For many years now, people from the developed West have generally viewed India as a backward, uncivilized, poor and godforsaken place. Being an Indian myself, I do not believe that this common assessment of the state of things in India is completely incorrect. In fact, any unbiased, rational person would not paint a rosy picture of modern India. However, I believe that it would be quite extreme to say that this deplorable state of things shows that Indian society and people are inept and unenterprising by nature. This paints a very simplistic and stereotypical picture of the current problems of my country.
If one truly wishes to understand the present appalling conditions in India, he must take a look at India’s history. But before diving straight into this subject, let me attempt to explain the very idea of what India is (and is not).
What India Really Is
For several decades now, the idea that India is a nation with thousands of years of golden history has become entrenched in the minds of most Indians, and even some westerners. This is, however, completely false. India is not, and has never been, a nation, rather it is something much broader—it is an entire civilization.
The name India is derived from the Greek Indica, which itself borrows from the Persian word Hindu, which had nothing to do with the Hindu religion, but rather, it referred to a geographical entity. The Persians used the word Hindu while referring to the River Indus, which was known to the Vedic inhabitants of the time as Sindhu; since the Persians had trouble pronouncing the word Sindhu, they corrupted the word to Hindu.
Thus, simply put, the term India, and later many similar terms, such as the Persian Hindustan (land of the Hindus), the Arabic Hind, were not meant to refer to the entirety of the Indian sub-continent, but rather only to the land around the Indus river, and some of the countries beyond it. This was essentially what can be called the Indo-Aryan or Indo-Gangetic civilization. It is the very root of what India is.
India’s history nominally begins with the study of the Indus Valley Civilization, but its real history, of which the modern Indian civilization is a continuation, begins much later, with the arrival of the Vedic Aryan tribes.
Genesis Of The Indo-Aryan Civilization
The Vedic Aryans were tribes which are originally thought to have belonged to someplace in modern-day Iran and/or Central Asia. These people began their migrations (yes, there was not one Aryan migration, but rather, a wave of successive migrations), into the Indian sub-continent some time around 1500 BC, displacing, subjugating and sometimes even assimilating the native Dravidians and some primitive tribes as they kept expanding their realms.
This period marks the first time that the native Indian people were subjugated and mastered by a foreign people, whose culture and traditions gradually became dominant. But this was not to be the last time that the native nations and tribes of India would be subjugated by a foreign people; this would in fact become a pattern that kept on repeating again and again. One might even argue that most of Indian history has been filled with bloodshed, conquest and subjugation.
But does this mean that all which students across the world learn about the history of the Indian civilization is wide of the mark and completely fictitious? No, to say so would be naïve and ignorant. India does in fact have a very rich history; for centuries, beginning in the classical period of Indian history, lasting till the 14th-15th century AD, the nations of the Indian sub-continent together made the strongest economic power on earth, and were responsible for a great number of impressive inventions and innovations which changed the course of human history.
Throughout the world, India is famous for its ancient and medieval monuments, from the likes of the Taj Mahal and the Qutb Minar, to the Badrinath and Jagannath Temples. It is also well known for its marvelous ancient literature such as the Hindu Epic Mahabharata and the widely read and much appreciated sex guide, Kama Sutra.
India had one of the earliest universities of the world, Taxila or Takshashila, known for imparting education in the fields of medicine and law, now situated in modern-day Pakistan. The invention of the number zero is also attributed to philosophers and mathematicians in Ancient India, and Indians throughout history have made immense contributions to the field of mathematics.
All of these facts point out that throughout much of its history, India was inhabited by a great civilization with economic, scientific and cultural prowess that was unparalleled throughout the rest of the world, with perhaps the exception of China. But now let me go back to the first point that I mentioned earlier: Indian history is filled with the horrors of bloodshed, conquest and subjugation; the Vedic Aryans subdued the Dravidians, then they fought amongt themselves, killed and subjugated each other, then they were invaded by the Greeks and Persians, and after them the Indo-Greeks, then the Nomadic Kushans, then the Scythians and Huns, then the Arabs, then the Muslim Turks came in and established themselves, then the Chagatai Mughals conquered the sub-continent and established the Mughal Empire, then the Afghan tribes kept attacking and invading, then the Persians were at it again, and so on and so forth. You see what I’m talking about?
Thus It becomes a very pertinent question to ask why the Indian civilization has seen this repeated pattern of destruction if it was truly so glorious and magnificent throughout much of its history. The answer is quite simple: change in the very nature of Indian people, polity and society.
A History Of Greed And Complacence
When the Vedic Aryans first came in, they were a virtuous and warlike people, leading a simple yet hard life. After they had settled in the Indian sub-continent and established their mighty kingdoms and a more sophisticated economy, their society began to change rapidly. The people began to become complacent, they became self-centered and greedy, the idea of loyalty to the tribe was lost, material wealth became increasingly important, and, one might even argue, began to be worshiped.
This radical transformation continued, but there were further changes in the Post-Vedic Period. New religions and cults came up, with the Buddhists and the Jains becoming very dominant; both these new faiths gained many followers throughout the Mauryan Empire. Buddhism was supposed to promote tolerance and pacifism, but what it ended up doing when it became the dominant religion was instead creating intolerance and hatred.
During the reign of Emperor Ashoka of the Maruyan Empire, the state propagated the ideology/philosophy of Dhamma or Dharma , which means a path of virtue and tolerance. In its initial stage, the state authorities were not exceedingly zealous and fanatical while trying to enforce this ideology, but with time, the Dhamma policy of the Mauryan Empire was shoved down its people’s throats by force. The Mauryans established a special class of officers called the Dhamma-Mahamattas who were responsible for imposing the policy of Dhamma upon the public.
In the medieval period, the most notable rulers of India were from the Mughal Dynasty. It would not be far-fetched to say that most Mughal rulers were essentially despots. Many among the Mughal elite (even some of the Mughal rulers) were addicted to opium, wine and sex. Even though during much of the Mughal period, per capita incomes in India were on par with European levels, the Mughal elite enjoyed a much more luxurious life than their counterparts in Europe. The Mughals’ love of luxury was supported by crippling taxes on the general population; any revolts by the native population were put down swiftly and violently.
With each passing generation, the Mughals became less and less interested in maintaining the frontiers of their empire, safeguarding the interests of the public, encouraging science and education, boosting development, etc, and more interested in fulfilling their own desires for luxury and comfort. The Mughals continued their wasteful expenditure by building grand palaces and tombs throughout much of their Empire, spending the money they had extorted out of the population on economically useless structures.
The common people were not much better too in this period. People were obsessed with material wealth, and social hierarchies had become extremely rigid with a great amount of discrimination against those belonging to the lower levels in the traditional Hindu caste strata; unlike in the Mauryan period, heterodox sects propagating beliefs against the caste system had become significantly weaker. Also, the people of this period were much more narrow minded and the Indian civilization was more instrumental in maintaining popular superstitions and savage customs than providing the world with elegant prose or any new inventions.
Parallels With The Modern West
The West today is in a dominant position that is quite similar (but with notable differences) to the position which India has occupied throughout multiple phases of its history. The Western countries together make up a majority of the world’s GDP, their culture dominates the globe, and the West is scientifically and technologically superior to the rest of the world.
But the people of the West, just like the Indians of the “Golden” periods of Indian history, have become greedy, selfish, narrow minded, ignorant and complacent. The entire West has been overtaken by consumerist madness. Human virtues have taken a back seat in the pursuit of material gain. The basic bonds of family and community suffer as people become increasingly insular and unsociable. Each government is more despotic than the last.
Most major countries of the Western world, including France, Germany, Italy and to an extent, the United States, have steadily declining fertility rates. As the native population ages, foreign labor is imported to sustain the fledgling economies of these fledgling states. The mainstream media, instead of urging the native people to save their communities, spew disgusting socialist and feminist propaganda, furthering the destruction of the nations of the West.
It is rather amusing for an observer like me in the East to see the West tie a noose round its own neck by continuing with firm faith on its current path of assured self-destruction. It is astounding to see that the United States continues to spend trillions of dollars on its depraved welfare programs and over-extended military every single year even as it goes further and further into debt, while at the same time, most traditional values disappear from American society. The scenario is very similar across the rest of the Western world.
The West may not necessarily be destroyed by nomadic hordes and barbarian enemies in the future, but it will certainly be destroyed from within because Western society has fundamentally changed for the worse, just as so many Indian kingdoms and empires were destroyed from within due to the vices of their people, both the rulers and the ruled.