to any one image of god because we had a pantheon in our pooja ghar, or altar. And when we went to other parts of India we worshipped at temples of gods who weren’t even on our altar, because all gods of all religions are representations of the only god there is. My parents said that a holy place was a holy place regardless of religion, because people bring only pure, clean thoughts and prayers to their holy shrines, and all places of worship are therefore imbued with holiness.

Growing up, I did wonder about the multiplicity of gods in Hinduism, unlike in other religions. Hinduism is monotheistic, but people worship god in hundreds of different forms. They invoke god in the form that traditionally represents what they need fixed: like goddess Lakshmi for money worries, analogous to the Christian patron saint, St. Nicholas; or Saraswathi, the goddess of music and art, who is similar to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music; or any of the gods – like Ganesha, Hanuman, Krishna, or Durga-mata in desperate situations, like St. Jude, or Jesus himself. Prayer is just a matter of reaching out to god in his most relatable form in the circumstances, either directly or through an intercessor.

The name by which I address god doesn’t matter, nor does it matter if I don’t engage with him at all. I can be an atheist, which will make me a nastik Hindu, or an out and out materialist, which will make me a charvaka Hindu, none of which are bad or wrong; they are just where I happen to be on my karmic path. I can even worship Jesus as my ishtha-devatha (god of choice) and follow the path of bhakti yoga (path of love) and still be Hindu. Looking back, this is what I probably did for a couple of years in my teens when I read the Bible, went to church and subscribed to an American Christian youth magazine called Young Ambassador. All this fits in with the claim that Hinduism is not a religion, just a way of life, which can leave a child quite confused.

As a young adult, the Hindu way of thinking gave me freedom to not commit myself irrevocably to a fixed set of beliefs. I was wary of being expected to handcuff myself mentally to things I had stopped believing in, something that happens when you permanently accept any dogma. Religious syncretism allowed me to change or modify my beliefs when I understood something better while dipping into the teachings of different religions and philosophies, and I made up my mind that this was how fluid it was always going to be.

Being a medical student, one side of me said it was just neurones and synapses that process information continuously and throw up new patterns of thought, perception and emotion, and nothing was real, especially not god and religion. Another side of me said it was more than that, beyond science. There was room for that internal debate too because Hinduism doesn’t expect me to accept anything on faith.

What was my takeaway from learning the teachings of Jesus as a child? By clearly distinguishing between good and bad, they simplified the world for me at an age when I wasn’t yet able to grasp the complexities and nuances of Hinduism that I now appreciate. Having been introduced to two religions simultaneously I saw the world of abstract ideas about life and god as more of a smorgasbord than a set menu. Theism, as I still see it, is only useful if it enables us to live in harmony on earth, and not quibble over the name of the Maker or form armies to kill each other in his name.

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In 2002 I came across Jesus the man, a book by Australian historian and theologian, Barbara Thiering. One bit I remember from this book is that Jesus and the two men who were hanged along with him ­­– Simon Magus and Judas Iscariot ­– were brought down from the crosses on Pilate’s orders. They were then imprisoned in a burial cave where Simon, who belonged to a community of healers called the Therapeutae, revived Jesus. He survived and was taken to safety, a few days after which he left the country.

Around the same time I read Jesus lived in India by Holger Kersten. This book is about Jesus’ coming to India after the crucifixion. Apparently he lived to be eighty and was buried in Rozabal in Srinagar, Kashmir, when his life ended. The ancient inscription on his tomb says Hazrat Issa Sahib meaning Tomb of Lord Jesus. And it still exists!

I didn’t think of any of this for a long, long time as I was busy with profession, children and home.

Then, a few days ago, I read The Lost Years of Jesus by Elizabeth Prophet. This concerns the time Jesus left Jerusalem with a caravan of merchants at the age of thirteen and lived in India till the age of twenty nine: the lost years that are not accounted for in the Bible.

To quickly summarise, Jesus apparently spent six years in Eastern India in Hindu centres of learning like Puri, Rajagriha and Kashi. He later moved to Hemis, a Buddhist monastery in Leh, Kashmir, where he lived till the age of twenty nine. The Buddhist lamas refer to him as a Buddha (= the enlightened one), the Buddha Issa.

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I visited this Buddhist monastery at Hemis in 2007 on a family vacation to Leh in Kashmir. This is where Jesus is said to have spent the lost years that are not accounted for in the Bible.

Records of his teachings, as well as his biography, were maintained in the Hemis monastery in Leh in Kashmir. A Russian journalist, Nicolas Notovitch, heard about them by chance. He went in search of them in 1887and had them translated from Pali into Russian. His book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, was first published in 1894.

The existence of these documents was subsequently verified by reliable people, viz. Swamy Abhedananda (1922), Prof. Nicholas Roerich (1925) and Madame Caspari (1939), the details of which are in Elizabeth Prophet’s book.

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The questions I had asked as a child were answered. But more than that, thanks to trying to make sense of all that I heard in school and at home regarding god, I had concluded that swearing allegiance to any religion was not necessary. Cherry-picking from all of them was fine. But that’s exactly what Hinduism is: you are free to think, free to question, and free to choose what to believe, without an angry god to consign you to hell if you dare to process and question what is preached.

There’s this quote from ancient Indian literature called the Puranas: “Like a honey bee gathering trickles of honey from different flowers, the wise man accepts the essence of different scriptures and sees only the good in all the religions.”

Despite the differences in what religious fundamentalists – of all hues – say, at the deepest level we all feel the same thing in terms of what god, or the idea of god, is supposed to do in our lives: be there for us when we need him. Sometimes it’s easier to anthropomorphise god, and that’s fine too. The problem arises when a group of people act as though their virtual image of god is a photograph that god physically posed for, while others’ images are morphed ones of an imposter!

echo chambers and shibboleths

My mother lost her brother in a religious street war when I was a school kid. I’ll never forget her reaction when she got the phone call from a cousin in her hometown. Nor my own shock and horror when I came to know that my uncle was stabbed over and over by a mob of people till he bled to death…

Such incidents still happen.

I wish we could simplify religion into a quiet private activity and not let it spill out into the streets as anger and outrage. And not onto the internet either.

Lies we believe about God’ by William Paul Young, and ‘Being Different’ by Rajiv Malhotra, are two books I happened to read back-to-back recently. Though they were both interesting, they were so different that I could practically feel and hear the clash of civilisations inside my head!

Some of the postulates in both books have been angrily denounced by readers as straw man arguments. How much critical thinking can one apply to something as subjective and faith-based as religion? My view is that most religions – the body of accepted truths, myths, miracles, tenets and stories about important personages in the history of every religion – exist because of collective validation.

The only way everyone in a large group can have exactly the same beliefs is by meeting regularly to validate each other. The meeting place thus becomes an echo chamber where certain beliefs are reinforced, while alternative or competing concepts are not allowed to be discussed. If not for these echo chamber meetings, people would end up with different beliefs over the years based on their own thinking and experiences. Instead, they are pruned to turn out like identical bushes in a formal garden, rather than trees growing freely in a forest. Even though trees are of different types and heights, a forest is a coherent whole, more natural and authentic than a formal garden.

Maybe there would be a better chance of peace if everyone arrived at their own individual belief systems regarding god and religion, and kept them private. I think experiential learning is far superior to received wisdom that is swallowed whole without being sifted and vetted and sent through the filters of one’s own mind. Hopefully, the young people of today will do better.

For centuries, religious leaders have been making rules and putting a stamp of divine authority on them. I do see that these rules help a lot of people walk the straight and narrow path. Religions help stabilise societies and bring out the empathic and altruistic side of people, and that’s a good thing for the human race. Without them the world might have been more of a dog-eat-dog place than it is. That much I concede.

But I think beliefs should be fluid enough to change with experience. For example, an innocent child who has been taught that her family’s god is the only real god will eventually notice that her friends’ gods are equally real to them. How will she deal with that? She has to change her idea of god. Will she be allowed? Why was she even taught something so divisive in the first place?  It seems to me that group gods are shibboleths that unite some people, who together exclude other people by declaring them either wrong or inferior.

Considering how much talk there is of human rights in today’s world, choosing how one wants to imagine god should be a basic human right! Yes, elders have to teach things to children, but I’m not sure this sort of indoctrination is teaching. Elders could perhaps use their wisdom better by introducing their family god to their children, then telling them that others may see god differently, and assuring them that this is perfectly okay.

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As Rajiv Malhotra says in ‘Being Different’, the only way billions of people can live peacefully on earth is by mutual respect towards each others’ religions, not by mere tolerance. Tolerance is the ‘ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with’ (Oxford English dictionary). That is, you put up with them and conceal your annoyance behind a wall of tolerance.

In a pluralistic society nobody can say when that wall of tolerance will be breached. All it needs is one careless remark by someone, or sometimes, nothing at all. Perhaps the simmering negative energy of tolerance reaches critical mass and erupts. We then have those sickeningly familiar scenes of violence and bloodshed, cops and ambulances, placards and flowers and wakes, on primetime news. In 24 hours the whole incident will be replaced by some other breaking news, and only those who lost loved ones will remember the incident for ever.

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Maybe related, maybe not

I was flipping through an old favourite book, Che Guevara’s ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’. The description of Cuzco as el ombligo del mundo, or the navel of the world, sent my thoughts spinning in a different direction today. I grabbed a pen and scribbled down the chaotic associations that swam around in my head before they could evaporate, as they often do.

The Latin word umbilicus is ombligo in Spanish and bombli in Konkani, my mother tongue. The mbli is common to all three. The English navel is closer to the Sanskrit nabhila and German nabel. 

The word for God is a variation of Dev in many Indian languages. In Hindi it is added to the name of a god as in Ramdev or Krishnadev. In Konkani it is Devu. In Kannada it is Devaru. It is Dios in Spanish, Deu in French, Dyw in Cornish and Dew in Breton (got this from the net).

The word alma, soul in Spanish, and atma, soul in Sanskrit – do they have a common origin?

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The colocasia plant that I grow in a pot in the balcony
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Pathraday

Pathraday, a spicy roll made out of colocasia leaves, is believed to be a purely Mangalorean (Konkani) dish. But is it? Punjabis make pathrode out of cabbage leaves, something I recently came to know! Does that make the basic recipe for pathrode 2000 years old, when the forefathers of present-day Mangaloreans and Punjabis might have been neighbours along the banks of the Saraswati river?

Kukkad in Punjabi and kunkad in Konkani both mean rooster, or maybe fowl in general.

The Gujarati and the Konkani words for lunch, jaman and jevan respectively, are similar.

The English word name is naam in Hindi, naava in Konkani and Marathi, nombre in Spanish.

You is tu in Hindi, Konkani, Spanish and French…

And of course, the words for father, mother and some body parts like chest (chaati in Hindi), etc. are well known to be similar in many languages.

Some words for water: Czech, Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Macedonian – voda, Latvian – ūdens, Albanian – uji, Basque – ura (from the net). In Sanskrit it is udaka and in Konkani it is udaka, or uda.

Ura > uda > voda > water; or water > voda > uda > ura. Is that fanciful, or did it happen like that?

There are five main Dravidian languages. The word for water is nearly the same in four of them – neeru in Kannada, neerlu in Telugu, thanneer in Tamil (abbreviated to neer or thanni) and neer in Tulu. But it’s vellam in Malayalam…

Where does meen, the word for fish in Kannada/Tamil/Malayalam/Tulu, come from? And why is it chaapalu in Telugu? 

Mina is also the constellation of Pisces. Is that from Tamil (Dravidian) or Sanskrit (Aryan), both ancient languages? That is, who named the constellation ‘mina’?

The name meenakshi means ‘eyes shaped like fish’, derived from meena and akshu (‘eyes’ in Sanskrit, as I’ve understood until now). If meena is Tamil and akshu Sanskrit, and Meenakshi is a goddess worshipped by Tamilians, how did akshu come into it? Is akshu a Tamil word absorbed into Sanskrit by Aryans? And Meenakshi is a Dravidian (Tamilian) goddess married to Shiva, an Aryan God!

How exactly were the Aryans and Dravidians connected? Is it even true that Dravidians lived here, and then the Aryan conquerors came and pushed them southwards?

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I came across this paper on how it is wrong to jump to conclusions based on phonetic resemblances, when I browsed the internet just now:

http://ww
w.zompist.com/chance.htm

The writer, Mark Rosenfelder, goes on to explain why we are so easy to fool. These resemblances are fascinating nevertheless. 

Mark is probably right, and I am one of those folks whose eyes glaze over when you talk about probabilities. I guess I romanticize Proto-World, because the present-day world really gets to me at times. Other times, when I’m comfortably ensconced in bed with a book and the air-conditioner is set at a temperature I like, I can clearly see why those may not have been very good times!

‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’ is now available on Amazon

    When my son was about five years old, an older child in the school van asked him if he was Muslim or Hindu. He didn’t know. So he told her, “I’m a Gemini”! When he got home he anxiously asked me if his reply was right. I nodded and smiled, all the while wondering how to explain religion to a five-year-old.

He had a lot of questions.

What is a Hindu? What is the difference between Hindus and other people? How many Gods are there? Why are there beggars with no food to eat and no place to live – why does God let it happen? Where did Ajja go when he died? Why do I have to be good? And so forth.

I thought back to my own childhood. When I was four I lived with my grandmother and her mother for about a year. That’s when I think I imbibed something about Hinduism. I say ‘imbibed’ because not much was spoken; it was just lived. There are only two things I remember being mentioned. One was karma, or ‘you reap what you sow’, and the other was that there’s only one God whom people call by different names. I realize that these two beliefs have endured, and I still believe them to be true. So, when I decided to write down what I meant to tell my son about Hinduism, I started with these two concepts. That’s what ‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’, published in 2005, is mostly about.

‘A Little Book for the Hindu Child’ has been available only in Bangalore all these years. Earlier this month Raj, whom I’ve known for several years now, converted it into an e-book and made it available on Amazon. I hope his efforts bear fruit, and people everywhere read this book and find it useful to understand the basics of Hinduism.

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The sun doesn’t live in my sunny balcony

 

My friend’s grandfather died last week. He was 96. Relatives and friends gathered to pay their last respects. There was an air of acceptance rather than of mourning. Everyone talked about his life – and how he had passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was to be cremated the next morning.

I think cremation is the only way for a human body to go. Dust to dust. It mustn’t be allowed to rot. It must be consigned to cleansing flames. The End. This is my personal belief, my idea of the right ritual.

Right? What is right? For example, to me idols, symbols, and religious buildings where people gather to pray, all represent God. They are as important as we want them to be, there’s no right or wrong about them. An iconoclast cannot be opposing somebody else’s idol-worship while using religious images, symbols and buildings himself; that would not be right.

For, if God is in a religious building, it’s because He’s everywhere, in an idol too. ‘He’ is a power, or force, that’s omnipresent. The sun comes into our balcony or sunroom only because sunlight is everywhere.

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Today, in Bangladesh people are apparently killing over religion. Ditto in the Central African Republic, in Palestine and in Iran. It’s been happening in India for hundreds of years.

How does it help anyone, especially impoverished people?

Is it just that the ‘majority’ community gets to go on a rampage and grab assets belonging to the ‘minority’ community, while a helpless government, or more likely, one that is hand-in-glove with them, looks on? Then, this is the ultimate wrong, done in God’s name.

This is a form of Anarchy, not Religion, and certainly has nothing to do with God. Why do journalists even report these events as having a religious basis?

Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh

We spent three days in Amritsar in Punjab last week.

The Golden Temple by night was a glorious sight. Volunteers took care of the temple and its ceremonies with much love and devotion. They made all visitors, Sikh or otherwise, feel welcome.

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We visited it again the next morning. It shone in the pale winter sunlight, radiating peace and purity.

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The massacre of Sikhs and Punjabis, the bravest of Indians, by the British is one of the many horrifying chapters in Indian history.

We visited the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial where the massacre took place on 13th April, 1919.  On that fateful day in 1919, a group of people had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh near the Golden Temple to protest the arrest of two leaders. There were also thousands of pilgrims who were there to celebrate the Baisakhi festival.

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Reginald Dyer, a British general, ordered his soldiers to fire on the crowd. The bullets were fired towards the narrow passages through which people were trying to escape. More than 1000 innocent people died, about 120 of them jumping into a well in panic. The bullet marks are still visible on the walls of surrounding buildings.

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The exhibits at the Jallianwala Bagh museum and the stories they tell about what Indians were subjected to by the British makes one wonder: ‘How did it come to this?’

The British entered India as traders in the 1700s. Soon they got involved in our politics and turned our country into a colony. The rest is history.

And what have we learnt from this? Not much, going by what’s in the newspapers. Some excerpts from a recent article:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/dangerous-trend-india-a-major-destination-for-global-land-sharks/article1-1165488.aspx

  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to China to set up special economic zones and industrial parks in India…
  • Haryana is going all out to woo Chinese companies to buy farmland…
  • Chinese investors have also visited Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu looking for probable sites.
  • Chinese investors are being offered land for ‘purchase’ and they will have the right to re-sell the land.
  • …policy of protecting national borders certainly needs a review considering that the Chinese are being allowed to purchase land within the country. But will Beijing ever allow Indian companies to buy such huge tracts of farmland in China?

My question is: Why do we have to sell the land to the Chinese? Shouldn’t it be leased for a limited number of years, if at all?

But then, there is this too, quoting from the same article.

Indian companies were buying land in Africa, Asia and South America. Of the 848 land grab deals concluded globally since 2008, 80 involve Indian companies that have invested in 65 deals to grow food grains, sugarcane, oilseeds, tea and flowers. And as a news report computed, India has already bought land abroad nine times the size of Delhi.

How are the countries in Africa, Asia and S. America okay with this?

The US National Academy of Science calls it ‘a new form of colonialism’, while mainline economists term it as a model of economic growth.

Which one is it?

Keeping it simple

In this advanced stage of civilisation, why do we behave as if gods are candidates standing for election and we need to canvass for them?

Are we insecure that if followers of one god predominate, those outside the group will be persecuted or annihilated? Is this why we create armies of followers to protect our interests, and call it religion?

If not for this one collective insecurity, god and religion would be purely personal. They would not be the basis for wars and terrorism.

Let me assume that only one religion will ultimately survive, after the machinations of all the players. Will there be peace? Unlikely.  There will be disagreements among sects in that religious group, and splinter groups will break away. And a new chain of violence will begin…

The ancients revered the Power by acknowledging its manifestations. They worshiped nature as the sun-god, moon-goddess, wind-god, water-god and so forth. That was Religion. That was Prayer. Has religion evolved over the centuries or simply got into a complicated tangle?

Wouldn’t we be better off worshiping nature? Individually. Privately. Quietly. Just celebrating Life and being grateful for being alive.

Sun god, like Surya
Moon goddess, like Diana
God of water, like Varuna
Tree goddess, like Isis
Goddess of agriculture, like Demeter
Goddess of home and hearth (private and municipal), like Hestia
God of fire and smithery, like Vulcan or Hephaestus
Mother earth, like Terra

Once upon a time in Goa

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This is a bronze bust of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. It is enshrined in our family temple in Goa. He was one of the five men who saved the sacred idols of the deities from Portuguese invaders in the 16th century.

This is our temple, the Ramnathi temple, in Ponda, Goa. It was originally in Loutolim, but was destroyed by the Portuguese. A new temple was consecrated to the deity in Ponda, 11 km away across the Zuari river.

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This is what my ancestors who lived in Goa at the time of the Goa Inquisition in the 16th century were up against.  The Goa Inquisition by A.K.Priolkar is a well-researched book that chronicles details of that time.

To begin with, the Portuguese had a 41-point code for Goans, some of which were:

  • No worshipping their own deities
  • Ban on wedding-related activities like distribution of betel leaves and flowers, serving a wedding meal
  • Restriction on wearing Indian garments
  • No observing religious fasts, performing obsequies
  • No growing tulsi in their backyards
  • No building or maintaining temples; violation was dealt with by demolition of the temple and confiscation of its wealth for pious (?) work by the Portuguese.

Those who flouted these and other random rules – something that was bound to happen, because all the things on the Portuguese’s list of bans were a normal part of life for Goans – fell afoul of the Goa Inquisition. They would be tortured in the presence of their families by being beaten up, having their eyelashes yanked out, or bones broken. . .

By 1570 they had a law that said people who did as they were told didn’t have to pay taxes for 15 years, as long as they used their brand new Portuguese names and erased all memories of who they used to be!

The moral of the story of the persecution of my forefathers in Goa by the Portuguese, as I gathered in bits and pieces over the years, was this: “Everybody has his own idea of God and that’s okay, because nobody’s seen God. What the Portuguese people did was wrong. They were ignorant. Our forefathers left our homeland because it was important for them to be independent, not live like slaves”. In other words, accept that every religion is okay and don’t impose your beliefs on others. But hold on to your convictions, because they make you who you are.

If every child learns this there will be less distrust and hatred among people in the future. Since a large number of wars have been fought over religion, there may be fewer wars too. And perhaps people wouldn’t feel it their duty to torture those who worship god by a different name.

In theory, it would be best if people could be ‘good’ without theism. In organized religions, rules for good conduct are laid down on the premise that people will fall into sin without them. Does that mean a majority of people need a God to stay their course in that direction? The fact that thousands of places of worship exist in every country, maintained by thousands of religious heads, makes me think that’s likely; of course there are social, economic and political reasons for the existence of places of worship too, but I’ll ignore that for the moment.

Obviously then, theism will not go away. The only way forward would be to allow everyone their own brand of theism.

Just as I will not blindly accept someone else’s beliefs, I won’t foist mine on others by any means, blatant or subtle. Should I induce a person to adopt my religious beliefs, depriving him of the inner growth that comes with thinking things out, I would be stunting him. He would be the human equivalent of a Sequoia tree in its bonsai form. I can’t feel good about it, nor can I score brownie points with my god, if he’s a fair god.

I know that what my forefathers went through is exactly what indigenous populations everywhere went through when explorers decided that they owned not only the lands they ‘discovered’ or ‘conquered’, but the human beings who lived there as well. Any reader can look back at the history of his own land to know I’m right.

Shouldn’t we try to change the status quo? How? By teaching kids to be tolerant, and never telling them, “Our God is the only true god, other religions have it wrong.” By telling them instead, that religions are different paths that lead to the same god. Or, if we are mature and secure enough, telling them that religion isn’t about god at all, it’s just a way of life.

Others’ thoughts on the topic:

http://arunshanbhag.com/2005/03/29/ramnathi-devasthan/

Are Shiva, Rama and Krishna Aryan or Dravidian deities?

Aryans created Sanskrit. That’s what some History books say. They apparently combined their own Vedic language and many existing Prakrits (natural languages) like Pali, Maharashtri and Magadhi that were spoken by Dravidians.

At first they just wrote down things that had been handed down orally by their forefathers. Then they translated Dravidian Tamil texts into Sanskrit. That’s supposed to be why Rama and Krishna, both dark-skinned Gods belonging to Tamil lore, have been worshipped all over India for generations, even by people who aren’t supposed to be descended from Dravidians.

Religion in ancient times was a mixture of animistic beliefs of the pre-Dravidian tribes, Shiva worship of Dravidians,  Jain teachings (that came down from the time of Rishaba, the first tirthankara who lived about 9000 years ago) and worship of nature gods of the Aryans.

Interestingly, Rama apparently lived around 10,000 B.C., and Krishna around 5000 B.C. Places mentioned in the Ramayana as being forested appear in the Mahabharata as urbanised! However, there are many unproven theories about where Mathura and Dwarka were in Krishna’s time, and the same goes for Lanka in Rama’s time.

There are no architectural remains of Aryan-built cities. One explanation given is that they used only wood for construction. Why would they do that when they had seen what Dravidian technology had achieved, if the two civilisations had indeed met? They apparently admired their culture enough to translate their literary works into Sanskrit, and adopted quite a lot of their religious beliefs.

All these bits and pieces that I have picked up from various sources just don’t come together coherently. I have to join the dots. I’m quite convinced that there was no Aryan invasion. There may have been waves of migration into India, and racial mixing, over thousands of years. Genetic studies show that all Indians – with the exception of the populations of the north-eastern states and some people in Jammu and Kashmir – are a mix of Ancestral North Indian and Ancestral South Indian, the proportions varying among different ethnic groups.

Another interesting tidbit I came across is that there was considerable trade between India and the Mediterranean world thousands of years ago, both by land and by sea. For example, Hebrew sources mention that the king of Tyre (now in Lebanon) sent a ship to Sophir (their name for South India) every three years to bring back gold, ivory, monkeys, peacocks, sandalwood and precious stones. So the kophim in the Bible is kapi from the Dravidian, and the Greek orydsa, or rice, is the Tamil arisi!