Prior to waves of Islamic and European onslaught, India was major super-power, much farther ahead than the Greeks and Romans (in that same time period), in science (both material and spiritual, as in the science of yoga), engineering (unrivaled in metallurgy, steel, textiles, architecture, ship-building, navigation, astronomy), sustainable living (sustainable agriculture, organic farming, water harvesting, biofuels, vegetarianism), mathematics (zero, place value system, number denominations in the order of 1011, value of pi, algebra, quadratic equations, trigonometry, infinite series, calculus), arts (Indian classical music, classical dance forms, poetry, grand epics, etc), commerce, and state-craft. See Hindu Contributions.
In fact, many historians list the trade deficit that Rome had with India as one of major contributing factors of the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome could not keep up with enough conquests (and slave labor) to pay the enormous trade deficit it had with India (iron, steel, textiles, spices, ship building, knowledge workers (architects, artisans, builders), etc).
India also contributed enormously to the growth and wealth of Europe and the USA during the Industrial Revolution (the British completely depleted and decimated India by the time they left; details further in this article).
So, how did such an India that was the economic and knowledge hub of the world get reduced to a “Third World” nation? The intent of this article is to shed some light, as such events in history should not be hidden (just we remember the Jewish Holocaust, Black Slavery, Vietnam, Crusades,…). The purpose of history is so that future generations can study it, and to understand the pathology/symptoms that caused it in the first place.
Setting the Stage
Before we proceed, it is important to understand what the Hindus were confronted with at that time, so as not to underestimate the impact of these invasions. Christian and Islamic civilizations were running rampant to conquer and to convert, or to decimate or enslave (ironically, all in the name of an all loving God). The native population of entire continents were wiped off the face of the earth – the Native South American population (by the Spanish and Portuguese), the Native North American population (by the British, Spanish, and French), the Aboriginal population of Australia (by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and British), the native Hindu population of Afghanistan (by Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Mongols). Not to mention also the brutal colonization of South Africa, the Christian Inquisition, the persecution of the wiccans and pagans of Europe, the genocide of the pagans of Russia,… it was a pretty grim period to be living in.
The best description of Western Civilization during that time period, would be in the words of Gandhi. When Gandhi was asked what he thought about Western civilization, he replied, “I think it would be a very good idea”.
One can also imagine the disbelief of the Hindus when they encountered the first Christian and Muslim invaders who incredulously declared there is only one way to God, it was their way (Bible/Koran) and only through their prophet (Christ/Mohammad) and their way (Bible/Koran), and those who don’t submit were treated as third-class: heathens/infidels/kafirs. See Missionary Aggression.
The following excerpts below are from A Tribute To Hinduism.
The Islamic Onslaught
Let it be said right away: the massacres perpetrated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis; or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks; more extensive even than the slaughter of the South American native populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese.
From the time Muslims started arriving, around 632 AD, the history of India becomes a long, monotonous series of murders, massacres, spoliations, and destructions. It is, as usual, in the name of ‘a holy war’ of their faith, of their sole God, that the barbarians have destroyed civilizations, wiped out entire races.” Mahmoud Ghazni, continues Danielou, “was an early example of Muslim ruthlessness, burning in 1018 of the temples of Mathura, razing Kanauj to the ground and destroying the famous temple of Somnath, sacred to all Hindus. His successors were as ruthless as Ghazni: 103 temples in the holy city of Benaras were razed to the ground, its marvelous temples destroyed, its magnificent palaces wrecked.” “Indeed, the Muslim policy vis a vis India”, concludes Danielou, “seems to have been a conscious systematic destruction of everything that was beautiful, holy, refined.”
The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within.
Islamic imperialism knew no code of honor. The only rule of war they observed without fail was to fall down the helpless civil population after a decisive victory had been won on the battlefield. They sacked and burnt down villages and towns after the defenders had died fighting or had fled. The cows, the Brahmins and Buddhist Bhikshus invited their special attention in a mass murder of non-combatants. Their temples and shrines were their special targets in an orgy of pillage and destruction. Those that they did not kill, they captured and sold as slaves. The scene was described by Kanhadde Prabandha (1456 A.D) in the following words: “The conquering army burnt villages, devastated the land, plundered people’s wealth, took Brahmins and children and women of all classes captive, flogged with thongs of raw hide, carried a moving prison with it, and converted the prisoners into obsequious Turks.
India has been a land of freedom of thought and tolerance from the very dawn of her history. Conformism of any kind, religious or political, is alien to her genius and culture. As a result different schools of philosophy, forms of government and ways of worship have co-existed in it all through the history. Theistic and atheists, spiritualists and materialists, Shaivas and Vaishanavas, Buddhists, and Jains have flourished here side by side with full freedom to preach their viewpoints and convert others to their line of thinking and way of worship….This situation was changed by the advent of Islam in this country. Apart from the fact that it came to India on the wings of foreign invaders one of whose main motivation was spread of Islam in this country, its very character was anti-thesis of Indian thinking and attitude in regard to religion. Unlike the numerous forms of worship and systems of thought that co-existed in India at the time, it stood for a monolithic uniformity and conformism. It had no tolerance for any other form of worship. It not only aimed at converting all the Indian to Islam, on the point of the sword if necessary, but also expected such converts to reject their pre-Islamic past and ancestors. The Muslim invaders looked upon the people of this country as kafirs or heretics. They behaved towards the Hindus in a barbaric manner. They destroyed temples and libraries and indulged in most heinous type of vandalism. Their cruelty and harshness towards Indian kafirs knew no bounds. When Mahmud of Ghazni saw the temple of Mathura he was so much wonder struck by their splendor, magnificence and art that he exclaimed that they must have been built not by men but by angels who must have taken centuries to complete them. But his Islamic zeal impelled him to raze them to the ground.
Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion toward all Moslems.
- Islam’s Other Victim: India (by Serge Trifkovic)
- Islam-Watch (by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; author of The Trouble with Islam Today)
- Muslim Dissidents
- Wahhabism – PBS
- A debate on whether Islam is dominated by radicals
The European Onslaught
I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem,their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.
India’s first major contact began when Vasco da Gama landed with gunboat and priests. The newcomers were not only merchants but also devout Christians. They had the pope’s mandate to convert heathens in the lands they conquered. They found that the natives had a flourishing religion of their own. They destroyed their temples. Notes author Richard Hall: “With Calicut at his mercy … da Gama told his men to parade the prisoners then hack off their hands, ears and noses. As the work progressed all the amputated pieces were piled in a small boat. The Brahmin who had been sent out by the Zamorin as an emissary was put into the boat amid its new gruesome cargo. He had also been mutilated in the ordained manner”.
Hall gives a vivid description of what Vasco da Gama did next which is too gory even to contemplate. When the Zamorin sent another Brahmin to Vasco to plead for peace, “he had his lips cut off and his ears cut off”. The ears of a dog were sewn on him instead and the Brahmin was sent back to Zamorin in that state. The Brahmin — no doubt a Namboodiri had brought with him three young boys, two of them his sons and the other a nephew. They were hanged from the yardarm and their bodies sent ashore.
St. Francis Xavier whom the Catholic Church hails as the Patron Saint of the East, participated in this meritorious work, wrote back home: “As soon as I arrived in any heathen village, when all are baptized, I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken to pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done.”
The burning of ancient books on Ayurveda in Kerala, so as to impose the European system of medicine on the natives, the cutting of weavers’ thumbs in Bengal with a view of crippling the production of superior Indian cloth and ensuring the sale of British products, the ruthless, often bloody, extortion of revenue from the peasants for decades on end, even in the midst of the worst famines, the whipping, hangings and tortures that awaited those who opposed the Empire – these are only a few among the unending examples of the “providential character” of the British rule.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder of the Bangalore based Art of Living, an International Foundation. He recently addressed the UN Peace Summit on Aug 28. He is the only non-westerner to serve on the advisory board of Yale University’s School of Divinity and is author of the book – Hinduism and Christianity. He has said: “Christians are proud that they brought education to India, but it is not true: there were for instance 125,000 medical institutes in Madras before the British came. Indians never lacked education, the Christians only brought British education to India, which in fact caused more damage to India by westernizing many of us.”
Malgonkar counters such claims with numerous graphic representations of the rapes of Indian women by Englishmen that challenges colonial myths about the purity and righteousness of the British acts of “revenge”. Malgonkar’s novel thus invokes imperial history to correct it, by maintaining that British soldiers did, indeed, rape as well as pillage and burn as they swept through the countryside: “Women were dragged out screaming and pounced upon in bazaars, so that the word “rape”; itself acquired a plurality, a collective connotation, and people spoke of villages and townships raped, not a single women.”
Every day ten or a dozen niggers are hanged. [Their corpses hung] by two’s and three’s from branch and signpost all over town … For three months did eight dead-carts go their rounds from sunrise to sunset, to take down corpses which hung at the cross-roads and the market places, poisoning the air of the city, and to throw their loathsome burdens into the Ganges.
The British were not wrong in their distrust of educated Brahmins in whom they saw a potential threat to their supremacy in India. … To counter what they perceived, a Brahminical challenge, the British launched on the one hand a major ideological attack on the Brahmins and, on the other incited non-Brahmin caste Hindus to press for preferential treatment, a ploy that was to prove equally successful vis-a-vis the Muslims. … In the attempt to rewrite Indian history, Brahmins began to be portrayed as oppressors and tyrants who willfully kept down the rest of the populace. Their role in the development of Indian society was deliberately slighted…. Apart from misrepresenting the Indian past, the British actively encouraged anti-Brahmin sentiments. A number of scholars have commented on their involvement in the anti-Brahmin movement in South India. As a result of their machinations non-Brahmins turned on the Brahmins with a ferocity that has few parallels in Indian history.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre In April, 1919, British imperialism descended to the depths of criminal barbarism in the Punjab. As a peaceful festival was about to commence in Amritsar, it was fired upon with machine guns and rifles. Six hundred unarmed men, women, and children were killed, and the slaughter finally reached a total of 1800 persons. A reign of terror in the district followed in which the most sordid and sadistic acts were committed against the Indian people by British officers, administrators and soldiers.
The immediate background to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was the disappointment of Indians with the colonial government’s failure to introduce democratic reforms after World War I as had been expected. India’s contribution to the war effort had been enormous, providing more soldiers than the combined contribution of all other colonies. More than a million Indians served and fought in various theatres of war. Of these, 450,000 were from the Punjab. In spite of chronic poverty, India contributed £100,000,000 to Britain for the war effort. Additionally the princes and peoples of India contributed £2,100,000 to various charities and war funds. India ended up incurring a debt of £127,800,000 because of the war. The prices of essential commodities rose sharply and the soldiers returning from the war were badly treated by the British officials.
British rule in India is the most sordid and criminal exploitation of one nation by another in all recorded history.
Almost overnight India changed her position from being a jewel in the British crown to her present position as a part of the Third World.
During the first 80 years of the 19th century 18,000,000 of the Indian people perished of famine. In one year alone – the year when Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, assumed the title of the Empress, – 5,000,000 of the people of Southern India were starved to death. In the District of Bellary, with which I am personally acquainted – a region twice the size of Wales – 1/4 of the whole population perished in the famine of 1876-77. I shall never forget my own famine experience; how, as I rode out on horseback, morning after morning, I passed crowds of wandering skeletons, and saw human corpses by the roadside, unburied, uncared for, half devoured by dogs and vultures; and how – still sadder sight – children, ‘the joy of the world’ as the old Greeks deemed them, had become its ineffable sorrow there, forsaken even by their mothers, their feverish eyes shining from hollow sockets, their flesh utterly wasted away, only gristle and sinew and cold shivering skin remaining, their heads mere skulls, their puny frames full of loathsome disease engendered by the starvation… Everyone who has been in India in famine times, and has left the beaten track of western made prosperity, knows how true a picture this is.
Thus, by the beginning of the 20th century, India was bled dry and there were no resources left.
As India must be bled the lancet should be directed to the parts where the blood is congested or at least sufficient, not to those (the agricultural people) which are already feeble from the want of it.
When the British first appeared on the scene, India was one of the richest countries of the world; indeed, it was her great riches that attracted the British to her shores. For 2,500 years before the British came on the scene and robbed her of her freedom, India was self-ruling and one of the most influential and illustrious nations of the world.Nearly every kind of manufacture or product known to the civilized world – nearly every kind of creation of Man’s brain and hand, existing anywhere, and prized either for its utility or beauty – had long, long been produced in India. India was a far greater industrial and manufacturing nation than any in Europe or than any other in Asia. Her textile goods – the fine products of her loom, in cotton, wool, linen, and silk – were famous over the civilized world; so were her exquisite jewelry and her precious stones, cut in every lovely form; so were her pottery, porcelains, ceramics of every kind, quality, color and beautiful shape; so were her fine works in metal – iron, steel, silver and gold. She had great architecture – equal in beauty to any in the world. She had great engineering works. She had great merchants, great business men, great bankers and financiers. Not only was she the greatest ship-building nation, but she had great commerce and trade by land and sea which extended to all known civilized countries. Such was the India which the British found when they came.
It should be remembered that in the pre-British period, India was not an illiterate country. This land was far more advanced in education than many a Christian country of the West.
- The Indian Government has so far refused to make the Hindu Holocaust as part of the school syllabus. My question is, why? Just as American students can sit in a class room alongside African Americans and listen to the atrocities of Black Slavery, and German students can sit alongside Jews and listen to the Jewish Holocaust, Indians (in particular, Indian Muslims) should be able to sit alongside Hindus and listen to the atrocities of the Islamic invasion. Guilt or enmity should not be associated due to crimes done by another generation. But, people should feel the responsibility they have to the culture they subscribe to, in the same way that one takes pride in it. Only then ones cultures can change for the better – else it is better not to feed or sustain that culture/religion by virtue of subscribing to it.
- The Moghul period heralded a unique infusion of Hinduism into the very radically charged kind of Islam that was bought into India by waves radical Islamic invaders. Subsequently integrating them into Indian culture, producing a type of Islam very unique to India. Today’s Indian Muslims can offer a lot, rather than succumbing to the diatribe against them by the so called purer (and in my opinion backward) Islamic nations.
- One need only travel from the South to the North in India to see the visible history of devastations to thousands of temples (the North was the most devastated by successive waves of Islam between the 632CE and 1500CE century). This is amply documented in the records of Muslim invaders themselves (their own accounts of the number of “cart loads” of kafirs/infidels killed and records of the number of temples plundered). Not to mention this is still happening. Hindu temples are still systematically encroached upon or destroyed by Muslims (in Malaysia, Cambodia, Philippines, and in many parts of rural India), and not to mention the freedom of religious expression itself for non-Muslims is severely curtailed in Muslim majority countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc.).