The Unresolved Contrast Between the Philosophical History and Political History of India

K.M. Munshi's brilliant exposition of the gap and the contrast that exists between the philosophical and the political history of India. Unless this gap is resolved, the highly charged battles of Indian history writing will continue.
The Unresolved Contrast Between the Philosophical History and Political History of India

In this series

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The Unresolved Contrast Between the Philosophical History and Political History of India
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The Unresolved Contrast Between the Philosophical History and Political History of India

Because K.M. Munshi lived this Sanatana value system, he gave us a highly accurate perspective to understand not just the history but the psyche and forces that defined and shaped the dark period of Muslim rule. This perspective tells us that the epochal year of 1000 CE marks the end of ancient India and birthed medieval India, an era that can be correctly called the Muslim period. Munshi describes the finale of the trajectory of this period in memorable phraseology.

Till the rise of the Hindu power in Maharasthra in the eighteenth century, India was to pass through a period of collective resistance.

When was the last time you read the phrase, “period of collective resistance” in any mainstream work of Indian history? Indeed, R.C. Majumdar echoes Munshi when he describes this period more bluntly: he calls it as the period during which India first lost her freedom to an alien imperialism disguised as a religion.

The official history of the freedom movement starts with the premise that India lost independence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries. Real history, on the other hand, teaches us that the major part of India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely changed masters in the eighteenth century.

I call it as the Age of Hindu Enslavement in their own homeland.

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Among the most notable insights that Munshi provides about the Age of Resistance is the enduring legacy of the indomitable Mihira Bhoja of Kanauj. We’re stunned with admiration when we learn the fact that Mihira Bhoja seeded a tightly-knit confederacy of various clans of Gujarat and Rajasthan into an “invulnerable hierarchy.” This hierarchy would outlast him for over a thousand years and its several branches became the powerful Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan. Here is the glimpse Munshi gives:

Many of the Rajput rulers who surrendered power in the great integration of 1947-48 were descendants of the feudatories and generals of Mihira Bhoja.

This genius-level of political and military organization is unparalleled anywhere in the world and its story has still not been told in the truthful manner it merits. And only people like Munshi could detect this unbroken continuity for such a prolonged period because they were rooted in the cultural and civilisational fount that gave rise to it.

Facets of the Age of Resistance

Tracing the origins of the Age of Resistance to Mahmud Ghazni’s barbaric, Islam-fuelled invasions up to the rise of the Khaljis, Munshi correctly says that this period has not been studied from India’s point of view which includes the “trials she passed through; of the sufferings she underwent when foreign elements forced their way into her life-blood…how she reacted to the situation…of the ways in which she reconstructed, achieved and fulfilled herself.” As we note the pathetic state of history-writing even today, barring few exceptional works written by devoted scholars and writers, this story remains largely untold.

Even more brilliantly, this is how Munshi encapsulates the full truth of the Age of Resistance or the Muslim period:

The magnificence of Akbar’s achievements in the sixteenth century, by an illusory retrospectivity casts a reflected glamour on the period of the [Delhi] Sultanate. Because the Mughal Empire was an experiment in national monarchy presided over by a Muslim monarch, one comes to assume, by an easy transition, that the Muslim-dominated Sultanate was the chrysalis from which it sprang.

The permanent destruction of ancient India after 1000 CE occurred solely because of the fundamental creed of the alien religion that invaded it. Earlier foreign invaders like the Greeks, Kushanas, Sakas and Hunas were comprehensively expelled but those who stayed back were seamlessly absorbed into the soothing and accommodating currents of the Sanatana river. This happened because in Munshi’s words, “the vitality of the culture and social organization found it easy to absorb most of these alien elements.” Thus,

This continuous vitality is a phenomenon, without appreciating which it is difficult to study the epochs of Indian history in continuous time…Of them, perhaps the most important was the ‘Aryavarata consciousness’ which threw up values and institutions of great vigour and tenacity.

The term Aryavarata consciousness is a highly original coinage of K.M. Munshi about which we have written in detail in a separate essay. Indeed, every major Hindu political resurgence during the Age of Resistance is themed by the invisible but subconsciously present Aryavarata Consciousness—from the grand Vijayanagara Empire to the founding of the Sikh Pantha to Shivaji, the Maratha Empire and Maharaja Ranjit Singh. India has risen each time Sanatana Dharma has resurged.

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The lesser-known aspects on the Hindu side during this Age of Resistance are truly eye-opening.

The aggressive attitude of the [Turkish Muslims]…led to the religious, cultural, and psychological resistance on the part of the people of the country, who, in contra-distinction…came to be referred to as ‘Hindus.’ The Hindus fought the conquistador spirit of the Muslims by developing a challenging superiority complex. They made compromises with the rulers when compelled; they served them when they could not help doing so. But they would not let them defile the sanctity of their homes or castes, social and religious observances by encouraging indiscriminate contact with the Muslims.

Munshi’s analysis is pure gold and at once shatters the infinite myths of a timeless Hindu-Muslim unity and an alleged syncretic culture. Indeed, few things have damaged the Hindu psyche as much as this colossal myth of syncretic culture, a myth created by weak-kneed Hindus of the late eighteenth century which reached several Gandhian climaxes later.

On a much more mundane plane, this is yet another reality of the myth. Throughout the Age of Resistance,

The Hindus remained in the spheres of trade, commerce and banking. The Muslims, however intolerant…had to treat the Hindu mercantile community with consideration though it was inspired by self-interest and often grudging. The foreign trade, on which the [Muslim rulers] depended, was in the hands of Hindus of the west coast, who traded with Persia and Arabia. The extravagant young Muslims also found it impossible to indulge in a life of gaiety without the money, which the Hindu banker was not unwilling to provide in order to secure freedom from harassment.

The History of the Dharmasastras

The history of our Dharmasastras is another parallel track that has almost a one-to-one correspondence to the political and economic history of the Age of Resistance. As Munshi observes, the Hindus of this period tried to

…protect their culture, religion and social order, rebuilding on the old foundations…The Dharmasastras were given a higher sanctity; the edge of social ostracism was sharpened. Women were segregated in their homes; infant marriages became almost universal. Self-immolation by heroic women on the funeral pyre, when their husbands lost their life in battle, became the supreme form of martyrdom, which kept a sense of religious and cultural superiority at white heat.

And today we have a substantial number of young Hindu women who jeer these heroic women by reducing them only to their vaginas. This depraved mindset is the direct creation of the “education” system of “independent” India.

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The Role of Sanyasis and Acharyas

The treatment of the history of the Age of Resistance will remain incomplete without narrating the stellar and central role that our Acharyas, Swamis, Bairagis, Yogis, and bards played in keeping the Sanatana flame burning at a profound level. It was a decentralized national network of spiritual resistance which aided the swords of the millions of patriots waiting to overthrow the hated Turushka. This spiritual resistance, like the Sanatana-Ganga, was a perennial flow. Its most recent eruption was the incredible Sanyasi Andolan that lasted a full fifty years from 1770-1820 against the East India Company. The Sanyasi Andolan inspired Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya to write his masterpiece, Anandmath, a crown-jewel of Indian and Bengali literature. K.M. Munshi poignantly describes these Sanyasis in the Age of Resistance:

These Acharyas were not merely philosopher saints. They were ardent evangelists, with an inspired sense of mission. They and their followers travelled from one place of pilgrimage to another…established contacts…held discourses, and made disciples who wandered from countryside to countryside…

From this emerges another important factor of Indian history that has largely been overlooked if not wholly ignored. Indeed, it is quite amazing that the history of Indian philosophy, spirituality, sects, and schools have largely been preserved intact without distortions. This history presents a continuous and cohesive narrative from the Vedic era up to the present but the political history of India is a quagmire of distortions, rampant whitewashing and patent falsehoods. Munshi’s words in this regard will remain relevant until this situation is resolved with truth, determination and perseverance as our guides.

While the history of religion and philosophy from the Vedas down to our times is well documented, that of political history is…hardly adequate to be shaped into a continuous narrative…whatever the political vicissitudes, be they internecine wars or foreign invasion, our sages, seers, and poets went on undisturbed in their quest for unity—social, cultural and spiritual. Even in the present century when political thought and scientific approach dominate…the great names of Indian history are those of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Dayananda Saraswati…This is a fact of history which the present generation may carefully bear in mind.

This completes our discussion on K.M. Munshi’s magnificent vision for writing the full history of India. He realized the vision in the form of the majestic eleven volumes of The History and Culture of the Indian People published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, another enduring institution he founded.

The story of how these volumes were written will be narrated in the next and concluding part of this series.

To be continued

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