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The Great Farce - The benign British?

The Colonial Legacy -
Myths and Popular Beliefs
- Fashionable theories of benign Imperial rule ?

"They 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 India to 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

1. Railways

Romancing the Raj?

Oozing with the milk of human kindness, aren’t we?

Modern Indians 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 too. Recently, Robert Kaplan writing in The Atlantic 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

Dharmpal 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:

"The 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. "

(source: Indic Science - Interview with Dharmpal - timesofindia - January 3 2004).  

Sardar 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, India Through the ages and India and the Indian Ocean

Panikkar wrote:  

"The 19th century witnessed the apogee of capitalism in Europe. That this was in a large measure due to Europe ’s exploitation of Asian resources is now accepted by historians. 

"It 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 Britain ’s connection with India. Vast sums were invested in India for building railways. "

As J A (John Atkins) Hobson (1858 - 1940) the historian of Imperialism, (1902) observes:  

“The 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.” 

Asia 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.

The 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 the natives.

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 England. 

The 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 hinterland markets.

Indian 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.

The 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. 

(source: Distortions 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 of India 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."

clive.jpg (55865 bytes)There 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). 

1. Regarding countrywide transportation: Railways

American Historian Will Durant has written in his book - A Case For India

"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. 

Amitav Ghosh author 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. 

"Thailand has 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 themselves."

(source: Travelling 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. 

Mahatma Gandhi blamed them for carrying "the pest of westernization" around India.

(source: India's railways - By Mark Tully).

Note:  The 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?

(source: Historicide: 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.

Dadabhai Naoroji 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."

(source: Poverty and Un-British Rule in India - By Dadabhai Naoroji - p. 103).


2. Education: 

The English rulers have boasted that they have introduced education in India but this boast is pure moonshine. 

Literacy 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.
Macaulay, 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.

(source: Tortured souls create twisted history - N S Rajaram - and
The 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."

(source: Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage - By Will Durant MJF Books.1935 p.556-557).

Christian 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 us."

Sir John Woodroffe, (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 Culture  Education in Ancient India and First Indologists) he wrote: 

"To 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 civilized." 

Is India Civilized: Essays on Indian Culture - By Sir John Woodroffe p.290).

European 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." 

Brigadier-General Alexander Walker who served in India between 1780-1810, says, that "no people probably appreciate more justly the importance of instruction that the Hindus." 

The fact of wide-spread 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 accounts." 

(source: On Hinduism Reviews and Reflections - By Ram Swarup p. 179-180 - refer to chapter on Hindu Culture for more information on Education in Ancient India).

In 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 society. 

(source: (For more please refer to noted Gandhian, Dharampal's book. The Beautiful Tree, (Biblia Impex, Delhi, 1983}.

When 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.

(source: The 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.

(source: Bharata Shakti: Collection of Addresses on Indian Culture - By Sir John Woodroffe p. 75-77).

The 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 up. 

(source: Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity - edited by Dr. M.D. David p. 88-89).

The 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."

This 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.

(source: On 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).

Another 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. 

(source: Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report On Christian Missionary Activities - By 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 the birth."

"A single 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 future."

(source: 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 Culture II).

"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. 

Dilip 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 racists at their worst.." 

Elaborating on the phenomenon of cultural colonization, Priya Joshi (Culture 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."

Ngugi 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".

Strong 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.

Mahatma 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". 

(source: British Education in India - By Dr David Grey).


Debunking Myth: Dalits and Indigenous System of Educaiton

Dharampal (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.”

Sir Alfred Lyall (1796 - 1865) was unhappy that:

“…more 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 - - December 14 2004).

Thus, 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 educational system.


3. Unity - Sense of belonging

Mahatma Gandhi, (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. "

(source: Hindu Swaraj or Indian Home Rule - By M. K. Gandhi p. 46).

Bipin 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."

(source: The 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. 

(source: 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.

(source: Indian 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 words: 

“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

“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.”

 William 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.  

(source: India in Bondage: Her Right to Freedom - Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland p. 238-289

Hinduism 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."

(source: The Soul of India - By Satyavrata R Patel p.208).

Political Unity of India since Ancient Times

The name 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 emperor". 

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. 

(source: The 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 Dehejia).

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 Brahmaputra flows,
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." 

(source: Ancient 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. 

(source: India: A World in Transition - By Beatrice Pitney Lamb p. 32).

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. Sankaracharya 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." 

Glimpses of World History - By Jawaharlal Nehru p. 129). 

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." 

(source: The Hindu View of Life - By Sir. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan p. 73-77). 

Girilal Jain, 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." 

(source: Hindu Phenomenon - By Girilal Jain  p. 21).

Sri Aurobindo 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).

Guy Sorman 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.

(source: The Genius of India - By Guy Sorman  ('Le Genie de l'Inde') p. 197).

N. S. 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 ). 

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:
Democracy in Ancient India By Steve Muhlberger

Sri Jayendra Saraswati - The Sankaracharya of Kanchi has said:

"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:

"Gange cha Yamunechaiva! Godavari! Sarasvati!
Narmade! Sindhu! Kaveri!  Jale asmin sannidhim kuru!"

"Hail! 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).


The 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.

Literacy and Education 

The literacy in British India in 1911 was only 6%, in 1931 it was 8%, and by 1947 it had crawled to 11%!

Urban Development

It 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 Bombay 's population lived in one-room tenements (as against 6 per cent in London in the same year). After the Second World War, 13 per cent of Bombay '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:

"This city is as extensive, populous and rich as the city of London ..." (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 Charles Trevelyan (1807 - 1886) to a parliamentary enquiry that Dacca 's population had fallen from 150,000 to 20,000. Montgomery Martin - an early historian of the British Empire observed that Surat 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 1857.) 

In 1854, Sir Arthur Cotton (1803 - 1899) writing in "Public Works in India " noted: 

"Public works have been almost entirely neglected throughout India ... The motto hitherto has been: 'Do nothing, have nothing done, let nobody do anything....." 

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 House of 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." 

Irrigation and Agricultural Development

There is another popular belief about British rule: 'The British modernized Indian agriculture by building canals'. But the actual record reveals a somewhat different story. 

" 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." 

Robert Montgomery Martin, in his standard work "The Indian Empire", 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 revenue depended."

Sir William Willcock (1852 - 1932) a distinguished hydraulic engineer, whose name was associated with irrigation enterprises in Egypt 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 Ganges 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." 

Modern Medicine and Life Expectancy

Even some serious critics of colonial rule grudgingly grant that the British brought modern medicine to India . 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 India " revealed that life expectancy in India was barely 25 years in 1921 (compared to 55 for England) and had actually fallen to 23 in 1931! In his recently published "Late Victorian Holocausts" Mike Davis reports that life expectancy fell by 20% between 1872 and 1921.

In 1934, there was one hospital bed for 3800 people in British India and this figure included hospital beds reserved for the British rulers. (In that same year, in the Soviet Union , there were ten times as many.) Infant mortality in Bombay was 255 per thousand in 1928. (In the same year, it was less than half that in Moscow .)

William Digby (1849 - 1904) noted in "Prosperous British India" 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." In Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis 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.

Land that once produced grain for local consumption was now taken over by by former slave-owners from N. America 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 India to Britain even during famine years.

Annual 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 Bengal , nearly four-fifths were undernourished.

Contrast 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".

Niccolo Manucci (1639 - 1714) the Venetian who became chief physician to Aurangzeb (also in the 17th century) wrote: 

"Bengal is of all the kingdoms of the Moghul, best known in France ..... We may venture to say it is not inferior in anything to Egypt - 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..."

The 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 Egypt . 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 Ganges by immense labour for navigation and irrigation."

The 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 India receive wages which are barely sufficient to feed and clothe them. Everywhere will be seen overcrowding, dirt and squalid misery..." 

Ancient Monuments

Perhaps the least known aspect of the colonial legacy is the early British attitude towards 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".

Plans 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 London 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 British as "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.

India and the Industrial Revolution

Perhaps the most important aspect of colonial rule was the transfer of wealth from India to Britain . In his pioneering book, India Today, Rajni Palme Dutt 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 capital from India , British banks would have found it impossible to fund the modernization of Britain that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In addition, the scientific basis of the industrial revolution was not a uniquely European contribution. 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 Britain and Europe 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 Britain were unable to match the complexity and finesse of the spinning and weaving machines of Dacca .).

Some 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 Curzon still ring loud and clear. The Viceroy of British India in 1894 was quite unequivocal, " India is the pivot of our Empire .... If the Empire loses any other part of its Dominion we can survive, but if we lose India the sun of our Empire will have set."

Lord 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 Britain . 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 Kingdom....." 

(source: The Colonial Legacy - Myths and Popular Beliefs -

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."

(source: Oriental Enlightenment: The encounter between Asian and Western thought - By J. J. Clarke p.6-8).

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. 

(source: Resurrecting India's True History - By Hari Chandra  


Smelling British Sahibs learnt to bathe in India - Civilizing the British?

The 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.

The 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.

For 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’.

Which may explain why G M Trevelyans’s English 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."

But, 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".

According to William 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:

"Those who had returned home and continued to bathe and shampoo themselves on a regular basis found themselves scoffed at as ‘effeminate’."

(source: Smelling sahibs learnt to bathe in India - by Manohar Malgonkar -




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