Archive for ‘History’

April 8, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 3: Crush Hindu Mahasabha “By Force If Need Be”

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from Part-1  (the beginnings) and Part-2 (the urduphile secularism):

The applied smokescreen of secularism hinders one’s vision from both the historical perspective and the contemporary reality, of the Islamic behavior patterns.  A study in the attitude of the secularists during the period from the early 1920s till the partition of India makes for a perfect microcosmic analysis of this fact.  It was purely this optimist-to-death secularism contrary to hard realities that informed the national leadership in assessment of the so called ‘communal question’ and therefore the formation of their un-questionable ‘diagnosis’ and the ‘solution’ which can be summaries as follows:

1) It is the British that are alone to blame for creating and festering the ‘discord’ between Moslems and the rest of the Indians as part of their Divide and Rule strategy; neither the history of the ‘discord’ is any far-reaching nor are its origins inherent in anything to do with Islam and its intercourse with India

2) The mainstream psyche of Indian Moslems is patriotic & nationalistic, while the separatist element being nothing more than some misguided cranks without any popular backing

3) Without the Moslem support, the destiny of Indian movement is neither possible nor worth it, and therefore, an all out and continuous effort to secure the Moslem approval is a must and a prerequisite, for gaining which no sacrifice is too costly

When Gandhi returned empty handed and sullen faced from the futile second Round Table Conference in 1931, which yielded no result on the key “communal question”, Subhas Bose’s take on the chief reason of that failure was, that to counter the Moslem League ideologues Gandhi had failed to carry enough ‘Nationalist Moslems’ on his London entourage! 

“One cannot help thinking what a change it would have made if the Mahatma had come to London with a full contingent of Nationalist representatives of Moslems and other minority communities…”, he wrote.

It never occurred to the leaders like Bose or Gandhi that rather than spending so much energy in futile bargaining with and appeasing the Moslem leaders, better to consolidate the genuine nationalists and counter the British from that strength. 

Writes Sita Ram Goel:

“The basic and the big mistake made by the national leadership was that it could not conceive of a native nationalism which would march ahead under its own impetus even if the Muslims were reluctant to participate in it or remained hostile to it. The national leadership was all along in a hurry to bargain with the British on the basis of Hindu-Muslim unity, and consequently failed to give sufficient thought and attention to the consolidation of genuine nationalist forces. The residues of Islamic imperialism spotted this weakness of the national leadership very soon, and exploited it to the hilt. Their price for co-operation went on soaring in direct proportion to the nationalist solicitation for it.”

But there is more.  The secularism of the national leadership, of which Bose was now an important participant, started equating the Hindus and the separatist Moslem leadership!  Writing about a meeting of his with Gandhi before the Conference, Subhas Bose writes:

“I remarked (to Mahatma) that the Congress should only care for an agreement between Nationalist Hindus and Nationalist Moslems… and that the Congress need not bother what other anti-Nationalist elements thought or said…”

Notice the reference to “Nationalist Hindus and Nationalist Moslems”, out of compulsion, as if there was a body of Hindus that could be called not Nationalists!  But such was the typical tendency of not being able to speak about the anti-national Muslim League without in the same breath reducing the Hindus to also some fictitious not-nationalist bogey.  The reference here is to exclude the Hindu Sanghatanist organizations, which were carrying on the work on the lines of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Bankim Chandra, Lokmanya Tilak and Lajpat Rai.  Such was the perversity of outlook and terminology already set in the Congress leadership by 1930s, that these people were now called “communal Hindus” while the secularists of Congress called the “nationalist Hindus”.

Elsewhere, the same attitude is on display when Bose introduces the Moslem leaders and the Hindu Leaders of Congress in the same breath:

“Within the Indian National Congress there is an important and influential Moslem group and this group has its representatives in the Congress Cabinet, that is, the Working Committee.  In this group are Moulana Abul Kalam Azad of Calcutta, Dr. M. A. Ansari of Delhi, and Dr. Mohammed Alam of Lahore.  Mr. Sherwani of Allahabad, Mr. Asaf Ali of Delhi and Mr. Khaliq-uz-zaman of Lucknow also belong to this group.  Among the Hindu leaders of the Congress there are some who are more inclined towards the Hindu Mahasabha, for instance Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya of Benares and Mr. M. S. Aney of Berar.”

Throughout Bose’s writings and speeches he would allude to the Congress Hindus as the Nationalist Hindus and the likes of Hindu Mahasabha as communal, and every time equate them with the Muslim League.  In fact it was during the Presidency of Subhas Bose that the Congress banned the dual membership of Congress and Mahasabha, so what if such eminent Congress leaders of past such as Pandit Malaviya and Lajpat Rai had been patrons and leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha! 

Justifying that resolution in face of the fact that Congress before Gandhi was solidly led by none other than such very communal Hindus as Lajpat Rai and Pandit Malaviya, Bose later wrote a signed editorial in his Forward Bloc weekly on May 4, 1940 under the title of ‘Congress and Communal Organizations’. 

“There was a time not long ago”, wrote Bose, “when prominent leaders of the Congress could be members and leaders of the communal organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League.  In those days the communalism of such communal organizations was of a subdued character.  Hence Lala Lajpat Rai could be a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ali Brothers could be the leaders of Muslim League.  In Bengal, an ex-president of the Bengal Congress Provincial Committee and of the Bengal Provincial Conference, like Maulana Akram Khan, could be a leader of the Muslim League.  But in recent times, the circumstances have changed.  These communal organizations have become more communal than before.  As a reaction to this, the Indian National Congress has put into its Constitution a clause to the effect that no member of a communal organization like the Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League can be a member of an elective committee of the Congress.”

Thus in Bose’s estimation Hindu Mahasabha was ‘communal’ and to be placed in the same bracket as the Moslem league, indeed he mentions Mahasabha before Muslim League every time he refers to the so called “communal organizations”. 

But if one looked back at the history of both Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, one cannot but conclude that there was no such significant change in their character as Bose seemed to have observed.  If there was any change, it was in the character and leadership of the Congress itself and therefore its newfound outlook that considered Hindu Mahasabha communal!  It was the change in the outlook of Congress itself by the advent of Gandhian secularism that now saw “Hindu Communalism” into what was earlier Indian Nationalism, and equated it now with the “Muslim Communalism” which in reality was nothing else but the same force that urged the revival of the Islamic Imperialism.

Noting this perversion in the Congress outlook as reflected in its altered terminology, Sita Ram Goel astutely observes:

“Hindu society had been reduced from the status of a nation to that of a religious community in the counting of heads which the British rulers described as their census operation. Nationalism was now increasingly being labelled as Hindu Communalism.  A revaluation of the national resurgence could not lag far behind. It was soon stigmatised as Hindu Revivalism…  This terminological swindle … was brought about by the combined efforts of the British imperialists and the residues of Islamic imperialism. They shared a problem in common. The problem was the rising tide of National Resurgence in the indigenous Hindu society… the use of a new terminology had far-reaching ideological consequences.”

In the same vein, Bose would continue to also display the delusional assessment of the ‘Nationalist Moslems’ too, typical to the Gandhian secularists.  Recalling the same meeting with Gandhi as was referred before, Bose writes, “Dr. Ansari and some of the Nationalist Moslem leaders including Mr. Sherwani, …, said that if for any reason the Mahatma gave up the demand for a common electorate for both Hindus and Moslems and accepted the demand of the reactionaries for a separate electorate, …, they would oppose the reactionary Moslems and also the Mahatma”.   But then retrospectively he records, albeit briefly and only in a footnote, his bafflement at the altered behaviour of the very same “Nationalist Moslems” after the Communal Award was granted, “…the attitude of the Nationalist Moslems in 1934 to the Prime Minister’s Communal Award is inexplicable!”

It was inexplicable to Bose only because he did not try to view the attitude of the Moslem leadership without the optimistic glasses of secularism.   Otherwise, it would be evident to him that while his “Reactionary Moslems” were hard Jihadists, most of the so called “Nationalist Moslems” were also soft Jihadists differing from the former only in methods but not in the objectives.  In their eagerness to embrace these soft Jihadists as the “Nationalist Moslems”, the secularists also always did a great disservice to the true Nationalist Moslems like the reverence-worthy Azeem Ullah and Ashfaq Ullah, who cared nothing to lay down their lives along with their Hindu comrades at the altar of the motherland in pure love for her; for secularist the chosen models of “Nationalists Moslem” are not they but the likes of Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad.  Bose would later name a regiment in INA as Azad Regiment, in honour not of Chandrashekhar Azad, (lest one thought so), but of the Mawlana Azad.  No Ashfaq nor Azeem Ullah.

It was but another culmination of such self-tied hands of the national leadership that the British Government in collaboration with Muslim leadership pushed through the so called Communal Award, which laid down for the upcoming assembly elections, besides the General seats, separate reserved electorates on the communal basis.  In states where Moslem population was in a minority, the award ensured far greater number of seats than the numerical proportion of their population.  Thus in the state of Bombay where their population was only 9.2% the seats reserved for them were more than twice the proportion, 30 out of 175. Likewise in UP, population 15.3% but seats 66/228; in Bihar-Orissa, population 10.8% but seats 42/175; in Madras, population 7.9% but seats 29/215; in Central Provinces, population 4.7% but seats 14/112, and so on, while in the states where Moslems were a numerical majority, i.e. Bengal and Punjab, a permanent reserved majority was ensured in the respective Assemblies.  Sindh, hitherto a part of Bombay, was carved out as a separate state so it could enjoy its own Moslem majority government, which was ensured to it through a majority separate electorate (70.7% Moslem population, 34/60 seats).  Only NWFP was a state which despite over 91% Moslem population left a respectable number of seats for the non-Moslems (14/50).

Despite all the posturing and lip service, this communal award was meekly accepted by the Congress, just like the partition later.  And just like the partition which created a Moslem state but denied a Hindu state, in the matter of the communal electorate too it is only the Hindu electorate which Congress would pounce upon and treat as secular.  The Congress President at the time was Subhas Chandra Bose, when on the basis of such Communal Award the state assemblies went to elections in 1937.

Congress, contesting primarily on the “Hindu” electorate, secured majority in seven out of eleven states.  And for all their powerful and influential Nationalist Moslems in Congress, it was thrashed in the Moslem seats almost across all the states.

Savarkar, writing in a foreword to a book sometime in 1938, chastised Congress and Bose in following words:

“Congress Candidates are not ashamed of subscribing themselves as “Hindus” in the election season, that is, in that season they do not think communal to own themselves as Hindus.   For, otherwise they would not be eligible to stand as candidates at all and get elected on Hindu votes!!  But as soon as the elections are over and they have raised themselves to the posts in the Councils and in the Ministries on the strength of the Hindu votes, they disown their Hinduness, condemn the Hindu Organizations like Hindu Mahasabha as communal, while keep dancing attendance on the most fanatical and anti-national Moslem organizations as the Moslem League!”

“Witness for example, the instructions issued by the Bengal Congress inspired by Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose himself, that Congress Hindus in Bengal should not agitate against the so-called Communal Award; or the action of the Congress party in the Bengal legislature, which practically supported Mr. Fazlul Haq’s outrageous bill to reserve 60% of the services for the Moslems alone! Why, Mr. Sarat Chandra Bose (Subhas’ elder brother) and Congress party dared to betray Hindu interest in that treacherous fashion, only because the Hindu electorate, they were sure, would not take them to task!”

Such rising tide of utopian secularism disgusted many Hindus even within Congress.  Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was one such staunch Hindu who was forced to abandon both his Congress leanings and his academic pursuits.  Then the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, and having been twice elected to the assembly, once on the Congress ticket (1929), he was dismayed at the growing anti-Hindu tendencies and Muslim-placatory policies of Congress.

In 1937 election in Bengal, Congress emerged as the largest party though way short of majority.  If Congress wanted, it could have easily formed a coalition government with Fazlul Haq’s KPP and Hindu Mahasabha to keep Muslim League out of power.  Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who had himself won as an independent, advised this course to Congress leaders as being the least evil.  But, in their short-sightedness they spurned the idea, and instead actively helped Muslim League and Fazlul Haq’s KPP to come together and make a coalition government (a Congress wheeler-dealer close to Bose group, Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, was the anchor of this arrangement).  This helped Muslim League consolidate Bengali Moslems under its own banner in a short time, just like congress support to Khilafat had done over a decade before.

Subhas Bose was then the national President of Congress and Sarat Bose the Bengal Congress (BPCC) President.   Even within the Assembly, Congress under Bose brothers could have still played an important role in safeguarding the Hindu interests in face of the repressive anti-Hindu League-KPP government; and as we learn from Mookerjee’s diaries, he often approached Bose brothers for cooperation, but returned disappointed.  Mookerjee at one place wrote, “(Congress) hesitates to oppose acts and bills, avowedly anti-Hindu and anti-national, lest it should be dubbed a communal body!!” (Dr. Anil Chandra Banerjee, “A phase in the life of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee”,  APILOSPM)

It is during this period that Mookerjee, who was not affiliated to any party for the last seven years, came in touch with Savarkar when the latter came in 1939 to Bengal for extensively touring all over the state, meeting Hindu intellectuals and leaders, addressing students and villagers; in short to exhort Bengali Hindus to reclaim that rightful place in the Indian Nationalism, that they once held, not a long time ago.  Mookerjee later wrote that Savarkar was “greatly perturbed at the helpless position of Bengali Hindus whom the Congress failed to rouse and protect” and at how the “spirit of resistance against outrageously communal aggression was dying out.” (APILOSPM)

Mookerjee was greatly influenced by Savarkar and immediately joined Hindu Mahasabha.  In a very short time Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal started taking shape of a force to reckon with, gaining important and renowned members of the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia as well as popular support.  In December of the same year, it was in Calcutta that the annual All India convention took place and was a roaring success.  Bengali Hindu was again finding his self-confidence and a voice through Mahasabha.

Subhas Bose did not like it.  He feared that under Mookerjee Hindu Mahasabha would create in Bengal a body of popular support to rival Congress, and ‘communalize’ the politics!  Dr. Mookerjee records in his diary that Bose met and told him that if he went about building Mahasabha as a political body in Bengal, “he (Subhas Bose) would see to it, BY FORCE IF NEED BE, that it was broken before it was really born!” (APILOSPM – emphasis added)

And Subhas Bose meant business!

Writing in his journal, in aftermath of a failed negotiation, Bose bitterly wrote a signed editorial in Forward Bloc on 30 March 1940 about Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal:

“The annual All-India Conference of the Hindu Mahasabha was held in Calcutta towards the close of the last year.  As a conference it was a great success, and it afforded considerable satisfaction to the Mahasabha leaders who began to hope that their organization would forge ahead in Bengal.  … It has come forward to play a political role and to make a bid for the political leadership of Bengal, or at least of the Hindus of Bengal, who have been the backbone of nationalism in this country.  With a real Hindu Mahasabha we have no quarrel and no conflict.  But with a political Hindu Mahasabha that seeks to replace the Congress in the public life of Bengal and for that purpose has already taken offensive against us, a fight is inevitable.  The fight has just begun!” 

The bitterness is not even guised.  But some events that took place in the last three months must be mentioned.

First, in 1939 League-KPP government passed the Calcutta Municipal Bill, which reserved 46 out of 93 seats in the Corporation for the Moslem candidates alone.  This massively disproportionate representation to Moslems, who formed only 28% of city population, was against any rhythm or reason, except that the powerful body of Calcutta Corporation and its resources must come under the Moslem control.  Speaking in the assembly, Mookerjee opposed the bill saying that a 50% Moslem reservation in Corporation was an act of robbing the Hindus “who form 70% of the total population of Calcutta, 76% of total tax payers, and 80% of the eligible voters of the Corporate!” But as usual, despite the opposition as well as Congress lip service, the Bill was passed (No satyagraha, no hunger strike.)  On this new basis the Calcutta Corporation elections were due to take place in the beginning of 1940.

Second, in the meanwhile, Subhas Bose was expelled from Congress in the shiniest democratic traditions of the party, having won the election to a second term of Presidendship against the Gandhi-backed candidate and then forced to resign by the hunger-strike of the Mahatma.  In Bengal PCC, the role of his elder brother was also curtailed by the high command, and all other Bose loyalists were either purged or sidelined too. 

The Corporation elections provided an opportunity for Bose to demonstrate to his rivals in Bengal Congress and high command, his strength and popularity by capturing the Corporation and becoming its Mayor; and it became for Bose a matter of prestige.

To improve the prospects of his Forward Bloc, Bose approached Mookerjee for an electoral tie up with Hindu Mahasabha.  Mookerjee, driven by his urge to consolidate the Hindu vote in face of the communal reservation, responded positively.  An agreement was worked out according to which both parties will contest an equal number of constituencies divided between the two parties as mutually agreed.  They also agreed about the candidates and finalized the list, except for two particular constituencies on which names could not be agreed.  A way was suggested and agreed that both parties should propose a panel of names to the other party, and the other party may pick up a name from it to be the joint candidate.  Accordingly, Bose picked up one name from the panel submitted by Mahasabha, and that candidate was accepted.  Likewise Mookerjee picked up one name from the panel submitted by Forward Bloc, but Bose would not accept it.  Bose started insisting on one particular candidate, who was a notorious goon, to whose candidature it was impossible for Mahasabha to agree.  For all the persuasion of Mookerjee, Bose would not abide by the agreement already made, and even threatened that the ‘Force was the ultimate argument’, and the Mahasabha-Forward Bloc pact broke down, having lasted for just nine days.  This is one version of the story, as given by Prof. Balraj Madhok (“Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee”, Portrait of a Martyr, 1953).  There is another version that gives a more complex agreement of candidate selection.  But in any case, suffice to say that the agreement was short lived.

Bose came true on his words that he was not averse to using force and intimidation to put Mahasabha down.  We now quote Prof. Balraj Madhok:

“Subhas Bose with the help of his favourite (the goon), decided to intimidate the Mahasabha by use of force.  His men would break up all Mahasabha meetings and beat up the candidates…  Dr. Mookerjee could not tolerate it.  He got a meeting announced, to be addressed by him.  As soon as he rose to speak, a stone hit him in his head, and he began to bleed profusely.  This infuriated the audience, and they fell upon the goondas including the strong man of Subbhas Bose.  They gave them a thorough beating.  That put the end to their hooliganism (once and for all).”

Forward Bloc won 21 seats, Hindu Mahasabha 16 and Muslim League 18.  Bose went over to Moslem League and entered in an understanding.  Mookerjee’s plea not to do this which would surely place Calcutta Corporation in hands of Moslem League, when the nightmare of League rule in Bengal Assembly was in front of everyone, found no favours with Bose.  Siddiqui, a Muslim Leaguer, became the Mayor and Subhas Bose just an alderman under him.  The agreement with Mahasabha lasted mere 9 days and broke down on triffles, but with Muslim League Subhas Babu worked the Corporation till the end of his disappearance and after conceding to all League demands.  He was criticised by one and all of the Hindu voice in Calcutta of “having betrayed the Hindu interests to League for  merely becoming an alderman”.

Bose later wrote that he was more concerned about fighting the British members controlling the Corporation! 

As we had said in the beginning, the smokescreen of secularism hinders one’s vision from both the historical perspective and the concurrent reality of the Islamic behavior patterns; and it blurs the vision of even the most talented, most well meaning, most patriotic, most sacrificing people.

Continued to Part 4: The Holwell Agitation and meeting with Savarkar & Jinnah

March 10, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 2: “Urdu for Secularism”

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from Part 1

 “And now shall even the parrots of Hind be fed all –
On sugar-candy of Farsi even up to as far as Bengal!”

So writes a legendary Farsi poet Hafiz, in congratulating Ghiyasuddin Khalji upon the latter’s ascent to Bengal, but it would seem he spoke prophetically about the ascent of Subhas Bose!

The colonized Hindu mind refuses to see the continued colonialism that was set off by the conquests of the Islamite ruffians; indeed he foolishly refers to the remnants of that imperialism by such names as “syncretism” and “composite culture”, which as V S Naipaul rightly says are the common banal slogans of any defeated peoples.  The continued and thorough colonization of Hindu mind denies even recognizing Urdu – a bastard born in the war camps of the Islamite (therefore the name ‘Orudu’) and brought up in his brothels – from what it is: nothing else but a precise linguistic counterpart of the phenomenon in the medieval architecture — the Masjids and Maqbarahs squatting upon the foundations of the destroyed Hindu temples.  That is indeed what Urdu is: Arabi-Farsi squatting upon the foundation of the deshaja bhAShA!

But those Hindus, in whose hearts pride for Hindu heritage is alive and will for its resurgence not dead, have always raised the unmitigated tumult of revival from time to time, like in other spheres also in literary and linguistic battle.

“Listen, this is the only way I see if you want Hindi to have any chance of survival… Let them laugh at us, let them threaten us, but stay focused on one objective: create a flood of Hindi in which to drown Urdu…reach every Hindu household where a Maulvi Saheb has performed the bismillah of alif-bay-pay, and firmly plant Hindi… Promote her in everything we write from cash memos to commentaries… and do you not lose heart, not once, just persevere for some years and this garbage of Farsi-Chharsi will be blown from Hindi, from Hindus, and from Hindusthan… Let us not cease now from our effort. Leave the rest in the hands of God,” wrote from Kolkata in 1870s, Pratap Narayan, poet, journalist, and a friend of Bharatendu Harishchandra.

Few in our age could contemplate or imagine what an uphill task and what a momentous achievement it was for Bharatendu, to whose name we dedicate these pages, and his friends, to rescue Hindi from the clutches of the continued Islamic cultural imperialism in name of Urdu. Had it not been for their efforts, and it is hardly an exaggeration, that Urdu would have doubtlessly been the national language of India today, and Hindi as we know it relegated to the dustbin of the “dead languages” for Indologists to make their vulturine livelihoods on. Even at the cost of prolonging this preface, we quote Acharya Prof. Ram Chandra Shukl about that era when future of Hindi was staked at that crucial crossroad:

“Sitar-i-hind Raja Shivprasad kept sermonizing on the need for an “aam-faham” and “khaas-pasand” language, that is, Hindi studded with Arabic-Farsi words, (or simply Urdu by another name), but fate of Hindi had already decided her own course… When all other members of the Indian language family had, since eternity, taken energy from the familiar Sanskrit, her structure, vocabulary, and cultural continuity, how could Hindi be forced to abandon this emotional connection for adopting a foreign spirit through import of foreign words, as advocated by him? Now that Bangla, Marathi, and all her elder sisters in south had already gained the revivalist momentum, then no, Hindi was not destined to be bound in stagnation of foreign imperialism! She was not ready to sever her ancient and spiritual ties with her sister-languages. Born from the womb of the same mother, she was agonized at being forced to become a stranger to them… that is when, to her rescue, Bharatendu appeared on the scene.”

Acharya Chatursen Shastri perceptively writes that Bharatendu suffered from no fancies for a Hindu-Moslem unity if it meant Hindus having to bastardize their language. But for the secularists of course no cost was too dear and no sacrifice too great to secure the approval of the Moslems; sacrificing Hindi at the altar of their secularism was but a petty trifle!

Subhas Bose, it must be said, was another such secularist.

As the then Congress President, thus spoke Subhas Bose at the 51st session of Congress at Haripura in February of 1938:

“…we shall have to put all the minority communities as well as the provinces at their ease…To promote national unity we shall have to develop our lingua franca and a common script. So far as our Lingua Franca is concerned, I am inclined to think that the distinction between Hindi and Urdu is an artificial one. The most natural Lingua Franca would be a mixture of the two, such as is spoken in daily life in large portions of the country; and this common language may be written in either of the two scripts, Nagari or Urdu… At the same time, I am inclined to think that the ultimate solution would be the adoption of a script that would bring us into line with the rest of the world. Perhaps, some of our countrymen will gape with horror when they hear of the adoption of the Roman script, but I would beg them to consider this problem from the scientific and historical point of view… I confess that there was a time when I felt that it would be anti-national to adopt a foreign script. But my visit to Turkey in 1934 was responsible for converting me. I then realised for the first time what a great advantage it was to have the same script as the rest of the world.”

Bose in his stand on the language was no different from Nehru and Gandhi, indeed as in his Secularism in this question also he was only a step ahead of them.

Gandhi was advocating, along with Mawlana Azad, a so-called ‘Hindustani’ language to be made the ‘lingua franca’; this ‘Hindustani’ being nothing else but Urdu riding like vetAla upon the shoulders of Hindi and slowly consuming it as it had several Indian languages like Kashmiri and Sindhi. But when do secularists learn any lessons from History! Indeed from time to time Urdu zealots would “purify” that tongue, as comes out from this Urdu couplet, “Khuda rakkhe zuban hamne suni hai Meer o Mirza ki / Kahen kis muh se ham ae Mas’hafi urdu hamari hai!” [“By God we have heard the tongue of Meer and Mirza; Have we gall O Mas’hafi, to call the patois we speak, Urdu!”], thus laments Mas’hafi, an Urdu poet from Delhi at Urdu getting diluted and losing its affinity to Arabo-Persian as in the days of Mirza Ghalib and Meer Taqi Meer, the famous Urdu laureates.

Savarkar severely criticized Subhas Bose. He wrote,

“It is interesting to remind you here how two prominent Congress Presidents proposed to solve this problem of a National tongue and a National Script. Pandit Nehru thinks, leaving even Maulana Abul Kalam Azad far behind who only proposes Hindusthani, …, that the highly Arabianised Urdu of the Aligarh School or the Osmania University School is best fitted to be the National Language of India Including of course some twenty-eight crores of Hindus!

Desh Gaurav Subhas Babu improving upon the situation beats even Panditji’s ingenuity hollow by proposing from the Presidential chair of the Indian National Congress that Roman Script would suit India as the best National Script. That is how the Congress ideology approaches things National! Roman script to be the National Script of India! How imminently practicable, to say the least! Your Basumati, Ananda Bazar Patrika and all Bengali papers to appear every day in Roman script!

It is true as Subhas Babu says that Kemal Pasha abolished the Arabian Script as unsuited to print and took to Roman script. But this fact has a lesson for our Mahommedan zealots who want the Urdu script, in this very Arabian style, to thrust even on the Hindus as an up-to-date National Script, and it has no connection with the Hindus. Kemal Pasha took to the Roman script because the Turks had nothing better of their own to fall back upon. The Andamanese pick up Kauris and make a necklace of them, but is that the reason why the Kuber also should do the same? We Hindus should rather call upon Arabia and Europe to adopt the Nagari Script and Hindi language; such a proposal should not sound very impracticable to such inveterate optimists at any rate who seriously advance it as a very practical proposal to make Urdu the National language of the Marathas and to expect all our Arya Samaj Gurukuls to study the Vedas in Roman script?”

But eager thus to let go of Hindi and her Sanskrit roots, Bose himself did not know Hindi at this time, strange as would seem for a cosmopolitan and well-travelled Bengali as he was. A Forward Bloc comrade of his later recalled how Bose engaged later that year a tutor in Kolkata to teach him Hindi (or Hindustani), who later complained that “his pupil was too lazy to sit down and learn” Hindi, although he did learn enough to make speeches. (Hari Vishnu Kamath, ‘Some Intimate Recollections’)

And lest we thought that this language policy was simply a fantastic idiosyncrasy of Subhas Bose, he was very serious prescribing what he did, and indeed followed it to the letter during his Azad Hind days, which give us glimpses of what his vision for the proposed ‘National Lingua Franca of India’ was!

When Subhas Bose took over the INA from Ras Behari Bose, it was christened not “Svatantra Bharat Sena” but “Azad Hind Fauj”, in pure Farsi words.

The motto that Bose selected of Azad Hind Fauj also read pure Farsi in Roman script, “Ittefaq, Aitmad, Qurbani”, meaning “Unity, Faith, and Sacrifice”.

The provisional government that Bose set up was officially titled “Arzi Huqumat-i-Azad Hind” in pure Persian.

The commands for the Army were replaced by Urdu commands.

The title of Bose, as the Supreme Commander, was “Sipah Salar” with which he used to sign the declarations!

The decorations of the Azad Hind Fauj were, in order of precedence:

and Sanad-i-bahaduri, a certificate of meritorious and commendable service.

“shatrunash” and “bharat” in the above appear like two native words jarring the otherwise pure Farsi decorations.

One document of Azad Hind Fauj, reproduced below, gives us glimpses of what that ‘National Lingua Franca’ of India looked like in Bose’s vision. This below is a template of form used for sending messages from army posts to the signals team. Do notice the pure unadulterated Urdu, only written in Roman alphabet:

“Paigam”, “Hidayaten”, “Dakhil”, “Kharij”, “Majmua Alfas”, “Tarikh Daftar”… not a single Hindi word is to be used! This was Netaji’s Hindustani!

The official daily newspaper by this provisional government, called ‘Azad Hind’, was published from Singapore. This paper was simultaneously published in five languages. English, Tamil, Malayalam, Guajarati, and Urdu in Roman script as Bose had fancied. No Hindi.

Never in his addresses would he end with the ‘Vande Matram!’ or ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ as was the tradition even within Congress, but instead with secular ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ in Farsi. Not even ‘Jai Hind’, with which he is incorrectly credited by his hagiographers. One should see his official broadcasts from Azad Hind Radio as are recorded, most of which he concludes with not ‘Jai Hind’, but ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and ‘Azad Hind Zindabad’.

Then of course is Bose’s attitude that he displayed towards the question of the National Anthem. Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram had had the unquestioned status of the National Anthem all through the last several decades and Congress sessions would commence and end to its euphoric singing. Throughout every corner of India no other song was even close to the popularity of Vande Mataram. But Vande Mataram being offending to the Moslem ears was of course out of question for being adopted by secularist that Subhas Bose was. But strange as it may seem, even Rabindra Nath Thakur’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was also not good enough for him. Going two steps beyond Gandhi and Nehru, Desh Gaurav Subhas Babu felt that even ‘Jana Gana Mana’ contained too much Sanskrit to be suitable as the National Anthem of India! So he asked his ADC Captain Abid Ali, who had accompanied Bose on the trip from Germany to Japan, to de-Sanskritize Rabindra Nath’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and translate it into Urdu-laden ‘Hindustani’. The result was a pathetic parody, ‘sab sukh chain’, which Bose declared as the “Qaumi Tarana” (not Rashtra Gaan) of Azad Hind! Such was the Sanskrit-phobia of Bose. For the Marching Song of the Army was likewise picked up another Urdu composition, “Qadam Qadam Badhaye Ja Khushi ke Geet Gaye Ja, Ye Zindagi hai Qaum Ki Tu Qaum pe lutaye Ja”.

Therefore we had said in the beginning that when Hafiz wrote, “And now shall even the parrots of Hind be fed all / On sugar-candy of Farsi even up to as far as Bengal”, he might as well be prophetically speaking of Subhas Bose’s Azad Hind!

Continued to Part 3…

February 10, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 1: “The Seeds of Islamophile Secularism”

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Some friends were recently wondering how Subhas Chandra Bose would have responded to Jehad. No different from the other secularists, when we said, it seemed to have offended or shocked them. Shocking obviously, since such is now the image of Subhas Bose in the Hindu psyche, which is best represented on the popular calendar art where he is seen rubbing shoulders with Shivaji and Pratap, sometimes like them riding a horse and carrying a sword or performing utsarga in front of Bhawani or Bharat Mata. The BJP-minded ones go so far as to even claim Bose as an icon of Hindutva, placing him alongside Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Savarkar. A couple of years back in a political campaign, L K Advani made, to use the words of Kanchan Gupta, an “audacious attempt to co-opt Subhas Chandra Bose in the pantheon of proponents of Hindutva”. Of course if they can dress up Jinnah as a secular icon, then Bose can rather easily take their Hindutva garb, the shift seems only logical.

Subhas Bose, no doubt, had a thorough Hindu outlook in life and was a religious Hindu, as is evident in his unfinished autobiography. Not only does he speak therein of his spiritual quests, but interestingly at one place also recounts an encounter with a Jesuit priest whom he convinced of superiority of Shankara’s philosophy over Christian dogma. At another point he says that later in his life when he failed to agree with or follow the concepts of Shankara, then rather than becoming hostile to Hindu thought or considering a non-Hindu philosophy, he sought and followed the other options available within Hindu dharma. To the impact of Aurobindo on his early life also he openly admits. Towards his last days in Singapore and Burma it is said that he would often go to the temples wearing traditional Hindu attire and spend hours in meditation at night. It is also said that he used to carry a pocketbook edition of bhagavadgita in the chest of his uniform during the day and while sleeping keep it under his pillow. In support of an armed struggle opposed to unconditional Ahimsa, he used to seek sanction from Mahabharata and his argument against Gandhian non-violence was basic, “How can we possibly accept Ahimsa as an inflexible principle of action, when Sri Krishna himself exhorted Arjuna not to run away from a righteous war, a dharma-yuddha?” It is also said by some who knew him, that like Tilak he also used to worship Kali or Bhawani before launching a major political campaign to gain divine blessing and strength.

All of this seems true enough, and would widely separate Bose from the garden variety of Nehruvian Secularists and Marxists who are, by design, hostile to the Hindu dharma without many exceptions.

And still, when it came to understanding Islam and its objectives, as a thinker and as a leader, it must be said that Bose was not very different from the other Marxist-Secularists. Bose is really an uncomforting case in point, that even deeply religious Hindus, of excellent intellectual gifts, untiring patriotism and great leadership acumen, can remain utterly gullible to the Islamic propaganda and keep causing self-injury to the nation. Bose remained deluded throughout his life when it came to understanding Islam, its goals & objectives and its history, and particularly its encounter with India. Laden with deluded understanding of Islam, great men only cause greater harm.

His beliefs in secularism were no different from the Gandhi variety and can be summed up as follows: a) without Moslem approval neither can Swaraj be won, and what is more, nor was it worth winning without their support; b) the onus of Hindu-Moslem unity lied on the shoulders of the Hindus alone, and the Hindus should be willing to make unlimited and extreme sacrifices to that end; c) only by adjusting to the Moslem sensibilities and removing their ‘misgivings’ was it possible to achieve that unity; and therefore d) appeasing Moslems should be made a core and visible part of any program, which is what he conscientiously belaboured to do throughout his political career. In his hostility to Hindutva also he was quite virulent just like the other Marxist-secularists.

Imprint of the above is visible throughout his career, from the 1920s when he started as a Bengal congressman under Deshbandhu’s wings, to 1930s when he rose to the central Congress as the Leftist rallying point and was elected its President for two consecutive terms, to the 1940s’ Azad Hind Fauj campaign and the events leading to the partition.

Subhas Bose began his career in the 1920s under the wings of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the rising star in Bengal Congress, since Gandhi’s coup d’état at the center. As Gandhi’s deputy, the first significant program of Deshbandhu was his over-enthusiastic campaign for the holy cause of Khilafat. Most of the important leaders within Congress like Pandit Malaviya, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai, and Sardar Patel were clearly and rightly opposed to making Khilafat as a Congress program. Deshbandhu Das took it upon himself to open direct personal communications with them to garner their support to Khilafat. Malaviya refused to relent till the end, but Lajpat Rai finally acquiesced on the logic that if Britain came into possession or control of larger Moslem domains, it would only mean more Moslem influence on British policies, more moslem recruitment in armed forces, and undue pressure on India and Hindus.

Visionary Bipin Chandra Pal was opposed to congress taking up Khilafat. He later recorded in his Memories of My Life and Times, how he dreaded the “virus of pan-Islamism among the Indian Moslems” which Khilafat would invariably affect. In his 1921 presidential address, which was to be his last, Bipin Chandra Pal warned Gandhi against preferring hocus-pocus emotionalism over hard reasoning with his acidic speech, “you want to do magic while I try to give you logic.” (Bipin Chandra lived for another decade, but the rise in Central politics of Gandhi, and in Bengal of Deshbandhu Das and Bose brothers, practically elbowed out this visionary Hindu and hardliner of Lal-Bal-Pal fame, out of politics. He left Congress at this time, and died in 1932 in condition of abject poverty, refusing to accept help from his wealthy comrade Lajpat Rai. A true genius, one only needs to read his works to understand the depth of his understanding of Moslem question. It was the leaders like Pal and Lajpat Rai who could have won an Akhanda Swaraj, if such a thing was ever possible. It was largely under Pal’s influential leadership that Bengali Hindus defeated the Bengal partition of 1905. And today, while Bose brothers and Chittaranjan Das share between themselves a majority of prominent landmarks, roads, and establishments of Bengal to their name, Bipin Chandra Pal seems to have been almost deleted from the Bengali memory. We shall try to dedicate a separate exploration of Pal’s thought and work later. For now, let us return to Khilafat, Deshabandhu, and his deputy Subhas Bose.)

In justification of the rationale of generally aligning with the pan-Islamists, and using Islamic sentiments in Congress policy, Subhas Bose later wrote, “…Moplah Rebellion in Malabar in South India intensified the crisis… Afghanistan had entered into a treaty with Mustafa Kamal Pasha and this was followed by a treaty between Persia and Soviet Russia. In Egypt the nationalist Wafd Party of Syed Zaghlul Pasha was strong and active. Thus it was apparent that the entire Moslem world was combining against Great Britain and this had an inevitable reaction on Moslems of India…Government would be eager to compromise with Congress.”

While Khilafat movement failed, what it did achieve for the Moslems especially in Bengal was to only prove ruinous for the Hindus and India in the coming times. Muslim League, although born in Dhaka in 1906, did not have much of an organization nor support among Moslem masses in Bengal. Through the Khilafat agitation and over-enthusiastic support to it by Congress, there emerged a wide and deep fundamentalist Moslem organization across the state, same as all across India. It also created a renewed and distinctly radicalized Islamist consciousness among the younger Mohammedans — it would be this generation of Bengali Moslems incubated in the 1920s Khilafat Movement which in a couple of decades launched the Direct Action for Pakistan.

All these pro-Khilafatist Congress leaders in their fanciful secularist confusion utterly failed to recognize that underneath the Khilafat sentiment of Indian Moslems, there was absolutely no motivation for India’s own sake, but simply the emotional pan-Islam zeal which was in reality directly opposed to the wellbeing of India and could not have reconciled with the Indian Nationalism.

Subhas Bose was not against the principle of taking up Khilafat agitation, even in hindsight he only went so far as to regret its operating format. He wrote, “The real mistake in my opinion did not lie in connecting the Khilafat issue with the other national issues, but in allowing the Khilafat Committee to be set up as an independent organisation throughout the country, quite apart from the Indian National Congress…. If no separate Khilafat Committees had been organised and all Khilafatist Moslems had been persuaded to join the ranks of the Indian National Congress, they would probably have been absorbed by the latter when the Khilafat issue became a dead one.” And again at another place, “…the introduction of the Khilafat question into Indian politics was unfortunate. As has already been pointed out, if the Khilafatist Moslems had not started a separate organisation but had joined the Indian National Congress, the consequences would not have been so undesirable.”

Bose is only trying to put the blame somewhere else, to avoid recognizing the fundamentalism and separatism that is inherent in the Moslem psyche, behaviour, and creed. Because, at least in context of Bengal, right before Bose’s eyes, the above suggested line of his is what Bengal Congress under Deshbandhu had taken, that is to induct Khilafatist Moslems within the rank and file of Congress.

In name of Khilafat recruitment, Congress brought to its leadership positions within Bengal, such Moslems as Abdullahahel Baqi of Dinajpur, Muniruzzaman Islamabadi of Chitagong, Mawlana Akram Khan of 24-Parghanas, Shamsuddin Ahmed of Kushthia, and Ashrafuddin Ahmed Chowdhury of Tippera, some of which were quite openly fanatic. Most of these men would later wreck havoc on the Hindus, although Deshbandhu Das did not live to see it and Bose would not acknowledge it. Some of these like Mawlana Akram Khan were staunch Islamists and emerged as hardliners within the reinvigorated Muslim League in Bengal; he would later be instrumental in the making of (East) Pakistan.

Deshbandhu Das and Subhas Bose cultivated and helped Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy launch himself as a prominent politician of Bengal. Suhrawardy was the Secretary of the Khilafat Committee for a long time and along with the others he joined the Swaraj party bloc of Congress, by initiative of Deshbandhu. They jointly shared power in Calcutta Municipal Corporation after winning the elections of 1924, with Deshbandhu becaming the Mayor, Suhrawardy the Deputy-Mayor, and Bose the Chief Executive Officer. Soon, within a couple of years, like most other Moslems who had joined Congress during the Khilafat, Suhrawardy ditched it to pursue an illustrious career as a distinguished Muslim Leaguer. It would be under his watch as the Prime Minister of Bengal that the Direct Action in 1946 bathed Calcutta in blood; he would later become the fifth Prime Minister of the yet undivided Pakistan. But already in 1926 he was showing his colours when he stood by and defended the Muslim rioters who were arrested during the great Calcutta riot of that year, including personally intervening to secure bail of a notorious goon named Mina Peshawari, murderer of several Hindu slum-dwellers. Even after seeing the behavior of his enlightened Moslem colleagues, Bose would never realize the hoax of the so called ‘progressive Moslems’. He continued to persevere under this confusion till the end of his INA days when he would give leadership positions within Azad Hind Fauj to many such people who would later jump at the first opportunity and show their true Islamist colours. Secularists must be either extremely poor judges of characters, or bad learners from experience, or just way too optimistic.

Deshbandhu Das around this time made with the moderate Moslem leaders like Hakim Ajmal Khan what is known as the Bengal Hindu-Muslim Pact of 1923, which besides other things, for the first time anywhere in India, committed to providing reservations in the government jobs on a communal basis. In Bengal as many as 55% to 60% public jobs were agreed to be reserved for the Moslem candidates alone. This Bengal Pact although rejected by the national body of Congress in Kakinada that year from being adopted as an India-wide program, still established a policy direction in Congress for the time to come. Subhas Bose, a part of this program as a lieutenant of Chittaranjan Das, records, “Deshabandhu had drawn up an agreement between Hindus and Moslems, covering religious as well as political questions, but it had been rejected by the Coconada Congress in December 1923, on the ground that it conceded too much to the Moslems… There was a stormy debate and the political opponents of the Deshabandhu, joined by some reactionary Hindus, put up a formidable opposition.”

Lala Lajpat Rai was totally opposed to such a line. Having studied Islam in detail, he was convinced of the futility, and really the danger, of such policies being pursued by Bengal Congress. Around these days, in a secret letter to Deshbandhu Das, Lalaji wrote categorically, “I have devoted most of my time during the last six months to the study of Muslim history and Muslim Law and I am inclined to think that Hindu-Muslim unity is neither possible nor practicable… Assuming and admitting the sincerity of the Mohammedan leaders in the Non-Co-operation Movement, I think their religion provides an effective bar to anything of the kind. There is no finer Mohammedan than Hakim [Ajmal Khan] Sahab, but can any Muslim leader override the Koran? I can only hope that my reading of the Islamic Law is incorrect and nothing would relieve me more than to be convinced that it is so… I do honestly and sincerely believe in the necessity and desirability of Hindu-Muslim unity. I am also fully prepared to trust the Muslim leaders, but what about the injunctions of the Koran and the Hadis? The leaders cannot override them!” (A. Ghosh, Making of the Muslim Psyche, 1986)

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, the literary genius and arguably the Father of the modern Indian Novel, also tried to talk sense to C R Das, his close friend. Like Lajpat Rai, Sarat Chandra was an astute student of the Moslem situation. He had recently toured the rural Bengal especially in the East where Hindus were a minority, and seen the pattern of behavior of the Moslems there. He rightly felt that far from bringing about any Hindu-Moslem unity, such placatory gestures of “sacrifice” were a slippery slope and would only make Moslem bullies see “success” of their hardened attitude and demand more and more until there was nothing left. Anxious that these policies would only bring disaster upon the Hindus in Bengal and for whole of India, he took up the issue with C R Das, who himself being an accomplished Bengali poet shared a cordial friendship of long standing with him. But Sarat Chandra’s discussions with C R Das proved futile. In a discussion Deshbandhu Das simply told Sarat Chandra that since Moslems were soon going to replace Hindus from power anyway by their demographics, it was a fait accompli, better would be for the Hindus to accept the fate and let it happen peacefully! (We shall return to Sarat Chandra again in a while)

Like Subhas Bose, Deshbandhu Das was a very religious Hindu in his personal life; his mansion in Calcutta always resounding with Kirtans of vaishnava mandali in which he used to actively participate. As a spiritual retreat, in the June of 1923, C R Das travelled to Pondicherry to briefly stay with Shri Aurobindo whom as his attorney he had eloquently and successfully defended in the Alipore Bombing case about fifteen years back. Aurobindo also tried to enlighten Deshbandhu Das about futility of his policy of making the so called Hindu Moslem unity as a prerequisite for the national movement. Das held on to his opinion and went on to say so much that unless the so called communal questions were settled, in his view he would not even like the British to leave! (So records a letter of Shri Aurobindo to Mother that month.)

But such ideology within Bengal Congress only got amplified with Subhas Bose and his elder brother Sarat Bose after the death of C R Das in 1925.

As the CEO of Calcutta Corporation, Subhas Bose outdid C R Das, who had only proposed 55% communal reservation that too in Moslem-majority districts which Calcutta was not. Subhas Bose appointed in Calcutta Corporation, 25 Mohammedans out of 33 vacant posts, not on the grounds of any merit, but for their creed. He said, “In (the) past Hindus have enjoyed what maybe regarded monopoly in matters of appointments. The claims of Mohammedans, Christains and Depressed Classes have to be favourably considered, though it is sure to give rise to a certain amount of heart-burning among the Hindu candidates.” So he left 8 seats for these Hindus of both “depressed class” and otherwise, and the Anglo-Indians.

There is another less known episode that begs recalling from these same years when Subhas Bose was the CEO of Calcutta Corporation and Deshbandhu Das the Mayor, and Bengal Congress comfortably in their control. There is a shrine of Tarakeshwar Mahadev at Serampur, not far from Calcutta, which is one of the most popular temples in Bengal. The shrine had enjoyed patronage and endowments from the local Hindu Jamindars and Rajas for at least the last three or four hundred years, and was headed by the traditional Giris, one of the ten dashanamis. Sometime around these days allegations were made of financial impropriety against Satis Chandra Giri, the reigning Mahant of the shrine. Deshbandhu C R Das got involved and launched a movement of agitation what Congressmen called as Tarakeshwar Satyagraha. Under his leadership, hundreds of Congress volunteers from Calcutta dawned upon the shrine and started doing blockade, dharna and arrests. In face of such ugly protests that went on for many weeks, Satis Giri retired, giving charge to his disciple Prabhat Giri. Deshbandhu also got the shrine to agree to come under a management board which would abide to Congress decisions, would disclose to them its financials, and agree to spend parts of its endowment and donations to secular causes of “various nation-building activities.”

Subhas Bose, who was an observer and a participant of these activities, wrote: “As in the case of other holy shrines, there was considerable property attached to the temple… there were allegations against the Mohunt of Tarakeswar with regard to his personal character and to his administration of the endowed property.… pressure was brought to bear on the Bengal Congress Committee…. Deshbandhu launched a movement for taking peaceful possession of the temple and the attached property, with a view to placing them under the administration of a public committee.…”

The temple remained in physical control of these Congress-satyagrahis until a third party of Hindus in Bengal, particularly the managers of the other temples under a body they formed called Bangal Brahman Sabha, filed a litigation against them in the Calcutta court. After a year of the heated legal battle, the Court finally decided in Sabha’s favour, asking congress workers to vacate the temple possession and hand it over to the Sabha and the new Mahant. But even now the Satyagrahis were in the attitude to defy the court order and continue their “satyagraha”. Gandhi had since beginning not liked this program and had even brought it up in a meeting with C R Das in Darjeeling that year. Finally he had to intervene and publish a signed appeal in Amrit Bazar Patrika on July 9, 1925 to call off the agitation and hand over the temple control. The then Bengal Governer wrote about this Tarakeshwar Satyagraha as ‘Hoax of a Movement’.

Bengal Congress gave it up but not without passing a resolution condemning the court order and the Bengal Brahman Sabha. Some years later, Congress minister Taraknath Mukherjee of Fazlul Haque government got a legislation passed in Bengal Assembly called the ‘Tarakeswar Temple Bill of 1941’, which explicitly set aside the earlier court verdict, and placed the temple management and its property under a public committee with government oversight, along with the provision to spend the excess temple funds for miscellaneous “social purposes”. The whole episode tells us something about the eagerness of those who call themselves secular to meddle in the temple management and its funds, then just like now.

All through, while the Bengal Congress was busy making the Muslim appeasement policies, the Bengal and especially the eastern Moslem-dominated rural parts continued to be rocked by riots. Many stories of atrocities, pillage, rape and temple-desecrations used to reach Calcutta. Major riots broke out in Calcutta itself in 1926, with prminent Moslems like Suhrawardy openly supporting the rioters as mentioned before, and it was in its wake that the 1926 session of Congress took place.

Krishnanagar Session of Bengal Congress in 1926 must have been a historic moment in a unique sense. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay attended it as an observer, and presented a paper in Bangla on the Hindu-Moslem communal issue entitled ‘Bortoman Hindu-Musalman Somosya’. Backing up by sound arguments he made a strong pitch to Congress leaders that the unity of Hindus and Moslems was impractical in the ways they were trying, and the history of Islam in India does not support it. He argued that instead of pursuing the mirage of Hindu-Muslim unity, what was pertinent and more desired at the time, was unity within the Hindu community by putting to end the curse of treating a section of the Hindus as low castes. Said Sarat Chandra, “If we go by the lessons of history we have to accept that the goal of Hindu-Muslim unity is a mirage. When Muslims first entered India, they looted the country, destroyed the temples, broke the idols, raped the women and heaped innumerable indignities on the people of this country. Today it appears that such noxious behaviour has entered the bone-marrow of Muslims. Unity can be achieved among equals. In view of the big gap between the cultural level of Hindus and Muslims which can hardly be bridged, I am of the view that Hindu-Muslim unity which could not be achieved during the last thousand years will not materialise during the ensuing thousand years. If we are to drive away the English from India depending upon this elusive capital of Hindu-Muslim unity, I would rather advise its postponement.”

But Sarat Chandra would not have impressed Subhas Bose, who was at this time imprisoned in Burma, and his lessons in history were very different. Subhas Bose wrote, “…the distinction between Hindu and Muslim of which we hear so much nowadays is largely an artificial creation, a kind of Catholic-Protestant controversy in Ireland, in which our present-day rulers have had a hand. History will bear me out when I say that it is a misnomer to talk of Muslim rule when describing the political order in India prior to the advent of the British. Whether we talk of the Moghul Emperors at Delhi, or of the Muslim Kings of Bengal, we shall find that in either case the administration was run by Hindus and Muslims together, many of the prominent Cabinet Ministers and Generals being Hindus. Further, the consolidation of the Moghul Empire in India was effected with the help of Hindu commanders-in-chief.”

So, blame the British, blame the Hindu, blame everyone but the Moslems and the fundamental separatism that is inherent in Islam. At least Moslems had no such fancy ideas about the pre-British era being a Hindu-Moslem joint rule, and were clear that it was a Dar-ul-Islam-i-Hind which British and before them Marathas had subjugated, and which must be restored back by either driving away or supporting the British. As to the Hindu Generals in the Moghal Army, obviousely we dont expect Bose to have come across the Moslem historians like Badayuni and Mulla Shirin who gleefully explain the concept of how “Hindus (were made to) bear the sword of Islam”. One only wishes Bose had taken the benefit of consulting Jadunath Sarkar’s volumes on Awrangzib, Mughal era, and Shivaji, which were published only a few years back and might have given him better insights in Hindu-Muslim History.

Continued in the next post…

January 20, 2011

Maharana’s puNya divasa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In 1597, on January 19, died mahArANA pratApa siMha, the foremost luminary in the galaxy of all Hindu leaders that raised the standard of tumult to answer the jehAd.  But before he died he fulfilled the mission of his life of regaining control over his mAtR^ibhUmi, and even at his deathbed he made his heir and his band of men swear by Lord Ekalinga to continue fighting the battle for Hindu independence.

Never did that dharmAbhimAnI compromise on Hindu liberty and never did he submit even to the lucrative offers of moghal tyrant.  His insignia read “जो दृढ राखै धरम कौ ताहि रखै कर्तार”: Those Who Stiffly Protect Dhrama find Protection of The Creator. It is by his grit and that of his followers that the sapling of Hindu revival was kept nourished, which would in next century become the mighty vaTa. Thus while negotiating treaty at Purandar with Jai Singh, cHatrapati recalled mahArANA and his hardships.

But for that vIra-pu~Ngava, all was lost beyond hope, as says surAyajI, a contemporary rAjasthAnI poet:

हिन्दू हिन्दूकार, राणा जे राखत नहीं
तो अकबर एकार, पहो सहो करत परतापसी
हिन्दूपति परताप, पत राखी हिन्दवाणरी
सहे विपति संताप, सत्य सपथ कर आपणी

[Had rANA not kept the Hindu flag independent,
Akbar had all but succeeded in crushing them to joining/becoming Moslems
But O Hindupati Pratap, You kept the Hindu pride undiminished
Even bearing hardships and pains, never did you waver from your grit]

Even a rAjpUt courtier of Akbar, ADhA dUrasA of sirohI, wrote in his “viruddha cHihattarI”:

एही भुजे अरीति । तसलीमत हिन्दू तुरक
माथै निकर मसीत परताप कै परसादसी
रोहै पाताल राण । जाँ तसलीम न आदरै
हिन्दू मुस्सलमाण एक नहीं ता दोय हैं

[When such is the usage of the day that Hindus have to bow low and perform Tasleem to Musalmans,
It is only in your country, O Pratap, that the temples are seen reconstructed where mosques were squatting
Only if, O Pratap, you hold the Hindu Banner high and don’t acknowledge (Akbar’s) suzerainty
Hindus will retain their independence and identity and not get merged with Musalmans]

रोकै अकबर राह । लै हिन्दू कूकुर लखां
बीअर तो बाराह पाडै घणा परताप सी
सुख हित स्याल समाज, हिन्दू अकबर बस हुए
रोसीलो मृगराज पजै न राण परताप सी

[Akbar obstacles the path of pratApa with help from a lakh Dog-Hindus (those who have gone to Akbars side)
But when did they stop the Boar-like march of pratApa! A single vArAha-Hindu is enough.
For sake of comfort some coward jackal-Hindus have taken Akbar as overlord
But when did Lion-Hindus like pratApa ever accept his suzerainty!]

लोपै हिन्दू लाज सगपण रोपै तुरकसूँ
आरज कुल री आज पूंजी राण प्रतापसी

[When Hindu honour has disappeared; they shamelessly give their daughters to musalmans;
O Pratap rANA, today You are the only refuge left for the Aryakula honour]

pratApa siMha, the standard forever of Hindu bravery, had no hesitation to denounce the cowardly deeds of his father and used to openly lament that had udaya not been born between his grandfather Sangram Singh the ‘Hindupat’, and himself, the Moslem rule in hindusthAn would have been wiped out in the time of bAbur himself.  (This is not a mere boast)

सांगो धरम सहाय बाबुर सूं भिडियो बिहस
अकबर कदमा आय पडै न राण प्रताप सी
मन अकबर मजबूत! फूट हिन्दवाँ बेफिकर
काफिर कौम कपूत! पकडूँ राण प्रताप सी

[If for the protection of dharma had rANA sAMgA gone to clash with bAbUr
It is for the same reason that pratApa does not give in to Akbar
Akbar’s mind is carefree and strong seeing the prevailing disunity among the Hindus
But even he knows that amongst Kafirs these are the black sheep; So he goes after Pratap]

Once a rumour was spread in Agra that mahArANA was willing to accept Akbar’s overlordship and had sent such communication to Patsah. Alarmed about this, a rAjpUt prince of bIkAner, Rai Prithviraj who was at Akbar’s court, wrote to pratApa seeking the truth of the matter. He wrote:

पातल जो पातसाह बोलै मुख हूता बयण
मिहर पच्छम दिस माह उगै कासप राववत
पटकूँ मुच्छाँ पाण कै पटकूँ निज तन करद
लीजै लिख दीवान इण दो महली बात इक

[I have been told that pratApa has started calling Akbar his Patsah,
which to me seems as impossible as the Sun rising from the west
But tell me O Regent (of EkaliMga) where I stand –
Shall I proudly put my fingers on my moustaches or sword on my neck?
Just write back which of the two is for me?]

To which pratApa siMha wrote back the below lines which are proudly memorised by every true Rajput:

तुरक कहासी मुख पतो इण तन सौं इकलिंग
ऊगै जाहीं ऊगसी प्राची बीच पतङ
खुसी हूँत पीतल कमध पटको मूच्छा पाण
पछटन है जेतै पटौ कलमा सिर केवाण
सांगा मूड सहै सको समजस जहर सवाद
झड पीतल जीतो झलाँ वैण तरकसूँ वाद

[By Lord Ekalinga, I shall call Akbar Turak alone (and not Patsah),
as surely as the Sun would rise tomorrow from the East.
You may, O Prithviraj, continue proudly stroking your moustaches
As pratApa’s sword continues to dangle on the Mughal heads, and,
Let the Sanga’s blood be on my hands if I ever rest before crushing them
You would, Prithvi, no doubt, have the better of this quarrel of rumours at the court.]

When the news of pratApa’s death reached Akbars court, it is said that Akbar mourned for his death (so say also the persian sources). At this, a rAjasthAnI poet at Akbar’s court expressed his homage to pratApa like this:

अस लैगो अनदाग पाघ लैगो अणनामी
गौ आडा अवडाय जिको बहतो धुर बामी
नवरोजे नह गयो न गो आतसाँ नवल्ली
न गओ झरोखा हेठ दुनियाण दहल्ली
गहलोता राणा जीती गयो दसन मून्द रसना डसी
निसास मूक भरिया नयन मृतु शाह प्रतापसी !

[Kept his horses unbranded (of mughal seal), Head unbowed and fame untarnished
Carried on his fight against vidharmI yoke merely by his singular fortitude
Never went to Navroz and Atish festivals of Patsah nor mounted guard at his jharokha darshan
O rANA the guhilota! The victory be yours. Even in death you make Patsah speechless and blind
Breathless, Patsah’s tongue is stuck in throat and blinded, as his eyes are moistened from sadness]

January 2, 2011

Yoga Asana, the Ancient Hindu Legacy

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

आलोक्यसर्वशास्त्राणि विचार्यच पुनः पुन:

इदमेकं सुनिष्पन्नं योगशास्त्रं परम्मतं

We have seen in the previous part how the identity of pata~njali, about which Hindus have never had doubts, is maliciously obliterated by the western commentators of yoga.

Having obfuscated yoga-sUtra and having reduced its author to obscurity, next our western scholars say the following to reject the ancientness (and indigenousness) of yogAsana, an important pillar in the edifice of yoga:

“…The text usually cited as the definitive source for Yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, but the familiar poses that are part of Hatha Yoga are generally traced to Shiva cults, the god Shiva being its founder. The problem that is being swept aside is that exact dates cannot be assigned to any of these texts…” – Deepak Chopra

“…But these texts say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga. The postures developed much later, some from medieval Hatha Yoga and Tantra, but more from nineteenth-century European traditions such as Swedish gymnastics, British body-building, Christian Science, and the YMCA, and still others devised by twentieth-century Hindus such as T. Krishnamacharya and B. K. S. Iyengar, reacting against those non-Indian influences.” – Wendy Doniger

We are reminded of the remark of Prof. Surendranatha Dasgupta on such western yoga scholars in one of his lectures on Yoga to the students of Calcutta Univerity several decades back: “(These) unsympathetic and shallow-minded scholars lack the imagination and the will to understand the Indian thought and culture of its past.”

But even a very sympathetic scholar and a Hinduphile Dr. Koenraad Elst colludes with the general view of the above scholars when he says:

“…the description of these specific techniques is found in the Hatha Yoga classics which do not predate the 13th century: the Gheranda Samhita, the Shiva Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika… There too, a number of asana-s or postures is described, though important ones now popular in the Western (and westernized-Indian) yoga circuit, particularly standing ones, are still not in evidence even in these more recent texts. In the Yoga Sutra, they are totally absent. Patanjali merely defines Asana, ‘seat’, as ‘comfortable but stable’… I don’t think any other asana postures except those for simply sitting up straight have been recorded before the late-medieval Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and such.” – Dr. Koenraad Elst

Let us examine.
Having commented upon the Yama and Niyama, pata~njali describes Asana, the third great limb of yoga, in the following three yoga-sUtra-s:

sthira sukhamAsanam (2.46), prayatnashaithilyAnantyasamApattibhyAm (2.47), and tato dvandvAnabhighAt (2.48).

The view of Dr. Elst, that “pata~njali merely defines Asana as ‘seat’, ‘comfortable but stable’”, seems very simplistic reduction of the first sUtra sthirasukhamAsanam. Had Asana just meant so little as to merely mean a “comfortable but stable seat”, was it really worth enumerating as one of the limbs of the aShTA~Nga yoga? Would it not be pretty obvious to a rAjayoga student to anyway naturally take a “comfortable but stable seat” for practicing yoga? Why formulize upon Asana at all?

Indeed, the word “Asana” in simple saMskR^ita, in itself means to sit comfortably, according to its vyutpatti: “Asyate Asate anena iti Asanam” (deriving from the same dhAtu from which English ‘sit’ and ‘seat’ also came). That a sUtra-kAra of pata~njali’s fame, who scrupulously economizes on even half of the short vowels (as he says in the mahAbhAShya), should spend not one but three precious sUtra-s to Asana, when all he meant by it merely was a “comfortable but stable seat”, is hard to fathom. pata~njali must have a deeper meaning when he says sthirasukhamAsanam. What does he signify by the specific indication of ‘sthira-sukha’ in the sUtra, when ‘Asana’ itself would be sufficient had his intention been such a basic meaning as suggested?

The traditional Hindu wisdom says that deciphering the sUtras without help of an authoritative commentary, and better still under the guidance of a siddha preceptor, is fraught with the danger of gross errors for laymen. We refer therefore to the authorities of how they decipher what pata~njali implies in this first sUtra?

vyAsa explains the meaning of pata~njali here by considering the joint of “sthirasukha” and “Asana” to be the karmadhAraya samAsa, making the sUtra mean, “That Asana is here called Asana which yields sthira-sukha i.e. unwavering delight”.

AchArya shaMkara in his own TIkA explains this sUtra as, “yasmin Asane sthitasya manogAtrANAmupajAyate sthiratvam, duHkham cha yena nAbhavati tadabhyaset.” [Practice is recommended of that Asana which leads the practitioner’s mind to immovableness and constancy, and does not cause any discomfort.]

vAchaspati mishra in the eighth century explains this sUtra in his tattva vaiShAradi as, “sthiram nishchalam yatsukham sukhAvaham tadAsana”: Asana is that which yields a comfort that is lasting, stable, and unwavering. (Although vAchaspati also treats the samAsa between sthira and sukha as bahubrIhi: “sthiram sukham yena tat”).

But the clearest explanation of the sUtra comes from our favourite scholar, bhojadeva the learned rAjan: “Asana, the posture. Posture without motion. One that leads the practitioner to the not-flickering and lasting comfort. Only that type of Asana is Asana-proper, counted as one of the eight limbs of yoga.”

So, all these eminent authors on yoga understand pata~njali’s instruction to not mean just any “comfortable but stable seat”, which by definition ‘Asana’ anyway is, but specifically an Asana that gives the sthira sukha to the yogAbhyAsI helping him reach a concentrated mind; such an Asana alone is called yogAsana. Like ‘chitta’, pata~njali is not defining ‘Asana’, as he considers Asana to have been already understood earlier, he is only adding these further qualifications to it.

But is Wendy Doniger right when she says that the old texts including YS “say nothing about the physical “positions” or “postures” that distinguish contemporary yoga”, a view which Dr. Elst and Deepak Chopra seem to share? What about Chopra’s opinion when he says that the “the familiar poses are generally traced to Shiva cults”?

Let us explore this next.

Contrary to the above assertions, we find that ancient authorities mention the yogAsana-s, referring to them by name. Even the fairly antiquated commentaries of the pata~njali’s yoga sUtra itself, preceding the haThayoga dIpikA and gheraNya saMhita etc. by several centuries, already explain that Master pata~njali particularly implied these same standard “postures” when he instructed upon Asana in the yoga-sUtra.

Consider the oldest available commentary on yoga sUtra by vyAsa. The author ends his explanation of pata~njali’s ‘sthira-sukham-Asanam’ with a list of the names of Asana-s, “…tadyathA padmAsanam bhadrAsanam vIrAsanam daNDAsanaM sopAshrayaM parya~Nkam krau~nchaniShadanam, hastiniShadanam, uShTRa niShadanam, samasaMsthAnaM sthirasukham yathAsukham cha ityevamAdIni”, that is, “Asana like the padmAsana or the bhadrAsana, vIrAsana, daNDAsana, or (squatting ) postures like parya~Nka or sopAshraya, or postures named after krau~ncha bird, or the Camel posture or the Elephant posture, or samAsana, or any other comfortable (instructed) posture which provide sthira sukha”.  This elaborate list, though not exhaustive as the author says these are examples, is from at least as old as the 6th century if not older.

Explaining the same sUtra of ‘sthirasukhamAsanam’, AchArya shaMkara also concludes his explanation of pata~njali’s instruction with, “…tadyathA shAstrAntara prasiddhAni nAmAni padmAsanAdIni pradarshyante”, meaning “…that is, for example, those well known postures explained in the other shAstras, like the padmAsana etcetera.”] He even desribes, out of these, padmAsana, bhadrAsana and daNDAsana in instructive details.

An astute reader cannot fail to notice the casualness shown here in mentioning the representative names of the postures, when both the above authors refer to a few names of the Asana-s, followed by ‘Adi’, etcetera, meaning that the reader is anyway easily familiar with them.

Also observe the words AchArya shaMkara uses above, “prasiddhAni nAmAni”, explicitly signifying that many Asanas were already famous by specific names and were not worth repeating there.

Besides the above, further note the important word he uses, ‘shAstrAntara’. It is significant that shaMkara not only refers to these postures as famous, but also says those are ‘shAstrAntara’, or explained elsewhere beyond the yogasUtra or by the “other shAstra-s”. Of course we have no means at present to say which other shAstra he was referring here, but probably some older material no more extant.

In an entirely different book, that is the celebrated bramha-sUtra-bhAShya, AchArya shaMkara further refers to the Asana postures in a similar vein when he says, “ata eva padmakAdInAmAsana visheShANAmupadesho yogashAstre”: “…This is why yoga-shAstra particularly prescribes the postures like padmAsana etcetera…” (See BSB 4.1.10 under ‘smaranti cha’)

Still elsewhere, and very significantly, AchArya shaMkara alludes to the yoga darshana and its development from the vaidika roots. In the same bhAShya talking about yoga system what strikes his mind as uniquely characteristic of yoga, is its elaborate system of Asana! AchArya remarks: “AsanAdi-kalpanA-purassaram bahu-prapa~ncham yoga-vidhAnam shvetAshvataropaniShAdi dR^ishyate” [“Such emphasis on postures and related amplified prapa~ncha, one can already sense in the (old) upaniShada-s such as that of shvetAshvatAra etcetera”]

This is a very important testimony we get from the AchArya that even as far back as in his time, he understood the importance of the elaborate system of Asana postures to have gone back to the ancient upaniShada times, and their development being of a very obscure antiquity.

We return again to the genius bhoja rAjan, who, still a few centuries before the haThayoga classics that are available to us, enumerates some specific yoga postures. Having explained the meaning of sthirasukhamAsanam, he ends his statement by saying, “padmAsana-daNDAsana-svastikAsanAdi | tadyadA sthiraM niShkampaM sukhaM anudvejanIyaM bhavati tadA tadyogA~NgatAM bhajate”, meaning,”…such as padmAsana, daNDAsana, svAstikAsana etcetera. When the (practice of) a posture (advances, it) becomes (a vehicle) yielding of a stable unwavering sukha and is not uncomfortable (anymore). That is when it becomes, that much-praised limb of the (eight) yoga a~Nga-s, the blessed Asana.]

Here rAjA bhoja also interprets pata~njali to have really meant the specific yoga postures, giving here the names of postures such as padma, daNDa, and svAstika Asana-s. And he also adds an “Adi”, etcetera, to mean that already there must be a long list of very famous and commonly known Asana-s which he felt no need to elaborate upon beyond ‘etcetera’. The above shows, we think, that in light of these ancient authorities, we can take it that pata~njali did imply specific postures that are understood as standard yoga Asana-s, and not just any comfortable seat.

But already, even much before pata~njali himself, the Asana-s were already quite well known and practiced, as AchArya shaMkara said. We find an attestation from the Great bhArata of his observation, that the concept of Asana, that is the specific yoga postures, in the technical sense of it, was already an integral part of spiritual practice of ascetics. From the araNyakaparvan the 3rd book of mahAbhArata:

bhR^igor maharSheH putro ‘bhUch chyavano nAma bhArgavaH
samIpe sarasaH so ‘sya ta
ANubhUto mahAtejA vIrasthAnena pANDava
SThat subahUn kAlAn ekade
gt;a valmIko ‘bhavad R^iShir
kAlena mahatA

was born to the great
igu, chyavana by name. And he, of an exceedingly resplendent body, began to perform austerities by the side of a lake. And, O Son of pANDu, O Protector of men! He of mighty energy assumed the Posture known as the Vira, in it being quiet and still like an inanimate post, and for a long period remained immobile at the same spot in the same posture. And as a long time elapsed he was swarmed by the ants turned into an anthill covered with the creepers growing upon it.”]

In the anushAsana parvan, the thirteenth book:

vIrAsanaM vIrashayyAM vIrasthAnam upAsataH akSayAs tasya vai lokAH sarvakAmagamAs tathA MBh 13.7.13

[“He who performs tapscharya-s sitting in the vIrAsana posture, by going to the secluded dense forest (where only the braves dare tread) and sleeping on the (hard rock,) the bed worthy for the braves, he attains to those eternal regions where all the objects of desire are fulfilled (or desires are nullified)”]

(In above, we differ in translating the verse from how the learned paNDita shrI K M Ganguly translated it. He takes the first line in sense of gaining martyrdom on the battlefield assuming the posture of vIrAsana.)

At yet another place in the same anushAsana parvan, mahAdeva is describing to umAdevI the routine of tapasyA that the ascetic siddha yogi-s perform:

yogacharyAkR^itaiH siddhaiH kAmakrodhavivarjanam
vIrashayyAm upAsadbhir vI
uktair yogavahaiH sadbhir grIShme pa~ncatap


of the
ellent ord
elating to Yoga, hav
alleviated the passions of lust and violence, seated in the posture called vIrAsana in the midst of four fires on four sides with the sun overhead in summer months, duly practising what is called mANDUkya yoga, and sleeping on bare rocks or on the earth, these men, with hearts set upon dharma, expose themselves to the extremes of cold and warm (and are unaffected by the duality).”]

Not only do we find evidence in mahAbhArata therefore, of the importance given to the postures, specific postures, we should also observe that much before pata~njali, mahAbhArata already describes the yoga praxis in great detail. In the anushAsana parvan, it even describes the aShTA~Nga-s of yoga and even lists the famous teachers of sAMkhya and yoga, in which list pata~njali does not figure. This also means that the yoga text in the bhArata was pre-pata~njali and that by the time of pata~njali, yoga was quite a very well founded practice, its Asanas included.

In the early classical saMskR^ita literature also, we find the Asana-s mentioned. The Emperor of saMskR^ita poetry, mahAkavi kAlidAsa, already names the yaugika postures. He mentions vIrAsana in his raghuvaMsham by name (13.52) and also beautifully describes the siddhAsana through a verse. Ancient drama mR^ichcHakaTikA, going back to the BCE age, also describes yoga posture (see the opening chapter).

Dr. Elst has wondered why only sitting postures characterize or at least dominate the yogAsana-s, speculating that this is to do with the climatic conditions: that the Chinese postures being in standing position because it is wet and cold out there, whereas Hindu ones being in sitting position because of the warm climate here.

But the observation is inaccurate. Indeed we have enough textual and non-textual records of Hindu Asana-s also in standing, half-standing and leaning postures too from fairly old periods. mahAbhArata itself attests to this at multiple places, too numerous to recount, that standing postures were common for tapashcharyA. We find many ancient frescoes, murals, and bas-relief from old temples displaying the yoga postures in the standing position, see for instance the pallava temple carvings at mahAbalIpuram, dated to the 600s, depicting arjuna, bhagIratha and other characters (including a charlatan cat), to be performing the ascetics standing in the classical postures like the tADAsana and vR^ikShAsana. There are many other sources that attest to the postures in standing position, particularly for performing the tapascharyA, more specifically recorded by the early nAstika grantha-s, and both the bauddha and jaina texts record the standing postures.

vR^ikShAsana mahAbalIpuram

mahAvIra’s austerities in pristine tADAsana is all too famous. Also important to note is that the jaina-s carefully record that bhagavat mahAvIra acquired his siddhi while he was in a specific yoga posture known as the godohanAsana (see image), so called because it resembles how one milches the cow.  godohanAsana remains a classical standard yoga posture.

mahAvIra in godohanAsana

We further find traces of standard yoga postures in standing, half-standing, or leaning positions in other extra-yaugika special interest groups such as those in nATya and the practitioners of the Hindu martial arts, both of which are concerned with and utilize the standard yoga postures. The dhanurveda texts, variously titled and differently dated, tell us about specific Asana-s to be employed for specific purposes. The most complete, last redacted in the present form by around the 13th century but obviously containing much older material, the dhanurveda of vyAsa, tells the archers to assume one of the Eight Asana-s while shooting the arrow, each of which except the last, is in standing and half-standing posture. It describes each Asana and even mentions them by well known names such as the Asana-s of vishAkha, padma, and garuDa. Other and older Hindu martial art texts such as those contained within the purANa-s or bauddha pAlI sUtra-s inform us about the specific standing postures useful for practicing malla and other yuddha vidhA-s.

Coming to the climate part, yoga authors specifically mention that the Asana, by one of its very purposes, takes the body of the practitioner beyond the effects of climate and other such dualities. Explaining the last yoga sUtra on Asana, “dvandvAnabhighAt”, rAjan bhoja explicitly gives the example of climate, saying when the practitioner has perfected the yogAsana, the very effect of it is that Asana makes his body transcend and withstand the effects of extreme climate, both warm and cold.

To summarize, what the foregoing discussion aimed to show is that Asana had already acquired a technical sense during mahAbhArata, and even before, from upaniShadic times. That pata~njali does not need to define Asana itself, but simply add more specific qualifiers to it, also shows that the concept of specific Asanas was already a common knowledge. Such names of Asanas as padmAsana, daNDAsana, bhadrAsana, svAstikAsana, and vIrAsana, vajrAsana etc. were so very common and well known among the Hindus already from very early days. By as early as the 6th century we find the yoga authors not only mentioning them by name, but in a sense that it was such a common knowledge that simply indicating a few names appended by ‘etcetera’ is sufficient to indicate them all.  We also see that even these ancient Hindus were conscious about much further antiquity of the system of postures for yoga, as even AchArya shaMkara remarks about its obscurely ancient origins and wide popularity and recognition already by the time of the old layer of the upaniShada-s.  We also noted that the Asana-s, the postures, is what he takes as being a general identifying characteristic trait of the yoga system.  There are old records of not only sitting but standing, half-standing and leaning postures being practiced, and that the yoga authors were particular about Asana being for the very purpose to make the body of practitioner withstand the worldly dualities like the hot and cold climate.

The hindU-dviTa vultures delegitimizing the Hindu legacy of yogAsana remind us of how the legacies of our glorious cousins the Hellenes of Greece were also robbed away, how the fanatic pretamata first undermined, then outlawed, and finally secularized as its own, the ancient spiritual gymnast-athletics and its kumbha-like deeply spiritual festival of Olympic that was celebrated to honour the dyauspitR^i. Lamentably the perished Hellenic civilization would be unable to reclaim the Olympic from what it has now been vulgarized and secularized into. But the Hindu civilization is still alive, so far at least, to call yogAsana its asset, happy to share with the world, but as its very own ancestral civilizational and spiritual legacy.

June 7, 2010

Ramblings about the sword of bhavAnI

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

The legend of bhavAnI having blessed the cHatrapati founder of hindU svarAjya with her own khaDga for smiting the turuShka-s, is all too famous.  So we have the bhAkars mentioning about the miraculous sword, and we have contemporary bhUShaNa telling us about it.   But the fame of the khaDga was known far and wide, and it seems used to even awe the hearts of his enemies.

Thus we have the contemporary Italian  mercenary and freebooter Manuzzi telling us about his having once witnessed the abhimantrita maharaTTA sword.  In his Storia do Mogor he records that on one occasion he led a diplomatic mission on behalf of awrangzib and his portuguese allies to negotiate the terms of truce with shambhAjI and  the rebellious son of awrangzib who was in shambhAjI’s safe custody.  (shambhAjI introduced to Manuzzi durgAdAsa the famous rAThora general in disguise as prince Akbar.)  During the visit he once requested shambhAjI whether the latter could show him but once the famous divine sword that his father had, and shambhAjI would let him see from far just one flash of it.

The hindu revival in the founding of the maharaTTA empire had for its foundation its predecessor, the great vijayanagara.  the footprint of vijayanagara are visible in the resurgent maharaTTA-s in many ways: the legend pf jagadambA appearing before the valiant warrior-king and offering him her own khaDga to destroy the enemy being also one.  Thus we read the princess-poetess ga~NgAdevI describing in fourteenth century how the Goddess from madurai appeared to her husband yuvarAja kampanarAya, son of the founder of the empire bukkArAya, and gave him her sword to go out and thrash away the sultanate of the islamite tyrants from the draviDa lands.  The princess describes at length in madhurAvijaya the glory of this sword and how it originally belonged to mahAdeva, was given by sage agastya to various kings, and finally is being trusted by bhavAnI to the worthy arms of the vijayanagara.

It is of course very frequent throughout the hindU itihAsa-s and purANa-s for worthy warriors to acquire divine shastra-s from the deva-s.  Thus in padma purANa we have rAma getting the dhanuSha from mahAdeva, and rAvaNa had received before His sword.  mahAbhArata is of course full of description of such arms which can fill reams. 

But this had continued down to the later historical times, even before vijayanagara, that we read about bhavAnI’s or mahAdeva’s sword.  Thus we read in the histories of nAthayogI-s that the famous nAtha siddha delivered the divine sword of bhavAnI and mahAdeva to a rAjapUta named kAlabhoja who founded the house of mevADa.

Later in the eighteenth century, we similarly hear of the famed bhavAnI sword having been acquired by blessed pR^ithvI nArAyaNa shaAha who went on to found the now abolished hindU svArAjya in nepAla country.  We have had multiple occasions to be at this shaktipItha on the borders of nepAla, where young pR^ithvI nArAyaNa performed his arduous tapas and finally received the anugraha of devI.

That reminds us of our childhood chahamAna friend, now settled at this place, who would often tell us about a khaDga of bhavAnI also having been given to the chahamAna-s, and that his family was in possession of the sword.  Their family would even now perform the ritual shastrapUjA on the vijayadashamI day when every adult (male and female) of his clan would perform their own symbolic bali before devI and offer their own blood at its blade.  We would of course be denied access to see it. 

Until last, when we did get to witness the rAjapUta sword of bhavAnI.  On its golden hilt is inscribed some mantra in devanAgarI text, now hardly legible, but we guess it is from atharvan veda… and its blade is graced by the image of raNodyata kAlI…

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