[INDOLOGY] "The Age of the Unicorn, Brought to You by IIT Kharagpur"

Alex Watson alex.watson at ashoka.edu.in
Tue Jan 4 08:21:11 UTC 2022

On this topic, I'm forwarding a mass email that was sent 10 days ago to a
number of faculty members in History and Philosophy departments in India.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
Date: Sun, Dec 26, 2021 at 9:54 PM
Subject: Revisiting Vishwaguru Bharatvarsha in IIT Kharagpur's 2022 Calendar

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter as I believe it is the most I can do, in the face
of what is happening.

Attached is the 2022 calendar for IIT Kharagpur. Kindly take a look at it.

I am not a historian, merely an amateur, and hence I cannot satisfactorily
provide a rebuttal to the 'reinterpretations' of Indian history.

What shocks me is how a premier scientific institution of India can allow
for such a selective reading of history, which absolutely flies in the face
of scientific rigour, and present a racially/nationally self-flattering
hypothesis . In these days, racial pride and national pride have become one
and the same (India 'is an ancient race', after all).

By all means, dispel eurocentric readings of history. I am all for
presenting a view of history where the indigenous knowledge systems of
different civilizations are studied on their own merits and not as
appendices to western thought.

But do we need to supplant western supremacist bias with Indian supremacist
bias? This calendar seems to assume that the current consensus amongst
historians is that Aryans plundered their way into the country by hacking
away at Dravidians. That all current historians, barring those associated
to Vidya Bharati / Sewa Bharati (which are absolutely NOT, IN ANY WAY,
associated to RSS or BJP), have a view of Indian history steeped in
cultural inferiority, actively crafted by jealous westerners to chip away
our collective pride.

What a convenient strawman to attack current historians, who subscribe to
nothing of the sort.

Something tells me that the majority of historians in India will not
respond to this calendar either. Pardon me for saying this, but I have seen
a tendency in 'career experts' - experts and authorities in different
subjects, be it history or science - to pass off an opportunity to rise to
an occasion which needed them to act, by pretending that they are holding
back because of some virtue like 'staying focused' or 'being patient' -
unless, of course, it is institutional, can be mentioned on the CV and
faculty page, and pushes them up the career ladder. Then they do it because
'they love/care about the subject'.

This calendar assumes three things -

   1. That there exists a dominant, presumptive hypothesis called the
   'Aryan Invasion Theory' - no historian in this day and age, be it a
   'communist' historian or as they say, a 'colonial mindset' historian, or a
   'patriotic' historian, or a 'funded by Catholic Church foreigner'
   historian, or a 'whitewashing Mohammedan carnage' muslim historian, or any
   other stereotyped historian of any kind, believes in Aryan invasion. The
   current consensus, which is itself constantly evolving in light of new
   archaeological evidence and more rigorous interpretations, is that a
   migration took place, gradually, in successive waves, and there was no
   large-scale violence during this period, and Aryan and Pre-Aryan (which was
   more than just 'Dravidian' culture) cultures fused and intermixed as
   cultures often do. But of course, this view of reality is inconvenient to
   those who want to throw 'unpatriotic, spiritually parasitic' historians out
   of India's learning institutions.
   3. The Vedas were composed by people who had no biases, no political
   inclinations, no caste/class prejudices, no conflicts of interest, and were
   supreme in all matters of spirituality. And their exegesis in the
   Upanishads were also written by equally transcendental figures.
   5. That Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda are historians. If we are to
   read Indian history by what they have to say, then perhaps we should read
   Roman history by what the Pope has to say about it. Of course, they will be
   very unbiased in their views, won't they?

Using the same kind of logic used in that calendar, I can also provide very
convincing interpretations, weaving together real archaeological evidence,
of the literal existence of a 'now extinct' creature Hydra that the Greek
hero Hercules fought. In fact, I can even prove that Hercules is just the
Greek name for Krishna, and Hydra was just Kaliya Nag whom Krishna defeated
! Or that an Egyptian god of the dead called Anubis does greet you after
you die - and is none other than Yamdev, who also tested Yudhisthira ! Or a
half-man-half-bull monster created using 'ancient gene therapy' which is
remembered as the Minotaur of Crete (using technology invented by Shiva to
transplant Ganesha's head). I could also, very easily, using selective
evidence, prove that the Earth is actually only 6000 years old as the Bible
says, and humans and dinosaurs lived together - indeed there are entire
schools runs by people who believe this Biblical nonsense in the US, just
as we believe Brahminical rationalizations.

Just as European scholars selectively used Greek and Roman history to prove
a view of Western superiority centuries ago, today we are selectively using
Indian history to prove a view of Eastern superiority. We are fighting
racial supremacy with racial supremacy.

We seem to believe that India has had a patent on philosophical and
spiritual thought since time immemorial - why stop at 7000 BCE? Perhaps we
were the Vishwa-Guru since Treta Yuga (2 million years ago) when even homo
sapiens did not exist. Perhaps Ayodhya palace was built by Homo Erectus. Or
is that too offensive to suggest? Or maybe homo sapiens did indeed exist 2
million years ago, but the west conspired to hide the fact, so that India
never realized how it invented palace-building and governance. After all,
even the Allahabad High Court had once proclaimed that 'Ayodhya temple was
probably built by Lord Rama 9 million years ago'.

Should we start revisiting human evolution to accommodate the fact that the
Treta-Yuga ended millions of years ago? After all, this calendar seems to
treat the Vedas as an infallible source composed by rishis who had
transcended all fallibilities in human judgement.

Maybe Dashavatar are nothing but a mapping of the different evolutionary
stages of humans ! Think about it ! Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha
(warthog), Vamana (Homo Erectus ???), Narasimha (Neanderthal ???) - it is
evident how this perspective has been suppressed by bolshevik-leaning
apparatchiks of Nehru, Indira and the current roster of urban naxals to
keep Indian pride from realizing itself !!!

Why not go one step further and say that Mount Meru really is the center of
the world as the Vedas say, and Mt. Everest is a colonial myth? Or better
yet, say that Meru was the ancient name of Everest?

Should we ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of genetic studies
point to the fact that there was indeed several waves of migration of Aryan
tribes into the Indian subcontinent - a MIGRATION which these
neo-racialists posit as a hypothesis of 'INVASION' in order to discredit it
- and the fact that the Indus Valley used no language remotely similar to
Sanskrit?  Or dismiss the majority of the archaeological evidence, amongst
which a few pieces suggest an alternate hypothesis which these
neo-racialists so desperately cling to? Or should we believe that the first
language to have developed on Earth was Sanskrit, and all other languages
are but inferior copies of it?

This new school of 'Indian Knowledge Systems' seems to be hell bent on
ignoring all evidence that presents a more sober picture of history, and
crafting a self-glorifying picture of eternal nationhood based on the idea
that all good on Earth came from India, from kindness to animals to
brushing one's teeth to philanthropy.

This is sad, because I really am an enthusiast of Indian philosophy -
actual ancient Indian philosophy, not the neo-vedantist reinterpretations
of wishful thinkers, conveniently used to bolster the idea of an ancient
enlightened civilization as the bedrock of Indian nationalism in the 19th
and 20th centuries, to counter a supremacist, patronizing British
imperialism. There really was a need to do away with Eurocentric readings
of history.

If only we had a school who studied Indian scholarly traditions with rigour
and humanist sentiments, and not the humanist posings of Vedic platitudes
of 'vasudhaiva kutumbakam' and 'tat tvam asi' - every religion has scores
of proverbs attesting to their humanistic, universalistic and inclusivistic
credentials. These are often written by the very people least likely to be
inclusive in their behaviour - like my Gandhian, Arya Samaji grandfather
who threw a fit when he realized that his daughter's boyfriend was not a
Brahman, or my bleeding heart left-leaning IAS officer uncle who mutters
'bloody sepoy' when his uniformed valet fails to bring him his cup of
coffee on time.

To use rapturous, generous proverbs, adages and mantras to blind one to
reasonable skepticism is insulting to one's intelligence, especially if the
person hails from IIT.

Unfortunately, we seem to have responded to Western supremacist history of
the world (which has been in decline for decades now, and modern historians
are quite aware of eurocentric bias) with the Indian supremacist history of
the world.

This letter is what I could do to respond to this troubling development in
Indian academia. What will you do? Probably nothing. After all, it takes
the ability to prioritize things which are s̶e̶l̶f̶i̶s̶h̶  practical to
defeat thousands of other more foolishly idealistic people to get into an
IIT, either as a professor or a student. You've got tenure, grants and PhD
students. Thats all that matters.

Some Guy Whose Insolence Will Probably Vex You More Than The Subject of
this Letter

On Tue, Jan 4, 2022 at 1:31 PM Matthew Kapstein via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Thanks for sharing this.  It’s truly dismaying to see the world’s “two
> greatest democracies “ — India and the US — submerged by floods of sheer
> idiocy.
> Matthew Kapstein
> EPHE, Paris
> ------------------------------
> *From:* INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of
> Periannan Chandrasekaran via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Sent:* Monday, January 3, 2022 9:59:55 PM
> *To:* indology <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] "The Age of the Unicorn, Brought to You by IIT
> Kharagpur"
> https://science.thewire.in/the-sciences/iit-kharagpur-vedic-culture-calendar-hindutva-aryan-invasion-symbols-claims/
> [FYI: this is related to these other recent developments from the same
> institute on the same topic:
>    - IIT-Kharagpur calendar calls Aryan invasion a myth
>    <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/iit-calendar-on-aryan-invasion-myth-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-professor/article38065010.ece>
>    - With IIT Kharagpur Calendar, the Hindutva Right Takes Another Step
>    Away From Science
>    <https://m.thewire.in/article/education/with-iit-kharagpur-calendar-the-hindutva-right-takes-another-step-away-from-science>
>    ]
> ==Excerpts====
>    - *The unicorn as a symbol of a Vedic rishi is among the four
>    “decisive evidences” the sages of IIT Kharagpur have presented in a 2022
>    calendar, whose stated purpose is to rebut the “Aryan invasion myth”.*
>    - *The calendar has been produced under the auspices of the newly
>    inaugurated Centre of Excellence for Indian Knowledge Systems at IIT
>    Kharagpur, headed by Prof. Joy Sen.*
>    - *Even though this calendar has thrust IIT Kharagpur into the news,
>    the so-called “Indian Knowledge Systems” already have a home in IIT
>    Gandhinagar, and IIT Kanpur may be next in line.*
>    - *==========*
> The Wire Science – Submission Guidelines
> <https://science.thewire.in/science/our-submission-guidelines/?utm_source=banner_article>
> Regards
> Periannan Chandrasekaran
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