Wednesday 27th April 2005

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Understanding Hinduism

According to a member of the new breed of Indian historians, KSS Seshan, “History is to society what memory is to the individual. No individual can take any intelligent decision in his day-to-day life if he is devoid of the memory. Similarly, any society that is bereft of its past is bound to get degenerated under the weight of its own ignorance of the past.

“History is an integral part of human knowledge and is imperative for its intrinsic values. Past provides the much-needed indicators for us to know and draw lessons. In a way, history is the foundation for the edifice of the present as well as the


Another of Hinduism’s renowned present-day scientists and thinkers is Navaratan S Rajaram. He is a mathematician, computer scientist, linguist and historian of science. He has more than 25 years experience in teaching and research at several universities in the US. Since 1984 he has been an adviser to the US National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA).

His other interest is the study of the scientific foundations of ancient history, particularly the history of ancient India. He has worked on the connection between Vedic mathematics and the mathematics of ancient Egypt and Old Babylonia.

In his book of essays on The Hindu View of the World, Rajaram laments the fact that “there appears to be certain boundaries that some Indian intellectuals will not venture to cross, choosing rather to work with a self-imposed framework bounded by taboos.”

India became an independent nation in 1947 and he insists that there is a “passage of time long enough to allow a re-examination of her past. It is time we do so even if it makes some people unhappy. A few ruffled feathers cannot be allowed to stand in the way of truth and progress.”

One locally ruffled feather is my friend Marion O’Callaghan who accused the BJP government of India of “reconstruction” of Indian history (Newsday, March 28). An Indian architect of the Christian history of India is a woman named Romilar Tapar who does not know India’s ancient languages like Sanskrit.

This western-trained historian is the darling of Christians who created their own version of the history of India and other continents they conquered and dominated for hundreds of years. But Tapar’s version is being challenged over the past 25 years by modern scientists and historians with newly unearthed evidence.

Christian missionaries here in Trinidad and in India have always projected Hinduism in a negative light and some of us have acquired the unconscious habit of looking at ourselves and our civilisation through Christian eyes. But this habit of measuring something with alien values is a serious limitation in understanding Hinduism and its ancient culture.

Sarah Morton, an icon of the Presbyterian Church, in an effort to extract more Canadian donations, wrote in the Presbyterian Witness (Canada) that the Hindu scriptures and stories “Are samples of the wicked absurdities that delight the hearts of the Hindu people. To make a feast and cause the Brahmans to read them to the assembled crowd is an act of the highest merit. It should make us humble to see how the boasted intellect of man can degrade itself. The writer humbly hopes that the reading of them may draw forth anew the sympathy and aid of Christians for those who are without God.”

According to Rajaram, trying to understand Hinduism through the eyes of another belief is like “trying to understand quantum mathematics through Newtown’s Law of Motion. It cannot be done. One must try and understand Hinduism on its own terms, and not in terms of the internal and external features borrowed from other exclusive creeds.”

The Rigveda is the oldest of Hindu scriptures and no one has been able to definitely state when it was first composed or revealed. European Christian scholars and even an ideologist like Max Muller tries to fix a date of 1200BC.

But Rajaram and others charge that this is tied to the Christian belief that “the world was created at 9 am in October 4004 BC and the biblical flood took place in 2448 BC.”

This was pure superstition since modern scientific evidence proves otherwise.

The Vedic civilisation in India can be traced to at least 7000 BCE—in archaeological remains at Harappa, Mohegodaro and other excavation sites. There are places in the Rigveda where we find descriptions of what seems like eyewitness accounts of the cracking of the ice caps, which according to some is a pointer that the Rigveda was written/revealed before the end of the ice age.

SATNARAYAN MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha



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