The power of the nameless

From the Wikipedia entry for Angkor Wat

The initial design and construction of the temple took place in the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Dedicated to Vishnu, it was built as the king’s state temple and capital city. As neither the foundation stela nor any contemporary inscriptions referring to the temple have been found, its original name is unknown, but it may have been known as “Varah Vishnu-lok” after the presiding deity.

And more:

Cambodia was first influenced by Hinduism during the beginning of the Kingdom of Funan. Hinduism was one of the Khmer Empire‘s official religions. Cambodia is the home of the holy temple of Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The main religion adhered in Khmer kingdom was Hinduism, followed by Buddhism in popularity. Initially the kingdom revered Hinduism as the main state religion. Vishnu and Shiva were the most revered deities, worshipped in Khmer Hindu temples….

Cham Hindus, an ethnic group in Vietnam influenced by Indic culture 1,000 years ago, are still Hindu to this day. Similarly, the people of the Indonesian island of Bali maintain continuity with the Hindu traditions of Java.

Now, consider this comment from the usual suspect:

Professor Truschke is also correct in stating that “Hinduism” is in many ways a constructed category. It was the British who used it as an umbrella term in the census for anyone who didn’t declare their religion to be something that the colonial power recognized (like Islam). Previously, people may have described themselves as worshipping a particular god.

It is curious that this person who protests for the honor of the Islamic religion casually asserts that the Hindu religion was created as a category by the British! While his religion taps at deep truths and must be respected, he can dismiss the faith of 800 million as a British fiction. The glamor of fashionable nonsense never ceases to attract this one like a moth to the flame.*

In any case, where have I heard this before? From the Wikipedia entry on caste:

There are at least two perspectives for the origins of the caste system in ancient and medieval India, which focus on either ideological factors or on socio-economic factors….

This school has focused on the historical evidence from ancient and medieval society in India, during the Muslim rule between the 12th and 18th centuries, and the policies of colonial British rule from 18th century to the mid-20th century….

This view, which emphasizes the colonial experience, is encapsulated by Nicholas Dirks’ Castes of Mind. A debased form of this is that “well acktchually…did you know the British invented caste?”

The genetic reality has falsified this. Evidence from places such as Andhra Pradesh indicates that the endogamy which is the hallmark of caste/jati dates back to 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. This is not to deny that the category and its organization was not influenced by the British, and likely earlier the Muslims, but its ultimate basis seems to be one which is deeply rooted in South Asia.

Now consider this map:

1941 British religious census, 75% of India is non-Muslim

After many centuries of rule by a religiously Muslim elite, the majority of Indians still retained a non-Muslim identity. The legacy and prestige of Islamicate conquest-elites were such that the 1857 rebellion against the British co-opted a Mughal as a figurehead, so persistent was their glamor. And yet the majority of Indians still cohered around an identity that was called “Hindu,” originally a term for Indian.

Without any knowledge of the puranas, or the elaboration of the Vedanta centuries before Islam became a permanent feature of the South Asian landscape, the fact that most Indians remained non-Muslim after centuries of Islamic rule indicates that there was a systematic social-religious system to which they adhered. The fact that they exported this social-religious system in fragments and essentials to Southeast Asia over 1,000 years ago indicates that Hinduism as we understand it was not simply a British reification!

It is sometimes common among people who follow the Abrahamic religions to classify Hinduism as “pagan.” Though theologically there is some justification for this, to be frank, this is more an aspersion than a description, bracketing Indian traditions with small-scale primal religions which were prevalent outside of Eurasian oikoumene.

Ethnographic evidence indicates that much of “Islamic Africa” was minimally Islamicized until the 20th century. Rather, local elites patronized ulema, whose remit was sharply delimited. It was modern transportation and public health that allowed for greater central integration across regions such as the Senegal. Sufi orders, in fact, benefited from European colonization in many regions of Africa because the only “high religion” tradition that was available locally was Islam, and so many heretofore pagan or nominally Muslim tribes were assimilated into the high culture matrix that was nearest to them.

The contrast with Dharmic and Chinese paganism is instructive. Only in areas where the local “high religion” tradition was moribund (e.g., Korea) or nascent (what became the Philippines) did Christianity gain widespread purchase. In the “pagan” hinterlands of the Indonesian archipelago Muslims and Christians, and later a modified form of Hinduism, gained mass conversions from peoples previously untouched by central governance.

Persistence of native Dharmic religious traditions despite Muslim cultural prominence is strong indirect evidence of a resilient high religious tradition despite debates as to its name.

Related post: Hinduism before India.

* The same person dismisses revisionism about 7th century Islam, which he takes to be authoritatively historical, while accepting at face value the idea that Hindus had no self-conception as a coherent identity before 1800.

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61 Replies to “The power of the nameless”

  1. The Cham are an interesting people. Their kingdom was initially Hindu, then mostly converted to Islam, before being annihilated by the northern-Viet invasions, after which most Chams fled to Cambodia. The Muslim-Chams in Cambodia were decimated again during the reign of the Khemr Rouge, but survived and are still vibrant to this day.

    A note on the Malay conversion to Islam. While the pre-Islamic Malays were sometimes called animist, this is kind of a misnomer, as they adhered to a number of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs that were synced with their local traditions. Like the case of Pakistan/Bengal, its their lack of Brahmanical Caste-Structure (and centralization generally) that modern historians point to when discussing why they converted to Islam. Though this is for the common-Malay, the conversion of rulers was often more politically oriented.

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  2. The Cham are an interesting people. Their kingdom was initially Hindu, then mostly converted to Islam, before being annihilated by the northern-Viet invasions, after which most Chams fled to Cambodia. The Muslim-Chams in Cambodia were decimated again during the reign of the Khemr Rouge, but survived and are still vibrant to this day.

    by the 17th century the chams were already on the way to full Islamicization. the vietnamese conquest probably prevented the full islamicization by isolating the hindu chams from the broader austronesian currents.

    While the pre-Islamic Malays were sometimes called animist, this is kind of a misnomer, as they adhered to a number of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs that were synced with their local traditions. Like the case of Pakistan/Bengal, its their lack of Brahmanical Caste-Structure (and centralization generally) that modern historians point to when discussing why they converted to Islam. Though this is for the common-Malay, the conversion of rulers was often more politically oriented.

    southeast asian hindu-buddhist kingdoms were a surface layer upon indigenous beliefs. this persists in places like java, where abangan and priyayi islamic beliefs contain pre-islamic ideas and rituals.

    the conversion of maritime southeast asia and the austronesian diaspora seems pretty clear in its material motivations as well as cultural affinities. if the spaniards had not conquered the philippines they would almost certainly have become muslim.

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    1. Very true. The Spanish by the way, engaged in some extremely brutal persecution of the Philippinos, specifically to erase Islam and convert the remaining Animists/Buddhists to Christianity. Which was largely successful, apart from the Moro people who held out in the South, and have basically been engaged in a non-stop insurgency ever since.

      Props for posting the Afghan data by the way.

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  3. “Though theologically there is some justification for this, to be frank, this is more an aspersion than a description, bracketing Indian traditions with small-scale primal religions which were prevalent outside of Eurasian oikoumene.”
    What if we compared it to Greek or Roman paganism? Or Egyptian, though that is outside of Europe.

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  4. I do deserve some of the scorn expressed in the post as I did not feel Truschke was in error saying that the modern nation of India was a product of the Mughal and British empires, and nationality was ill-defined before 16th or 17th centuries. I did not note that she said Hinduism did not exist before, say, 17th century. This may be an example of an expert going beyond her expertise, as I felt her work on Sanskrit in Mughal court was outstanding (as pointing to the Mughals as a a force of keeping the Sanskrit texts alive by translating them to Persian, the court language, and noting the counter-example of Tamil and Telugu literary texts disappearing due to not being a significant part of the empires) In a similar manner, I felt that the English (notable examples being Caldwell and Charles Philip Brown) who catalogued Indian literature and grammar are as important as Indian notables, and they have as much right to criticize or comment on the Indian scene, even if they are colonizers. So Zack’s characterization of colonists critiquing India was, I felt, inappropriate; in any event, speech is free be they colonizer or colonized, and what is this “colonizer’s” criticism going to do to a nation of 1.2 billion?

    With regards to Pakistani refutation of Indian history and religion before Islam, that is a feature, not a shortcoming of modern education. I heard a similar critique from Persian friends that, while, before 1979, history taught in Iran encompassed the entire period from virtually the bronze age and Achaemanid, the events after 1979 has forced more focus on the start of history at Hegira, and then, the wrongly guided caliphs. Zack can corret me if I am wrong.

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  5. In a way, SE Asia just kept following the religious vogue in India by converting to Islam at the elite level. Was the conversion mediated through South Asia? Or would the only connection be the relative loss of prestige by Hinduism due to the decline of Hindu kingdoms in India?

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    1. Was the conversion mediated through South Asia? Or would the only connection be the relative loss of prestige by Hinduism due to the decline of Hindu kingdoms in India?

      i’ve read indian (guju?) merchants played a role. that being said, the primary driver was almost certainly the flip of the eastern indian ocean from being dominated by indians & austronesians to being dominated by muslims of various sorts. the switch to islam didn’t happen in mainland southeast asia, and took the longest in places like inland java (which flipped five centuries after liminal aceh in the northwest).

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  6. I did not mean that the British “created” Hinduism. That is misinterpreting what I wrote. People were obviously following the religion we would now call “Hinduism” for a long time. But they probably identified as followers of a particular god like Vishnu or Shiva and would not have necessarily seen someone who worshipped a different god as part of their community. The British census lumped all people who could not state that they were Muslim or Christian into a “Hindu” category.

    This is not just my personal opinion. During the first week of one of my MA courses called “Sacred Sound in South Asia”, we extensively discussed the question of what Hinduism is.

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    1. I agree completely, and kept trying to make this point on the other thread.

      We are simply saying that the modern notion of a “Hindu” identity based on Indians practicing the same religion “Hinduism”, is just that, a modern notion. It does not follow from that (and nobody has argued), that pre-modern Indians weren’t practicing coherent Hindu-traditions, or that they wouldn’t recognize the various Hindu-traditions as being similar in a way Islam was not. Simply that these traditions weren’t recognized as the “same” religion (Hinduism), and therefore its practitioners across India being the, “same” people (Hindus).

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      1. INDTHINGS, what would you define as the commonalities between the 10 famous Sanathana Dharma Darshanas?

        All of these Darshanas have existed in roughly their current form for at least 2 1/2 millenia.

        Some commonalities between them include:
        —valuing Pratyaksha pramana
        —love (Prema), compassion (Daya), nonviolence (Ahimsa)
        —respecting and loving all religions (most but not all streams regard all religions as true)
        —valuing true freedom

        Almost all value freedom of art, manas (thought), Buddhi (deep intuition), Ananda Maya Kosha (deep feeling or even deeper intuition)

        Would you agree that this broader region had a shared culture and civilization?

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        1. Depends on what you mean by civilization.

          I would liken it to the relationship of Steppe-peoples during the Middle-Ages. Recognizing the shared cultural aspects they have (nomadic lifestyles, Tengri-based Shamanism, united under the same empire every now and then), and able to contrast themselves with non-steppe peoples when prompted. But not thinking of this shared culture as being the same single culture, or of themselves as one nation/people.

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          1. Actually the steppe nomads did think of themselves as belonging to the same nation. They just couldn’t stop fighting among themselves because no tribe would willingly submit to the authority of other. It took a powerful personality like Chinggis Khan to subjugate and bring all tribes under his banner, and formally institute a state for a fractious nation. It is instructive that when Chinggis Khan declared himself as the supreme Khan in the Khuriltai of 1206 AD, he declared himself as the Khan of all the people who lived in Yurts (mobile tents). I can sense an element of nationhood of the steppe nomads in this declaration, which clearly differentiated from the sedentary people around them.

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          2. But not thinking of this shared culture as being the same single culture, or of themselves as one nation/people.

            i have no idea what we are arguing about here. no religion thinks of them as nation or people in anything but the most abstract senses. in an earlier comment you put same in quotations. we have to be going into semantic trivialities if you have to put quotations around “same.”

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      2. indthings and Kabir, Your difficulties are arising because you are trying to look at Hinduism thru the lens of Semitic religions. Hindu religion is not exclusionist. Veneration of any one deity does not bar someone from venerating other deities. Just because someone worshiped a local deity does not prevent them being a part of larger Hindu universe. Literate and politically meaningful people knew that they were part of a larger Hindu culture. (Again, don’t go by what some village idiot believed).

        To give just example, check out this wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shila_Devi

        Shila Devi is a form of Kali who was worshiped in Bengal. Man Singh, a Hindu general of Akbar brought her idol from Bengal and installed it in his fort in Amer (Jaipur). Why would Man Singh bother to bring the idol of deity worshiped thousands of miles away from his hometown if he didn’t think she was a deity belonging to his own religion?

        Wherever the Hindu generals of Mughals got posted they patronized local Hindu temples. It could be far flung places like Deccan or Assam or Bengal. Doesnt’ it imply a sense of belonging to a larger Hindu sphere?

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        1. On your point about steppe peoples, no they didn’t ever think of themselves as one nation. The Mongols in the Eastern Steppes did after the rise of Chinggis Khan, but this attitude never spread West of the Altais (or even to to the non-Mongol peoples in the East).

          On your point about Hindus of different polities taking each other’s idols, this was done for political purposes. In the pre-modern period when a Hindu-polity conquered another Hindu-polity, it was customary to sack the defeated polities temple, as it represented the divine power of the now vanquished king being transferred to the victor. The Mughals continued the practice both themselves and via their vassals (Rajputs).

          As for Hindus worshiping at various Hindu temples across India, sure that conveys a “sense” of a Hindu sphere, just as Buddhist travelers worshiping at various temples from China to Afghanistan conveys a “sense” of a Buddhist sphere. But it doesn’t convey nationhood.

          This is the entire problem with this discussion. I (along with much of academia) assert one thing (Hinduism/Hindus not existing as a single unifying national/civilizational concept in pre-modern times). In response, I am bombarded with a myriad of comments that address a different issue (Hindus across India having coherent faith traditions recognized as familiar/native in ways outside faith’s weren’t).

          Just ask yourself. Could what I am saying about pre-modern India/Hindus be said of any other peoples/areas throughout the history of the world, and if so, would I argue that those people/areas conceived of themselves as a single unifying nation/civilization on the basis of these characteristics.

          This will show you how ridiculous these arguments that try to equate “a sense of a cultural sphere” with the above really are.

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          1. “In the pre-modern period when a Hindu-polity conquered another Hindu-polity, it was customary to sack the defeated polities temple, as it represented the divine power of the now vanquished king being transferred to the victor. The Mughals continued the practice both themselves and via their vassals (Rajputs).”

            If you can equate the practice of a Hindu prince capturing the idols of a rival prince and installing them in his own kingdom as a venerated deity (an extremely rare occurrence btw. how many instances from history can you quote?), and the practice of a Muslim Sultan capturing the idols of a Hindu prince and burying them under the steps of his mosque, then your intellectual dishonesty is self evident. No further arguments.

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          2. Snake Charmer:

            Yes, I don’t see much difference between a Hindu invading a foreign Hindu polity, massacring them, looting their temple, and a Muslim doing the same thing. Which part of his mosque/temple the invader chooses to place his loot is immaterial (thought in most instances Muslims didn’t “bury” the stolen idols).

            I realize that to those of a Hindu-Nationalist bent, the only thing that matters is if a Muslim was involved. Hindus massacring, raping, and looting other Hindus is something to be ignored. Though of course, Hindus actually living in those times didn’t make such distinctions.

            You can read Richard Eaton’s work for more, he has papers online on this very subject available for free.

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        2. Hinduism is obviously different from semitic religions. One cannot be a Muslim if one doesn’t believe that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is his prophet. On the other hand, someone who worships Shiva is considered Hindu just as someone who worships Kali. The question remains whether these two individuals would have recognized each other as part of the same community.

          In any case, you have to deal with the fact that many academics consider Hinduism to be a constructed category. These are not my “difficulties” but a respected view in academia, whether you like it or not.

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          1. In any case, you have to deal with the fact that many academics consider Hinduism to be a constructed category. These are not my “difficulties” but a respected view in academia, whether you like it or not.

            use your fucking critical-rationalist capabilities for once and stop being a quote-parrot.

            when we pointed out that academics have a rich field of islamic revisionism you 1) didn’t seem to know it 2) dismissed it. you’re a fucking dumbass.

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          2. I’m not personally offended by “Islamic revisionism” the way that some people seem to be offended by Professor Truschke.

            As I said, my white British professor brought up this theory that modern Hinduism was in some ways constructed by the British census in the first week of class. This is a theory that many academics subscribe to. Those who don’t like the theory will just have to agree to disagree.

            There is no need for personal insults.

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      3. The modern Muslim identity is also constructed differently than previously – sometimes as recent as a few decades – as has been pointed out by many Muslims.

        Ditto for Christians. Welcome to human cultural evolution.

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  7. I understand that the aim of this post is to establish the possibility of continuously existing Hindu religion from BC to present as a basis of the Indian nation, and prove it via transmitted influences in Funan, Cham and Cambodia. Allow me to argue that what was transmitted was not one thing (as this is a favorite topic of mine), but many things, by many polities at many centuries and cannot be used as the basis of an argument that the modern India and present-day Hinduism is the basis of Indian polity that exists now (that is not being argued here, but used by the BJP/RSS/VHP people to describe modern India). A better model will be several nations of Europe colonizing Latin America and Africa culturally via several (cultural) invasions which were themselves in conflict.

    Each of the kingdoms in southeast asia is different and influenced by different Indian polities and religions that suggests a continuous spectrum of people and culture influencing SE Asia.

    Funan conjectured to be established by Kaundinya, who has different ages of origin depending upon the Khmer or the Cham or the Chinese. The Cham version of Funan is based on a sanskrit inscription of ~100 AD; the Khmer version of Kaundinya is based on a differing version of Sanskrit inscription ca. 658 AD written in Pallava grantha. Names like Jayavaraman, GunaVaraman or even Kaundinya refer to different kings of differing empires.

    In contrast the Khmer kingdom and its interactions with South India are well known; note the interactions from 6th century AD are predominantly Hindu. In 802, Jayavarman II founded the Khmer kingdom that had its capital in or around Angkor in Central Cambodia. The South Indian influence on Cambodian art and culture was, however, most vigorous and prolific during the rule of the Pallavas (third to ninth centuries) and Cholas (ninth to 13th centuries) in South India. The first Cambodian king to have the Varman appended to his name was Bhadravarman who lived in the fourth century and thus, was a contemporary of one of the early Pallava rulers of Kanchipuram.

    While Sanskrit language and literature spread to Cambodia from various parts of India, Pallava Grantha) script travelled to Cambodia exclusively from the Pallava kingdom. The contribution of the Pallavas to Cambodia is the cult of eight-armed Vishnu. In India, even if this Vishnu first originated around the Mathura ca. 4th century, and slowly spread to Nagarjunakonda and from there, permeated further south to Kanchipuram. Many of the Pallava temples in and around Kanchi house sculptures of this form of Vishnu, with one temple (Ashtabhuja Perumal Temple) having the deity enshrined within the main sanctum. The Angkor Wat was a Hindu shrine dedicated to this form of Vishnu installed in the sanctum in the uppermost tier of the temple. This huge majestic monolithic image, recently restored and now kept at the entrance of Angkor Wat, is almost identical to the image within the sanctum of the Ashtabhuja Perumal Temple of Kanchi.

    However it was not only the Pallavas who were contemporaries and rivals of the Chalukyas of Badami (Vatapi) in present-day Karnataka. Differences and rivalries did not stand in the way of the exchange of art styles and ideas between these two kingdoms. We can observe Chalukyan influence in the art of Kanchi and Pallava imprints in the art of Badami and Pattadakkal in Karnataka. There are parallels between the art of Pattadakkal and Angkor Wat. The most important and famous bas-relief sculpture in Angkor Wat is the one portraying the scene of the Churning of the Cosmic Ocean by the Gods and demons (samudramanthan). Miniature representations of the same scene occur on the pillars within the Angkor Wat. Sculptures exhibiting this theme occur in many other Angkor temples including the Bayon. Although the story has always been very popular in India, its representation in art has been very rare in this country. The Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakkal, however, features this scene on the face of a column. Stylistically, this sculpture is remarkably similar to the representation of the same scene in the pillars in Angkor Wat.

    Again, in Angkor Wat, the bas-relief showing the Mahabharata war prominently features Bishma lying on the bed of arrows. Such a representation of Bishma is uncommon in South Indian art. A few late medieval temple wall paintings in Kerala, however, feature this theme.

    Architecturally, the Angkor Wat shares many common features with both Pallava and Chola temples. Like the Vaikunta Perumal Temple (Kanchi) and the Sundara Varada Perumal Temple (Uttaramerur) of the Pallavas, the Angkor Wat consists of three levels or tiers, each of the upper tiers slightly smaller than the one below it, giving the structure the look of a pyramid. Again, like the Brahadisvara Temple of Thanjavur, Angkor Wat too was conceived to represent the sacred mount Meru in the The friendly relation between the Chola kings and Cambodia is attested by a significant but little-known incident.
    The beautiful temple of Banteay Srei, around 30km from Angkor Wat, has intricately carved Hindu sculptures betraying South Indian influence. Here, one can see the dancing Shiva (Nataraja) above the main doorway leading to the central sanctum. Close to him, there is a small, frail female figure that has been identified as Karaikal Ammaiar, the well-known Tamil saint.

    However within the next 3 centuries of the end of chola-khmer interactions, all the vishnus and sivas lost their heads, influenced by a Buddhist polity which did not approve of worshiping gods. by the next century, an Islamic polity arrived and replaced all the Hindu influence in Malay and javan kingdoms.

    This is completely tangential to what is argued here, but I use this as a basis of an argument of subcontinent not a nation-state of India.

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    1. Vijay, what do you see as common between the 10 famous ancient darshanas of Sanathana Dharma?

      Would you agree that the vast majority of streams of Sanathana Dharma boil down to pratyaksha pramana in the end? What do you define pratyaksha pramana to be?

      It is not for nothing that the planet Jupitor (Brihaspati–Guru of the godesses and gods) taught Chaarvaaka Darshana to his sishyas (disciples). Or atheism, where the only valid means of knowledge is Pratyaksha.

      I would argue that the rest of Sanathana Dharma is merely prep for college where pratyaksha alone remains. The goal of religion is to transcend all theisms. The goal of religion is atheism. Religion is to search for the truth no matter what the cost and no matter what the truth is.

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    2. (that is not being argued here, but used by the BJP/RSS/VHP people to describe modern India).

      the hindu nationalist position seems dumb and prolish. i don’t engage too much with it. but the academic response due to ideological reasons also seems pig-headed and deceptive.

      the ancient greco-roman pagans were diverse in belief and practice. but with the rise of christianity they began calling themselves ‘hellenists.’ the lithuanian pagan tradition threw up its own ‘pope’ during the height of that polity.

      somewhere we are told that india and the broad array of hindu traditions are unique in their disaggregation and lack of identity?

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  8. Yes, I don’t see much difference between a Hindu invading a foreign Hindu polity, massacring them, looting their temple, and a Muslim doing the same thing. Which part of his mosque/temple the invader chooses to place his loot is immaterial (thought in most instances Muslims didn’t “bury” the stolen idols).

    peter turchin has done work which shows statistically across meta-ethnic conflicts are characterized by a greater quantity of atrocity (for lack of a better word). eg some slavic groups in the baltic converted to christianity very quickly in part so that their would suffer less brutalism at the hands of the various german warbands on crusade.

    i’m 95% sure that this sort of thing applies re: india and hinduism and islam. on an aggregate level there was brutalism all around. but across civilizational chasms it was almost certainly exacerbated. unless india is *sui generis*

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    1. There’s no doubt the “quantity of atrocity” was greater for Muslim dynasties than Hindu dynasties during the Islamic-period in India. This doesn’t say much on its own however, as we would expect the party (Muslim-Empires) with most of the power to be the one committing most of the violence.

      I think the nature of the violence is the more salient issue here. Hindu and Muslim Empires engaged in similar types of violence (despite Indian claims to the contrary who will often maintain only Muslims ever regularly looted temples, raped women, or killed civilians). Even on this forum you have commentator’s, if they even admit Hindu-atrocities occurred, who will say “its not the same”, for no apparent reason other than one party was Muslim and the other Hindu. This is a pernicious ideology to have and deserves to be confronted.

      Now I’m sure there is a bit of difference between the scales of violence that is attributable to Muslim Empires being Muslim (or at least non-Hindu). The violent zeal with which the first Turkic incursions carved through Northern-India in their quest for plunder for one, and the (very rare) instances of a local Muslim commander attempting to forcibly convert an obstinate Hindu-village. I’m sure the low opinion Muslims had of Hindus could be responsible for an extra massacre or temple-looting, that wouldn’t have happened had they been Hindus.

      But the whole, I’d say roughly 90% of the violence committed by Muslim Empires in India (and not the sporadic raids by Turks/Afghans outside of India) is the same as the violence committed by Hindu Empires in India. Greater in quantity during the period where Muslim Empires ruled most of India, but not fundamentally different.

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      1. Greater in quantity during the period where Muslim Empires ruled most of India, but not fundamentally different.

        are hate crimes a think? if someone murders you to rob you, or murders you because of your race, does it matter?

        i lean toward materialism when it comes to violence in history. this why i think communisms’ death toll should count more than fascism in the 20th century. but my liberal academic friends disagree, because they were “killing their own people” (direct quote).

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        1. I mean yeah, hate crimes matter, and are different than crimes committed for material purpose (even if both victims end up killed).

          The whole point of my post (and sources I linked) is to show that Muslims didn’t attack Hindu-temples, or Hindus themselves, because they hated Hindus, but because they wanted what the Hindus had (money, territory, glory). Which is the same reasons Hindus had been (and continued) to attack other Hindus as well.

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  9. “Yes, I don’t see much difference between a Hindu invading a foreign Hindu polity, massacring them, looting their temple, and a Muslim doing the same thing.”

    This is factually incorrect. Warfare among Hindu kingdoms may have involved plunder and pillage, but they scrupulously avoided religious sacrilege. You have to provide references before making sweeping statements like this.

    You may think you are being smart and original thinker, to others it just appears superficial, hackneyed, beaten to death rhetoric common in Pakistani “intellectual” circles. Unfortunately for you, this is a free thinking blogsphere, not Quaid-e-Azam government higher secondary school, Faisalabad. Regurgitating your highschool history textbooks is not going to convince any one here.

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    1. Snake Charmer, he/she may not understand praaana pratishta. Or mystical experience.

      INDTHINGS, what is your definition of “religioun”?

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    2. Looting of rival Hindu (and Buddhist)-kingdom temples was an integral part of Hindu-Indian warfare before Islam even existed. Whether its “desecration” is subjective, as I know for your ilk something can only be a “desecration” if it was done by a Muslim.

      This is uncontroversial in academia. Literally the only people who dispute this are Hindu Nationalists (who believe anything that bursts the Hinduvata bubble they live in must be a Pakistani conspiracy).

      http://www.columbia.akadns.net/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/txt_eaton_temples2.pdf

      You can read the above if you want a primer. Though I suspect the next objection will be “if he’s not Pakistani, he’s a white British colonialist trying to weaken India”. Then when I cite an Indian scholar, it will be, “he’s a liberal secular who is self-hating”, and on. I’ve been down this road many times with people like you.

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      1. There was (and is) desecration of Muslim holy places by other Muslims as well, so the point of the previous observation is unclear.

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        1. There was (and is) desecration of Muslim holy places by other Muslims as well, so the point of the previous observation is unclear.

          in general this is when some muslims consider other muslims ‘takfir.’ non-muslim.

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      2. Perhaps you should read what you quote. The entire thrust of argument was Muslim rulers desecration of temples is not motivated by religious reasons but political ones. Nowhere the paper said Hindu kings desecrated the temples.

        Also, going by the premise of the paper, why would they? A Hindu king only need to install his own kuladevata in the temple to acquire legitimacy and political powers associated with it. There are many temples with multiple deities.

        But the only way a Muslim ruler could maintain power is to destroy the temple itself. They didn’t find a way to transfer the divine authority for ruling to themselves.

        Meh, at least be consistent with your references. Don’t pad your lit review, looks extra bad since the argument moves from ignorance to dishonesty.

        Maybe you will find other good ones but lost your credibility a bit that you can be searching for them now after you were called out.

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      3. INDTHINGS, what does Praana Pratishta mean to you? Are you alleging that people within Sanathana Dharma (including Buddhists and Jains) intentionally violated the praana pratishta of spiritual deities and places in mass?

        This is a big claim to make and requires a lot of data to back up.

        Breaking the Praana Pratishta of a shrine is adharmic and deeply frowned upon.

        Have you studied eastern philosophy before and if so could you add some color about how you have studied it? I think there is a lot of miscommunication happening because of a lack of understanding and different linguistic definitions of sabda (words).

        Would you like to propose a marxist post modernist indologist scholar for Browncast to interview to make the marxist deep (Vijnayamaya and Anandamaya level) critique of Sanathana Dharma?

        From the article Richard Eaten does not appear to have a strong understanding of temple science and technology (such as those described in the Agamas and Padma Purana). Temples are 99% not about politics as he defines politics.

        Changing the priests at a temple or cutting off financial support to a temple or transporting spiritual living materials from one temple to another is not the same as destroying or desecrating a temple.

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      4. @INDTHINGS Dude, are you even reading your references before posting them 🙂 . The paper you referred strengthens your opponents’ arguments! Did you just suffer a brain fart? You want to take your move back? 🙂

        Nowhere the paper mentions a Hindu king desecrating the temples of rival Hindu king. (This is the argument you were making). On the other hand it confirms everything I have been writing all along (Hindu vassals of Mughals built and patronized temples in remote parts of India wherever they were posted, thus proving the pan-Indian nature of Hinduism – page 71).

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          1. The link you posted doesn’t work, but my guess is that it is referring to carrying off of idols of a defeated Hindu king by a victorious Hindu king. This is not sacrilege. This is showing off. Like saying to the defeated king – I am more worthy of taking care of your deities. These idols used to be installed in the temples of the victorious king.

            Anyway, this whole discussion on temple destruction is a digression. This debate erupted because a tenure track professor in a reputed university claims that the religious identity and consciousness of one-fifth of the humanity was formed only in the modern era, presumably under the tender care of its colonial rules, and you are agreeing solemnly to such moronic assertions.

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          1. The “ever reliable” Girish isn’t a historian, and it shows with his sophomoric attack on Eaton.

            He argues that Eaton is wrong to say Islamic practice of temple desecration is a continuation of Hindu temple desecration, because the one example Eaton gives for a Hindu-temple being destroyed is false.

            1.) Notice how Girish slyly moves the goalposts from temple “desecration”, to “destruction”. This is important, because Eaton cites several instances of Hindu temple desecration (defenders killed, temple looted), there are several more, and we even have records of Muslim kings referencing these exploits when forming their own policies toward looting rival Hindu-temples.

            Girish can’t debate this, so he tries to instead attack the example of temple destruction, and then tells the reader since this is false, it means no desecration occurred. Which is ridiculous. He could try and argue that perhaps Hindus didn’t completely destroy temples once they desecrated them, but not that no desecration ever happened (since we have proof it happened frequently).

            2.) Girish’s argument that Eaton’s example of Hindu-temple destruction is false, is bullshit. The original source describes the Hindu invader’s war elephants destroying the temple’s courtyard, and Girish’s response is the , “elephants might have been stabled there while the army rested?”? Right lol. The army fell asleep, and the elephants got loose and started destroying the temple. That’s definitely more believable.

            He then cites a reference saying that the Hindu-invader’s successor, “Developed a fondness for installing gods under the name Kalapriya in different parts of his empire”, and therefore concludes that the original episode of temple destruction never happened. What nonsense. Does the fact that various Muslim rulers who destroyed temples,and later sponsored the building of temples throughout their empire’s, mean they never actually destroyed temples, and the records were wrong? Of course not.

            In closing. Girish is an idiot. His premise was wrong from the beginning, and his attempts to debunk Eaton’s example of Hindu-temple destruction were pathetic.

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          2. //1. Notice how Girish slyly moves the goalposts from temple “desecration”, to “destruction”. This is important, because Eaton cites several instances of Hindu temple desecration (defenders killed, temple looted),

            No he does not. Eaton himself is clear in that article that the dominant pattern is of looting and carrying off images of state-deities. Looting a temple is not the same as the desecration of the idol/diety. Girish makes this point abundantly clear when he states;

            Were the likes of Mahmud of Ghazni and Aurangzeb just following an indigenous Hindu tradition when they sacked religious sites? Truschke bases her conclusion on three sources, Richard Davis’s Lives of Indian Images, Richard Eaton’s, Temple Desecrations in Pre-modern India, and Michael Willis’ Temples of Gopaksetra. Eaton’s article contains no original research in this respect, merely recounting the findings of Davis and Willis, also cited by Truschke. Davis, in a chapter from his book titled Trophies of War, describes how Hindu kings often looted idols considered specially powerful, and installed them in custom-built shrines within their own domains. This seems the precise opposite of the idol smashing of Islamic iconoclasm.

            Now please do clear this for us, but what part of installing idols in custom built shrines within their own domains reads as desecration to you?

            //2.) Girish’s argument that Eaton’s example of Hindu-temple destruction is false, is bullshit. The original source describes the Hindu invader’s war elephants destroying the temple’s courtyard, and Girish’s response is the , “elephants might have been stabled there while the army rested?”? Right lol. The army fell asleep, and the elephants got loose and started destroying the temple. That’s definitely more believable.//

            Eaton is citing the michael willis essay which states;

            “After the courtyard of the temple of Kalapriya was knocked askew by the strokes of his rutting tuskers, his steeds crossed the bottomless Yamuna, which rivals the sea.”

            Girish is simply questioning the validity of a conclusion drawn on the basis of a verse which on plain sight doesn’t seem to compute to the destruction of a temple.

            //He then cites a reference saying that the Hindu-invader’s successor, “Developed a fondness for installing gods under the name Kalapriya in different parts of his empire”, and therefore concludes that the original episode of temple destruction never happened. What nonsense. //

            If the source for the claim is a verse as weak as the one is micheal willis’s essay then who’s the one peddling nonsense, Girish or you?

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          3. Girish, excellent comment.

            I think a large part of the issue is that Eaton and INDTHINGS appear not to have studied eastern philosophy, technology and mysticism. I suspect they haven’t studied the Agamas and Padma Purana on temple technology. INDTHINGS, have you studied neuroscience? [Suspect Eaton has not.]

            At a time when China, Silicon Valley and the rest of the world is spending many tens of billions of dollars in R&D to hack Taoism, Hinduism (including Buddhism and Jainism) to harvest technologies with a total addressable market in the tens of trillions of dollars; this conversations seems from the twilight zone.

            Arya Varsha had very advanced neuroscience and other technologies a thousand years ago. For more about this, INDTHINGS please read about Gregg Braden and:
            https://www.heartmath.org/gci/
            You can also watch:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyfHqCWp4Pc

            These technologies were disrupted about a thousand years ago. Suspect this led to a precipitous drop in physical health, mental health, intelligence, product development and process innovation outcomes. And a large drop in per capita real GDP versus what it would have otherwise been.

            The new ruling dispensation tried to destroy the existing knowledge creation and support ecosystem (temples, universities, schools, libraries, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, product development process innovation). In part because they viewed mathematics, science, technology and eastern philosophy as “haram” dark magic.

            Remember the burning of the ancient library of Alexandria in 642 AD by general Amr ibn al ‘Aas? It was reported (I suspect inaccurately) that Omar said to Yaḥyā al-Naḥwī: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.” While this quote might be inaccurate, this adds color to what happened.

            Of course muslims were deeply economically hurt by these Islamist Jihadi policies. We benefit from a globalized free market system of free trade, investment, product development, business development. We also economically benefit from freedom of art, manas, buddhi and ananda maya kosha (freedom of art and thought). This too ended under the new dispensation.

            Now Asia is navigating a very difficult and tortuous process of regaining the freedom of art and thought that existed before 632 AD. Sadly Asia has a long way to go.

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  10. many hindu nationalists say stupid things. that is because many hindu nationalists are stupid. that is because most people are stupid.

    the problem from my perspective is that an assertion like “Hindutva is an ideology of hate, based on early 20th-century European fascism” is so reductive that it undermines the credibility that academics have with the prior assumption that they aren’t either stupid or sophistic in their intents. i suspect the latter is more likely conditional on academic (most of whom outside of disciplines like “intersectional anti-heteronormative studies” are not morons).

    if someone said “Islamo-fascism is an ideology of hate, based on early 20th-century European fascism” most academics would stop and deconstruct this and illustrate the importance of history, context, and deep local causal factors. but when it comes to hindu nationalists all this textured illumination goes out the window you have intellectuals going “full-retard”.

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  11. The whole point of my post (and sources I linked) is to show that Muslims didn’t attack Hindu-temples, or Hindus themselves, because they hated Hindus, but because they wanted what the Hindus had (money, territory, glory). Which is the same reasons Hindus had been (and continued) to attack other Hindus as well.

    right. but i’m not a hindu nationalist nor am i dumb. i don’t have such reductive views.

    that being said, ghazis do perform a mitzvah when they despoil and reduce the idolaters. reducing the turks, afghans, and persians who engaged in wars of material plunder to purely a matter of economics is reductive. which is useful. but the reduction should not neglect the cultural dimension, which muslims themselves freely will admit.

    i am broadly sympathetic to the the view that the islamic conquest of the near east is best thought of as an ethnic arab conquest of the middle east. but that proceeded to have major ideological and cultural consequences for the near east in time.

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  12. “Warfare among Hindu kingdoms may have involved plunder and pillage, but they scrupulously avoided religious sacrilege.”

    In my book, plunder and pillage are far greater crimes than religious sacrilege. Our cultural/social egos cannot be bigger than other people’s lives and property.

    Turkic kings who followed Islam (pretty nominally most of the time) were once rulers of much of the subcontinent. So were a handful of Englishmen. Are we going to let this history dominate our every waking hour ?

    A much more productive question to ask is why the subcontinent’s political elite failed to protect it from external conquerors.

    Our best and brightest depart at the first chance and are terrified at the thought of their children having to grow up in India, and here we are brooding over some old time kings ….

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    1. “Warfare among Hindu kingdoms may have involved plunder and pillage, but they scrupulously avoided religious sacrilege.”

      All the evidence I have seen points to this being true in the east 632 AD (although I don’t know for sure about Iran I suspect this was true there too).

      Vikram, one time plunder or theft is mostly irrelevant because as long as the business climate is good, people can make a new fortune.

      People have indescribable potential power and wisdom and can invent amazing products that transform the world (what economists call total factor productivity).

      By destroying almost all the universities, libraries and temples Islamist Jihadis reduced the total factor productivity of the areas they conquered lowering their real per capita GDP ceteris paribus. Islamist Jihadis regarded eastern scientists and technologists as engaged in dark magic (including jinns) and tried to eliminate them (along with eastern culture) as “haram”. Trying to replace them with “halal” Islamist culture and technology.

      I would make the case that this damaged the nervous systems, brains, intelligence (Buddhi), mental health (Chitta Shuddhi) and physical health of the conquered people. Lowering their real marginal products of labor and marginal product of capital. The knowledge creation R&D infrastructure (product development and process innovation) of much of Asia was broken. Much of the lost technology has still not been reproduced. Which is why many indigenous peoples no longer understand how to use their ancient technology . . . making what they do practice a type of superstitious blind copying in some cases.

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Intentionally killing non combatants in war is wrong, and there were many examples of that in pre Islamic Asia.

      ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      “A much more productive question to ask is why the subcontinent’s political elite failed to protect it from external conquerors.”

      Very good question. Would be interested in learning everyone’s perspectives.

      “Our best and brightest depart at the first chance and are terrified at the thought of their children having to grow up in India, and here we are brooding over some old time kings ….”

      You have to acknowledge that Asia is rising again. India is re-emerging. The reason people leave India is pollution rather than an inability to make money. And in many ways this is good. Indian culture, civilization, technology and spirituality thrives outside India.

      The question of pollution is an economics question. Most Indians care more about getting rich than pollution. As India gets richer Indian voter priorities will change and pollution will take care of itself.

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      1. “Very good question. Would be interested in learning everyone’s perspectives.”

        My own take on this is that in the preindustrial world, arable land and fresh water were the main productive resources, and Gangetic India had considerably more of these than either Central Asia or NW Europe. So incursions were inevitable.

        For the polities that controlled the productive Gangetic plains, threats existed both from the South and the NW. We often forget that much of pre-modern India outside the Gangetic plain was not super productive. And so this region was a target for attacks from both the North and South. The tri-partite struggle, and Maratha conquests both illustrate this. Powers from deeper India aiming to topple a wobbling Gangetic plain dynasty.

        It is likely that for the Gangetic folks, both the NW and South reflected equal amounts of danger and instability. So the local elites looked for a setup that could protect their lands from outside incursions (both from the NW and South), while allowing them to continue administering their lands. One can see that the Mughal family fit the bill rather well. Not native, so not partial to any of the extant families. Can provide horses, which gave a decisive edge over any other local threat. Trade links to Central Asia.

        Except the Mughals did more than this, and actually made brand new lands productive in Eastern Bengal, which in the modern era culminated in Bangladesh. British similarly made new lands productive in the lower Indus basin culminating in Pakistan.

        This would also explain why the Rajputs were not very keen on helping out the Marathas despite the commonalities of religion.

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  13. Hats off to indithings. I mean even his team (vijay and Vikram ) sort of gave up after some time but not him 🤣🤣 posting links from frontline and stuff ( Zack should post stuff from hilal magazine just to balance things out )

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