Page < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 >
Great Farce -
The benign British?
The Colonial Legacy - Myths
and Popular Beliefs -
Fashionable theories of benign
Imperial rule ?
emphasize the improvements in administration, construction of railroad,
universities, abolition of ‘Sati’ and ‘Thugis’ from India and ultimate
peaceful transfer of power to Gandhi-Nehru. According to British
history, there was no freedom movement in
India, no man made famines, no transfer of huge resources from
Britain, no destruction of Indian industries and agriculture by the British rule, but
only a very benign and benevolent British rule in India."
writes Dr. Dipak Basu of Nagasaki
University in Japan
The Colonial Legacy - Myths of The British Raj
Romancing the Raj?
Oozing with the milk of human kindness, aren’t we?
carry this rather ignorant impression that Indians railways was a departing gift
by the British to independent India.
This impression is aided and abetted by Western media
Kaplan writing in
gushed how the “British, by contrast,
brought tangible development, ports and railways, that created the basis for a
modern state” of India.
The end of extraction
is a noted Gandhian and historian of
Indian science. He is well known for his "rediscovery" of Indian
science. His work has often been path breaking and instilled a whole generation
of Indians with a new-found faith in the country's indigenous scientific
traditions and cultures.
He has recently said:
great myth of British railways and administration misses the point of the kind
of exploitative institutions and ruthless efficiency which culminated in
large-scale famines during and preceding the Second World War, killing millions. "
Science - Interview with Dharmpal - timesofindia - January 3
Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (1895-1963)
Indian scholar, journalist, historian from Kerala, administrator, diplomat,
Minister in Patiala Bikaner and Ambassador to China, Egypt and France. Author of
several books, including Asia
and Western Dominance,
the ages and India
and the Indian Ocean.
19th century witnessed the apogee of capitalism in
Europe. That this was in a large measure due to
’s exploitation of Asian resources is now accepted by historians.
is the riches of Asian trade flowing to Europe that enabled the great industrial
revolution to take place in England. In the 18th century,
conquest was for the purpose of trade. In the
area you conquered, you excluded other nations, bought at the cheapest price,
organized production by forced labor to suit your requirements, and transferred
the profits to mother country. In the 19th century conquest was not
for trade but investment. Tea plantations and railway
construction became major interests in
’s connection with India. Vast sums were invested in India
for building railways.
(John Atkins) Hobson (1858 - 1940) the
historian of Imperialism, (1902) observes:
exploitation of other portion of the world, through military plunder, unequal
trade and forced labor, has been the one great indispensable condition in the
growth of European capitalism.”
and Western Dominance
- By K M Panikkar p. 316).
When the British decided to
lay a network of rail line in India they gave an impression that it was being
done to improve communication and economic well being of India. But some
enlightened Indians recognized it as an investment in Empire.
rail line was not built for the benefit of the natives. It was built with sheer
selfish interest to lay down the foundation for colonialism and promotion of the
British supreme and economic expansionism. At that time, no British mind could
have dared imagine that one day the railway line would be lost only to benefit
It is easy to see why British
industry felt very kindly towards the building of railways in India. Railways
were needed by British industry in order that Indian seaports and the interior
districts of the country be interconnected, so that manufactured goods might be
distributed throughout India and the raw products be collected for export to
introduction of Railways for example, as everyone knew, was for the twin purpose
of taking away all the agricultural raw materials for
their industrial needs and, for the dumping of the British manufacturers in the
Railways initially was never meant for the sake of Indians and their interests. Similarly
the way Indian agriculture was made to go in the commercial way under the
colonial rule, was to benefit the British Industry by feeding their hungry mills
at the cost of Indian people and peasants.
severity of the frequent famines is another scourge of the same place. But to
say that on account of the British rule, there was transport revolution, there
was the linking of the village market to that of the outside markets, that
foreign trade got accelerated, foreign capital multiplied, capital oriented
industries proliferated — is to overlook the fact that all these were
peripheral and unintended to the natives while the major drawback was the huge
drain of wealth that all these economic innovations have brought in their trial.
What answer the history teacher could provide if a
student in the classroom asks for justification for our struggle for
independence if the British rule was so positive.
in History - By K S S Seshan - The Hindu November 26, 02).
The infrasructure that the British
created (roads, ports, cities, railway transportation and power grids) were
designed exclusively for the removal of rich resources in as quick and efficient
manner as possible.
Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland author
in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom writes:
"The impression is widespread in America
that British rule in India has been a great and almost unqualified good. The
British themselves never tire of "pointing with pride" to what they
claim to have done and to be doing for the benefit of the Indian people. What
knowledge we have in America regarding the matter, comes almost wholly from
British source, and hence the majority of us do not suspect that there is
another side to the story."
have been persistent attempts of Western scholars to argue that "India was
not a country but a congeries of smaller states, and the Indians were not a
nation but a conglomeration of peoples of diverse creeds and sects. Anybody
familiar with the relevant situation will know that this attitude still forms
the major undercurrent of Western scholarship on India. (refer to article: Hindu
Nationalism Clouds the Face of India
- H. D. S. Greenway. Even today the
same attitude is alive and well, Mr. Greenway says in his article:
"Secularists realize that a united India was a product of the British
Empire. Before the British, Indians owed their allegiances to family, clan,
religion, or princely state. We are constantly told that it was the British who established a centralized
administration, a common educational system, and countrywide transportation that
gave the subcontinent a sense of belonging to one country).
countrywide transportation: Railways
Will Durant has written in his book - A Case
"It might have been supposed
that the building of 30,000 miles of railways would have brought a measure of
prosperity to India. But these railways were built not
for India but for England; not for the benefit of the Hindu, but for the purpose
of the British army and British Trade. If this seems doubtful, observe their operation. Their greatest revenues
come, not as in America, from the transport of goods (for the British trader
controls the rates), but from the third-class passengers – the Hindus; but
these passengers are herded into almost barren coaches like animals bound for
the slaughter, twenty or more in one compartment. The railroads are entirely in
European hands, and the Government refuse to appoint even one Hindu to the
Railway Board. The railways lose money year after year, and are helped by the
Government out of the revenues of the people. All the loses are borne by the
people, all the gains are gathered by the trader. So
much for the railways.
of several books, The Circle of Reason (1986), won France's top literary award,
Prix Medici Estranger, and The
Glass Palace also
makes fun of the claim that the British gave India the railways.
railways and the British never colonized the country," he says.
"In 1885, when the British invaded Burma, the Burmese king was already
building railways and telegraphs. These are things Indians could have done
through time - interview with Amitav Ghosh).
China and Japan acquired railways without British
colonial rule. Same holds for other Western technology.
The Railways were a win-win situation for Britain
-- Indians took the risk and the British got trains that brought cheap cotton to
the ports to be exported to the mills of Manchester and then distributed the
cloth they manufactured to outlets throughout India. Historians have said the railways were the
mightiest symbol of the Raj, and grand stations like Bombay's Victoria terminus,
a Saracenic-Gothic cathedral of the railway age, and Calcutta's Howrah, cited as
the largest station in Asia, were built to impress
Indians with the might of their rulers.
Gandhi blamed them for carrying "the pest of westernization" around
railways - By Mark Tully).
Konkan Railway, the first major railway project in India since Independence, has
been a major success despite the difficult terrain and the logistics nightmares.
As for the story about the Konkan Railway, it is an inspiration. In the face of
obstacles, including extremely difficult terrain (many tunnels, bridges, etc) as
well as the task of raising large amounts of money through a public bond issue,
the railway was constructed on schedule and within budget.
It used to be said that Indians could never match the feats of the British
engineers who built much of India's network; isn't it amazing that E.
Sreedharan, the man who ran this Herculean effort,
is a virtual unknown?
Censoring the past... and the present).
Commerce on the sea is monopolized by the British
even more than transport on land. The Hindus are not permitted to organize a
merchant marine of their own. All Indian goods must be carried in British
bottoms, an additional strain on the starving nation’s purse, and the building
of ships, which once gave employment to thousands of Hindus is prohibited.
has commented on the building railways in India by the British:
"The misfortune of India is that she does
not derive the benefits of the railways, as every other country does."
and Un-British Rule in India - By Dadabhai Naoroji
- p. 103).
English rulers have boasted that they have introduced education in India but
this boast is pure moonshine.
in British India in 1911 was only 6%, in 1931 it was 8%, and by 1947 it had
crawled to 11%! In higher education in 1935, only 4 in 10,000 were enrolled in
universities or higher educational institutes. In
a nation of then over 350 million people only 16,000 books (no circulation
figures) were published in that year (i.e. 1 per 20,000).
Lord Macaulay who created the modern Indian education system, explicitly stated
that he wanted Indians to turn against their own history and tradition and take
pride in being loyal subjects of their British masters. In effect, what he
envisaged was a form of conversion— almost like religious conversion. It was
entirely natural that Christian missionaries should have jumped at the
opportunity of converting the people of India in the guise of educating the
natives. So education was a principal tool of
missionary activity also. This produced a breed of ‘secular
converts’ who are proving to be as fanatical as any religious fundamentalist.
We call them secularists.
and British authorities in general, did not stop at this. They recognized that a
conquered people are not fully defeated unless their history is destroyed.
souls create twisted history - N S Rajaram - bharatvani.org
Colonial Legacy - Myths and Popular Beliefs).
"Every village had its schoolmaster, supported out of the public funds; in Bengal
alone, before the coming of the British, there were some 80,000 native schools -
one to every four hundred population. Instruction was given to him in the
"Five Shastras" or sciences: grammar, arts and crafts, medicine, logic
and philosophy. Finally the child was sent out into the world with the wise
admonition that education came only one-fourth from the teacher, one-fourth from
private study, one-fourth from one's fellows, and one-fourth from life."
of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant
MJF Books.1935 p.556-557).
missionaries and the British are also proud that they brought
education to India, "but," counters Sri Sri Ravi
Shankar, Founder of the
Bangalore based Art of Living, an International Foundation. He recently
addressed the UN Peace Summit on Aug 28. He is the only non-westerner to serve
on the advisory board of Yale University's School of Divinity and is author of
the book - Hinduism and Christianity:
"it is not true: there were for instance 125,000 medical
institutions in Madras before the British came. Indians never lacked
education, the Christians only brought British education to India,
which in fact caused more damage to India by westernizing many of
(1865-1936) the well known scholar, Advocate-General of Bengal and sometime
Legal Member of the Government of India. Referring
to the Macaulay's Educational Minute of 1834
(for education refer to chapter on Hindu
in Ancient India and First
an Indian, self-conscious of the greatness of his country's civilization, it
must be gall and wormwood to hear others speaking of the "education"
and "civilization" of India. India who has taught some of the deepest
truths which our race has known is to be 'educated.' She whose ancient
civilization ranks with the greatest the world has known is to be
India Civilized: Essays on Indian Culture - By Sir John Woodroffe
travelers and administrators bear testimony to the great veneration in which
Hindus held learning and instruction. One of the earliest observation
was made on the subject of indigenous education was by Fra
Paolino Da Bartolomeo. Born in Austria, he spent 14 years in India
(1776-1789). He wrote: "No people, perhaps, on earth have adhered as much
to their ancient usage and customs as the Indians." and "temperance
and education contribute, in an uncommon degree, to the bodily confirmation, and
to the increase of these people."
Alexander Walker who served in India between 1780-1810, says, that "no
people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction that the
The fact of
education - a school in every village - was uniformly noticed by most early
observers. Even writing as late as 1820, Abbe
J. A. Dubois says that "there are very few villages in which one
or many public schools are not to be found...that the students learn in them all
that is necessary to their ranks and wants...namely, reading, writing and
Hinduism Reviews and Reflections - By Ram Swarup p. 179-180 -
refer to chapter on Hindu
Culture for more information on Education in Ancient
October 1931 Mahatma Gandhi made a statement
at Chatham House, London, that created a furore in the English press. He said,
"Today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or a hundred years ago,
and so is Burma, because the British administrators, when they came to India,
instead of taking hold of things as they were, began to root them out. They
scratched the soil and left the root exposed and the beautiful tree
perished". Mahatma Gandhi said,
"The beautiful tree of education was cut down by you British. Therefore
today India is far more illiterate than it was 100 years ago." We
now learn, with almost a sense of disbelief, that a large part of the country
did have a sustainable education system, as late as even the early years of the
19th century, and that this was systematically demolished over the next 50 years
or so. The present education system is, in effect, a legacy of the colonial
rule. This system has perpetuated the notion that traditional societies were
seeped in ignorance, superstition and rituals for thousands of years and lived a
life of abject poverty, which was caused by an extreme form of social
discrimination and exploitative socio-political systems. So deep has this notion
seeped into our collective consciousness that, it colors the belief of both,
providers of education as well as of recipients and aspiring recipients in our
(For more please refer to noted
Gandhian, Dharampal's book. The
Beautiful Tree, (Biblia Impex, Delhi, 1983}.
the British came there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools,
managed by the village communities. The agents of the East India Company
destroyed these village communities, and took steps to replace the schools; even
today, after a century of effort to restore them, they stand at only 66% of
their number a hundred years ago. Hence, the 93 % illiteracy of India.
Case for India - By Will Durant Simon and Schuster,
New York. 1930 p.44).
Mr. Ermest Havell
(formerly Principal of the Calcutta school of Art) has rightly said, the fault
of the Anglo-Indian Educational System is that, instead of harmonizing with, and
supplementing, national culture, it is antagonist to, and destructive, of it.
Sir George Birdwood says
of the system that it “has destroyed in Indians the love of their own
literature, the quickening soul of a people, and their delight in their own
arts, and worst of all their repose in their own traditional and national
religion, has disgusted them with their own homes, their parents, and their
sisters, their very wives, and brought discontent into every family so far as
its baneful influences have reached.
Bharata Shakti: Collection of Addresses on Indian
Culture - By Sir John Woodroffe p.
missionaries and the government cooperated for mutual benefit in the spread of
Western education. The government made use of the linguistic
expertise of the missionaries and their knowledge of local customs and tradition
for the extension and consolidation of the empire. By the middle of the 19th
century a new type of English rulers was emerging. The evangelical influence had
grown and the new officials both in London and in India made no secret of their
sincere profession of Christianity. Some of the British officials including
Governors like Bartle Frere of Bombay
(1862-1868) openly supported the missionary work. Voicing a similar sentiment, Lord
Lawrence, Viceroy and Governor-General of India (1864-1869) stated,
"I believe not withstanding all that the English people have done to
benefit the country, the Missionaries have done more than all other agencies
combined." After 1860 there was not only an increase in the number of
missionaries who came to India but the number of Indian Christians also went
Colonialism in Asia and Christianity - edited by Dr. M.D. David
new rulers were understandably hostile to the indigenous education system.
As soon as the British took over the Punjab, the Education Report of 1858 says:
" A village school left to itself is not an institution which we have any
great interest in maintaining."
hostility arose partly from a lack of imagination. To the new rulers, brought up
so differently, a school was no school if it did not teach English.
Hinduism Reviews and Reflections - By Ram Swarup p. 191-192).
For more on education please refer below to article
- Education in India
Under the East India Company - Major B. D. Basu).
design which the British evolved to promote Christianization of India was T.B.
Macaulay’s educational system introduced in 1835. “It
was the devout hope of Macaulay… and of many others, that the diffusion of new
learning among the higher classes would see the dissolution of Hinduism and the
widespread acceptance of Christianity. The missionaries were of
the same view, and they entered the education field with enthusiasm, providing
schools and colleges in many parts of India where education in the Christian
Bible was compulsory for Hindu students. The
Grand Design on which “they had spent so much money and energy had failed”.
The rise of Indian nationalism also had an adverse effect on missionary
fortunes. The great leaders of the national movement such as Lokmanya
Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and Lala Lajpat Rai were champions of resurgent Hinduism.
by Time: The
Niyogi Committee Report On Christian Missionary Activities
Sita Ram Goel).
Dr. Ananda K
Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) the
late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and author of The
Dance of Shiva: Essays on Indian Art and Culture, wrote:
"One of the most remarkable
features of British rule in India has been the fact that the greatest injuries
done to the people of India have taken the outward form of blessings. Of this,
Education is a striking example; for no more crushing blows have ever been
struck at the roots of Indian evolution than those which have been
struck..." It is sometimes said by friends of India that the National
movement is the natural result by English education, and one of which England
should in truth be proud, as showing that, under 'civilization' and the Pax
Britannica, Indians are becoming, at last, capable of self-government. The facts
are all the anti-national tendencies of a system of education that has ignored
or despised almost every ideal informing the national culture."
"Yes, English educators of
India, you do well to scorn the Babu graduate; he is your own special
production, made in your own image; he might be one of your very selves. Do you
not recognize the likeness? Probably you do not; for
you are still hidebound in that impervious skin of self-satisfaction that
enabled your most pompous and self-important philistine, Lord Macaulay,
to believe that a single shelf of a good European library was worth all the
literature of India, Arabia, and Persia. Beware lest in a hundred years the
judgment be reversed, in the sense that Oriental culture will occupy a place
even in European estimation, ranking at least equally with Classic. Meanwhile
you have done well nigh all that could be done to eradicate it in the land of
generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and
to create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots - a sort of
intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or West, the past or the
Wisdom of Ananda Coomaraswamy - presented by S. Durai Raja Singam
1979 p. 38-40). For more on education, refer to chapter on Education
in Ancient India and Hindu
"British-educated Indians grew
up learning about Pythagoras, Archimedes, Galileo and Newton without ever
learning about Panini, Aryabhatta, Bhaskar or Bhaskaracharya. The logic
and epistemology of the Nyaya Sutras, the rationality of the early Buddhists or
the intriguing philosophical systems of the Jains were generally unknown to the
them. Neither was there any awareness of the numerous examples of dialectics in
nature that are to be found in Indian texts. They may have read Homer or Dickens
but not the Panchatantra, the Jataka tales or anything from the Indian epics.
Schooled in the aesthetic and literary theories of the West, many felt
embarrassed in acknowledging Indian contributions in the arts and literature.
What was important to Western civilization was deemed universal, but everything
Indian was dismissed as either backward and anachronistic, or at best tolerated
as idiosyncratic oddity. Little did the Westernized Indian know what debt
"Western Science and Civilization" owed (directly or indirectly) to
Indian scientific discoveries and scholarly texts.
K. Chakrabarti (Colonial Indology)
thus summarized the situation:
"The model of the Indian past...was foisted on Indians by the hegemonic
books written by Western Indologists concerned with language, literature and
philosophy who were and perhaps have always been paternalistic at their best and
at their worst.."
on the phenomenon of cultural colonization, Priya Joshi
and Consumption: Fiction, the Reading Public, and the British Novel in Colonial
India) writes: "Often, the implementation of a new education
system leaves those who are colonized with a lack of identity and a limited
sense of their past. The indigenous history and customs once practiced and
observed slowly slip away. The colonized become hybrids of two vastly different
cultural systems. Colonial education creates a blurring that makes it difficult
to differentiate between the new, enforced ideas of the colonizers and the
formerly accepted native practices."
Wa Thiong'o, (Kenya, Decolonising the Mind),
displaying anger toward the isolationist feelings colonial education causes,
asserted that the process "...annihilates a peoples belief in their names,
in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in
their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It makes them see
their past as one wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to
distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes them want to identify with
that which is furthest removed from themselves".
traces of such thinking continue to infect young Indians, especially those that
migrate to the West. Elements of such mental insecurity and alienation also had
an impact on the consciousness of the British-educated Indians who participated
in the freedom struggle. In contemporary academic circles, various false
theories continue to percolate. While some write as if Indian civilization
has made no substantial progress since the Vedic period, for others the clock
stopped with Ashoka, or with the "classical age" of the Guptas.
Gandhi wrote in the "Harijan:
"That Indian education made Indian students foreigners in their own country. The
Radhakrishnan Commission said in their Report (1950); "one of the serious
complaints against the system of education which has prevailed in this country
for over a century is that it neglected India's past, that it did not provide
the Indian students with a knowledge of their own culture. It had produced in
some cases the feeling that we are without roots, and what is worse, that our
roots bind us to a world very different from that which surrounds us".
Education in India - By Dr David Grey).
Dalits and Indigenous System of Educaiton
(The Beautiful Tree) has effectively
debunked the myth that Dalits had no place in the indigenous system of
education. Sir Thomas Munro, Governor of Madras, ordered a mammoth
survey in June 1822, whereby the district collectors furnished the caste-wise
division of students in four categories, viz., Brahmins, Vysyas (Vaishyas),
Shoodras (Shudras) and other castes (broadly the modern scheduled castes). While
the percentages of the different castes varied in each district, the results
were revealing to the extent that they showed an impressive presence of the
so-called lower castes in the school system.
Thus, in Vizagapatam, Brahmins and Vaishyas together accounted for 47% of the
students, Shudras comprised 21% and the other castes (scheduled) were 20%; the
remaining 12% were Muslims. In Tinnevelly, Brahmins were 21.8% of the total
number of students, Shudras were 31.2% and other castes 38.4% (by no means a low
figure). In South Arcot, Shudras and other castes together comprised more than
84% of the students!
In the realm of higher education as well, there were regional variations.
Brahmins appear to have dominated in the Andhra and Tamil Nadu regions, but in
the Malabar area, theology and law were Brahmin preserves, but astronomy and
medicine were dominated by Shudras and other castes. Thus, of a total of 808
students in astronomy, only 78 were Brahmins, while 195 were Shudras and 510
belonged to the other castes (scheduled). In medicine, out of a total of 194
students, only 31 were Brahmins, 59 were Shudras and 100 belonged to the other
castes. Even subjects like metaphysics and ethics that we generally associate
with Brahmin supremacy, were dominated by the other castes (62) as opposed to
merely 56 Brahmin students. It bears mentioning that this higher education was
in the form of private tuition (or education at home), and to that extent also
reflects the near equal economic power of the concerned groups.
As a concerned reader informed me, the ‘Survey of Indigenous Education in the
Province of Bombay (1820-1830)’ showed that Brahmins were only 30% of the
total students there. What is more, when William Adam surveyed Bengal and Bihar,
he found that Brahmins and Kayasthas together comprised less than 40% of the
total students, and that forty castes like Tanti, Teli, Napit, Sadgop, Tamli
etc. were well represented in the student body. The Adam report mentions that in
Burdwan district, while native schools had 674 students from the lowest thirty
castes, the 13 missionary schools in the district together had only 86 students
from those castes. Coming to teachers, Kayasthas triumphed with about 50% of the
jobs and there were only six Chandal teachers; but Rajputs, Kshatriyas and
Chattris (Khatris) together had only five teachers.
Even Dalit intellectuals have questioned what the
British meant when they spoke of ‘education’ and ‘learning’. Dr. D.R.
Nagaraj, a leading Dalit leader of Karnataka, wrote that it was the British,
particularly Lord Wellesley, who declared the Vedantic Hinduism of the Brahmins
of Benares and Navadweep as “the standard Hinduism,” because they realized
that the vitality of the Hindu dharma of the lower castes was a threat to the
empire. Fort William College, founded by Wellesley in 1800, played a
major role in investing Vedantic learning with a prominence it probably hadn't
had for centuries. In the process, the cultural heritage of the lower castes was
successfully marginalized, and this remains an enduring legacy of colonialism.
Examining Dharampal's “Indian science and technology in the eighteenth
century,” Nagaraj observed that most of the native skills and technologies
that perished as a result of British policies were those of the Dalit and
artisan castes. This effectively debunks the fiction of
Hindu-hating secularists that the so-called lower castes made no contribution to
India's cultural heritage and needed deliverance from wily Brahmins.
Indeed, given the desperate manner in which the British vilified the Brahmin, it
is worth examining what so annoyed them. As early as 1871-72, Sir John Campbell
objected to Brahmins facilitating upward mobility: “…the Brahmans are always
ready to receive all who will submit to them… The process of manufacturing
Rajputs from ambitious aborigines (tribals) goes on before our eyes.”
Alfred Lyall (1796 - 1865) was unhappy that:
persons in India become every year Brahmanists than all the converts to all the
other religions in India put together... these teachers address themselves to
every one without distinction of caste or of creed; they preach to low-caste men
and to the aboriginal tribes… in fact, they succeed largely in those ranks of
the population which would lean towards Christianity and Mohammedanism if they
were not drawn into Brahmanism…”
So much for the
British public denunciation of the exclusion practiced by Brahmins!
(source: The Brahmin and the Hindu - By Sandhya Jain -
dailypioneer.com - December 14 2004).
the British education system also was at the root of weakening the foundations
of Hinduism or Indian nationalism. This was foreseen by some founders of British
3. Unity - Sense of
(1869-1948) was among India's most fervent
nationalists, fighting for Indian independence from British rule. He wrote in his book, Hindu Swaraj: "The English have taught us that we
were not one nation before and that it will require centuries before we become
one nation. This is without foundation. We were one
nation before they came to India. One thought inspired us. Our mode
of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to
establish one kingdom. Subsequently they divided us." What do you
think could have been the intention of those farseeing
ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the
South, Jaganath in the East and Hardwar in the North as places of pilgrimage?
You will admit they were no fools. They knew that worship of God could have been
performed just as well at home. They taught us that those whose hearts were
aglow with righteousness had the Ganges in their own homes. But
they saw that India was one undivided land so made by nature." They,
therefore, argued that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they established
holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people with an idea of
nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the world. "
Swaraj or Indian Home Rule - By M. K. Gandhi p. 46).
Chandra Pal (1858-1932) freedom fighter
and lawyer, wrote: "The European and the American come to India with a
strong prepossession, and cannot discover any fundamental principle of unity at
the back of the many bewildering diversities......Every
Anglo-Indian publicist assiduously proclaims that India is not a country
but a collection of countries, which have as little or as much in common with
one another, either in race or history, as the German, the French, the Dutch,
the Russian, the Italian, the English and the Spaniard in Europe have between
them.....The orthodox official view is, in any case, there never was such an
animal as Indian, until the British rulers of the country commenced so
generously to manufacture him with the help of their schools and their colleges,
their courts and their camps, their law and their administration."
"But while the stranger called
her India, her own children, from of old, have known and loved her by another
name. We never called her India. Long before the Greek invasion and even before
the Babylonians and Assyrians came in any sort of contact with us, we had given
this name of our country. That name is Bharatvarsha. Those who so persistently
deny any fundamental historic unity or any real national individuality to our
land and our people, either do not know, or they do not remember the fact that
we never called our country by the alien name of India or even by that of
Hindoostan. Our own name was, is still today, Bharatvarsha. But Bharatvarsha is
not physical name, but a distinct and unmistakable historic name... Bharata was
a king. He is a Vedic personage. The limit of Bharatvarsha extended in those
days even much further than the present limits of India.
The unity of India was neither
racial nor religious, nor political nor administrative. It was a peculiar type
of unity, which may, perhaps, be best described as cultural."
Soul of India - By Bipin Chandra Pal Published by Choudhury
& Choudhary Calcutta 1911. p. 84-98).
The British deliberately tried to
create a kind of pychosis among the Indians that India has always
been subject to foreign invasions and internal feuds, that there has been no
political unity in India at any time, that the cultural unity of India was a
fiction, and that whatever was good in India was due to European influence. The
British historian firmly believed that the British had a mission to fulfill in
India, and that the British rule was a blessing for India.
Recent Historiography of Ancient India - By Shankar
Goyal p. 422).
Although the Raj claimed the credit
for India’s political unification, the sub-continent had a geo-political unity
that dated back 2000 years before the British conquest to the Hindu-Buddhist
Mauryan empire. The Maurya emperors had united most of the
sub-continent under their rule between the fourth and second centuries BC; and
their imperial ideal was echoed from the fourth to sixth centuries AD by a later
Hindu dynasty the Guptas.
Tales of the Raj - By Zareer Masani p. 7).
Perhaps the most mischievous
statement we have of the claim that India has no unity, it is not a nation,
is made by Sir John Strachey on the
opening page of his well-known book, “India”. There he says:
“The first and most essential thing to be learned about
India, is that there is not and never was an India possessing according to
European ideas any sort of unity, physical, social, political, or religious: no
Indian nation, no people of India of which we hear so much.”
This alleged condition of things he claims to be a clear
justification of British rule. What answer is to be made? Sir
Ramsey Macdonald, at one time Premier declares that India is one in
absolutely every sense in which Mr. Strachey denies the unity. Here are his
“India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, from the Bay of
Bengal to Bombay, is naturally the area of a single government. One has only to
look at the map to see how geography has fore-ordained an Indian Empire. Its
vastness does not obscure its oneness; its variety does not hide from view its
unity. The Himalayas and their continuing barriers frame off the great peninsula
from the rest of Asia. Its long rivers, connecting its extremities and its
interior with the sea, knit it together for communication and transport
purposes; its varied productions, interchangeable with one another, make it a
convenient industrial unit, maintaining contact with the world through the great
ports to the east and west. Political and religious
traditions have also welded it into one Indian consciousness. This spiritual
unity dates from very early times in Indian culture. An historical atlas of India shows how again and again the
natural unity of India has influenced conquest and showed itself, its empires.
The realms of Chandragupta and his grandson Asoka embraced practically the whole
peninsula, and ever after, amidst the swaying and falling of dynasties, this
unity has been the dream of every victor and has never lost its potency.”
Says British historian Vincent Smith, than
whom there is no higher historical authority, in his book Early History of
“India circled as she is by seas and mountains, is
indisputably a geographical unit, and as such rightly designated by one name.
Her type of civilization, too, has many features which differentiate it from
that of all other regions of the world; while they are common to the whole
country in a degree sufficient to justify its treatment as a unit in the history
of the social religious, and intellectual development of mankind.”
Archer in his “India and the Future” devotes a chapter to “The
Unity of India” in which he declares that Indian unity is “indisputable.”
There is no greater uniting force
known among people and nations in the world than religion. This applies with
pre-eminent emphasis to India.
in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom - Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland
has imparted to the whole of India a strong and stable cultural unity that has
through the ages stood the shocks of political revolutions.
James Ramsey MacDonald
(1866 -1937) first Labor Party prime minister of Great Britain could grasp this
truth when he said:
"The Hindu from his traditions and religion
regards India not only as a political unit naturally the subject of one
sovereignty, but as the outward embodiment, as the temple - nay even as the
Goddess Mother of his spiritual culture. "India
and Hinduism are organically related as body and soul."
Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.208).
of India since Ancient Times
Bharatvarsha has a deep historical significance, symbolizing, a fundamental
unity. The term was associated not only with the geographical
boundaries but also with the idea of universal monarchy. The term was associated
not only with the geographical boundaries but also with the idea of universal
monarchy. This name together with the sense of unity imparted by it "was
ever present before the mind of the theologians, political philosophers and
poets who spoke of the thousand Yojanas (Leagues) of land that stretches from
the Himalayas to the sea as the proper domain of a single universal
An early hymn in the Arthaveda,
in a salutation to Mother Earth, expresses the same sentiment arising out of the
enchantment of the land. Thus the very Indian land became an embodiment of the
yearning for the Beyond. This deep-rooted sentiment is given expression to in
the Vishnu-Purana. "Bharata is the best
of the divisions of Jambudwipa (Asia) because it is the land of virtuous deeds.
Other countries seek only enjoyment. Happy are those who, consigning all the
rewards of their deeds to the Supreme Spirit, the Universal Self, pass their
lives in this land of virtuous deeds, as the means of realization of Him. The
gods exclaim, "Happy are those who are born, even from the condition of
divinity, as men in Bharatvarsha, as that is the path of the joys of paradise
and the greater blessings of final liberation." Another book, the Bhagvat
Purana states, "Here God Himself in His grace is born as man to
obtain the fervent devotion of sentient beings, so that they may wish final
liberation. Even the gods prefer birth in this sacred land to enjoyment in
heaven, won by so much sacrifice, penance and charity. This basic concept of
India (Bharat) and spirituality (dharma) are identical and the faith that
neither dharma nor its favored homeland can perish, in spite of the misfortunes
of history, gave the people the confidence to survive the storms of political
life or convulsions of nature through the millenniums.
Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.206-210).
Bharat Mata: Mother India - By
Abanindranath Tagore's watercolor
(image source: Indian Art - By Vidya
This is what is stated in an
inscription of King Yasodharman of Mandasor, Successors
of the Guptas in the North:
"From the lands where the
from the flanks of the southern hills, thick with grove of palms,
from the snowy mountains whose peak the Ganga clasps,
and from the ocean of the West,
come vassals, bowing at his feet,
their pride brought low by his mighty arm,
and his palace court is a glitter,
with the bright jewels of their turban."
The rulers of medieval India also
considered India as one geographical unit and sought to extend their sway over
the whole of the land. The song Vandematram embodies
that sense of unity.
There is also an
under-current of religious unity among the various religious sects in the
country. That is partly due to the overwhelming impact of Hinduism on the Indian
mind which transcends any other single religion. This is mainly due to the
comprehensive and all-embracing pervasiveness of Hinduism. Hinduism is not a
mere form of religious approach or system. It is a "mosaic of almost all
types and stages of religious aspiration and endeavor."
India - By V. D. Mahajan p. 15).
The unifying effect of Hinduism and
Sanskritic culture was great. Records dating from the early centuries indicate
that shrines regarded sacred by all Hindus were located at widely separated
points in all directions. Clearly, some concept of religious and cultural unity
already existed. Long pilgrimages to such shrines created for many a connection
with peoples in areas under different sovereignties. Then, too, the great body
of Sanskritic literature provided a significant bond.
A World in Transition - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb
According to Jawaharlal
Nehru: "Right from
the beginning, culturally India has been one, because she had the same
background, the same traditions, the same religions, the same heroes and
heroines, the same old tales, the same learned language (Sanskrit), the village
panchayats, the same ideology, and polity. To the average Indian the whole of
India was a kind of punya-bhumi
- a holy land - while
the rest of the world was largely peopled by mlechchhas and barbarians.
chose the four corners of India for his maths,
or the headquarters of his order of sanyasins, shows how he regarded India as a
cultural unit. And the great success which met his campaign all over the country
in a very short time also shows how intellectual and cultural currents traveled
rapidly from one end of the country to another."
of World History - By Jawaharlal Nehru
Uttaram yat samudrasya
Himadreschaiva dakshinam..Varsham tad Bharatam nama Bharati yatra santatih.
(The country that lies north of
the ocean and south of the Himalayas is called Bharata; there dwell the
descendents of Bharata - Vishnu Purana, II, 3. 1-
(image source: Ancient Indian History
and Culture - By Chidambara Kulkarni p. 4).
Dr. Radhakrishnan: "In spite of the divisions, there is an inner cohesion among the Hindu society
from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin."
Hindu View of Life - By Sir. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
late editor of Times of India: " It is about time we recognize that we are
not a nation in the European sense of the term, that is, we are not a fragment
of a civilization claiming to be a nation on the basis of accidents of history
which is what every major European nation is. We are a people primarily
by virtue of the continuity and coherence of our civilization which has survived
all shocks. And though inevitably weakened as a result of foreign invasions,
conquests and rule for almost a whole millennium, it is once again ready to
resume its march."
Phenomenon - By Girilal Jain
has said: "In India at a very early time: the
spiritual and cultural unity was made complete and became the very
stuff of the life of all this great surge of humanity between the Himalayas and
the two seas....Invasion and foreign rule, ....the enormous pressure of the
Occident have not been able to drive or crush the
ancient soul out of the body her Vedic Rishis made for her."
(source: India's Rebirth
- By Sri Aurobindo pg 158).
visiting scholar at Hoover Institution at Stanford and the leader of new
liberalism in France, says that the idea of a nation-state was an 18th century creation of the West.
It is the cultural identity that has helped India stay together. The
British did not do it for the love of India. It was here that the West started
to colonize what was to become the Third World, a shameless process of
systematic exploitation without any moral or religious justification.
Genius of India
- By Guy Sorman ('Le Genie de
l'Inde') p. 197).
Rajaram: "It was claimed by the British, and faithfully repeated by the
Leftist intellectuals, that the British unified India. This is
completely false. The unity of India, rooted in her
ancient culture, is of untold antiquity.
It may have been divided at
various times into smaller kingdoms, but the goal was always to be united under
a ‘Chakravartin’ or a ‘Samrat’. This unity was cultural though not
always political. This cultural unity was seriously damaged during the Medieval
period, when India was engaged in a struggle for survival — like what is
happening in Kashmir today. Going back thousands of years, India had been united
under a single ruler many times. The earliest recorded emperor of India was
Bharata, the son of Shakuntala and Dushyanta, but there were several others. I
give below some examples from the Aitareya Brahmana. "With this great
anointing of Indra, Dirghatamas Mamateya anointed Bharata Daushanti.
Therefore, Bharata Daushanti went round the earth completely, conquering on
every side and offered the horse in sacrifice. "With this great anointing
of Indra, Tura Kavasheya anointed Janamejaya Parikshita. Therefore Janamejaya
Parikshita went round the earth completely, conquering on every side and
offered the horse in sacrifice."
There are similar statements
about Sudasa Paijavana anointed by Vasistha, Anga anointed by Udamaya Atreya,
Durmukha Pancala anointed by Brihadukta and Atyarati Janampati anointed by
Vasistha Satyahavya. Atyarati, though not born a king, became an emperor and
went on conquer even the Uttara Kuru or the modern Sinkiang and Turkestan that
lie north of Kashmir. There are others also mentioned in the Shathapatha
Brahmana and also the Mahabharata. This shows that the unity of India
is ancient. Also, the British did not rule over a unified India. They had
treaties with the rulers of hereditary kingdoms like Mysore, Kashmir, Hyderabad
and others that were more or less independent. The person who united all these
was Sardar Patel, not the British. But this unification was possible only
because India is culturally one. Pakistan, with no such identity or cultural
unity, is falling apart.
(source: Distortions in
Indian History http://www.voi.org/books/dist/ch2.htm#3 ).
For more on the myths of British Raj, refer to The
Colonial Legacy - Myths and Popular Beliefs - By Dr David Grey).
The British rule
often claim to have given India - Democracy. If
so, Why did it take
200 years to give India Democracy?
For more read:
in Ancient India
Sri Jayendra Saraswati - The
Sankaracharya of Kanchi
"The British never created
anything in India - they merely destroyed. Instead of uniting, they divided; so
the question is meaningless. For five thousand years Hindus have chanted in
their morning prayers:
cha Yamunechaiva! Godavari! Sarasvati!
Narmade! Sindhu! Kaveri! Jale asmin sannidhim kuru!"
O ye Ganges, Jamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada,
Sindhu and Kaveri, come and approach these waters."
There has been an explicit and clear
geographical area that we have referred to as our land. Adi Sankara not only
went to the four corners of this territory, he set up tens of shrines all over
the Hindu land to be able to revive and revitalize Hinduism. It is absurd to
think that India is a new idea."
(source: Interview with Sri Jayendra Saraswati - by
Rajeev Srinivasan - India Abroad March 8'2002).
Colonial Legacy - Myths and Popular Beliefs
While few educated South Asians would deny that British Colonial rule was
detrimental to the interests of the common people of the sub-continent - several
harbor an illusion that the British weren't all bad. Didn't they, perhaps,
educate us - build us modern cities, build us irrigation canals - protect our
ancient monuments - etc. etc.
in 1911 was only 6%, in 1931 it was 8%, and by 1947 it had crawled to 11%!
is undoubtedly true that the British built modern cities with modern
conveniences for their administrative officers. But it should be noted that
these were exclusive zones not intended for the "natives" to enjoy.
Consider that in 1911, 69 per cent of
's population lived in one-room tenements (as against 6 per cent in
in the same year).
the Second World War, 13 per cent of
's population slept on the streets. As for sanitation, 10-15 tenements typically
shared one water tap!
Yet, in 1757
(the year of the Plassey defeat), Robert Clive
of the East India Company
had observed of Murshidabad in Bengal:
city is as extensive, populous and rich as the city of
(so quoted in the Indian Industrial Commission Report of 1916-18). Dacca
was even more famous as a manufacturing town, it's muslin a source of many
legends and it's weavers had an international reputation that was unmatched in
the medieval world.
But in 1840 it was reported by Sir
(1807 - 1886) to a parliamentary enquiry that Dacca
's population had fallen from 150,000 to 20,000.
Martin - an early historian of the British Empire observed that
and Murshidabad had suffered a similiar fate. (This phenomenon was to be
replicated all over India - particularly in Awadh (modern U.P) and other areas
that had offered the most heroic resistance to the British during the revolt of
In 1854, Sir
(1803 - 1899) writing in "Public Works in
works have been almost entirely neglected throughout India
... The motto hitherto has been: 'Do nothing, have nothing done, let nobody do
Adding that the Company was unconcerned if people died
of famine, or if they lacked roads and water. Nothing can be more revealing than the remark by
John Bright in the
Commons on June 24, 1858,
"The single city of Manchester, in the supply
of its inhabitants with the single article of water, has spent a larger sum of
money than the East India Company has spent in the fourteen years from 1834 to
1848 in public works of every kind throughout the whole of its vast dominions."
and Agricultural Development
is another popular belief about British rule: 'The British modernized Indian
agriculture by building canals'. But the actual record reveals a somewhat
The roads and tanks and canals," noted an observer in 1838 (G.
Thompson, "India and the Colonies," 1838), ''which Hindu or
Mussulman Governments constructed for the service of the nations and the good of
the country have been suffered to fall into dilapidation; and now the want of
the means of irrigation causes famines."
in his standard work "The
in 1858, noted that the old East India Company
"omitted not only to
initiate improvements, but even to keep in repair the old works upon which the
(1852 - 1932) a distinguished hydraulic engineer, whose name was associated with
irrigation enterprises in
and Mesopotamia had made an investigation of conditions in
Bengal. He wrote:
"Not only was nothing done to utilize and improve the original canal system,
but railway embankments were subsequently thrown up, entirely destroying it.
Some areas, cut off from the supply of loam-bearing
water, have gradually become sterile and unproductive, others improperly
drained, show an advanced degree of water-logging, with the inevitable
accompaniment of malaria. Nor has any attempt been made to construct proper
embankments for the Gauges in its low course, to prevent the enormous erosion by
which villages and groves and cultivated fields are swallowed up each year."
Medicine and Life Expectancy
some serious critics of colonial rule grudgingly grant that the British brought
modern medicine to
. Yet - all the statistical indicators show that access to modern medicine was
severely restricted. A 1938 report by the ILO (International Labor Office) on
"Industrial Labor in
" revealed that life expectancy in
was barely 25 years in 1921 (compared to 55 for England) and had actually fallen to 23 in 1931! In his recently published "Late
Mike Davis reports that life expectancy fell by
20% between 1872 and 1921.
1934, there was one hospital bed for 3800 people in
and this figure included hospital beds reserved for the British rulers. (In
that same year, in the
, there were ten times as many.) Infant mortality in
was 255 per thousand in 1928. (In the same year, it was less than half that in
Digby (1849 - 1904)
noted in "Prosperous
in 1901 that "stated
roughly, famines and scarcities have been four times as numerous, during the
last thirty years of the 19th century as they were one hundred years ago, and
four times as widespread."
points out that here were 31(thirty one) serious famines in 120 years of British
rule compared to 17(seventeen) in the 2000 years before British rule.
that once produced grain for local consumption was now taken over by by former
who were permitted to set up plantations for the cultivation of lucrative cash
crops exclusively for export. Particularly galling is how the British colonial
rulers continued to export foodgrains from
even during famine years.
British Government reports repeatedly published data that showed 70-80% of
Indians were living on the margin of subsistence. That two-thirds were
undernourished, and in
, nearly four-fifths were undernourished.
this data with the following accounts of Indian life prior to colonization:-
....even in the smallest villages rice, flour, butter, milk, beans and other
vegetables, sugar and sweetmeats can be procured in abundance .... Tavernier
writing in the 17th century in his "Travels in India".
- 1714) the Venetian who became chief physician to Aurangzeb (also in the 17th century)
"Bengal is of all the kingdoms of the Moghul, best known in
..... We may venture to say it is not inferior in anything to
- and that it even exceeds that kingdom in its products of silks, cottons,
sugar, and indigo. All things are in great plenty here, fruits, pulse, grain,
muslins, cloths of gold and silk..."
French traveller, Francois Bernier (1625
- 1688) also
described 17th century Bengal in a similiar vein:
"The knowledge I have
acquired of Bengal in two visits inclines me to believe that it is richer than
. It exports in abundance cottons and silks, rice, sugar and butter. It produces
amply for it's own consumption of wheat, vegetables, grains, fowls, ducks and
geese. It has immense herds of pigs and flocks of sheep and goats. Fish of every
kind it has in profusion. From Rajmahal to the sea is an endless number of
canals, cut in bygone ages from the
by immense labour for navigation and irrigation."
poverty of British India stood in stark contrast to these eye witness reports
and has to be ascribed to the pitiful wages that working people in India
received in that period. A 1927-28 report noted that
"all but the most
highly skilled workmen in
receive wages which are barely sufficient to feed and clothe them. Everywhere
will be seen overcrowding, dirt and squalid misery..."
the least known aspect of the colonial legacy is the early British attitude
India's historic monuments and the extend of vandalism that took place. Instead,
there is this pervasive myth of the Britisher as an unbiased "protector of
the nation's historic legacy".
to dismantle the Taj Mahal were in place, and wrecking machinery was moved into
the garden grounds. Just as the demolition work was to begin, news from
indicated that the first auction had not been a success, and that all further
sales were cancelled -- it would not be worth the money to tear down the Taj
Mahal. Thus the Taj Mahal was spared, and so too, was the reputation of the
"Protectors of India's Historic Legacy"
! That innumerable
other monuments were destroyed, or left to rack and ruin is a story that has yet
to get beyond the specialists in the field.
and the Industrial
the most important aspect of colonial rule was the transfer of wealth from
his pioneering book, India
conclusively demonstrates how vital this was to the Industrial Revolution in
Britain. Several patents that had remained unfunded suddenly found industrial sponsors
once the taxes from India
started rolling in. Without
, British banks would have found it impossible to fund the modernization of
that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In addition, the
scientific basis of the industrial revolution was not a uniquely European
Several civilizations had been adding to the world's scientific database -
especially the civilizations of
Asia, (including those of the Indian sub-continent). Without
that aggregate of scientific knowledge the scientists of
would have found it impossible to make the rapid strides they made during the
period of the Industrial revolution. Moreover,
several of these patents, particularly those concerned with the textile industry
relied on pre-industrial techniques perfected in the sub-continent. (In
fact, many of the earliest textile machines in
were unable to match the complexity and finesse of the spinning and weaving
euro-centric authors have attempted to deny any such linkage. They have tried to
assert that not only was the Industrial Revolution a uniquely British/European
event - that colonization and the the phenomenal transfer of wealth that took
place was merely incidental to it's fruition. But the words of Lord
still ring loud and clear. The Viceroy of British India in 1894 was quite
is the pivot of our Empire .... If the Empire loses any other part of its
Dominion we can survive, but if we lose
the sun of our Empire will have set."
Curzon knew fully well, the value and importance of the Indian colony. It was
the transfer of wealth through unprecedented levels of taxation on Indians of
virtually all classes that funded the great "Industrial Revolution"
and laid the ground for "modernization" in
. As early as 1812, an East India Company Report had stated "The
importance of that immense empire to this country is rather to be estimated by
the great annual addition it makes to the wealth and capital of the
Colonial Legacy - Myths and Popular Beliefs - indiaresource.com).
It is painfully evident that the
West has approached Asia "armed with
gun-and-gospel truth," systematically imposing its religions,
its values, and its legal and political systems on Eastern nations, careless of
local sensitivities and indifferent to indigenous traditions."
Enlightenment: The encounter between Asian and Western thought - By J. J.
The timeline of contact of both Islam and the British with the
Indian subcontinent is a chronicle of butchery, plundering of wealth and
resources, destruction of Hindu/Buddhist temples and property, slavery and
rounding up of women for harems, forced religious conversions and taxation, and
degradation of local customs and traditions that led to cultural, religious,
economic, political and social upheaval of unprecedented proportions that modern
India is only now coming to grips with. While
the Islamic bunch had the barbaric and destructive characteristic as their
hallmark, the British were a little more refined, emphasizing on economic
exploitation, but no less generous or kind towards their subjects.
India's True History - By Hari Chandra -sulekha.com).
Smelling British Sahibs learnt to bathe in India - Civilizing the British?
first Englishmen who came to India as servants of the East India Company were
bewildered by many of our customs. Many of them commented on, in their letters
home, the habit, among certain classes of the Hindus, of taking a daily bath.
early factory-hands of John Company in India may have been somewhat scandalized
by the fact that Hindu men and women of good families should not mind taking
their baths in full view of others, what they found even more strange
was that they should be washing their bodies at all.
the British, the process of washing the
body entailed lying prone in a tub half full of hot water. And how many houses
in pre-Industrial England could have had metal containers large enough to
accommodate grown men and women, and, even more, the facilities to heat up
enough water? The
conclusion was inescapable. For most Englishmen of the 17th and 18th centuries,
a bath must have been a rare experience indeed, affordable to the very rich, who
perhaps took baths when they felt particularly obnoxious, what with their zest
for vigorous exercise, such as workouts in the boxing ring or rowing or riding
at the gallop over the countryside. What a sensual pleasure it must have been to
lie soaking in a tub full of scalding hot water? But such indulgences were
possible only during the few weeks of what the English call their summer. For
the rest of the year, the water in the tub could not have remained hot for more
than a couple of minutes, and from November through February must have gone icy
cold as soon as it was poured in. Brrrrr!
Then again, even those who thus bathed their bodies
a few times every summer seem to have been careful to, as it were, keep their
heads above water. In other words, a bath did not also involve a hair-wash.
Otherwise there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they should have found it
necessary to coin—or adopt—a special word to describe the process of
bathing hair: shampoo, which, ‘Hobson Jobson’ tells us is derived from the
Hindi word, champi, for ‘massage’. Why a word which normally
described the process of muscle-kneading should have been picked on to explain
a head-wash, is not at all convincing. It seems that the Company’s servants
used to send for their barbers every now and then to massage their heads with
oil and then rinse off the hair with soap and water. So
the head-champi, became ‘shampoo’.
may explain why G M Trevelyans’s
Social History does not so much as mention the word ‘bath’.
In the pre-industrial age it was, at best, an eccentricity indulged in by
exercise-freaks in the summer months, and a head-bath was even rarer.
English royal court felt compelled to post in 1589: "Let no one,
whoever he may be, before, at or after meals, early or late, foul the staircase,
corridors, or closets with urine or other filth."
out in the tropics they must have gone about smelling quite a bit. In
fact, the Chinese, when they first encountered the White man described him as
"the smelly one".
Dalrymple, in his book White
Mughals: Love and Betrayal
in Eighteenth-Century India
"Indian women, for example, introduced British men in the delights of
regular bathing." And again:
who had returned home and continued to bathe and shampoo themselves on a regular
basis found themselves scoffed at as ‘effeminate’."
sahibs learnt to bathe in India - by Manohar Malgonkar -
Page < 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 >