Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sri Krishnadevaraya Reduced to a Footnote: It’s Time to Bury Such Politics of History

An unfortunate outcome of the contemporary fashion of thinking and the resultant public discourse is the fact that with each successive decade since Independence, the Indian (more importantly, Hindu) society has been eroded of its capacity of our society to produce heroes. In a line, this thinking is shaped by the cowardly and knavish view that all values are equal. Who are today’s “heroes?” Or role models or icons? They’re derived mainly from the entertainment, fashion, business and sports streams. Equally, the widespread (primarily Marxist) notion that all people–no matter what their genuine achievements are–are “subjects” to be “analysed,” has also contributed greatly to this erosion. Thus, when you have no one towering person or hero to look up to, your value system will emanate from corporate and fashion-of-the-moment slogans and maxims that pass off as “values” and so on.

In our own time, the never ending dissemination of all manner of information–views, perspectives, ideologies, etc–has resulted in an explosion of confusion. When you have an avalanche of information overload, you no longer can get at the truth on any issue–there’s always another smart guy at the next bend armed with his or her own bundle of “views.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy’s Prophecy Fulfilled

In India, it’s worse. The average urban, English-educated Indian Hindu since Independence is a stranger in his own land and has today brought to fruition Ananda Coomaraswamy’s prophetic warning[1] that this Hindu is “a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots, a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or the future.”

This urban Hindu also continues to take pride in repaying his or her debt to Macaulay who wrote to his father in a letter dated 12 October 1836 gloating that

Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully… The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion… It is my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence…

A measure of the success of his putridly perverse vision can be seen today even in those who mistakenly assume they “know” Hinduism and write rather uninformed tomes on Hinduism deriding “ritual” and “idol-worship.” Even worse, observe a verifiable fact the next time you’re in any social or transactional situation in an urban setting: “educated” middle class Hindus frequently talk about themselves and about India in the third person.

Macaulay was also accurate when he identified Bengal as the prime target for said English education: apart from this state being one of the foundational British military conquests in India, it also had rich and vibrant traditions and practices of Hinduism in the intellectual, scholarly and philosophical realms, which the British could never really break despite establishing their military and political control. But this was eventually broken by the Bengali Hindus themselves when sections of their elite began embracing British education, social mores and outlook. Even a Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and others in their mould couldn’t prevent the eventual decline and decay of this hoary, holy karma bhumi into a wasteland thanks to its deadly embrace of Communism. Remember: the only thing that grows in the wreckage of Communism is unchecked Jihadism.

Indeed, for all the Leftist claims of breaking away from British colonialism in Independent India, they were actually responsible for fine-tuning it in a manner and on a scale that even the British couldn’t envision. They sought to supplant British imperialism in India with the Soviet (and to an extent Chinese) variety, most notably in the educational realm and met with remarkable success in the endeavour.

In fact, a marked characteristic of the Leftist ransack of Indian history is the systematic manner in which they have succeeded in brainwashing at least three generations of Indians to be ashamed of taking pride in timeless, unbroken cultural and local traditions and accomplishments to the extent that both lay readers and students are repelled at and therefore disown them. This perversion also extends to our heroes, saints, poets, philosophers and the rest.

India’s Valuable Heritage has Hindu Roots

Unsurprisingly this long heritage which we have every reason to be proud of happens to be Hindu. Perhaps in no other country has self-hatred succeeded and touched its pinnacle as it has in India.

Consider a sample of the kinds of things Indians take pride in: almost every tiny hamlet, village, boulder, hill, cave, tree, lake, and river in the remotest corner of India has what you call a sthala purana or local legend or tale. To the inhabitants of that place, it is a living truth in the present continuous: it provides them the heroes they need, and gives them the values and ideals that guide their lives. To that extent, these legends, heroes, and artifacts are worship-worthy. You might with the might of your scholarship, prove that it is a mere legend and a fiction but you cannot negate the real experience that’s wedded to and guides the lives of the inhabitants of the place.

However, as we have seen, if your scholarship has ideological and/or political backing coupled with lung power, you’ll succeed not just in showing how amazing your scholarship is, but tragically, in destroying a generations-old value system that made people better people. It’s a different matter that this sort of scholarship has only the power to destroy these lived values but doesn’t provide an equivalent alternative forget offering a better replacement.

Reducing Krishnadevaraya to a Footnote of History

There is no better illustration of this phenomenon than the classic case of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today, it has become a haven for drug addicts, paedophiles, rampant prostitution, and wholesale land encroachment. Dargahs and mosques continue to obtrude on the landscape around the site of Hampi and successive Governments have obstinately chosen to ignore the travesty while the locals suffer from the same cultural amnesia described in the first essay of this volume.

Equally, the government-sponsored history of the Vijayanagara Empire that made Hampi one of the greatest and grandest cities of the world in its time is yet another proof of the Leftist incursions into Indian history.

In my time in school, all that I learnt about the Vijayanagara Empire and its most famous ruler, Krishnadevaraya was just this: it was a great empire, and Krishnadevaraya was a powerful king who achieved magnificent victories, occupied other kingdoms, planted trees, strengthened the economy, and patronized the arts. But the details were missing as to how he achieved all of this. Put another way, this is a beautiful academic tactic to reduce this iconic king to a mere footnote.

Today, it’s even worse. The Hampi University’s multi-volume history of Karnataka under the chief editorship of Prof. Sheik Ali dedicates a paltry few pages to Krishnadevaraya and completely downplays the role of Sage Vidyaranya, the spiritual inspiration for and founder of the Vijayanagara Empire. However, an entire volume is dedicated to glorifying Tipu Sultan, the tyrant of Mysore. That this academic pantomime occurred under the Vice Chancellorship of the valiant Kannada champion, Prof. Chandrashekhara Kambara is pertinent to mention.

The underlying foundation of this coloured history of the Vijayanagar Empire can be couched in a line: The Vijayanagara Empire was just another powerful empire founded as a “rebellion” against the Delhi Sultanate. To understand how else this plays out, we can briefly examine what the late Prof. M M Kalburgi said in 2010.  

Krishna Deva Raya did “nothing” to promote Kannada language. “I would not hesitate to call him anti-Kannadiga. He suppressed our language by patronising Telugu poets in his court.” …Plus, he encouraged Tamils too. Today if you find large pockets of Tamilians living in Bangalore, it is because of Krishna Deva Raya.[2]

Prof. Kalburgi has taken a folio directly out of the book of aggressive Dravidianism premised on the primacy, separateness, antiquity and supremacy of the Tamil language. Historical facts speak otherwise. It appears that Prof. Kalburgi forgets that there was no individual or separate state named Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu in Krishnadevarya’s period.


If anything, the vast collections of both inscriptions and literary works[3] by contemporary poets describe Krishnadevaraya variously as Kannada Rajya Ramaa Ramana (Lord Vishnu Kannada Kingdom), Muru Rayara Ganda (The King of Three Kings) and Kannadaraya (The King of Kannada). Almost every other inscription of the time refers to the Vijayanagara Empire as Karnata Samrajya (Karnataka Empire). Krishnadevaraya also patronized several well-known Kannada poets including Chatuvittalanatha, and Gubbi Mallanna who in turn praised his patron’s generosity and his spirit of inclusiveness. Krishnadevaraya is one of the very rare kings who became the ideal hero and role model for two states (as the meaning of the word “state” is understood today) simultaneously–people of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh till date remember him with inspiration, fondness, respect, and gratitude. Indeed, if we go by Prof Kalburgi’s reasoning, the Kannada blockbuster historical movie, Sri Krishnadevaraya wouldn’t have been made.

Krishnadevaraya also held in great esteem Swami Vyasaraya (or Vyasatirtha), one of the greatest exponents of Madhvacharya’s Dvaita philosophy, and made him the Raja Guru (official guru of the king). It was Vyasaraya who propagated the Haridasa movement in a far-reaching manner in large parts of South India. Vyasaraya was also the guru of the celebrated Purandaradasa (regarded as the father of Carnatic classical music), and Kanakadasa (another celebrated Haridasa poet, singer, and saint). It’s a sign of times that contemporary casteist politicians spearheaded by current Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have tried to appropriate Kanakadasa’s legacy because he hailed from the Kuruba varna.

These saints are still widely revered in Karnataka, their songs are still sung in classical concerts and recited as poems in daily life. And all of them flourished under Krishnadevaraya’s rule. Thus the credit for their Haridasa tradition which has remained unbroken is also due in equal measure to Krishnadevaraya. 

Besides, in Krishnadevaraya’s time, Telugu literature had reached its peak as compared to its Kannada counterpart. Should one fault Krishnadevaraya because Kannada didn’t produce dazzling litterateurs as the Telugu language did at the time? Every language throughout its history does have cycles of prosperity and drought. It’s just the way it is. If the learned Prof Kalburgi blames this known phenomenon of linguistic history on Krishnadevaraya, the least we can do is to point him in the direction of common sense.

Equally, being a genuine connoisseur of fine arts and accommodative of all religious, sects and philosophies and languages, Krishnadevarya not only had a number of Tamil poets in his court but patronized scholars from faraway Bengal.

Suffice to say that Krishnadevaraya indeed remains the greatest ruler of the Vijayanagara empire. His military success was unmatched both by his predecessors or successors. Under him, the Vijayanagara Empire held sway over the largest swathe of geography than under any of his predecessors or successors. He maintained law and order, delivered justice and security to his subjects, took economic prosperity and cultural grandeur[4] to the highest levels.

The West hankered to do trade with him and wrote glowing accounts of the economic prosperity of Vijayanagara under his rule. He was well-versed in music, played musical instruments, and composed wrote fine poetry and other forms of literature. His epic poem Amuktamalyada remains one of the masterpieces of Telugu literature.

Indeed, a comprehensive work exploring Krishnadevaraya’s life, times and achievements is waiting to be written in English.

Incurable Love for Muslim Barbarians and Mass-Murderers

When we contrast this with the uncountable tomes glorifying tyrants and barbarians like Ala-ud-din Khalji, Muhammad bin Tughluq, Babar and Aurangzeb, we return to where we began. The standard modus operandi of the Marxist “historians” seems to be to extol Muslim despots and paint Hindu rulers as rebels. Fortunately, numerous Hindu dynasties have left behind records of their reign and accomplishments. In such cases, because ignoring them is impossible, the Marxist tactic has been to completely downplay them. Thus, the Guptas, Palas, Senas, Chalukyas, and the Vijayanagara Empires are reduced to mere footnotes.

It is a fact that the academic establishment is well beyond repair and efforts at reform are hampered by bureaucratic and other obstacles. In the last seventy years, there have been really few instances where serious and valuable work has been done, and whatever little has been done hasn’t reached the so-called masses.

But in a counter development of sorts over the last forty years, some truly exemplary and original work on the history and culture of India has emanated from outside the formal academic establishment. A good majority of these works have been written not by professional historians and scholars but by people who genuinely care about depicting the truth of our past and shorn of ideological or political blinkers.


Notes

[1] Education in India: Essays in national idealism: Ananda K Coomaraswamy, 1910

[2] Who’s the Charioteer? : 7 February 2010, The New Indian Express

[3] See for example: Sources of Vijayangar History: S Krishnaswami Aiyangar, University of Madras, 1919

[4] The Connoisseurial Climate of Krishnadevarya’s Period: Prekshaa Journal. Full series available here.

Writer, author, and translator. Author of the bestselling "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." English translator of Dr. S L Bhyrappa's blockbuster Kannada novel, "Aavarana".

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sir, in Bengali novel by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay ‘Tungabhadrar Teere (In the banks of River Tungabhadra), the glorious tale of Vijaynagar Dynasty was depicted.I was totally in love with that Hindu Kingdom. I dreamt as if I was a citizen of that Empire.

    Today there is an urgent need for rewriting the true history of the Nation elaborately, emphasizing from the very beginning, e.g. Maurya Dynasty .
    In my childhood, read a Bengali book ‘Kaapalo Ke Singhasan’ – the stories of the great Chola,Pal,Chalukya , Rajput Kings. These books are out of print today. Should be reprinted.

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