Religious change, genocide, and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia

Since many readers of this website refer to “genocides,” and all of them were born in the 20th or 21st centuries, I want to put a note here which I think will illustrate why it is important to be careful of the use of particular words and what their connotations are as a function of time. In the modern period, the term “genocide” has a particular valence. The Nazi killing of Jews, the Ottoman genocides of the early 20th century, and the killing of Tutsis in Rwanda. These were, I believe, expressions of the mass politics and mobilization. As such, they are not entirely analogous to ethnic and religious turnover in the premodern era, where death was often secondary or a side-effect.

The Tutsis were a socially and politically dominant minority in Rwanda. A militarized rebel force was fighting the Hutu-dominated government, and that rebel force was dominated by Tutsis. The planned extermination of Tutsis in Rwanda was politics by another means. Similarly, various Christian ethnic minorities in the Ottoman Empire during the first decades of the 20th century were seen as stalking horses of European colonial powers in their conflicts with the Turkish Muslim dominated government.

Note that this was a period when the Ottoman state was attempting to transition toward a more modern understanding of its political system, which depended on the support and mobilization of the populace, less differentiated by religion or ethnicity.

Finally, the attempted extermination of the Jews by the Nazi regime cannot be understood except in the light of the theory of history that Adolf Hitler and many antisemitic nationalists promoted in the early 20th century. It was predicated upon a postreligious materialism whereby the Jew could no longer be assimilated into the non-Jewish majority.

There are two changes that happened with the modern world that made genocide as we understand it more feasible:

  1. The rise of mass politics, which I allude to above. That is, the transformation of political units from being coalitions of elites (e.g., early modern France) to being expressions of national-folk will (e.g., post-Revolutionary France). Ethnic and religious diversity within the state is not a problem when the state is an expression of the will of an oligarchy, rather than an ethnic and religious group.
  2. The rise of the state more generally. Pre-modern states were weak and relied on ideology and customary tradition to bind villages together. They were simply not capable of totalitarianism if they wanted to engage in such an activity (in contrast, a single city-state could perhaps engage in totalitarianism, which made the social engineering of the Greek polis more comprehensible). The fiat of the central government had limitations.

The Nazi regime managed to kill 90% of the Jews of Poland. This would not have happened under Frederick the Great of Prussia 150 years earlier. First, though Frederick was a conventional antisemite, he was not a genocidal one. And if the Jews had consented to convert to Christianity (Lutheranism) he would have been forced to tolerate them, despite his contempt for the Christian religion. A biologistic understanding of nationality did not quite exist in a systematic form, though its elements were already present.

And second, though at the time contemporaries were in awe of the size and power of the Prussian state, and in particular its military (e.g, “Prussia is an army that has a state”), it was a far weaker government than what had developed in Germany by the 1940s.

That being said, premodern states could engage in genocide if they wanted to. But it was not in the form of camps and firing squads. They could starve or expel recalcitrant peoples.

In the 18th-century the Dzhungar Confederacy of Oirat Mongols emerged as the last great empire of the steppes. Caught between the two gunpowder polities of the Russians and Manchus, their fate was to close out the 2,000 years reign of militarized pastoralists in Inner Asia.  Modern-day Dzhungaria does exist, it is roughly the northern half of Xinjiang. But the native inhabitants are not Dzhungars, but Kazakhs. These were pastoralists that moved into the emptied Dzhungar rangelands.

How did the Manchus accomplish the ethnic cleansing then? Simple: in a premodern world of Malthusian limits you simply drive people away or force starvation by preventing them from extracting calories from their land.  Huge numbers of Dzhungars migrated into the Russia Empire, with some of them eventually settling permanently in Kalmykia on the Volga. But the death toll was enormous. Most died during the migration (some eventually migrated back).

The Manchu targeting of the Dzhungars was exceptional. That is because the Dzhungars as a whole were mobilized as a political-military force in Inner Asia. They were a predatory power which extracted rents from vassals of both the Russians and the Manchus and was instrumental in decades of machinations in Tibet. Though a small people, in general, these steppe groups punched far above their weight because all free males were potential soldiers for a campaign, with women overseeing the herds while their menfolk were out on the campaign.

This is very different from agrarian populations. When Genghis Khan conquered northern China some record that this plan was to drive off the settled populace and transform the land into pasturage. Basically, he would have induced famine which would have meant most of the refugee population would probably die. One of his advisors explained to him that the rents produced by farmers would far exceed the wealth generated by animal herds. So the farmers lived.

Such a discussion brings into focus the reason that ethnically targeted physical genocide of whole peoples was usually not used as a tool of politics by agrarian states in the premodern period. People were wealth for elites, and killing people destroying wealth. I here use a very specific term: targeted physical genocide. The mass conversion of pagan Slavs on the Baltic frontier by Germans, and their assimilation into a German Christian identity, was cultural genocide. But the rents that knights could extract were maintained. The people lived. Their identity changed.

In fact, the last pagans in the Baltic were to be found on the estates of German Christians in Latvia, into the early 1400s, because pagan peasants were not subject to the protection of the Church from extreme exploitation. In other words, it was more profitable for German Christian elites to extract wealth from pagan peasants than Christian ones!

The reality is that in the premodern period there were many mass die-offs due to famine. Some of these were due to political and historical events. The province of Sichuan, for example, was repopulated to a great extent from Hunan in the 17th century. Part of the issue here is that famine was induced by massive conflicts between the Manchus and the Ming loyalists. Similarly, the qanat system of irrigation in Iran was massively disrupted during the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. This resulted in such depopulation that the region’s census size did not recover until the modern period. This is not due to the concerted attempt by the Mongols to depopulate Iran, but rather, the vicious instrumentalism of Mongol forms of warfare, which responded to resistance with total organized viciousness against both humans and their capital. Mongol genocide was not an ends, but a means toward showing other people why they should surrend and bend the knee as soon as possible.

All of this brings us to India and the idea that genocide was committed against Hindus by Muslims. To be frank, I don’t pay much attention to these sorts of arguments in detail, but there is not much detail. But let me first say that I now lean toward the position that the great Arab conquests of the 7th century were by a people who we would only vaguely recognize as Muslim today. That is, I think a coherent and recognizable Islam dates to the end of the 7th century, and most definitely by the Abbasids after 750 AD.  As I have stated before, I believe that Islam is the product of Empire, it did not conquer an Empire.

Which brings us to the Turkic led predations upon India which began under Mahmud of Ghazni, and continue down until the conquests of the whole subcontinent begun by Muhammad of Ghor.* These conquests need to be understood in the context of steppe pastoralist predations that began with the Xiongnu in the centuries before Christ and continued down to the Dzhunghars in the 18th century.

The steppe is not poor on a per person basis in a relative sense. In the premodern wor,ld the vast majority of the population lived on the Malthusian limit. There were cases, such as in the Roman Empire, where trade and economies of scale allowed for the formation of a “consumer society” after a fashion (e.g., pottery mass-produced in the Mediterranean at particular locations and exported by water transport). But the gap between a Roman peasant and a Sarmartian pastoralist was small in a modern perspective. Rather, wealth is thought of as the aggregate of production of a population given across a region, which was easily understood to be a proxy for wealth for extractive elites.

India and China, or Egypt, were not wealthy because of high per person productivity, but because of high per unit productivity (fertile soil) which translated into large populations. From a purely economic perspective these people were rents that premodern elites could use to translate into wealth and prestige.

Unlike Genghis Khan, more sophisticated agro-pastoralist groups with more exposure to the Chinese world system, such as the Khitan and the Jurchen/Manchus, understood that the high population density of China meant that they could extract wealth out of the Chinese state far beyond what they could extract out of their own subjects. The Khitan operated like the Huns of the Late Roman Period, extracting protection money after threatening invasion. In some cases, the invasion had to be attempted, though ultimately this was a “lose-lose” situation. The Khitan did not necessarily recoup the opportunity costs of invasion through plunder, while the Chinese had to mobilize forces to defend themselves. Ultimately it was often less costly to payoff pastoralists for the Chinese state, and less costly for pastoralists to accept a payoff than work hard to plunder and conquer.

Of course, in some instances invasion did occur. It took the Mongols and Manchus two generations to conquer China. In the short term, this was a high-risk proposition, and the conquest itself resulted in the burning of the capital stock from which the conquerors would eventually extract rent. But, after the small number of Manchus and Mongols established themselves on top of the extraction pyramid that was China, they obtained windfall gains. They were far wealthier than they would have been as steppe warlords.

Which brings us back to the Muslims and India. There are ideological debates about whether we should call them “Muslims” or “Turks” (or Afghans, or whatnot). Ultimately I’m not invested in these debates. It is clear that whether someone was a “good Muslim” or not, since the rise of meta-ethnic religions during the Axial Age, these identities are important in some way for individuals who espouse them. I believe the Arabs constructed the Islamic religion in part as a response to likely assimilative pressures in the Near East.

Sometimes they do result in the sort of genocides that we associate with targeted ethnic cleansing. It is clear that the Frankish Christians who arrived for the first few Crusades killed urban Muslims and Jews in Palestine as a matter of religious commitment. They also encouraged the arrival of whole communities of peasants and artisans, who migrated to Palestine. For a few centuries, these people recreated the social structure of Western Europe in the Near East.

But, after the initial conquests the Christian rulers of Palestine took a far less ideological view because ideological decisions were impractical. Muslim peasants were sources of revenue, and some practices in the Near East were functionally adaptive. New migrants were often shocked at the assimilation, but a synthetic social order sprung up. We can only glean this from historical documents because the eventual expulsion of Christian elites from the Near East resulted in the disappearance of this culture.

So what do I think happened in India with the Turks? To understand this, we need to see what they did in the Balkans, in Iran, Egypt, and Eastern Europe. It is important to remember that the Turkic invasion of India is a piece of a broader dynamic after the year 1000 A.D. when Turkic migrations impacted almost all Eurasian societies outside of Southeast Asia.

Genetically, the Turks of Anatolia are only about ~10% East Asian. Assuming dilution that means Anatolian Turks are probably no more than ~20% descended from the Turkic pastoralists who moved into the region in the 11th century (in contrast, Rumelian Turks, like Kemal Ataturk, are almost certainly descended mostly from converts to Islam from Balkan peoples who Turkicized). Most of their ancestry is from people who spoke Greek, Armenian, and perhaps a form of Kurdish.

Similarly, the Chuvash Turkic people of Russia are genetically more like their Slavic neighbors than the Turks of Anatolia, though like the latter they also have a substantial minority East Asian component.

Unlike most Turkic people, the Chuvash, like the Yakuts of Siberia, are mostly Orthodox Christians. This is due to the fact that on the whole when the Turkic peoples shifted from shamanism to a “world religion” they selected that from the peoples whom they were in contact with, and often engaged in a predatory extractive relationship with. Before the rise of Islam, some Turkic people espoused Persian Christianity and Zoroastrianism in Turan. The Turkic people of western Mongolia during the life of Genghis Khan were nominally Christians of the Church of the East.

As far as Turks and India, it begins with Mahmud of Ghazni. He was a complicated figure. Though Indians are aware of him in large part due to the attack on Somnath, he was a major patron of culture, in particular, al-Beruni and Ferdowsi. Though Turkic slave soldiers came to prominence in the Islamic work under al-Mu’tasim, and Mahmud of Ghazni was from this general class of people, Turkic slaves converted to Islam who nevertheless remained subordinate in many ways to Arab and Iranian culture (e.g., see above the patronage of Ferdowsi, who produced a work valorizing pre-Islamic Iran in the form of the Shahnameh). But it was the period around 1000 AD which saw the emergence of Turkic polities which were fully Islamicized in the form of Kara-Khanids, and, independent of Arab and Iranian polities.

The Turkic “sword” of Islam during this period is clear. Though the Mamluks of Egypt included many Circassians and Georgians amongst their number, their internal lingua franca was a Turkic dialect. Though the Safavids of Iran had Kurdish, Georgian, and Greek, ancestry, their essential presentation was as a Turkic military order.

Some would attempt to dismiss the Muslim character of the Turks of Islam. This is fundamentally wrongheaded. Though the Turks may not have been “good Muslims” (whatever that means), and, their own ethnic-tribal identities may have been very salient, their own self-conception as ghazis and Muslims is very clear. In a similar manner, many of the Western Christian warlords that engaged in warfare in the Baltic and Islamic world on religious grounds may have been barely Christianized, and often concerned more with the material than spiritual conquest, but they clearly saw themselves in some ways as furthering the ends of Christian civilization.

The attempt to secularize Turks makes as much sense as it does to secularize the First Crusade. Material conditions matter, but they are not the only conditions that matter, and if materialism is one’s only concern then much of history would not occur.

How best to understand Muslim engagement with India then?

First, material considerations are not irrelevant. In all places, the Turks went they extracted resources and wealth. Whether it be the indirect Tatar yoke, the direct imposition of Turkic rule on non-Turks, as in Egypt and Iran, without ethnic assimilation, or, Turkic rule and assimilation as in Anatolia.

The reason that extensive targeted and conscious genocide in India is something I am skeptical of is that it is irrational. Turks could have inflected genocidal consequences simply by disrupting local production (e.g., if farmers can’t get to their land and the crops fail and famine ensues). But ultimately the wealth they wished to plunder consisted of the peasants!

But, this does not mean that there couldn’t have been targeted ideologically motivated attacks. The conquest of Italy by the Lombards in the late 6th century resulted in the disappearance of the Roman gentry across much of the peninsula. They were replaced by Germans at the top of the local status hierarchy, above Roman peasants. This was a transition from Catholic to Arian.

In North Africa, the Vandals and Alans replaced the Roman aristocracy in the eastern portion of their territory (modern-day northern Tunisia) but allowed the local structures to remain in place in the west (coastal Algeria). We know this particular detail because the Byzantine armies which conquered North Africa in the 6th century found Catholic Christian elites in the west but not in the east (ergo, elites had to be imported from elsewhere to administer the territory).  The Arian Christian Vandal German and Alan population disappeared, as the women were given to East Roman soldiers as wives, and the men were enrolled in Roman armies which were situated on the eastern frontier against Persia.

My assertion is that the existence of Hinduism as a non-Islamic system which remains dominant within the Indian subcontinent is mostly a function of the fact that non-Islamic elites persisted and survived in the subcontinent. In some cases, as with Rajputs and others, Hindu elites were integrated into the Turko-Islamic sociopolitical order as sub-elites. In other cases, such as the Zoroastrian kingdoms of northern Iran during the Abbasid period, or the Nubian Christian kingdoms south of Egypt, or Russian Orthodox principalities under the Tatar yoke, polities which espoused a non-Islamic religious and cultural ideas maintained themselves. In India, like Russia, these non-Islamic states eventually maintained themselves well enough to rollback the Turkic-Islamic tide (in fact, a substantial portion of pre-Communist service elites descended from Christianized “Tatar” nobility, whose martial skills were put in the service of Cossack brigades which eventually conquered Siberia).

In The Rise of Western Christendom Peter Brown asserts that the Islamicization of the Near East occurred much faster once various forms of Syriac declined, to be replaced by Arabic. That is, once the ethnic difference between Christians and Arab Muslims was diminished, the conversions of subordinated Christians to Islam proceeded much faster.

Though Iranians were part of the story of Islam from the beginning, the mainstreaming of explicit Iranian culture into Islam can be dated to the late Abbasid period. The problem is that even in the early Abbasid period, Iranians remained predominantly non-Muslim. The defeat of the last independent Iranian Zoroastrian principalities and the conversion of the rural gentry is probably what resulted in the likely majority position of Islam within Iran around 1000 AD.

Curiously, many scholars have asserted that Islamicization proceeded faster in Turan, that is, north of Iran proper, albeit dominated by Iranic peoples. As per Peter Turchin’s argument, some of this may be a result of the fact that marchlands are generally more open to cultural innovation than cores (in the late Roman Empire, elites from the borderlands became Christian much earlier than those in the Roman core). But, another fact that is relevant is the Turan was more religious balanced it is identity than Iran proper. In Turan Eastern Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism all had purchased. Islam may simply have been another option on the table, as opposed to a repudiation of Iranian identity, as may have been the case in Iran proper.

I engaged in this digression because the strong West and Central Asian orientation of the Turkic dominated conquest elites may actually have retarded the growth of Islam in South Asia. Though whole communities converted to Islam, and individual high-status converts were prominent, the differentiation between Hindu Indian and Muslim foreign may have prevented greater diffusion of the new elite religious cult. In Europe during the German “Drive to the East,” many Slavic pagans termed Christianity the “German religion.” The stubborn paganism of groups such as the Wends down into the 12th-century may partly have been due to the idea that conversion entailed alienation from their local identity. From becoming Wends into becoming Germans.

This post is written in response to comments below. On the one hand, is the temptation to argue in terms which leverage modern understandings to comprehend the past. This leads to confusions and misunderstandings. The religious skepticism of al-Ma’arri was tolerated and indulged because of he was a genius from an upper-class background in a society that was highly stratified. This does not mean that Muslims of the period were tolerant of atheism any more than they are today, but in that period mass society did not truly exist, and al-Ma’arri’s eccentricities were not perceived to be corrupting of the masses, as they would be today.

And yet similarly the past is not entirely incommensurable to the present. The religious-nationalist rebellion of Simon bar Kokbha is entirely comprehensible in modern terms. The sectarian conflict between Greeks and Jews in Alexandria that bubbled up from below in the wake of the Jewish rebellion is not hard to understand in terms of its social and psychological roots. Urban Greeks and Jews lived together in Alexandria for centuries, and their mores forced separation, despite the fact that Alexandria’s Jews had taken up Greek as their dominant language.

* Is it me or does “Muhammad of Ghor” sound like a barbarian warlord out of a Tanith Lee DAW novel from the 1970s?

77 thoughts on “Religious change, genocide, and culture in the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia”

  1. “This post is written in response to comments below”

    Hmm wonder who that was? Oh it was me!

    Agree with everything you’ve said here, and maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my original comments.

    I’m not saying that the communal attitudes held by Muslims/Hindus in pre-colonial India don’t count because they weren’t “proper” Muslims/Hindus back then. I’m saying these attitudes didn’t exist at all before the British.

    So as cringey as it is to hear white liberals remove agency from brown-people and chalk up our conflicts/struggles to the tinkering of Europeans, I think in this case its spot on. The Hindu/Muslim divide seen today (and thus the resulting conflict between Pak/India) is entirely an artificial construct of the British.

    1. “The Hindu/Muslim divide seen today (and thus the resulting conflict between Pak/India) is entirely an artificial construct of the British.”

      “Artificial” is a loaded word, just like “True” Islam. There is a divide , at least for the believer, just because someone doesn’t believe in it need not necessarily mean its artificial.

      1. I mean, there was always a divide in the sense that by virtue of one person being Muslim and another being Hindu, they wouldn’t be “the same”.

        But it was a relatively minor divide. A Hindu from Delhi would feel more camaraderie with a Muslim from Delhi, than he would with a Hindu from Maharashtra (and visa-versa ). This is unthinkable today.

        A premodern Hindu wouldn’t agitate to demolish a mosque because it was built by an “invader” 500 years ago. His Muslim counterpart wouldn’t protest the appointment of a Rajput over himself simply because he’s a Hindu. These instances happen regularly today.

        I’m speaking in generalities of course, but I want to emphasize the divide between Muslim/Hindu, while certainly existing in the pre-colonial era, doesn’t in any way resemble what we see between the two communities today.

        1. Perhaps your experiences in India are not fully representative.

          There are many Bharatiya tilted (or if you prefer Swadeshi tilted, Hindu tilted, Hindustani tilted) Indian muslims who feel very Indian.

          A ton of Hindus pray at Nizammuddin Auliya in Delhi. Sufi masters have many Hindu devotees.

          My understanding is that there has been no operational mosque in Ayodhya for a very long time. Muslims want to build a temple for Hindus in Ayodhya but were hamstrung by marxist post modernist trouble makers.

          In India Hindus often build mosques for muslims in their village or town. Muslims do likewise.

          Many muslims still pray at nonmuslim sites.

          Indian muslims remain the blazing cuttting edge of Islamic reform, liberal Islam and mystical Islam.

          There has long been a shared culture that extended along SAARC, Turan, Eastern Iran, Tibet, Xinjiang, Malaysia, Indononesia, Thailand, Cambodia.

          This also true of Hindu tilted muslims, including Indonesian muslims.

          1. “Muslims want to build a temple for Hindus in Ayodhya but were hamstrung by marxist post modernist trouble makers.”

            Unaware of this but could be wrong.

            Any links to major Muslim organizations in Ayodhya requesting this? (please no RSS Muslim orgs).

          2. The “Bharatiya” tilted Muslims, who are fine with the Babri-Masjid destruction, pray at Hindu sites, and promote liberal/sufi/reformist Islam are a tiny unrepresentative minority, akin to the “Black supporters of Trump”, that the conservatives here in America like to trot around.

            90%+ of Muslims are not like that. Before the British, 90%+ of them were. That’s the difference.

        2. But it was a relatively minor divide. A Hindu from Delhi would feel more camaraderie with a Muslim from Delhi, than he would with a Hindu from Maharashtra (and visa-versa ). This is unthinkable today.

          that you stipulated delhi is important. the vast majority of peasants would have little conception of differences of ppl much beyond their village.

          now, stipulating that it’s an urban person, i think an urbanite from delhi and an urbanite from madurai (giving cities that existed at the type) is an appropriate comparison.

          i’m not sure how we can judge this well cuz it depends. if one is a UP brahmin who is in delhi, there would be dietary overlap btwn a UP brahmin and an iyer from madurai, that would not hold with a muslim from delhi. of course the language would unite the northerners. otoh, there are probably rituals and general beliefs that would unit the two brahmins together, even if they were not always consonant. on an intellectual level they work with the same toolkit, even if they apply it differently.

          ultimately i don’t know if this is very different from how ppl from bangladesh feel about bengalis from west bengal vs. pakistanis. yes, there is the religious aspect…but common language and food also matters.

          1. UP Brahmins and Middle-Castes unquestioningly allied with UP Muslim Elite and Warrior-groups in an attempt to overthrow the British and reinstall the Mughals. Upper-caste Hindus and Muslim elite outside of this region were largely apathetic to this cause, and in some cases were recruited by the British to help repulse it.

            Upper-Caste Marathas (like Shivaji) who attempted to woo northern-Rajputs to ally against the Mughals (and later the Afghans) based on a common Hindu identity, were laughed at. Neighboring Deccani Muslim elites were far more accommodating to the Marathas than Northern-Hindu elites.

        3. “A Hindu from Delhi would feel more camaraderie with a Muslim from Delhi, than he would with a Hindu from Maharashtra (and visa-versa ). This is unthinkable today.”

          1/ Not really unthinkable today.

          2/ This camaraderie is best illustrated in the diaspora. It also exists in native locales but there may also be some friction there due to constant apposition. In the diaspora, the Hindu and Muslim from Delhi *significantly more likely* to assort together, than with Tamil speaking Hindu or Muslim from Chennai, respectively (Maharashtra is a less clear-cut counter-party)

          1. Obviously we are pitting subjective narratives against each other, but I think its borderline lunacy to suggest a Hindu/Muslim from anywhere in India does not associate with his religious compatriot first (and often last).

            This holds true for the diaspora. This blog is a bit unrepresentative as a number of users here have admitted they grew up in very atypical/liberal households, but for the vast majority of Hindus/Muslims, they associate with primarily (and sometimes only) their own coreligionists.

            In my own experience across America and the UK, the Muslim-desis associate first with each other (regardless of whether Punjabi/Hyderabadi/Bengali), second with non-desi Muslims (Arab/African/Turk), and maybe a couple times a year will go to some generic South-Asian event where they will rub-shoulders with Hindus.

  2. Good introduction, I will make a deeper comment but just briefly…

    These pagan Slavs were Serbs, Wends is also the German name for Serbs. Prussians were Serbs who were ‘germanaised’ in 12th cBC but spoke Serbian until almost 200 years ago. Bismark’s grandmother could not speak German and spoke Serbian until she died. Earlier converted Catholics (e.g. Polish) had very strong role in pressing remaining Baltic Serbs to convert.

  3. “Any links to major Muslim organizations in Ayodhya requesting this? (please no RSS Muslim orgs).”

    There’s a Shia-Sunni thing going on here. The Shia Waqf board is in favour of donating land and settling the dispute once and for all.

    “A Hindu from Delhi would feel more camaraderie with a Muslim from Delhi, than he would with a Hindu from Maharashtra (and visa-versa ). This is unthinkable today.”

    Not really that unthinkable. To a large extent it is about the language.
    For example, in Karnataka, a Hindu from Delhi might get along much better with a Kannada Muslim than a Kannada Hindu because of similar preferences in music and movies (Hindustani Bollywood) and even food (roti and kebabs instead of curd rice).

    1. Are the Kannada Muslims from places like Hubli originally from the north? I have a UK born friend with origins from there who is more fluent in Hindi than Kannada. She does not look like a typical South Indian, I originally attributed that to Arab admixture.

      1. I imagine she would be speaking Urdu not Hindi?
        Indian Muslims are much humiliated as it is but I doubt that they have all lost all self-respect to abandon Urdu.

        1. This might give you some context on Karnataka Urdu.

          Btw that comedian is a pretty vocal anti-left classical liberal types. Quotes Sowell and supports military action on Pak etc.

          In my experience, though, I have found that the Muslim on the streets of Bangalore is quite taken in with north Indians because we supposedly speak a ‘cleaner’ version of Urdu/Hindi compared to the Deccani influenced Shivajinagar Urdu/Hindi that they are used to listening.

          Hindus don’t have any such hang-ups and they might even be somewhat antagonistic to non-Kannadigas.

  4. Razib Khan’s ways of thinking and analysis reminds me of Max Weber , the conservative German sociologist who lived 100 years ago.

    1. i like some of weber’s way of thinking. though he was wrong about many things (i am skeptical of his thesis about reformed Protestantism, and think he was pretty much wrong that capitalism couldn’t work in east asia because of confucianism).

      in general weber put more weight in the importance of details of ideology than i do.

      1. His ideas of Inner Weltliche Askese (inner worldly asceticism) and Calvinist spirit of hard work and high savings as drivers of economic and capitalist growth has not had many takers nowadays. But like Freud, his ideas influenced cultural analysis whether they were true or not.

  5. Thank you for making the point that “genocide” is not an appropriate word for pre-20th century events. Some people tend to use the word very loosely in ways that make very little sense (same with “Islamism” which is a modern ideology). I don’t think the Mughals were interested in “genocide” or even ethnic cleansing. If they were, then they were very bad at it, given that the majority population of India is still overwhelmingly Hindu.

    People will continue to debate about how important religion was to the Mughals. Some of this is partly the result of the British framework which divided the subcontinent’s history into the “Hindu period”, the “Muslim period” and the “British period” (not the Christian period). I don’t want to be accused of blaming everything on colonialism, but certainly they played a role in building this sense of Hindu vs. Muslim that we are still dealing with today. My own feeling is that the Mughals, like most conquerers, were more interested in building and expanding their kingdom than in some sort of jihad. If Babar hadn’t lost Samarkand, he would most likely not have come to India. If religious rhetoric was used, it was for instrumental purposes.

    1. If religious rhetoric was used, it was for instrumental purposes.

      as an irreligious atheist, my general reflex is to assume that religion is used instrumentally by elites.

      but we cannot dismiss the sacrifices and costs ppl made due to religious passions, enthusiasms, and devotion. aurangzeb’s genuine sufi sunni piety probably cost him some goodwill he could have had if he had been more pragmatic like his predecessors.

      there is also the synthesis btwn pragmatic and idealistic you can see in akbar. he probably did think his new religion was true. but, part of him cannot have escaped the thought that it was also a way to unify his turkic military vassals with the hindu rajputs in a new religion which shed old loyalties and factions.

  6. It is common knowledge that the first wave of plunderers were interested in taking wealth away. This is the set of pre-Mughal invaders. While mughals were more interested in establishing an Islamic empire. You are right, that under the conquered Mughals lands, Hindu elites who surrendered remained Hindus, but some converted of course. There was a good amount of plundering, destroying and killing by Mughals during this time. Literally, people were massacred for not converting as per the doctrine of Islam. However, three things helped to keep the Hindu system intact – 1.) Large population of hindus. 2.) Skilled labour to generate income so killing them was not a good idea 3.) Much superior and deep knowledge systems of hindusim, which was kept alive by the large population, compared to an inferior desert habitat doctrine of Islam whose tenets didn’t fit into a forest and fertile civilization. Islam wasn’t able to completely destroy the knowledge systems. With the arrival of the British the tide of Islam was stemmed, but of course we all know what happened next.

    1. 1.) Large population of hindus. 2.) Skilled labour to generate income so killing them was not a good idea 3.) Much superior and deep knowledge systems of hindusim, which was kept alive by the large population, compared to an inferior desert habitat doctrine of Islam whose tenets didn’t fit into a forest and fertile civilization.

      none of this explains why islam succeeded in converting in the near east iran and among turks in inner asia, but not in the balkans or india.

      islam fit a fertile civilization fine. in fact, it’s ‘desert origins’ are possibly made up. muhammad was not a bedouin but an urban dweller even by standard islamic history.

      1. Razib, one major reason is that Dharmic beliefs were like a “big tent”. As you are aware, there are aspects of Dharmic beliefs that are strongly monotheistic, starting with the concept of “Brahman”. There are practices that range from “Sakar” (with physical representation) to “Nirakar” (no physical form/representation) when it comes to objects of devotion. Dharmic religions also accommodate atheistic strands.

        Given this, Islam may have been seen as a belief system that was alien in origin, but many of its tenets could find a place under the Dharmic umbrella of beliefs. Despite the high culture of Persian/Turkic/Afghan/Arab elites, the communities which converted to Islam in South Asia did not abandon many of the cultural and religious practices of South Asia which far predated the arrival of Islam. This helped to create a buffer between those who continued to embrace traditional Dharmic religious beliefs.

        I also believe that the caste system of South Asia proved to be a bulwark against Islamic conversions. I have not come across a lot of evidence of entire Brahmin sub-castes converting to Islam. On the contrary there is much evidence of this among artisans, agriculturists, kshatriyas, and traders. The brahmins were the keepers of the torch when it came to many Dharmic traditions and they continued to keep the flame alive by passing on the knowledge of the ancient Sanskrit texts through the generations. Some of these brahmin castes may even have accepted the overlordship of the Islamic rulers and joined their bureaucracy, but they drew the line at “roti” and “beti”. They did not abandon their religious traditions.

        The other factor is the sheer demographic heft of India. I don’t think the Islamic ruling elites made a concerted effort to convert the masses in India because the could extract more taxes from the unbelievers. This was true initially in Iran, but geography worked against the Iranian geographic elites. As the periphery on all sides of the Iranian heartland converted to Islam, eventually the Zoroastrian core gave up the resistance and for very practical reasons converted to Islam.

        India’s geography also proved more problematic. Conquest and exploitation of the Punjab and the Gangetic belt by islamic rulers was rapid and did not throw up any serious obstacles. Rajasthan and areas where the Rajputs dominated were a much tougher nut to crack. The Rajput rulers were eventually coerced to join the Mughal enterprise but enjoyed considerable autonomy in their own domains. Unlike Iran, India was geographically a cul-de-sac, surrounded by the Himalayas. The Gondwana region of India and the Deccan in general was not as hospitable to Islamic penetration as the Indo-Gangetic plain. Yes, Allauddin Khiji and many other Muslim rulers raided the Deccan and established empires there, but the identity of Deccan Mussalmans remained a complex one in that there was considerable resentment of the “Turk”. However, it was in the Deccan that the Mughal enterprise ran aground. Marathas had become partners in Islamic empires in the Deccan similar to the role the Rajputs played in the Mughal empire. Shivaji wanted to carve out his own polity, but had many muslims in his army and navy. He was looking for Dharmic religions to have traditional pride of place as opposed to being a belief system of a subjugated people. Aurangzeb’s conquests of the Deccan drove the Marathas to despair as their traditional heartland was devastated by Mughal armies and the famines that followed. The Marathas though divided, were still able to drain the Mughal treasury and demoralize the Mughal army. After Aurangzeb, the decline of the Mughal empire was precipitous.

        To keep this short, the breadth of Dharmic religious thought, the persistence of the Brahmin castes, India’s demographic size and geography – specifically the Deccan, prevented the complete Islamization of South Asia.

        [BTW, I am in no way extolling the caste system or somehow putting the brahmins on some pedestal.]

      2. All points do in fact. Critical and free thinking were always part of Indic culture. There are multiple paths and choices available. 1.) Large populations are cumbersome to convert in the long run. How many can you kill? 2.) You don’t want to finish off skilled labour because you don’t have a backup, but you can tax them heavily. Keep them alive 3.) Much superior and deep knowledge systems mean the opposing dogmatic and prescribed ideology was confronted both in practice and intellectually and still is now.

        “None of this explains why islam succeeded in converting in the near east iran and among turks in inner asia, but not in the balkans or india.” – because of the 3rd point. Pre-Persian systems are not at par with Sanatana Dharma systems, so flipping them was easier.

        “islam fit a fertile civilization fine. in fact, it’s ‘desert origins’ are possibly made up. muhammad was not a bedouin but an urban dweller even by standard islamic history.” Possibly. But, there was a big difference between the civilizations. Urban dweller is not a metric to be compared here (Urban India was entwined with nature as well simply because of the flora and fauna back then). The indic civilizations ranged from urban/rural/tribal/mix (and still do). You have to understand, Dharma (not religion) played a big part in day to day activities. Dharma and sanskriti cannot be looked at independently but as a part of a lifestyle and the intellectual force it generates against dogmatic and exclusive belief systems. This is an intentional oversight by indologists in many cases.

        1. DM66,

          Are you using the phrases “Dharma” and “Sanskrit” as synonyms of “Hinduism”?

          I honestly do not understand the difference in meanings between:
          Aren’t all of them in many ways extensions of the same thing?

          1. Hi AnAn,

            This is going to be a little tricky but I will try by best to simplify. “Hinduism” as a word was simplified by westerners to bring it into the modern framework of other religions. That is what you read about it.

            Dharma – Comes from “Dhri” which means that which upholds or that without nothing can stand. It encompasses the innate behaviour of things, duty, law, ethics etc. Every entity in the universe has its dharma, from planets to electrons to insects. In hinduism, dharma provides principles of harmonious fulfillment in life which is in tune with the external and internal environment (Human body).

            Sanskrit – The language, but an architecture behind sanskriti which can be closely called as culture. Sanskrit is the vocabulary in which Indian civilization is encoded. Sanksrit text encompasses a lot of genres, medicine, maths, philosophy, chemistry, architecture etc. To a normal hindu this might seem vague, but one has to take careful note of his lifestyle, beliefs, material needs, thought process, emotional needs etc to see how they have been encoded in the past and have been transmitted.

            Religion – More in the framework of abrahimic religions. Top down approach, an authority has tenets set in stone, only one path etc.

            Spirituality – the ideal word should be Adyatmika. literally means pertaining to the ātma or the body. Now atma is not equal to the soul, as the hindu meaning of atma is a part of the brahman; unlike in abrahimic religions in which the soul is separate from “God”. The feeling of Adyatmika/spirituality or a desire to progress can be approached via four yogas – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.

          2. Excellent comment DM.

            For me Dharma is love in action. But then how to explain Prema or love?

            One summary of Sanathana Dharma might be:
            Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha

            Artha includes many things within it, including:
            —total factor productivity [ including medicine, maths, philosophy, chemistry, architecture etc. ]
            —freedom of art/manas/buddhi/ananda maya kosha
            —rule of law
            I see Artha as comparable to European Enlightenment classical liberalism.

            Dharma, Artha, Kama includes a relentless search for the truth, whatever it happens to be.

            There are levels of Dharma. The deeper levels of Dharma transcend all theisms, patterns, concepts.

            Moksha . . . . freedom . . . hard to define.

            Sanskrit is one of several languages with mantra naad shabda [brain sound therapy] power. Others include Tamil, ancient Chinese, Avesta, ancient Sumerian. [I include Pali within Sanskriti.] They serve many purposes which modern science does not yet understand.

            Why should Asians accept an Abrahamic frame on what religion is? Vivekananda said that Samadhi is where religion begins. Why not use our own prism to define religion? I see religion as:
            —beginning with mystical experience (pratyaksha and Samadhi)’
            —a relentless search for the truth, no matter what it is (which I think is only possible with a meditative mind that has Pratyaksha)
            —transcending all theisms, patterns, concepts (which is only possible via Samadhi pratyaksha)

            Are you defining spirituality as the quest for Moksha?

            The four paths or maargs each have many sub paths. The four being:

            Yoga itself has four sub paths:
            —Raja Yoga (Samkhya, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Tirumular’s Tirumantiram, Trika Kashmiri Shaivism, Nath Sampradaya etc.)
            —Mantra Yoga (Sri Vidya, many others)
            —Laya Yoga
            —Hatha Yoga

            Would you be open to contributing articles to Brown Pundits?

  7. I wonder why so many here are getting tripped up by notions of camaraderie and ‘have things in common’. All the commonalities in the world did not stop Pakistan affiliated Pashtuns and Afghan Pashtuns (both Sunni, Muslim, Pashto speaking) from killing each other to the tune of nearly 2 million. I can give tons more examples like these.

    I feel the real question here is why did the interests of the Muslim aristocracy and Hindu elite of North India (esp UP) diverge so dramatically from the middle of 19th century ? The roots of this divergence may indeed be cultural or even theological. And British political exigencies may have promoted this divergence, either wilfully or accidentally. But it is this divergence of interests that needs to be explained.

    My own understanding is that this divergence is probably located in the fact that the elite Hindus of UP (thakurs, kayasthas, brahmins and banias), being a kind of white collar class, were far more useful to the British in their modernization project than the elite Muslims there. OTOH, the Muslim peasantry of Punjab prospered greatly as they were recruited heavily in the British Indian army.

    We see similar animosities amongst Hindu groups, for example Kolis and Patidars of Gujarat. The formerly subordinate Patidars were found to have practices far more conducive to British state building than the previously superior Kolis (Kolis, a kshatriya group today are amongst the OBCs). This conflict is playing out to this very day.
    See here:

    The second level question is why did the Muslim peasantry of Punjab and Bengal come on aboard with the UP ashrafiat once they pitched secession (one way or the other) as the way forward. I think for the Punjabi Muslims, secession would have meant the elimination of the threat and domination of urban, Punjabi Hindus. This actually makes a good amount of sense, Punjabi Hindus dominate India in many ways (business, cinema), and there is not a small amount of resentment among other Hindu groups about this. Bengali Muslims possibly had similar reasons vis-a-vis the dominant Bengali Hindus.

    Post independence, democratization in India meant that political conflict quickly honed in on caste/biradari/jati, which is the one fact above all else, that influences wealth and security in the subcontinent. This is the main reason why the current flare up is not going to have any bearing on Indian elections, despite what many in India and abroad believe.

    In Pakistan, democratization was interrupted and stalled by military rule. After the signing of the Indus Waters treaty, the conflict between the two states is somewhat artificial, but is kept alive mainly by the poverty and lack of agency in Pakistan’s southern Punjab, which provides radical groups with enough motivated youngsters to cross the border into Kashmir, a clearly suicidal undertaking.

    1. Bengali Muslims possibly had similar reasons vis-a-vis the dominant Bengali Hindus.

      there is scholarship on this, and this is exactly true. in fact, i know this from my personal experience. my maternal grandfather was a doctor who lived from 1896 to 1996, and he was very pro-pakistan. part of it was resentment at the hindu bhadroloks who dominated the professions and so were the vast majority of his colleagues during his early career.

      1. Wow. Very interesting Razib.

        I wonder why the 1943 Bengal famine didn’t sour Bengali muslims to Jinnah and Islamic governance and Pakistan?

        As a doctor, your grandpa’s perspective on the 1943 Bengal famine would be interesting.

        Can you add color to what about Dharmo badroloks (Dharmic gentlement) your grandfather critiqued? Was it arrogance? The sense that they were very smart and wise? Pride of knowledge, intelligence and spiritual achievement?

        1. the main issue is that they patronized muslim bengalis. which is not unexpected given that there were few muslim bengalis in the professional classes. the traditional muslim elite of bengal patronized urdu.

          1. Awe yes.

            Condescending patronizing pretentious people who pity [select subaltern group], think they aren’t that potentially powerful or wise, think they need help, and try to save them.

            Yes, I can see that among the super educated very intelligent Bengali elite of the 1930s and 1940s. These were the most post modernist structuralist culturally marxist fabian socialist group of people in India during that time. They were more English than the English . . . . and mostly in bad ways.

            This is very high level though. Too bad I can’t ask him questions now. I would have loved to learn his perspectives on Dwarkanath Tagore, Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Lahiri Mahasaya, Yogananda, Sri Aurobindo, Gandhi.

            I have long puzzled over why more of the educated and business elite of Bengal pre 1947 were not muslim. Bengal was one of the most important and emphasized provinces of the Mughal empire. Dhaka in particular was one of the largest and most important cities in the world in the 1700s. Bengal was long known for her amazing Farsi authors, poets and thought leaders. [Hard as it is to believe now much of Bengal’s literature use to be in Farsi. Many Hindus use to know Farsi.]

    2. Part of it was driven by wanting to break free from Hindu domination of government jobs, the professions, business, politics, academia etc. A lot more of it was driven by bottom-up fear of Muslims worried their future would be pretty dicey in a state where Hindus would rule. The landed gentry in Punjab were keen to stay part of a united India and only got on board with separation due to demands for it from the populace. The Khilafat movement in the 1920s saw a great burst of Hindu-Muslim amity which petered out after its failure.

      1. Muslims had been living in various kingdoms ruled by Hindus or Sikhs (Sikh Empire, Maratha Empire and subsequent states, Wodeyars, Dogras and Kerala). Indeed, most of the princely states of British India were Hindu ruled. These questions, for the most part, didnt really come up then. This was because elite Muslims were still valuable to these kingdoms as military men or administrators. It was only in the British ruled areas, especially UP where they lost out to Hindus in such competition.

        I am not sure how the populace could have any influence on Punjabi Muslim landlords. They had no right to vote and were totally dependent on them for food and wages.

        Finally, the argument that the future of community X would be dicey due to rule of community Y is unverifiable. You could argue about how the incipient Constitution was discriminatory towards Muslims, but that argument is never made, because it cant really be made. This is a problem for the Kashmiri separatists as well, they cant really articulate what their issue with India’s Constitution is, and hence have to resort to rhetoric about inherent Hindu malevolence towards Muslims.

      2. Ali, was there fear that without Hindus (including Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains) to ally with minority and liberal muslims . . . Islamists might take over?

        Or was 1947 Indian (SAARC) Islam so liberal that this possibility had not occurred to them?

        “Part of it was driven by wanting to break free from Hindu domination of government jobs, the professions, business, politics, academia etc. ”

        This does not make rational sense. These were meritocratic systems in the 1940s. Wasn’t it obvious that if the best and brightest left . . . there would be a drop in total factor productivity ceteris paribus?

        1. This fear was not there among the liberal Muslims in 1947. They were hoping then and still are for something like how Israel is a Jewish state but a secular one in practice. Or how Turkey is built around the Turkic Muslim ethnicity, but used to be Kemalist and anti sharia.

          Basic idea of partition was to give space for a Muslim intelligentsia academia to grow with the Hindus and Sikhs gone, but not something Islamic in doctrine as far as governance.

          Nobody gave much thought to the power of religious zealots in 1947. Everything from 1857 to failure of Khilafat movement was pointing to the upcoming dominance of liberal Muslims…

          Irony is that once the 100% Muslim space was carved out in 47, the Islamists who had up until then either stayed away from partition or opposed it completely ended up gleefully flocking to these spaces to continue their own projects….

  8. There is a great faith in “interest” accounting to explain social phenomena. Who has what interests ? How finely can we chop human groupings and assign ‘interests’ to them on a group basis to hopefully post-hoc ‘explain’ what happened.

    There are many problems with this.

    It presumes perfectly rational human beings driven purely by self-interest operating under conditions of total information availability.

    Such explanations are always trotted out *after the fact*. They rarely seem to have much predictive power – especially in the short run.

    At least in this case, tribal identity has much more saliency. Particularly in times of conflict where rumours, gossip and existential fears are successfully whipped up and no agent exists to counter it effectively.

    1. Identity has little predictive power in explaining conflict. Europeans, who supposedly share an identity today were slaughtering millions of people till 70 years ago. Today’s ‘Special relationship’ US and UK were making conducting proxy wars against each other for much of the 19th century.

      In the subcontinent, if ‘tribal identity’ trumped interests, Bangladesh would be sending as many terrorists into India as Pakistan is. And a good chunk of Pakistani terrorists in Kashmir would come from middle and upper classes from across the country. This is absolutely not the case.

      In a monarchic society, every mass has an elite, and there is a quid pro quo between them. The masses provide labor and canon fodder, while the elites provide protection and wages (real and psyhcic). Once an extant elite’s ability to provide this breaks down, identity is reconfigured.

      1. Vikram says
        In a monarchic society, every mass has an elite, and there is a quid pro quo between them. The masses provide labor and canon fodder, while the elites provide protection and wages (real and psyhcic). Once an extant elite’s ability to provide this breaks down, identity is reconfigured.

        I would restate as
        a) “In a monarchic/dictatorship/democracy, every mass has an elite.
        b) while the elites provide protection (against real and fabricated threats*) and wages.

        Threats real or fabricated can be internal, external or conceptual.
        i) Internal: amplification of ethnic/religious divisions within the country
        ii) External: such as invasions, economic colonialism
        iii) Conceptual: Socialism, Capitalism, Communism

        1. sbarrkum, my only point of disagreement would be the fact that in a democracy the elite doesnt really *have* a mass. The balance of power is a little more even, and the masses can dispose of an elite without the involvement of a third party or providence.

          1. And it is this point that makes the Pakistani military and associated elite so wary of deeper democracy. Once the society democratizes the costs of pointless conflict with India (both in human and monetary terms) would become too heavy to ignore. Better safety nets will decrease the availability of canon fodder, and the monetary resources needed for this expenditure will decrease the military’s ability to spend on its terrorism infrastructure.

          2. Vikram, what Pakistan needs is less democracy than freedom.

            Freedom of art and thought to be precise. This will facilitate dialogue. Which will facilitate the melting of hearts. The rest will take care of itself.

            Often democracies push for large defense budgets.
            —In South Korea and Japan for example the public is pushing for larger defense budgets than policy makers want.
            —The Afghan public, especially woman, are more hawkish than Afghanistan’s political leaders (who are more realistic about the need to surrender partial Afghanistan autonomy and sovereignty to the Pakistani Army.)
            —Have Palestinian voters demanded cuts in the Palestinian National Security Forces (NSF).
            —Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iraq are all examples where the public wants larger defense budgets and more security.

      2. peter turchin has done work which suggests that quantitatively the magnitude as well as the qualitative brutality of war is greater BETWEEN civilizations than WITHIN them. need to dig it up

        1. At a first glance, this doesnt seem to ring true. In the 20th century, the World Wars in Europe, Chinese civil war and Cultural Revolution, conflicts amongst Muslims have all had far greater death tolls than the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India.

        2. Razib, I think this is mostly true.

          However ancient and even recent records about wars and casualties are notoriously inaccurate, which reduces the value of econometrics done using them.

          Most people who calculate war casualties neither understand math deeply nor understand how war works in detail. The second of the two is the greater problem.

  9. Most history i feel in subjective on where we stand today( and who we are). The reason why Aurangzeb is seen as a manic(in India) and not some sort of “great unifier of India” (as he’s seen in Pakistan) is because unlike Europe’s pagans under Charlemagne the Hindus outlived their muslim rulers. Charlemagne was successful while Indian muslim rulers were not. Or else just like Zoroastrianism is a memory in Iran , similarly Hinduism would have been some sort of evil past for Indians(just like its for Pakistanis). That’s the reason why Shivaji/Pratap are not a footnote in history(like Raja Dahir of Sindh) but proto-nationalist.

    Who at the end “represents” the state and who is a “outsider” depends finally on who at present point in time constitutes the “insider/native”

    Also a lot of tenuous coexistence b/w Hindus and Muslims in pre British time is wrongly being characterized as “acceptance” of the other. The divide was always there, and the inability of hindus to put their world order over the Muslims(like what’s happening now in N-India) is being mistaken for lack of animosity b/w pre British hindus and muslims. I mean what exactly do you expect the hindus living during Aurangzeb time do with the Babri mosque? Bring it down?

    1. Or else just like Zoroastrianism is a memory in Iran , similarly Hinduism would have been some sort of evil past for Indians(just like its for Pakistanis).

      iranians don’t view zoroastrianism that way unless they are islamist though (large minority are). a lot of them view it nostalgically as their history and that’s why ferdowsi’s epic is popular: depicting a time when iran was independent of arabs and their religion.

      secular nationalist iranians in fact espouse zoroastrianism, though it’s more of a cultural affectation than belief.

      this attitude toward zorastrianism would not exist i think if 50% were still zoroastrian.

      i think aurangzeb is not analogized to charlemagne well. rather, though there are major differences, he’s julian the apostate: a sincere believer in a view that turned out to be on the ‘wrong side of history’, despite his general competence.

    2. your comment is good. a lot of it reminds me of attitudes toward jews and how they behave. after the second jewish rebellion the religion became quietistic. jews stopped converting people or being aggressive in the world.

      that changed when israel was founded.

      when jews could impose their will, they did. their lack of imposition was a reflection of lack of power.

      1. Yeah i mean lot of time is wasted in these discussion on “did Ghazni/Aurangzeb really believe in Islam or was it just some medieval property dispute” . I mean why not look at sikhs for example. For all the latest muslim-sikh punjabi bonhomie, as soon as Ranjit Singh could he was turning mosque into stables

        Also just diagree a bit on the whole Zoroastrianism thing, i feel its value in today;s Iran is a bit inflated by diaspora as well as liberal Iranians. Agree on this “this attitude toward zorastrianism would not exist i think if 50% were still zoroastrian.” I feel liberal Indians in a muslim majority India would have seen a lot more “Charvakas” LOL, harking back to supposedly India’s liberal “hindu” past.

        On Charlemagne, LOL, i am not as well read as you are , just have a bit finite number of examples. 😛

        1. I feel liberal Indians in a muslim majority India would have seen a lot more “Charvakas” LOL, harking back to supposedly India’s liberal “hindu” past.

          100% agree on this.

          1. Many Indonesian/Malaysian muslims are nostalgic about their eastern philosophy heritage.

            This is a real world case study.

            Two of my caucasian Hindu friends are in Indonesia studying classical Javanese Indonesian muslim dance/music performances of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Have been in Java for a year. The teachers and other students are muslims.

            Indonesian muslim Hinduism is a real thing.

        2. Saurav, India’s Hindu past is “liberal” in the classical European enlightenment sense. Classical European enlightenment liberalism was partly inspired by Europeans reading eastern texts 1500s to 1800s.

          Saurav, Iranians are deeply proud of their Arya roots! The Zorastrian nostalgia is real.

          Afghanistan after 2001 insisted on calling their national airline Ariana (Dari Pharsi for Arya) to the shock of the international community.

          Kushal would say that Hindus are becoming Abrahamized and worries about the danger of this. One example of this is that many Hindus no longer believe in the value of free art and thought . . . despite this being the Hindu norm for thousands of years. Many Hindus are turning against large parts of eastern philosophy.

  10. Fantastic piece!

    My only comment is that Islam would have had a lot more purchase in India had the Turco-Persian elite bought into the Sanskrit cosmopolis. But then again, there’s barely an orthodoxy as obstinate as brAhmaNa-s in this world. So that probably would have never happened.

    Anyway, Indian Reconquista is for good now. Fait accompli.

  11. Dear Razib,

    Why do you make the assumption that because Turks are ~10% East Eurasian, they must be only slightly descended from Turks? The Turkics were not East Eurasian. Some were fully West Eurasian, others were mixed with East Eurasian. The Ottoman dynasty ruling family Y-DNA haplogroup was R1a-Z93. That makes them similar to the Kyrgyz and Western Mongolians, who were originally fully West Eurasian:

    The type of Dingling, recovered on the basis of a summary of information, is “characterized by the following features: medium, often high, growth, dense and strong physique, oblong face, white skin with the blush on the cheeks, blond hair, nose protruding forward, straight, often Roman kind”. [G. E. Grumm-Grzhimailo. Western Mongolia and the Uryanghai region. Volume Two. A historical sketch of these countries in connection with the history of Central Asia. – L., 1926 – p. 34-35]

    Liu Yuan, the Xiongnu conqueror of Luoyang in 311, had a height of 184 cm; in his long beard were red hair…

    The Chinese sources of the Tang period describe the Kyrgyz as “tall, with red hair, pale faces, and green or blue eyes”, and similar descriptions are found in Muslim and Tibetan sources (Tanghuiyao, Juan 100, p.1784, Xin Tangshu, Juan 217b, p.6147)

    From Chinese chronicle Gan-mu:
    “Kincha (Kipchak) is about 30 thousand li from the Middle State. In summer the nights are extremely short. The sun will hardly turn down and immediately rises. This country produces excellent horses, and rich people breed them in a great variety. Residents usually recline on metal and skin. Courageous and brave; strong and ardent. Their eyes are blue, their hair is reddish. Möngke with the army came to the sea Khuan-tkhien-hi-si. Suddenly a strong wind rose and the sea waters dried up”.


    If the R1a in the Ottoman dynasty came from Turks such as the ones described above, before they mixed in modern Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, that would mean the Turks who invaded Anatolia were minimally East Eurasian. I am not saying that makes Turks the descendants of Seljuks/Ottomans but rather that your reasoning is a bit flawed.

    1. Why do you make the assumption that because Turks are ~10% East Eurasian, they must be only slightly descended from Turks?

      first, i doubled it since there was admixture in west eurasia (using turkoman as sources).

      the r1a could be old indo-european. but more likely it’s just admixture from iranian groups.

      i’m pretty sure the descriptions of turks as european looking is due to admixture with indo-european iranian types early on. but the turkic language is clearly ‘eastern’ in its phylogenetic affinities. just because the chinese describe a population as looking a particular way doesn’t mean most of them do look that way…people tend to describe common atypicalities since they are salient.

      as for the original ottoman turks, some of their old canons of beauty seem pretty ‘oriental’ from what i have read/heard. so i think they had a substantial east eurasian load (which increases monotonically in a transect a you go back to the altai region).

      1. “first, i doubled it since there was admixture in west eurasia (using turkoman as sources).”

        There was admixture, but we don’t know exactly when where and how much took place, and we can’t use living groups who aren’t directly connected to others to prove what happened on a highly mobile steppe environment. There was admixture — but East Eurasian must have been the minimal component rather than the maximal, as it is today.

        “i’m pretty sure the descriptions of turks as european looking is due to admixture with indo-european iranian types early on. but the turkic language is clearly ‘eastern’ in its phylogenetic affinities. just because the chinese describe a population as looking a particular way doesn’t mean most of them do look that way…people tend to describe common atypicalities since they are salient.”

        The Chinese said the majority of them were tall, light haired, light eyed. I have over 30 references of Xiongnu, Kyrgyz, Gökturks, Mongols, etc being described as blond/red haired, green/blue eyed/tall, big nosed, etc. Also, multiple physical example of blond or red hair from graves associated with 4th century Turks, such as this:

        “as for the original ottoman turks, some of their old canons of beauty seem pretty ‘oriental’ from what i have read/heard. so i think they had a substantial east eurasian load (which increases monotonically in a transect a you go back to the altai region).”

        It increases today, but we don’t know what it was like a thousand years ago. As for the beauty thing, I have no idea what you are talking about. The earliest Ottoman Sultan (Osman I) is described as being tall, wheat-colored skin, hazel eyed, black hair. Yet, Orhan Gazi, the son of Osman I is described as blue eyed, blond haired. How can Orhan Gazi have such pigmentation if his father didn’t also have significant Europoid ancestry? His mother Malhun Hatun was a dark featured Turk. Both parents must have had significant Europoid ancestry that was’t expressed phenotypically.

        Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe two DNA samples have already been recovred from the earliest Seljuks (?) in Anatolia, and the highest East Asian component was 40%. The other specimen was only like 20%. If you are not already aware of these two specimens I will search for the source. And I’d just like to re-emphasize I’m not trying to argue that the Turkish nation as a whole is descended from Seljuks, only that the descriptor of Turks as East Eurasian is very dubious — there were relatively pure West Eurasians among them and the turnover to majority East Eurasian autosomal components happened gradually over time and in different places.

        In any case, i appreciate your taking the time to read and respond.

  12. Great post. Always appreciate a Dzunghar mention.

    Grew up 10 miles up US-9 from the Dzunghars’ one New World outpost. Visited their 3 (Tibetan-run) temples last year; the vibe in their neighborhood is more redneck than steppe.

    1. “Grew up 10 miles up US-9 from the Dzunghars’ one New World outpost”

      Very curious, where would this be?

  13. “the r1a could be old indo-european”

    Razib is right (although the proper term for ‘indo-european’, i.e. the former-“indo-germaniche” is ‘serbian’). I wrote about this context before. Russian geneticist found that Aryans who came to SA via Russia mixed on the way with people in today’s Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan. Some of them settled there and I have hundreds of Serbian toponyms even ritual songs from this region. I did mentioned this before when I said that our well known, colourful friend Jaggu was coming back to his (Serbian) ancestors’ roots but many thought about this as a joke.

  14. As I said, very good intro text, I could write a book referring on some presented facts. Speaking about genocides and conversions, let me say just couple words about Luzicki (Lusitanian) Serbs in today’s Germany.

    In the 12th century colonization began and Germans began settling in Serbian territories. Serbs were forbidden to live in the cities, except in the suburbs where they could be only drapers, carpenters, fishermen, but until the 16th century they still had their own prefects, judges and their deputies in terrestrial courts.
    During the Thirty Years and Seven Years Wars, Napoleon Wars, First and Second World War armies were passing through the countries of the Lusitanian Serbs, followed by plague. After them, the decimated population always faced the colonization of the Germans, violent assimilations and Germanisations. Do not speak German? You cannot get married. Are you a Serb? You cannot wear leather shoes. Do you speak Serbian at home? Death penalty!!! You want to live in the city? Forget about your origin.

    Hitler killed about 90% of Lusitanian Serbs. There are now about 60.000 indigenous Serbs in Germany presented in this photo.

    The most famous Germans of Serbian origin:
    Bismarck – the founder of German state
    Leibniz – the founder of German Academy of Sciences
    Katarina II – Russian empress
    Martin Luther – the founder of Protestantism

    Note – as a descendent of converted Serb, Luther had strong hatred toward Serbs, wrote very bad about them and behaved similar to later converts for e.g. Croats and Bosniacs. This phenomenon of unparalleled hatred is really interested. I wander if something similar exists in regard to converted Muslims in Hindustan.

  15. Another couple words about Wends, mentioned in the text.

    Wiki says: In the Middle Ages the term Wends (i.e. Vendi) often referred to West Slavs and Slovenes living within the Holy Roman Empire. Germanic peoples first applied this name to the ancient Veneti.

    Veneti are a Serbian tribe which founded the city of Venice (i.e. Venetia) so as Raseni Serbs (i.e. Etruscans) founded the city of Rome. Italians still call Slavic people – Veneti. Veneti were a merchant rank and they developed strong trade in this part of Europe. The name for ‘commerce and trade’ in all S.Europe languages is ‘vendare’ which came from Latin which was earlier taken from Serbian.

    Today’s terms – Vendor, Vendor management, Vending machine, comes from the name of Serbian tribe Veneti, later called by Germans as Wends (i.e Vendi or Vindi).

    1. Milan, I am learning a lot about Serbian history and connections to South Asia from your posts. Thank you!

      1. “Milan” (a pseudonym?) believes in some kind of alternative history where the Serbs are the original Indo-European people. Every nation in Europe goes back to some tribe, and all the tribes were Serbian, so everything comes from the Serbs. This is not a commonly accepted view.

        1. Hi Mitch, thanks for your consideration.

          “Some kind of alternative history” – does it mean false history?
          “Alternative” to which version? Vatican’s? Wiki?

          “commonly accepted view?” – again, does it mean, wrong view or Wiki view?

          Any objection re previous comments? Wends? Lusitanian Serbs? Veneti? Etruscans? Katarina II? Vending machine?

          OK. Can you tell us who were the natives of Europe?
          Which language was spoken in Europe in 5000BC (or 2000BC)?
          Did Serbs migrate to Balkan in the 7th c.AC (“common view”)?
          If – yes, pls provide one only primary source (e.g. within 200 years from this migration).

          Let start from your background if it is not secret. Scottish?

          The simplest thing is to find which is the oldest R1A in Europe and how old are other R1As in Europe (or in India for e.g.).

          Please surprise me and say – Scott! Cheers!

        2. Mitchel, Milan has long commented on BP.

          Can you share your perspective on ancient (pre 2000 BC) Serbian history?

  16. I apologize for my discursive intrusion. My superiors in the Antarctogaian space empire have reminded me that it is imperial policy to support the reemergence of the Vendo-Vedic axis. May Tesla and Vivekananda be an inspiration to us all.

    1. No worries Mitch. You were enough smart to realize that you are on wrong place at wrong time. No single reference on anything above, no any answer on my questions. No even answer on big dilemma, (brother) Scott or Pom, to find out what was your ancient “tribe”. I am glad that you mentioned Tesla, a Serb who changed the stream of human civilization. Stay within some kind of “non-alternative common view”. And stay there cool. Pass my regards to Michael. All the best.

  17. Iran doesn’t map entirely onto India; it had a distinct Mesopotamian identity. The first Achamenid rulers (Cyrus) were profoundly influenced by Iraq.

    Also Iran (and Persian culture) has feminised and hence why it’s sort of the French of the East, the Belle lettres.

    Urdu is a feminine expression of Indian culture.. I wrote a post on this but private blogged it

    1. Xerxes, there are significant similarities between Sumerian religion/culture and Sanathana Dharma. Why do you think this is?

  18. Zack, you should repost “Urdu is a feminine expression of Indian culture”. Urdu – a language that grew out of army camps in South Asia where there was Islamic elites – Turkish and Persian, but there was no common lingua franca…..

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