The Nehruvian Squandering of the Hindu Cultural Empire: Nuggets from DVG

Excerpts from DVG's writings on how the Nehruvian policy after Independence systematically destroyed India's cultural empire in southeast Asia leading to a loss of cultural self-confidence.
The Nehruvian Squandering of the Hindu Cultural Empire: Nuggets from DVG
ASEP FATHULRAHMAN

We have often rued here and elsewhere that it is a profound tragedy that DVG’s fame over the years has come to rest only on his philosophical Mankutimmana Kagga, perhaps at the expense of the other invaluable body of work he has bequeathed to us. A huge bulk of this work comprises his political writings that are truly multidimensional in nature, highly original in its arguments, and encyclopedic in scope and treatment. Indeed, it deserves an independent study in its own right.

One can only give a few samples by way of illustration.

Writing in 1970, DVG correctly puts the United Nations in perspective. The occasion: the communist terror that was spreading throughout Southeast Asia with Vietnam and Cambodia as puppets. The Cambodian Prince Sihanouk is firmly in the thrall of the international Communist forces and DVG notes how he is not a convinced Communist. Yet, apart from mouthing platitudes, the UN does nothing. DVG describes how

The United Nations keeps discreetly dumb. It knows its weaknesses which makes it impotent against the strong.

Of course, DVG wasn’t alone in pointing out the UN’s impotence. However, what distinguishes his analysis is the context and perspective he offers. Let’s read it in his own words in a pithy editorial on the subject titled Cambodia and India. Emphases have been added.

Cambodia and India

It is humiliating to us to think of the position of our own country in this context. Thanks to the great winner of independence and his daughter,India stands tied to the apron­-strings of the mother of Communism even though the bulk of India's population is not communist. Flirting with Russia and dreading China, India's. relations with America are ambiguous; and she must seem all things to all men and nothing in particular to any one, which is her non-alignment! And what gives poignancy to the reflection that we are so miserably incapable of going at least to the moral support of Cambodia is the recollection of the historical fact of our ancient kinship. Once upon a time perhaps about the time of the beginning of the Christian era – Cambodia was part of the cultural empire of Hinduism.

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The very names bear witness:

Kamboja = land of conch-shells or elephants

Narodam = Narottama

Khmer = Kshema Veera

Souvana Phom = Sarvabhouma.

More than philology are the temple monuments of Angkor, with episodes of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata sculptured on their walls. This fact at least should inspire a filial concern in our minds for the fate of Cambodia. But are we not ourselves in the process of bending the knee before the Communist Baal?

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Weak-Kneed Nehruvian Approach

This same Nehruvian weak-kneed approach to asserting our cultural heritage as a vital element of our foreign policy has cost us dearly. Arguably, had we not taken this road of shedding and shredding our cultural inheritance on the global stage, it is doubtful whether the asuric forces of conversion and Hindu-demonization could have made such massive inroads today.

DVG provides a glimpse of the other side of the coin of the craven behavior in not standing up for Cambodia. This is a caustic opinion piece whose title leaves no room for doubt: How the Mahabharata should not be presented to Western audiences. Do read it and reflect on whether the situation he described in 1970 has not worsened over the years. Emphases have been added.

How the Mahabharata should not be presented to Western audiences

The distance that separates the beautiful from the ugly is just a hair's breadth. Add no more than a line or take away no more than a line from an eye or a nose in a picture, it will cease to attract, and may even repel you. Nothing is easier than to take an episode from an ancient epic and, in the name of modern art, to caricature it. It is not necessary that the intention to caricature should be present. Caricature is bound to be the result if there is not perceptivity for the fine and- the significant in the artist.Crudeness of mind or hand is enough to make vulgar that which should have been a noble work of art.

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The Times of June 24, has an account of the staging of the Mahabharata in Sadler's Wells theatre in London. The writer's (Mr. John Percival) comment is :

They have brought five different programmes. Monday's Mahabharata lasted almost three hours and these are only extracts from the full dance-play! It is about a king so stupid that the loses all his wealth, kingdom, brothers, wife and finally self, playing dice with three most obvious cheats you ever saw in your life; and then about the bloodthirsty vengeance his brother Bhima takes on two men who insulted the (apparently communal) wife. The mixture of knock-about comedy and violent tragedy is reminiscent of Jacobean drama. The gambling game has a droll inevitability as, one by one, the brothers cross the stage into captivity, and their enemy Dussasana dances with growing glee at their discomfiture. The murder of Dussasana by Bhima is horrifying as the killer gets blood all over his hands, rips open his victim's belly with bare fingers, and pulls out lengths of gut to chew. The fact the blood is red paint and the gut red cord is irrelevant: the intention is frightening and the effect horrific. An objection from the view point of Western audiences is that even these scenes, which have a universal dramatic appeal, tend to be long-winded by our standards; and that between them are expository passages which, without understanding of the chanted commentary, make little sense. Close study of the long, explanatory programme is essential for even partial comprehension; arrive not less than fifteen minutes early to allow for this point. The programme assures us, incidentally, that before performing, the actors “wait until the spirit of the god enters into them”. What if the god refuses, I wondered; Is the performance deferred or an understudy called? The explanation of an Indian friend is more prosaic: “They have to work just harder."

A work of art that is full of meaning to the Hindu, may in a crude handling, be made ugly and meaningless to a non-Hindu. The interpretation of a Hindu classic needs great creative skill on the part of the interpreter if his work should produce in the Westerner

the impression which it could produce in the original on the mind of the Hindu.

Postscript

It helps to read this closely and in fact, is beneficial to actually memorise DVG’s words if only to arrest the further decline of the manner in which our epic and puranic literature continue to be mangled beyond recognition. Half a century after DVG wrote this, the scene has only worsened to the extent that today, creative interpretation has become synonymous with literary licentiousness. There is a sickening mass of such works—some written with the authors’ explicit declaration of “doing justice to Draupadi or Kunti” or pushing the open propaganda of Western political ideologies. The sadder part is the fact that such “books” are written by those who declare that they are Hindu, using highly imaginative definitions of the term, which has neither the sanction of the Sastras nor is rooted in a life lived as a Hindu.

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