Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Let diversity remain



A former student of mine made the following suggestion on FaceBook. 
Most European languages can be traced back to a root language that is related to Sanskrit – the sacred language of the ancient Vedic religions of India. Many English words actually have Sanskrit origins. It's a shame however that in our own country we don't adapt anything unless it comes recycled from the west.
We must reclaim what's ours and give it a deserving place. A message from the Prime Minister can do wonders in that direction. What do you think, would it not be great if NaMo takes his oath in Sanskrit?
The writer later clarified that he was not very serious about it.  However, he had given me a jolt already because I had noticed him as a student who was too passionate about exclusive nationalism.  Personally, I don’t take individual views seriously unless they become a threat to public welfare.  Now that the young man is becoming highly articulate riding on the exultant wave of BJP’s ‘historic’ victory in the recent elections, I’m a bit worried.  With his tacit consent, I write this.

It is true that Sanskrit and most European languages have the same origin.  But did they originate in India?  Is Sanskrit the mother of all those languages which belong to the family called Indo-European or Indo-Germanic languages?  Or is Sanskrit just another member of the family?  More importantly, did Sanskrit originate in India or did it come to India from the West?

Let me quote from a recent issue of Science Daily: “The majority view in historical linguistics is that the homeland of Indo-European is located in the Pontic steppes (present day Ukraine) around 6,000 years ago. The evidence for this comes from linguistic paleontology: in particular, certain words to do with the technology of wheeled vehicles are arguably present across all the branches of the Indo-European family; and archaeology tells us that wheeled vehicles arose no earlier than this date. The minority view links the origins of Indo-European with the spread of farming from Anatolia 8,000 to 9,500 years ago.”

Romila Thapar, Indian historian of considerable repute, thinks that the Aryan speakers entered India by the mid-second millennium BC when “the cities of the Indus civilization” had declined.  The Aryans, according to Thapar [The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300], entered the north-west of India from the Indo-Iranian borderlands, migrating in small numbers through the passes in the north-western mountains to settle in northern India.”  Slowly they moved southward searching for pasture for their cattle.

Citing ample evidence, Thapar argues that “Indo-Aryan is of the Indo-European family of languages and there is a linguistic relationship with some ancient languages of west Asia and Iran, as well as some that took shape in Europe.” She adds that Indo-Aryan “also incorporated element of Dravidian and Munda, languages known only to the Indian subcontinent.”

So, Sanskrit is not of Indian origin, really!  My problem is not whether it is of Indian origin or Western origin, but the spirit of revanchism in my young friend. “We must reclaim what’s ours...,” he asserts.  Ignorance is not a crime as long as one does not use it for nefarious purposes.  Falsification of history is a crime, and a serious one when put to political uses.  We may recall how BJP tried time and again to falsify history.  The following link mentions a few examples: Doctoring textbooks

Revanchism and falsification of history, both, are serious threats to the integrity of a country like India marked by varieties of all sorts: religious, linguistic, cultural and even racial. 

If we seek a genuine understanding of history, we may be dismayed to find that the entire human race belongs to one family.  Languages, religions and cultures are mere accidents that evolved over time for the sake of certain conveniences.   It is better to seek ways of living together in the present than digging up ethereal relics of the past. 

However much we may wish to live in peace and harmony, there will be divisions among us just as there are occasional quarrels in a family.  It is the duty of any responsible citizen to avoid conflicts and conflict-generating misrepresentations.  The duty becomes even more vital when dark clouds are gathering beyond the horizon. 


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10 comments:

  1. I agree with you, that sentiment does cross the line.. as far as the status is concerned, its been going around on FB for a while now.
    Frankly right now I dont really care about all these things, as long as we get a good governance, crimes go down, safety and security is taken care of... our GDP does well... we dont have to pay through the nose for basic necessities..till these things fall in place, no economic development matters.. and if anyone can give us this, I am good

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    1. Seeta, most people are content with what you've mentioned: good governance, etc. But there's always a minority that hanker after something more: fulfilment of a particular psychological need. If the need is positively channelised, such people become great creators: artists, scientists, etc. Otherwise, they become criminals, crooks, etc. Why do you think we have 180 criminals in the new Parliament?

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  2. where do you find these people?

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    1. A minority, BM, as I mentioned in response to Seeta above. That minority is always there. Anywhere.

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  3. Very true, sir. There is no point in digging up history only for purposes devoid of harmony and togetherness. It is better to concentrate on present and live together. Very well researched blog. Very convincing too.

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    1. The fact, M, is that I was quite fond of the boy in question. He seemed to have certain strong convictions though they sometimes gave me cause for concern. Now the concern is becoming alarm. That's why I wrote this.

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  4. "It is better to seek ways of living together in the present than digging up ethereal relics of the past."-Well said!

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    1. Thank you. And Mr Modi's address yesterday seems to indicate a change in him, a radical change, unless he is 'playing' a role. I'm willing to bring some optimism into my perception.

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  5. LET'S HAVE A GOOD HEALTHY BEGINNING. BEING HYPERCRITICAL DOES DISSERVICE TO EVERYBODY.

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    1. Good healthy beginning... Good healthy going on: isn't that what everybody wants?

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