Note: All articles in Dr. Kamath’s series on The Truth About The Bhagavad Gita can be accessed from here.
In this article in our series on Brahmanism, we will review its legacy, the evidence of which we can see all around us even in modern times. Just about every single malady we see in India today -communal disharmony, caste-based politics, untouchability, illiteracy, poverty, superstitions, irrational fear of authority, passivity, widespread corruption, Hindu fundamentalism, priestly misconduct in and out of temples, goondaism of para military armies, antisocial behaviors of politicians, bureaucrats and police, fleecing of bewildered people by Babas and Swamis, and many more problems- could be directly traced to the doorstep of corrupt Brahmanism. All these are Karmaphalam (fruits of misdeeds) of three thousand years of Brahmanic legacy Indians eat every day.
1. Rise And Fall Of Buddhism
As we read earlier, Buddhism, Jainism and other heterodox Dharmas arose in reaction to decadence of Brahmanism in the post-Vedic period of India’s history. From third century B. C. till 8th century A. D. Buddhism’s prestige steadily rose in India due to widespread royal patronage. Even though Buddhism started out as a rational Dharma opposed to mindless rituals, soon Brahmins infiltrated it, and it degenerated into just another ritual-ridden Dharma.
“Although originally a rationalization of human condition and a code of ethics, both of which largely ignored deities and rituals associated with conventional religion, Buddhism had been assuming the trappings of orthodox religious practice ever since the Buddha’s death…. Indeed Buddhist icons of Pala period are so anatomically exaggerated and so generously provided with extra heads and arms that only a trained eye would identify them as Buddhist.”
Buddhism’s teachings of compassion, ethical behavior and nonviolence were not suitable for kings who must protect their kingdom from enemies, conquer them, and administer law ruthlessly. Ashoka’s empire, softened by Buddhist philosophy, fizzled out within fifty years of his death in 231 B. C. Following Ashoka, various kings of north India patronized Buddhism and none of them lasted long, including Harshavardhana. Religion had a way of sapping out the strength of Kshatriyas. Referring to the effect of Buddhism on the once mighty Pala kingdom R. C. Majumdar writes:
“Seemingly it disintegrated under a succession of rulers of a pacific and religious disposition.”
Referring to the demise of Pala rule John Keay adds, “One renounced his throne to become an ascetic, others attended to their spiritual advisers and to the welfare of the monastic establishment which still flourished in the Pala heartland of Bihar and Bengal.”
History has repeatedly taught us the danger of mixing religion and politics. Yet, Indian politicians, most of whom are uneducated in history, have not learned this lesson.
2. Brahmanism During The Quiescent Period
Overshadowed by Buddhism, Brahmanism weakened as political power and remained quiescent till Guptas came to power around 320 A. D. During this quiescent period, though Brahmanism appeared to be in deathbed its brain kept on ticking. Brahmins did not let their dormancy come in the way of producing various mesmerizing mythical works such as the eighteen Puranas (Ancient Stories), the main goal of which was to quietly promote Brahmanism and supremacy of Brahmins in the scheme of things. They further expanded the Mahabharata epic. They incorporated various regional sub-sects into Brahmanism and developed the basic tenets of Vaishnavism and Hinduism. Impressed by their erudition and literary skills, prominent royal houses began to come under the sway of Brahmins. South India was almost completely converted to Brahmanism, with the exception of a few smaller kingdoms, which embraced Jainism. As the fortunes of Buddhism declined, those of Brahmanism rose steadily. By the time of Harshavardhana (606- 647 A. D.) Brahmins were strong enough to attempt his assassination for his obvious bias for Buddhism. Harshavardhana executed the leader of the conspiracy and exiled five hundred Brahmin co-conspirators (Keay).
3. Grave Consequences Of Brahmanic Manipulation Of The Gita
We read in our previous articles how:
- Brahmanic seers edited the Bhagavad Gita to hide both Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutions and project is as a monolithic text.
- Shankaracharya misread, misrepresented and obfuscated the true meanings of revolutionary shlokas.
- Brahmins corrupted Bhagavatism by eliminating Yoga in Bhaktiyoga and attaching Pooja to it, which was nothing but Yajna in disguised form.
All these Brahmanic manipulations resulted in serious long-term consequences for India.
- Thousands of temples were built all over the country to house thousands of idols. This temple building frenzy continues to this day.
- Millions of people visited these temples and donated generously to their upkeep. Temples became fabulously rich. This practice is going on to this day.
- Temple wealth attracted the attention of Islamic adventurer Mahmud of Ghazni and others such as Sultan of Ghor.
- Misinterpretation of Karmayoga and Bhaktiyoga undermined the Code of the Warrior and weakened the resolve of Hindu warriors.
4. Temple Building Frenzy
From seventh through tenth centuries, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas of Karnataka, Pallavas of Kanchi, Cholas of Tanjore, and Pandyas of Madurai built great temples dedicated to Hindu gods. Chalukyas even established a school for temple-building arts at Aihole and Pattadakal in Karnataka. Some of the finest examples of temple building experiments survive to this day in these two sleepy little towns. In north, central and east India, temple building frenzy began a little later. By 13th century both north and south India were dotted with thousands of beautiful temples to house multitude of idols.
Gifts to Brahmins running these temples and donations to these temples based on the literal interpretation of shloka 9:27 (“Whatever Dana (gift) you give away, do it as an offering to Me.”) became common practice. In the course of time millions of people, induced by greedy Brahmins and deluded by the alleged magical powers of the idols in Hindu temples, began to donate enormous amount of gold, silver, precious stones, coins and jewelry to these temples hoping that in return these gods would fulfill their desires (9:22) and protect them from evil (18:66).
The tragic irony of all this was that none of these illiterate, semi-literate, and even educated masses knew that when Krishna said in 18:66, “I shall liberate you from all evil, do not grieve!” the “all evil” he was referring to were Shokam (grief), Dwandwam (restlessness of mind) and obsession with earning Karmaphalam (wealth, power, heaven) in Yajna arising from the twin doctrines of Brahmanism, namely the Gunas of Prakriti and Law of Karma; and the inequities of Varna Dharma based on these two evil doctrines.
5. Temples Bloat With Wealth
In north India, which will be the focus of our discussion, Hindu devotees in Multan, Mathura, Kanauj, Thaneshwar, Somanath, and thousands of little towns built magnificent temples. As money poured in, all these temples became obscenely ostentatious in keeping with Brahmanism’s addiction to ostentation. On the one hand Brahmins attached to these temples professed austerity, wore saffron or white clothes and seemingly led simple lives. On the other hand they demanded or extorted donations and fees from patrons, performed ostentatious Poojas, and induced kings to build gargantuan temples. To manage the flocks of mindless pilgrims whole townships grew around these temple complexes. Thousands of Brahmins attached themselves to these great temple complexes like blood-sucking leaches. They offered to perform hundreds of complicated rituals of graded complexity to please gods and sponsors, and above all, themselves. Annual pilgrimage to these holy temples became a compulsive ritual for millions of Hindus, no different than what we see today all over India.
To attract pilgrims to their temples Brahmins did not hesitate to use any means necessary. As reported by a thirteenth century Arab author, Brahmins of Somanatha temple even managed to levitate the lingam of Shiva in the air by surrounding it with an elaborate magnetic contraption (R. Thapar). If this was true, it must have been a great scientific achievement by any measure, not to mention how Brahmanism used science to delude people as far back as eleventh century. As we will read below, the naïve belief of Brahmins in the magical power of levitating lingam had disastrous consequences when in 1025 A. D. Mahmud of Ghazni entered the compound of the temple to steal its enormous wealth and knock it down.
6. Mahmud Makes Annual Pilgrimage To Pillage And Plunder
The fabulous wealth in these temples was safe from other kings of India most of whom were Brahmanic or Buddhist by faith. Soon the fame of these vast idle treasures reached far and wide. When the greedy Mahmud of Ghazni heard about the fabulous treasures of India, he decided that he, too, was going to make annual pilgrimage to these temples, but with more sinister motives. Being a fanatical Muslim, he cloaked his greed with religious zealotry. He declared that it was his religious duty to destroy the idols and temples of Hindus. Just about every harvesting season, Mahmud descended from his mountainous capital in Afghanistan to the plains of India, attacked the temples, killed Brahmins in thousands, and took the enormous loot back to his kingdom. He expanded his kingdom with the money he had stolen from India. When in 1025 A. D. Mahmud raided Somanatha temple, he mercilessly massacred fifty thousand deluded Brahmins who had absolute faith that the levitating lingam of that temple would protect them from evil Mahmud of Ghazni. Their blind faith in their god was such that there were no warriors protecting the temple when Islamic raiders showed up at the gate.
Between 1001 and 1027 A. D. Mahmud of Ghazni raided Indian temple towns seventeen times and Indian kings were impotent against the relatively smaller forces of Mahmud. There was neither one strong emperor ruling India around this time to oppose him, nor a united front. During the previous two centuries the petty kings who ruled the border kingdoms had ignored the growing menace of Islamic kings from the west. They neither studied the doctrines of Islam nor the methods of warfare of Islamic kings.
7. Brahmanic Hubris
In spite of the predictable annual raids by Mahmud, or perhaps because of them, Brahmins kept urging people to donate to these temples and people obeyed them blindly. Their haughtiness and complacency were well summed up by Al Biruni who was then in India as part of Mahmud’s entourage:
“There are other causes, the mentioning of which sounds like a satire -peculiarities of their national character, deeply rooted in them, but manifest to everybody. We can only say, folly is an illness for which there is no medicine, and the Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no kings like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs. They are haughty, foolishly vain, self-conceited, and stolid. They are by nature niggardly in communicating that which they know, and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste among their own people, still much more, of course, from any foreigner. According to their belief, there is no other country on earth but theirs, no other race of man but theirs, and no created beings besides them have any knowledge or science whatsoever. Their haughtiness is such that, if you tell them of any science or scholar in Khurasan and Persis, they will think you to be both an ignoramus and a liar. If they travelled and mixed with other nations, they would soon change their mind, for their ancestors were not as narrow-minded as the present generation is…. Now such is the state of things in India.”
With this kind of know-it-all attitude, they learned nothing from their mistakes.
8. The Code Of The Warrior
Practice of Brahmanism in the third century B. C. basically consisted of two codes: The Code of the Brahmin, which consisted of ritual-related duties of Brahmins, such as performing Yajnas, and the Code of the Warrior, which consisted of duties of Kshatriyas as warriors.
Code of the Warrior is summed up in the following two shlokas in the Arjuna Vishada part of the Bhagavad Gita:
2:37: Slain you will gain heaven; victorious you will enjoy the earth. Therefore rouse resolved to fight. 2:33: But if you will not wage this righteous warfare, then forfeiting your own duty and honor, you will incur sin.
This code rewarded warriors with wealth here on earth and heaven hereafter for their bravery, and punishment with dishonor here on earth and hell hereafter for cowardice. The original Brahmanic Code of the Warrior as enunciated in Arjuna Vishada required the warrior to be both Paranthapa (Enemy Burner) and Dhananjaya (Conqueror of Wealth). As we read in an earlier article, Brahmanism hated Ashoka the Great because he rejected the Kshatriya Dharma out of compassion for his enemies. They branded him as one suffering from Ahamkara (egoism, self-centeredness) for abdicating his Kshatriya Dharma. Arjuna Vishada was composed to condemn this “compassionate Kshatriya” concept. Brahmanism was absolutely correct that as long as a king stuck to the Code of the Warrior, his kingdom was safe from foreign invasion. Rajputs who ruled the kingdoms bordering Afghanistan practiced this Code of the Warrior to its perfection till 10th century.
9. Rajputs: True Practitioners Of The Code Of The Warrior
The western region of India -what is now Rajasthan and parts of Pakistan- was then ruled by fierce warrior kings who perhaps originated from the settled tribes of the Hunas whom Kumara Gupta had fought in the 5th century A. D. Wisely, Brahmanism absorbed them into the mainstream of the society by conferring on them Kshatriya status by means of a great fire sacrifice performed at Mount Abu. These tribes later came to be known as Rajputs (sons of kings). Like all new converts to any religion, these Kshatriyas staunchly adhered to Brahmanic Code of the Warrior. They considered it an ultimate insult to die in bed. The following shloka of Arjuna Vishada seemed to be their anthem:
2:32: Happy are the Kshatriyas who obtain such warfare that comes unsought as an open gate to heaven.
Their allegiance to Brahmanism was so strong that they followed Brahmanic injunctions to the letter of the law. Women of these tribes even indulged in Jauhar (mass suicide by jumping into the collective funeral pyre), or Sati (individual suicide by being burnt with husband’s dead body). This ancient practice was perhaps rooted in the severe proscription Brahmanism expressed against Varnasankara resulting from the death of men in war. Arjuna laments the consequences of decline of family when men die in war:
1:40-44: In the decline of a family, its time-honored usages perish; with the perishing of sacred rites impiety overtakes the entire family. With the growth of impiety, the family women become unchaste; and women getting corrupted, caste admixture ensues. Hell is verily the lot of the family destroyer through Varnasankara (class admixture); for their ancestors fall deprived of manes-cakes and libations. The everlasting Jati (caste) virtues and Kula (family) virtues become ruined due to Varnasankara created by the bad deeds of family destroyer. Hell is verily the long lasting abode of men whose family religious practices have been broken.
The importance of the above information lies in the fact that by 8th century, Gita had gained recognition as the handbook of Brahmanism and Kshatriyas implicitly accepted its Code of the Warrior as sacred.
10. Taking Advantage Of Complexities Of Sanskrit Language
By 10th century, the Bhagavad Gita was widely known as the handbook of Hinduism as attested to by Al Biruni in his famous book Kitabu’l Hind. When I read the following passage in it, I was dumbstruck because I had reached the same conclusions while studying the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.
“If you want to conquer this difficulty (i.e. to learn Sanskrit), you will not find it easy, because the language is of an enormous range, both in words and inflections, something like the Arabic, calling one and the same thing by various names, both original and derived, and using one and the same word for a variety of subjects, which, in order to be properly understood, must be distinguished from each other by various qualifying epithets. For, nobody could distinguish between the various meanings of a word unless he understands the context in which it occurs and its relation both to the following and preceding parts of the sentence. The Hindus, like others, boast of this enormous range of their language, whilst in reality it is a defect.”
Brahmins took full advantage of this “defect” in their “perfect” language to explain away internal contradictions in the Bhagavad Gita. Their primary goal was to hide both the Upanishadic and Bhagavata revolutions to overthrow Brahmanism, and project the Gita as a monolithic document representing a monolithic philosophy. This, as we will see soon, undermined Brahmanism’s own Code of the Warrior.
11. Beliefs And Behavior
All our actions are based on underlying beliefs. A change in our belief results in corresponding change in our behavior. For example, if you believe that your doctor is extremely trustworthy, you would take any medicine he gives you without hesitation. However, if someone you trusted told you that your doctor had killed several of his relatives due to incompetence, a seed of distrust is now sowed in your mind about your doctor, and your behavior toward him would change correspondingly. You would not accept his treatment as readily as you did before.
Likewise, if a warrior were indoctrinated into believing that it is his bounden duty to fight and win or die fighting, his belief in this doctrine would reflect in his heroism in war. If the same warrior were indoctrinated that he should fight but be indifferent to victory or defeat, and gain or loss, he would certainly come across as indifferent while fighting. If the same warrior were indoctrinated into believing that he should surrender his action to the lord and not worry about the outcome, the warrior’s action would reflect that fatalistic attitude.
Let us now see how a seed of doubt was sowed into the Code of the Warrior due to erroneous interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita.
12. Potpourri Of Three Codes: A Recipe For Disaster
Many reasons have been forwarded to explain why capable Hindu kings commanding vast armies lost to Muslim invaders who began to make deeper forays into India: Disunity, pathological jealousy, tendency to enjoy adversary’s discomfiture in the hands of enemies, lack of awareness of seriousness of threat, lack of effective strategy, haughtiness, inability to learn from mistakes, etc. However, I think there is an additional, thus far unexplored, cause, which we need to look at closely. This is purely a psychological issue arising from the misinterpretation of the Gita by Brahmanic seers beginning with Shankaracharya in early 9th century. Let us examine this issue in greater detail.
A. The Brahmanic Code of the Warrior: In the In Arjuna Vishada, the term Karma unequivocally stands for Action as in fighting. The message to Arjuna in the Mahabharata context and to renegade Kshatriyas in the historical context is clear as daylight:
2:37: Slain (while fighting) you will gain heaven; victorious (in fighting) you will enjoy earth. Therefore rouse up, O son of Kunti, resolved to fight. 2:33: But if you will not wage this righteous warfare, then forfeiting your own duty and honor, you will incur sin.
There is no ambiguity in this message. A warrior’s duty is to kill his enemies and plunder his property. In other words, his job is to gain Karmaphalam in action. There should be no hesitation or doubt about this in the minds of the warriors. The warrior is rewarded for his heroism. In fact, he would incur dishonor and sin if he did not fight. Rajputs followed this advice when they fought war with their neighbors. As long as Hindu warriors fought in this spirit, they were second to none.
B. The Upanishadic Code of Karmayogi: In the Upanishadic Gita, the concept of selfless action (Karmayoga) was introduced to counter selfish Yajna (Kamya Karma) of decadent Brahmanism. Here the word Karma meant Yajna, not Action as in fighting. In order to condemn Kamya Karma, Upanishadists declared Karmaphalam as sin. The only way to avoid earning sin is to perform Yajna with indifference to gain or loss (2:48-51). However, to legitimize interpolation of Karmayoga into Arjuna Vishada, Upanishadists pretended as though they were advising Arjuna to do so on the battlefield:
2:38: Treating alike pain and pleasure, gain and loss, victory and defeat, engage yourself in the battle. Thus you will incur no sin (Karmaphalam).
If applied to a Kshatriya, this shloka said that gaining and winning earned him sin. To avoid earning sin, he should be indifferent to gain or loss, and victory or defeat. How do we know that this shloka’s real purpose was to introduce Buddhiyoga (Karmayoga and Jnanayoga) to replace Kamya Karma (desire-driven Yajna) and not to apply it to fighting? Well, in shlokas 2:39-53 that follow Upanishadists introduce Buddhiyoga as the alternative to Kamya Karma and soundly condemn all aspects of Brahmanism. Obviously, the advice given to Arjuna by Upanishadists in 2:38 was merely a pretext to introduce Buddhiyoga into the Gita with the sole purpose of overthrowing Brahmanism. In fact, it is diametrically opposite to the Code of the Warrior in 2:33 and 37, and is impossible to apply in warfare. No one in his right mind could go to war with an attitude of indifference to pain and pleasure, gain and loss, or victory and defeat. Karmayoga has no place in the battlefield. If a king has been brainwashed into believing that he should engage in battle with indifference to gain or loss, victory or defeat, and that gaining anything is sinful, he is doomed to lose the battle.
The true intent of 2:38 becomes evident in shloka 2:47 in which Upanishadists lay down the law that Kshatriyas performing Kamya Karma have no right to its fruits:
2:47: Your entitlement is only to Karma (Yajna) and never at any time to its fruits (for fruits belong to the Devas: 3:10-14). Never be the cause of Karmaphalam (when you act, for by doing so you will suffer rebirth); and never be attached to inaction (just because there is nothing in this for you, do not become an inactive Sramana).
Yet addressing Arjuna the Kshatriya, Shankaracharya says: 2:47, “Never, in any state of life whatsoever, should you crave for fruits of your works -this is the idea.” His advice goes directly against the Code of the Warrior as stated in 2:37. He failed to tell Kshatriyas the truth about this shloka, which is:
“Warriors, this shloka was inserted into Arjuna Vishada by Upanishadists during the post-Vedic period with the goal of weaning away corrupt Kshatriyas from performing Kamya Karma, and to covert them into selfless Karmayogis (3:17-26). Karmayoga cannot be applied in warfare. You need to follow the Brahmanic Code of the Warriors when you fight.”
Admitting this truth meant admitting that there existed a revolution against Brahmanism. Shankaracharya would have none of it. Or, equally likely, he did not know about it.
C. The Bhagavata Code of Bhaktiyogi: In the Bhagavata Gita Krishna tells people:
18:66: Abandon all Dharma and take refuge in me alone; I shall liberate you from all evil. Do not grieve.
Left alone, this shloka would not have undermined the Code of the Warrior. However, as we read in the previous article, because Shankaracharya did not want to admit that the phrase ‘all Dharma’ in this shloka meant all contemporary religions of the post-Vedic period including Brahmanism, he decided to misrepresent this phrase as ‘all Karma,’ and he said to Arjuna: ‘Give up all righteous as well as unrighteous Action.’ He never bothered to explain what he meant by this statement. Shankaracharya said this as if it was applicable to Arjuna in the Mahabharata context, and by extension, to all Kshatriyas.
Had Shankaracharya understood this shloka accurately, he would have said,
“Warriors, when Krishna said ‘abandon all Dharma’ he did not mean you should abandon your Code of the Warrior. Krishna wanted people of post-Vedic period to abandon their religions – Brahmanism and all its sub-Dharmas, and also Buddhism, Jainism and all assorted Dharmas, which had arisen in reaction to decadent Brahmanism- and embrace Bhagavatism, which is his Dharma. Rise up and fight as exhorted by him:
11:33-34: ‘Rise and obtain fame. Conquer the enemies and enjoy the unrivalled kingdom… Slay Drona, Bheeshma, Jayadratha, Karna and other brave warriors who are already doomed by me. Be not distressed with fear. Fight and you will conquer your enemies in battle!’ “
13. Confusion Reigns Supreme
Alas, this was not to be. By 10th century, Shankaracharya’s fame had spread far and wide. Now Hindu kings, almost all of whom had been mesmerized by Shankaracharya’s teachings or that of thousands of his saffron-clad followers, had to decide what belief system to adopt in fighting their enemies. Brahmanic interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita either did not know, or they refused to acknowledge, that there were three distinct Gitas embedded in its text giving three contradictory messages to the warriors who looked upon the Gita as their guide in warfare.
Arjuna Vishada: “Do your duty helplessly as per your Rajas Guna, fight to gain wealth, or die fighting and gain heaven.”
Upanishadic Gita: As interpreted by Shankaracharya “Never, in any state of life whatsoever, should you crave for fruits of your works -this is the idea.” Why? “Well, because all Karmaphalam is sin and it leads to Samsara.”
Bhagavata Gita: As interpreted by Shankaracharya: “Give up all righteous and unrighteous Action.” Why? “Well, because when Krishna said ‘all Dharma,’ he meant ‘all Karma.’ ”
If one mixes up the above three contradictory messages, the listener is bound to become confused. This is like a father giving mixed messages to his son, “If the bully comes at you, boldly fight back and knock him down; but be indifferent to the outcome of your fight; and don’t indulge in righteous or unrighteous action.” The correct and unambiguous message should have been, “If the bully comes at you, beat the crap out of him and make sure he will never again bother you; you understand?”
Careful study of history of wars between Hindu kings and Islamic kings between 10th and 16th century reveals a change in the belief in the minds of Hindu warriors regarding the Code of the Warrior as evidenced by their altered behavior. Increasingly, there entered into their principles of warfare a streak of reckless fatalism, smug indifference to victory, hesitancy in killing Mlecchas (foreign-born outcastes), ambivalence about violence, cowardly retreat, beliefs in superstitions, and blind faith in god’s ability to save them from evil.
14. Decisive Debacle
Here is the brief story of one of the most decisive battles in the history of India in which Rajputs were routed by a much smaller force of Muhammad of Ghor in 1192, heralding the Islamic rule in India. Prathviraj Chahaman, the charismatic Rajput king put together the most formidable Rajput confederacy on record. He had beaten back Muhammad in an earlier war on the battlefield of Tarain. By any reckoning, he should have been able to rout Muhammad of Ghor again. Instead, apparently he sued for a truce. Muhammad agreed to a truce and tricked Prathviraj into believing that his enormous army intimidated him. Naively believing this, Prathviraj’s army was lulled into a “night of riots and revelry.” When the droopy-eyed Rajputs got up in the morning to go to the toilets, Muhammad’s formidable army surprised them. As Ferishta puts it:
“The disorder increased everywhere until at length the panic became general. The Muslims, as if they only now began to be in earnest, committed such havoc that Prathviraj’s prodigious army, once shaken, like a great building tottered to its fall and was lost in its ruins.”
Here is the tragedy of it all: For the first time in history, Prathviraj had succeeded in putting together a formidable army of united Rajputs, and yet, he decides to sue for peace, implicitly trusts Muhammad’s assurance, spends the night reveling and changes India’s history for the worse forever. Even when Rajputs had clear edge over the invaders, they failed to take the initiative and attack and destroy them. Gradually Muslim kings conquered one vacillating Hindu kingdom after another.
15. Muslim Rule Takes Roots And Ruins India
In the aftermath of the disastrous war, thousands of Hindus abandoned Hinduism to escape from stifling caste inequities and embraced egalitarian Islam. One such converted Hindu by the name of Malik Kafur led several raids into deep south, looted rich temples, destroyed ancient kingdoms, and returned to Delhi with, “612 elephants, twenty thousand horses, ninety six thousand mans of gold (241 tons), and countless boxes of jewels and pearls.” Delhi had never seen such loot in recorded history.
The fundamental policy of first Muslim rulers of India was to strip Hindus of all wealth to stifle any resistance to their rule. The cruelest of them all, Alau-d-din Khalji, declared:
“Be assured, then, that the Hindus will never become submissive and obedient till they were reduced to poverty. I have therefore given orders that just sufficient shall be left to them from year to year of corn, milk and curds, but they shall not be allowed to accumulate hoards and property.”
Grinding poverty became the hallmark of India until just a decade ago. To this day, the vast majority of Indians live in dire poverty. Reflecting on the long-term effect of such economic and physical devastation of India by Islamic rulers, Will Durant observes:
“This is the secret of political history of modern India, Weakened by division, it succumbed to invaders; impoverished by invaders, it lost all power of resistance, and took refuge in supernatural consolations; it argued that both mastery and slavery were superficial delusions, and concluded that freedom of the body or the nation was hardly worth defending in so brief a life. The bitter lesson that may be drawn from this tragedy is that eternal vigilance is the price of civilization. A nation must love peace, but keep its powder dry.”
The British, who took full advantage of every weakness in Hindus as well as by now mellowed Muslim kings, ruled India for ninety years before Indians fought them with a united front. Ironically, independence was won not by the Code of the Warrior, which some naïve militant patriots recommended, but by militant nonviolence, a weapon developed by combining Jain philosophy of nonviolence and Jesus’s philosophy of love, self-suffering and forgiveness.
In the next article, we will study the legacy of caste system in modern India.