Unmasking the Left: The Battle for Ayodhya’s Truth

In Vikram Sampath’s book “Bravehearts of Bharat: Vignettes from Indian History,” he points out the significant issues within Indian historiography. The history we learn in schools, often centered on Delhi, tends to overlook the genuine stories of Indians. Instead, it spotlights foreign invaders and their victories. The narrative presented suggests a constant series of failures, implying a lack of bravery on our part. Every discussed battle ends in defeat, portraying us as merely a chain of losers. Notably absent is any mention of resistance from our side, almost as if they want us to believe our nation was filled with individuals like Raja Ambhi, who meekly submitted to Alexander of Macedonia.

When opportunities arise for cultural revival or correcting civilizational wrongs, Indian Left historians intervene to prevent it. This was evident in the debate about whether the Babri structure was built on top of a mandir at Janmabhumi. The Left historians swiftly entered the scene. Initially, they refused to acknowledge that the Babri structure was built on top of a temple. Later, when evidence surfaced against that claim, they shifted to asserting it was anything but a Hindu temple. With the temple set to be inaugurated on Jan 22, 2024, it becomes crucial to know the names of these Left historians and understand their actions in obstructing the construction of the Ram temple at Janmabhumi.

Some Historians are More Equal Than Others

In his memoir, “An Indian, I am” K.K. Muhammad, the ASI archaeologist who participated in excavations with B.B. Lal, explores the profound significance of Ayodhya for Hindus. “The Ram temple is to a Hindu, what Mecca and Medina are to a Muslim. A Muslim cannot imagine both these places under the control of another religion. Muslims should feel the pain of a Hindu, whose religious places are under the control of another religion, even though they live in a Hindu-majority country. Hindus believe Babri Masjid is Ram Janmabhoomi. This place has nothing to do with Prophet Muhammad. It relates only to Babar. So why should there be such a fight over this place?”

Since the 1980s, Left historians have been leading a campaign against the Rama temple, contending that Rama worship emerged in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, positioning it as a post-Babar phenomenon. They also challenge the historicity of Ayodhya in Valmiki’s account, dismissing the present-day identification of Ayodhya as Ramjanmabhumi as a matter of faith. This narrative clashes with K.K.Muhammad’s portrayal of Ayodhya’s sanctity, deepening the divide between perspectives on this historical and religious site.

The first argument of the Left historians was that Babar did not demolish any temple.. Their counterargument posited that the Babri structure emerged on virgin land without prior temple demolition. In their fantasy world, Babar deliberately bypassed existing temples, procured new land, and erected a mosque. This stance, a strategic move to hinder any potential settlement between Hindus and Muslims, necessitated the outright denial of a temple’s existence beneath the Babri structure. For them, the absence of a temple underneath would settle the case definitively.

However, their narrative faced a pivotal challenge well before the 1992 demolition. B.B. Lal’s earlier excavations in Ayodhya uncovered a pillared structure dating back to the 11th century. The brick-built pillar bases were marginally larger than the fourteen black stone pillars within the Babri structure. The carvings on these pillars followed the Pratihara style from the eleventh century CE. This archaeological revelation effectively dismantled their assertion that the Babri structure was erected on clean ground.

Once the first argument by the Leftists was demolished, their second argument was that the excavated structure cannot be a temple. 

.The Leftists harbored a strong aversion to the brick-pillar-indicated-mandir theory. Consequently, they resorted to a dubious strategy of concocting alternative explanations. They suggested the revealed structure might have been an ordinary building or a hall adjacent to a mosque. According to them, the carvings could be attributed to a domestic house, proposing that the excavated structure could represent anything—perhaps even a Starbucks—but definitely not a temple.

As the Court ordered excavations started, the evidence supporting the existence of a temple continued to surface. This compelling proof included the Nagari-scripted letter “Shri” on a black stone pillar, the identification of the temple’s plinth beneath the boundary wall, and the discovery of a substantial stone adorned with intricate floral motifs. The most decisive piece of evidence came in the form of a stone slab measuring 5×225 ft, bearing 20 lines of inscriptions referencing Bhargava Parasurama, Ayodhya, and Vishnu’s incarnations. This accumulation of concrete archaeological findings served to counter the Leftists’ speculative and dismissive claims about the nature of the excavated structure.

As the excavations progressed, revealing figurines and stone architectural fragments such as the amalaka, ghatapallava base, kirtimukhas, and other elements, the unmistakable conclusion emerged that the structure beneath Babri was not of Muslim origin. Responding to mounting evidence, Leftists shifted their narrative, asserting that it was, in fact, Buddhist and not Hindu. This shift in focus demonstrated a steadfast commitment to denying the possibility that it was a Hindu temple that had been demolished. However, as evidence accumulated, the Leftists found it increasingly challenging to maintain their position.

Ultimately, when confronted with artifacts like the Kalash, symbolic of Hindu temples, and representations of the crocodile (associated with the river Ganga) and the tortoise (associated with the river Yamuna), the Leftists had to concede that these items were non-Islamic. The sheer weight of archaeological findings debunked their claims, forcing a reevaluation of their narrative.

The ASI’s findings unveiled a massive structure dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, over which another substantial structure was built between the 12th and 16th centuries. The Babri structure was completed atop this foundation. ASI noted the presence of a significant structure below Babri and identified sculptures depicting a divine couple, amalaka, lotus motifs, and a circular shrine with a pranala in the north—distinctive features of north Indian temples. These excavations provided undeniable evidence of a temple with a garbha griha.

Faced with the exposure of their inaccurate narrative, Left historians vehemently protested against the ASI, accusing it of producing a biased report. The clash between the archaeological evidence and the ideological stance of the Leftists intensified, marking a contentious chapter in the discourse surrounding Ayodhya.

The Confessions

One of the prominent Left historians, D. Mandal, initially posited an argument that the site had been utilized by Muslims since the Gupta period, citing two floods as reasons for abandonment. However, during court proceedings, he had to correct himself, acknowledging the absence of evidence supporting the flood claim. Despite a pranala, a crucial feature of temples for draining water on a Shiva linga, which would typically confirm it as a temple to Hindus, Mandal remained resistant to such interpretation.

On the other hand, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon contended that the circular shrine was a Buddhist stupa. At the same time, attempts were made to label it as a Muslim tomb despite its apparent small size. Ifran Habib argued that the presence of lime, mortar, and surkhi pointed to Muslim construction methods, only to face dissent from his own party members. Jaya Menon countered by asserting that lime and gypsum had been used since Neolithic times, with surkhi dating back to the early Kushan period.

As the legal proceedings unfolded, it became apparent that the Left historians were espousing positions even more stringent than necessary. Notably, they argued that an old mosque or Eidgah lay beneath the Babri structure, a claim not asserted by the Muslims themselves.The courtroom drama highlighted the ideological fervor of the Left historians, whose interpretations often contradicted the archaeological evidence and diverged from the perspectives of the communities directly involved. 

The Court keenly observed this evolving attitude of the Left historians. Initially, they asserted that the Babri structure occupied a site devoid of any religious significance or previous Hindu structures, disassociating it from the birthplace of Lord Rama. However, as successive excavations dismantled these claims, a noticeable shift occurred in their stance.

The Court noted that the excavations unequivocally demonstrated that the disputed structure did not stand on vacant land but had been in continuous use for centuries, serving a religious purpose. The critical question remained whether it was a temple.

The ASI’s findings revealed a massive structure beneath the Babri structure, featuring a 50 m-long wall and seventeen rows of pillar bases. The Leftists contended that it was a Muslim structure wrongfully claimed as Hindu, asserting it could be Buddhist, Jain, or Muslim but not Hindu. The bias against anything Hindu was palpable. When faced with the pillar bases, they went so far as to accuse the ASI of fabrication. This accusation stunned the Court, given that all excavations were conducted in the presence of plaintiffs and court-appointed observers. The Court rightfully deemed the Leftist arguments “thoroughly hollow.” These were the same pillar bases initially identified by B.B. Lal in 1976-1977 and later confirmed by archaeologist K.K. Muhammad. The Court firmly rejected the insinuation that the excavation lacked fidelity, highlighting the unwarranted nature of the Leftists’ allegations.

As the weight of evidence mounted against them, confessions from the Left historians began to emerge. One admitted to relying solely on newspaper reports and hearsay for knowledge about the disputed site, confessing to not having read Babarnama or any material on the Babri Mosque. Another self-proclaimed epigraphy expert acknowledged a lack of proficiency in Arabic, Persian, or Latin—the languages of the inscriptions in question. He initially identified the language as Persian in a flip-flop, later retracting and stating it was Arabic. Another historian, claiming literary evidence sufficed without visiting the disputed site, eventually conceded his inability to read Persian, Arabic, or Sanskrit, relying on his father-in-law for Persian translations.

The author of “The Disputed Mosque, a Historical Inquiry” admitted to lacking expertise in epigraphy or numismatics, archaeology, architecture, or any language. Another historian formed an opinion before reviewing the ASI report, while another with a Ph.D. sourced information from newspapers and magazines without reading any book by a historian.

One individual, who had never visited Ayodhya and lacked knowledge of Babar’s reign, disclosed being a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. The Court expressed surprise at the recklessness of these self-proclaimed expert historians and archaeologists who made irresponsible statements without proper study, research, or investigation, particularly in a dispute of such sensitivity.

The individuals involved in these confessions included Romila Thapar, D.N. Jha, Shireen Moosvi, Irfan Habib, D. Mandal, Supriya Varma, Jaya Menon, Sita Ram Roy, Suraj Bhan, Ashoka Dutta, Shireen Ratnagar, and R.C. Thakran. Hailing from institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University and Aligarh Muslim University, some were card-carrying members of CPI and CPI(M), indicating that their stance was driven more by ideology than academic rigor—an ideology seemingly anti-Hindu. The confessions suggested a fear of judgment by Babar for not defending his iconoclasm.


Hindus have a profound connection to sacred spaces tied to geography, and the Ramjanmabhumi stands prominently among them as the revered birthplace of Lord Rama. Even after the demolition of the temple by Babar, accounts from Western travelers attest to the enduring reverence devotees held for this sacred ground. However, the forceful opposition from Left historians against acknowledging the existence of a temple hints at a more insidious motive—an apparent willingness to obstruct any resurgence of Hindu identity.

This distortion of history extends beyond academic debate; it represents a deliberate effort to implant seeds of inferiority within the fabric of our nation. In the post-independence era, as Indian Marxist historians took the reins, they perpetuated a relentless self-critique that went beyond the narrative of colonial oppressors. Instead, they engaged in a constant act of apologizing for our own history. Through their written works, they painted a picture where the erstwhile slave, long after the departure of the master, continues to self-inflict the whip—a poignant portrayal of the completion of the insidious work of colonialism. This historical manipulation becomes a tool not only to distort the past but also to shape a narrative that undermines a nation’s cultural pride and identity.


  1. Rama and Ayodhya by Meenakshi Jain
  2. Indian, I am by K. K. Muhammad
  3. Supreme Court Verdict on Ram Janmabhumi

Related Articles

  1. Ayodhya – Marxist Mischief
  2. Prof. Irfan Habib’s Secularism

Aurangzeb, Pirates, and the East India Company

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

On a date that would one day be marked by future tragedy, history quietly marked its own significant encounter. On the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, just near the bustling port of Surat, two vessels came perilously close. One was a majestic Mughal ship, her hull filled with treasures. This vessel had evaded many pirates lurking in these waters. The other was an English pirate ship, and its target was the Mughal galleon, which had eluded the snares of many pirates lurking in these waters. The Mughal ship was just a few days from home, but an encounter happened in the blink of an eye, pushing these ships into a historic confrontation.

First, a canon on the Mughal ship, instead of blasting the pirate ship, exploded on deck. Instead of being a formidable weapon, it becomes a formidable bomb. In that chaos, another significant event occurs. Defying all odds, a cannonball from the pirate ship scores a direct hit on the main mast of the Mughal ship. This renders the mighty vessel defenseless and vulnerable to the pirates of the Indian Ocean. Two hundred pirates erupt in jubilation.

This was a time when the English had not started looting India. They were in the nascent stages of establishing commercial roots and currying favor with Aurangzeb. By this time, Aurangzeb was busy with looting and religious purification. By then, the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya had been demolished. Within this backdrop, the tale unfolds—a narrative entwined with the exploits of pirates and the looming presence of Aurangzeb, poised to cast its shadow upon the destiny of the burgeoning East India Company. This could have ended the East India Company adventures even before they started.

The Chase

Aurangzeb (Wikipedia)

Aurangzeb’s ship, the Ganj-i-Sawai, was a hefty wooden vessel known as a ghanjah dhow, cruising the waters of the vast Indian Ocean. Weighing in at over 1500 tonnes, it could carry more than a thousand people. Ganj-i-Sawai meant “exceeding treasure,” while the English gave it the moniker Gunsway.

Designed for a specific mission—to transport Aurangzeb’s family members to Mecca for the hajj—the Gunsway was loaded with valuable goods like calico, fine porcelain, ivory ornaments, and peppercorns. Think of it like Jeff Bezos’ yacht rolling into the harbor in today’s terms. The ship was armed with eighty guns and had a crew of four hundred soldiers, highlighting its dual role of imperial grandeur and practical defense of precious cargo during its voyages.

Onboard the Ganj-i-Sawai, alongside the distinguished women from Aurangzeb’s court, were other female passengers. However, a darker aspect tainted the ship’s voyage, as the captain engaged in a side business—sex trafficking of Turkish women. In stark contrast, the pirate ship sailed without women, shedding light on the stark differences in the moral compass between these maritime ventures.

The other ship was commanded by Henry Every, also known as “Long Ben,” a notorious English pirate who operated during the late 17th century. Every gained infamy for orchestrating one of history’s most audacious and profitable pirate raids. In 1694, he led a mutiny aboard the slave ship Charles II, renaming it the Fancy, and embarked on a spree of piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Back in the 1600s, getting rich was exclusive. You had to luck out and be born into a royal dynasty ( Mughal, British Royal Family) or take the pirate route (Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh). If you were a peasant, getting rich was a distant dream—until joint stock companies entered the scene. Suddenly, you didn’t have to be Captain Jack Sparrow or William III. Between 1660 and 1680, the British East India Company’s stock value shot up fourfold, giving birth to a new class of wealthy folks.

In those days, the Mughal ship laden with treasures was quite the talk of the “pirate internet.” It wasn’t just Every’s pirate ship on the hunt; a couple of American vessels were also waiting for this grand prize. Fate took a twist when all these pirate ships coincidentally converged on a tiny island in the Red Sea. Strangely unanimous, they elected Every as their captain, and that marked the commencement of an extraordinary chase. The fleet, now under Every’s command, set its sights on Aurangzeb’s ships, initiating a high-stakes pursuit on the vast expanse of the Red Sea.

In due course, the pirates closed in on the Gunsway, finally incapacitating it. Remarkably, this small crew managed to cripple a ship three times its size. The Gunsway’s hold contained a wealth of treasures—gold, silver, frankincense, myrrh, jewels, ivory, and saffron—an impressive haul, marking one of the most lucrative heists of its time.

However, the aftermath took a dark turn. In the days that followed, the pirates subjected the women on the ship to a multi-day ordeal of rape, and the men endured torture. As time passed, the weight of those inhumane actions lingered heavily on the conscience of one pirate. Confessing on his deathbed, he revealed how the haunting memories of the mistreatment of both men and women continued to affect his soul.


Photo by Indigo White on Unsplash

Decades before this event, Aurangzeb’s representatives disliked the English factory in Surat. The contentious issues at the Surat site led the East India Company to seek an alternative location, choosing one 200 miles south of Surat. These islands were initially under Portuguese occupation, but they eventually decided to sell them to the British as part of a dowry deal. The transfer occurred after Catherine of Braganza married Charles II in 1661. Subsequently, the British opted to lease these islands to the East India Company. Referred to as Bombaim by the Portuguese, the East India Company established itself on these islands, now known as Bombay.

Upon settling in Bombay, the company established a new mint, a venture entrusted to the capable hands of the well-connected 19-year-old Samuel Annesley. The kid found that the coins minted had no use outside Bombay. But before he could address those issues, he was sent to Surat to help with the factory there. The English had several warehouses and residence halls overlooking the Tapti River. Since it was a hub of the Indian Ocean trade network, it was a wealthy place. Soon, Annesley became part of the trading community and knew all the secrets of the place. He was like Abraham bin Yiju, the Jewish trader who had settled in Mangalore centuries before. But by the time of Every’s attack on Ganj-i-Sawai, Annesley was thirty-seven years old, with many decades of wisdom in dealing with the Mughals and other traders.

Upon learning of the pirate attack at Surat, the locals suspected that the English had more on their agenda than just trade—they might be supplementing their income through piracy. To the Indians, English merchants and pirates seemed indistinguishable; they were all tarred with the same brush. The traders attempting to establish businesses found themselves under scrutiny and suspicion.

The news of the piracy incident spread like wildfire, drawing an angry crowd to the East India factory in Surat, seeking retribution. In response, Mughal troops intervened, placing Annesly and other members of the East India Company under protective custody and house arrest. The enraged crowd, however, clamored for execution, accusing the English of complicity in the crime.

As tensions simmered, the Mughals crunched the numbers. They realized starkly that the English weren’t making significant profits through trade alone. The suspicion that piracy might be a necessary means to balance the books fueled the locals’ discontent, adding complexity to the strained relations between the East India Company and the Mughal authorities.

Aurangzeb grew weary of the English presence and ordered his men to seize the Surat factory while preparing for an assault on Bombay. He was determined to expel them from India, setting the stage for a triangular battle involving three distinct entities: Aurangzeb’s Empire, the East India Company as a private corporation, and the pirates. The unfolding conflict encapsulated the complex dynamics among these forces vying for control in the Indian subcontinent.

Adding to its concerns, the East India Company (EIC) confronted yet another existential threat. Its primary business wasn’t in spices but in Calico. This fabric gained immense popularity and even started replacing traditional English wool. The rising discontent against Calico prompted Britain’s “Make England’s Wool Great Again” movement.

The movement gained momentum, leading the House of Commons to pass a bill to ban the import of Calico. The looming question now hinged on the decision of the House of Lords. If they, too, passed the bill, the East India Company would find itself in significant jeopardy, navigating troubled waters in a struggle to maintain its economic foothold.

Amidst the East India Company (EIC) personnel under house arrest in Surat, urgent letters were dispatched to the company’s London office. The message was crystal clear – the company faced imminent peril if Captain Every wasn’t apprehended. Aurgangzeb’s retaliatory actions loomed, and the prospect of any silver lining appeared dim. Faced with this precarious situation, the East India Company implored the government to intervene and respond.

In response, the government took decisive action by offering a reward for the capture of the pirates. The stakes were high, and the race to bring Captain Every to justice became paramount for both the East India Company and the authorities.

While the British Government, East India Company personnel, and various bounty hunters scoured the seas for Captain Every and his crew, Samuel Annesley was still confined in Surat. Undeterred, he pondered the situation extensively, allowing his thoughts to percolate.

Following this incident, the British found themselves at a crossroads, faced with a crucial decision. They had to choose between two avenues of wealth: making money through piracy or engaging in trade. Notably, the flow of money through trade had yet to materialize fully, given that the establishment of the first factory had just taken not too far back. Concurrently, British monarchy-sanctioned pirates, officially known as privateers, were actively plundering Spanish ships and contributing funds to the crown. This pivotal moment marked a juncture where the British had to determine how their economic interests would be pursued.

This decision didn’t rest on the shoulders of the English Monarch; instead, it landed squarely on Samuel Annesley.

In a moment of insight, Annesley conceived a strategic idea that would prove pivotal in safeguarding the fate of the East India Company (EIC). Recognizing Aurangzeb’s desire for EIC to provide security for Mughal ships as a guarantee, Annesley saw an opportunity to extend the company’s influence beyond land, asserting power over the seas. He proposed that the EIC could offer protection not only to Aurangzeb’s ships but also to those of other merchants. In exchange for this safeguard, the company could levy charges on Aurangzeb, transforming itself into a maritime law enforcement authority.

This innovative approach would empower the EIC to regulate behavior at sea, ensuring both justice and order. By protecting private rights on the ocean, the East India Company could carve out a distinct and influential position in the unfolding dynamics of maritime security.


Thus, what might have been a decisive and potentially terminal moment for the East India Company was averted by Samuel Annesly’s strategic insight. Had he not proposed providing maritime security and seizing the opportunity presented by Aurangzeb’s request, the company faced the imminent risk of expulsion from India. Coupled with the protectionist movement favoring wool, this could have precipitated a severe crisis.

In this alternate scenario, the potential outcome is shrouded in uncertainty. Aurangzeb might have expelled the company from Surat and Bombay, leaving the East India Company in limbo. Speculation abounds regarding the company’s potential return, and its subsequent growth trajectory remains an open question. The intricate interplay of historical forces could have altered the course of the East India Company’s history, influencing its size, influence, and the timing of its presence in the Indian subcontinent.


  1. Enemy of All Mankind by Steven Johnson The events mentioned above are adapted from this book, which contains a lot more details of the world of those times including what happened to Pirate Every. Highly recommended.

The Vedic Homeland

Scheme of Indo-European language dispersal from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the widely held Kurgan hypothesis By Joshua Jonathan (via Wikipedia)

In The Wonder That Was India, A L Basham presented a dramatic picture of the decline of the Harappan civilization. According to him, from 3000 BCE, invaders were present in the region. After conquering the outlying villages, they moved on Mohenjo-daro. The people of Mohenjo-Daro fled but were cut down by the invaders; the discovered skeletons proved this invasion. Basham concluded that the Indus cities fell to barbarians “who triumphed not only through greater military prowess, but also because they were equipped with better weapons, and had learned to make full use of the swift and terror-striking beats of the steppes.” Sir R [[Mortimer Wheeler]] claimed these horse-riding invaders were none other than Aryans. Their war-god Indra destroyed the forts and citadels at Harappa.

According to the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), Basham’s invaders were Indo-European speakers on a global invasion tour from Central Asia. Before the invaders split up into Vedic Aryans and Iranians, they had developed a joint culture in Central Asia, hence the similarity in Rig Veda and Avesta. Once they left Central Asia, the Indians and Iranians parted ways. The above map shows the scheme of Indo-European language dispersal.

In a previous article, based on Shrikant G. Talageri’s excellent book, The Rig Veda and The Avesta: The Final Evidence, we saw that the common culture was not developed in Central Asia. We also saw that during the Middle and Late periods of Rigveda, the proto-Iranians were settled in western parts of Punjab and Afghanistan. They continuously interacted with the Vedic Aryans, and the joint Indo-Iranian culture developed.

Rig Veda and Avesta – Chronology of development

This begs the question. Where did the Vedic Aryans live before they met the Iranians or people of the Anu/Anava tribe? Did they come from Central Asia, or did they come from the Eastern parts of India? Again for this article, I will be once again using Shrikant G. Talageri ‘s The Rig Veda and The Avesta: The Final Evidence.


Two important concepts will help understand the details. The first is related to the chronological ordering of the mandalas of Rig Veda. The second is the geography around the rivers of Punjab.

The Rig Veda Samhita consists of 10 mandalas, numbered 1 to 10. This does not mean that mandala 1 was the first and 10 the last. The chronological ordering of the books is as follows:
– Early Books: 6, 3, 7
– Middle Books: 4,2
– Late Books: 5,1, 8-10
Order of Vedic Books

Coming to the region’s geography, this is the map to remember. This shows some important rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, and Indus.

These are rivers mentioned in Rig Veda. Displaying great familiarity with the Indian North-West, the nadistuti sukta lists nineteen rivers from the Ganga to the Kurram sequentially from East to West. According to the Vedic tradition, Sarasvati flowed between the Yamuna and Sutlej, a location mentioned in other texts.

Shri. Talageri divides this area into three regions.

  1. Region East of Saraswati (Haryana and West UP)
  2. Region West of Indus (Afghanistan, South Central Asia, North West Pakistan)
  3. Region between Indus and Saraswati (North Pakistan, Punjab)

Strong evidence against the Aryan Invasion Theory comes from the above two basic concepts augmented with the names of rivers, lakes, places, mountains, and animals. There is also a big clue in nadistuti sukta. See the direction in which the rivers are named. That has great significance for what we are about to discover.

Evidence from Rivers

The Rig Veda and The Avesta: The Final Evidence

According to AIT, the joint Indo-Iranian culture is pre-Rigvedic. This culture was developed in Central Asia before the Indians and Iranians took different exits on the Aryan Invasion freeway. But in another article, we saw that the joint culture was not pre-Rigvedic, but Late Rigvedic. Now, if the Vedic culture did not develop in Central Asia, where did it originate?

From both Rigveda and Avesta, we know the regions they are familiar with. The Avesta knows the land from Afghanistan and south Central Asia to Punjab. The Rig Veda knows the area from Western Uttar Pradesh to eastern and southern Afghanistan. So, if you draw a Venn diagram, the place familiar to both the Vedic people and Iranians is the land from Punjab to Afghanistan.

Now it gets interesting. Geographical data in the Early and Middle books of Rigveda show that the Vedic Aryans lived in the interior of India, to the East of Sarasvati. The Early Books (Books 6, 3, 7) of Rig Veda don’t show familiarity with the Western region. The earliest book, Book 6, does not reference the Central or Western rivers but mentions Ganga. The next book, Book 3, refers to the two easternmost rivers of the five rivers of Punjab.

The last book in the Early Books, Book 7, refers to the third from the east of the five rivers of Punjab. This is in reference to the pivotal Battle of Ten Kings. The non-Vedic enemies are people living to the West of the fourth river (Asikni).

Two exciting pieces come out of this analysis. First, these Early Books do not use the words sapta sindhu. Second, the enemies of the Vedic people are mentioned as those who live West of the fourth river in Punjab. The Vedic attitude towards northwest and western areas is suspicion and hostility. These lands are treated as mleccha or barbarian lands; their social and religious practices are strongly disapproved. These are not considered areas that fit a visit by orthodox Brahmins. This is also reflected in later texts: In Ramayana, the good queen Kausalya is from the east and the bad queen Kaikeyi is from the northwest; in Mahabharata, Kunti is from the east, while Gandhari is from the northwest.

We see familiarity with the Western landscape as we move from the Early Books to the newer ones. The Middle Books (4, 2) show familiarity with the Western region. This is the first time three Western rivers appear (Book 4). Also, the word sapta-sindhu shows up for the first time. Finally, when it comes to the Late Books, they too refer to sapta-sindhu.

The Eastern region, the land East of Sarasvati, was known to the Vedic Aryans of the Early, Middle, and Late Books. At the same time, the Western region is unknown to the Early books, but newly familiar to the Middle Books. Three Western rivers appear in the first book among the Middle Books (Book 4), and the same rivers are known in the first book of the Late Books.

Other evidence from nature

Besides the evidence from the rivers, there is evidence from nature that rules out Afghanistan or Central Asia as the Vedic homeland. The Vedic rishis lived in a land of monsoon storms and mountains. They worshiped Indra as the most important god. The monsoon land stops after Punjab; hence, it could not have been composed in Afghanistan. The animals mentioned in Rig Veda are spotted deer, buffalo, bison, peacock, and elephant. It’s not like elephants were stampeding in Kabul during that time like in the opening scene of Lion King.

Trees provide some fascinating evidence. There is mention of khadira, and simsapa, which are used in the manufacture of the body of a chariot, kimsuka and salmali used in the manufacture of wheels, and aratu used in the manufacture of the axle. If you compare this with the Egyptians, the raw material for the chariots came from the Caucuses. We don’t say that the Egyptians came from the Caucuses because they used imported wood. If Vedic Aryans came from the Caucuses, they too would have used the same wood that should be known to them. Instead, they used Indian trees. If they rode their chariots into India as per Basham, would they have used Indian trees?

Rice and wheat are popular cereals in India, depending on which part of India you are from. Rig Vedic Aryans do not show any familiarity with wheat. At the same time, they are familiar with three preparations of rice. If the invasion route was through a wheat-producing area, why doesn’t the Rigveda mention that? This shows that the Vedic tradition took root before wheat consumption started in North India. In a later period, in contrast to the use of rice, wheat is treated with disdain. Among Brahmins, during death, when they are required to abstain from food, rice is forbidden, but not wheat.

A change in our mental model

The Lost River by Michel Danino

Before reading this book, my mental model was different. In Michel Danino’s The Lost River, it was clear that Sarasvati was the most important river for the Vedic Aryans. In forty-five hymns, the rishis praised Sarasvati; for them, she was ‘great among the great, the most impetuous of rivers,’ ‘limitless, unbroken, swift-moving, and ‘surpasses in majesty and might all other waters.’ Once Saraswati dried up after 1900 BCE, people migrated to different regions, including the Ganges Valley.

Now with this internal evidence from Rig Veda, it is clear that the story is different. Vedic Aryans during the period of Early and Middle Books did not live in Central Asia or Afghanistan but in the interior of India. Specifically to the East of Saraswati. Also, they were familiar with Ganga. From there, they progressively moved Westward. This is why the nadistuti sukta lists rivers from East to West.

Also, the Early and Middle Books of Rigveda represent a period older than the period of joint development of the Indo-Iranian culture. Moreover, this joint development happened in a region between Punjab and Afghanistan and not Central Asia.

Bharat – A Civilization State

Bharat during Mahabharata times https://www.loc.gov/resource/g7651e.ct000605/

Recently the Member of Parliament from Wayanad, Kerala, stated that India is just a union of states. The mischievous subtext is that India is not a single nation but a collection of various nations like Europe. It also implies that the country is an artificial construct with nothing unifying the various states and territories.

This is not a new allegation. The MP from Wayanad had some illustrious predecessors. John Stratchley (some British dude) said, “The first and most essential thing to learn about India — that there is not and never was an India .” Winston Churchill (the British dude responsible for the Bengal genocide) said, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a nation than the equator.”

India, that is Bharat

India was a nation in ways these people could never fathom. The concept of Bharat has been alive for many millennia and has culturally united this land. Ancient Hindus understood this. They made pilgrimages to various holy places around Bharat. Students understood this. They traveled around to get the best education. Saints understood this. Adi Shankara established various mutts are four corners of Bharat. Besides them, our grammarians understood this and united the country with Samskritam.

In this article, we will look at evidence of these. I will be relying on the narratives of some historians you would have never heard of, like Har Bilas Sarda, Radha Kumud Mookerji, and R. C. Majumdar. I picked the summary of their arguments from J Sai Deepak’s excellent book India, that is Bharat: Coloniality, Civilisation, Constitution. I will also rely on what my Samskritam teachers taught me about Paninian grammar.

Bharat as a civilization state

Going to Triveni Sangam

A few years back, I went from Kerala to participate in the Kumbh Mela. I was among the millions of Indians walking along the banks of Ganga and Yamuna for the holy bath. Our boat to the Triveni Sangam had people from Rajasthan and Bengal. Though we were from three corners of the country, we all had the same reverence for Ganga and Yamuna and faith that the Saraswati met the other rivers at the Sangam.

There are two aspects here. The first is that people across the land venerated the geography of Bharat. Rivers, mountains, hills — all have a sacred story and are remembered in hymns and prayers. The nation itself is revered as a mother. This is quite different from how the West views nature.

The second: people traveled across the land for pilgrimages. Visit to a holy place was a religious duty. Even before modern transportation systems arrived, people traveled long distances for this purpose. The lack of physical comforts did not stop anyone. During these long trips, pilgrims took breaks, creating a network of numerous sacred spots. These pilgrims did not think of the country as different nations but as a unified cultural entity extending from the Himalayas to the oceans. This combination of nature and faith generated patriotism and cultural unity, of which the Kumbh Mela is a perfect example.

These pilgrimage spots were centers of higher learning as well. Think of Benares, Nalanda, Mathura, Takshashila, Ujjain, Prayag, Kanchi, Madhura, and Nawadwaip. Students from all over Bharat went to study at these places. With pilgrimage spots and learning centers unifying this land, it is no wonder that Chaitanya and Adi Shankara traveled from one end of Bharat to another. If there was no cultural unity, establishing four mutts at the four corners of Bharat would not make sense.

These indicate that the people of Bharat had an expanded geographical consciousness irrespective of the political boundary of the kingdom they lived in. There was a civilizational oneness despite the diversity, and this unity existed before the invaders and colonizers showed up. This unity exists even now. Thus Adi Shankara was not limited in his Malayali identity but had geographical consciousness to treat Bharat as one cultural unit.

Unification through Samskritam grammar

Panini’s Ashtadyayi

There is the story of a child who went to the gurukul and found the going quite hard. He wanted to quit. So the father told him, “Even if you don’t study a lot, please study vyākaraṇam. Else, instead of saying swajana (my people), you might say shva-jana (dog) or instead of saying sakalam (everything), you might say shakalam (part)”. Pronunciation and intonation are important; else, the meaning will be unintended and sometimes the exact opposite.

Among the six Vedangas, vyākaraṇa or grammar, is considered the most important by Patanjali, the author of Mahabhashyam. Among the grammarians, Panini is the most famous for many reasons:

1. He organized Samskritam using brilliant techniques with four thousand sutras. Just look at the concept of pratyahara, an elegant and impressive in-memory language compression technique.

2. He incorporated the works of other Shakalya, Sphotaka, Senaka, and other grammarians into his work.

3. He did not just mention how words are formed but also their meaning and relation.

Due to Panini, vyakarana-darshana became an important field of study.

But beyond these, there are two crucial points where Panini shined.

 Panini’s grammar has sutras for both Vedic Samskritam and non-Vedic Samskritam. For example, the plural form of देवः is देवाः in Samskritam, while it’s देवासः in Vedic Samskritam. Panini’s grammar has a sutra to address this. In Samskritam, there is a word called jahāra, whereas, in the Vedic texts, it’s used as jabhāra. If no grammar specified the rules, someone reading this could assume it as a typo and rewrite the word. Due to this guardrail, the Vedas remain like a tape recording from millennia back. This is why we say vyākaraṇam protects the Vedas.

Why does this matter? If not for this protection, a naughty Samskritam professor at Harvard could declare that the rishis made a typo in the Vedas. He could declare that the Harvard version of Vedas will fix this, and anyone who does not follow that is anti-minority and a Hindu nationalist. I am not kidding about this. Here is a case where the Vedas were misinterpreted to support the Aryan Invasion Theory. The preservation of personal names in Rig Veda has helped us understand how the various tribes migrated, giving a radically different view of the ancient world. Now, Panini could have left the Vedic Samskritam alone. That was language from a distant past. Instead, he saw a cultural continuity from the past use of language to his present. 

Panini was aware of Samskritam used in different parts of India and their variations. So, he integrated all the variations into this grammar. If he just cared about his political boundary, he could have ignored the regional usage at a distant place. But he did not. He had the geographical consciousness to see that all these lands were part of one unified cultural unit. The political boundaries have changed in various ways since the time of Panini. However, the land of Bharata still has the same name and culture since those times.


The British treated Bharat as a collection of countries in a Eurocentric way. But that view does not work for India because we did not operate on European concepts of nation and state. India bounded by the majestic mountains and vast oceans was designated by one name – Bharat. The geography was marked out by nature itself. If you think of the concept of nation as a monochromatic picture, India is a civilization drawn with a dazzling array of colors. In this civilization state, there was cultural unity within a federation of creeds. Each of them had the freedom to preserve their special features and enrich the central culture.

By parroting old British propaganda, the Member of Parliament from Wayanad is just following the path of his great-grand father who wrote The Discovery of India which discovered India, but not Bharat.

Book Review: Calling Sehmat

Book: Calling Sehmat by Harinder S. Sikka

Calling Sehmet
Calling Sehmat

In 1971, as the tensions between India and Pakistan were rising, the college girl Sehmat Khan agrees to marry a Pakistani Army officer to spy for India. It was a career chosen out of necessity, but she ends up being so good at it that she saved INS Vikrant from destruction. This is not fiction, but the story of a real life patriotic Indian, whose life was so extraordinary, that you would think it’s all made up. As she goes through her journey from a simple college girl to a spy who lived with the sole purpose of safeguarding India, you will find yourself in awe. She was the most beautiful Indian spy who single-handedly ravaged Pakistan’s security system.

The best part of the book is that it gives a well rounded portrayal of Sehmat as she goes through various phases of her life. A quarter of the book is about her college life which shows initial glimpses of her determination and passion. She got selected for a dance competition in which she was to portray Meerabai. She had seen her mother pray to Meerabai and for being the character, she spent hours in the college library, reading all about her. She danced with such intensity and absorption that she did not notice that her legs were bleeding.

Her transformation from college girl to a spy was to honor the wishes of her dying father who had instilled patriotism in her. Her philosophy was “there is no greater reward than to live and die for your country”, a lesson she got from her father. He had told her that there is nothing more disgraceful than being disloyal to the motherland. As a businessman who traveled across the border, he was instrumental in setting up a spy network in Pakistan.

Then you see another Sehmat, who sacrifices her college lover and moves to Pakistan. Her down to earth demeanor and good intentions earn her the trust of her immediate family, her father-in-law and her husband. It was due to her cleverness that they got promoted in their jobs and had career advances. It was during one scan of her father-in-laws office that she found the files which suggested that Pakistani submarines were targeting INS Vikrant.

Living behind enemy lines is not easy. The intelligence gathering techniques of 1971 could not be done remotely; it required acts of courage. The intricacies of these techniques and dangers it entails are covered well. There were many times she could have been exposed and she triumphs over those circumstances with her quick thinking. She even miraculously escaped including a bomb attack. She was a person who planned two steps ahead all the time and that saved her.

Eventually when she settled back in India, the pictures on her house demonstrated her beliefs. Her house had pictures of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Ram Prasad Bismil and Khudiram Bose. In her private space she worshipped Allah, Ganesha, Krishna, Jesus and Wahe Guru. She was fascinated by Meerabai’s hymns.

I finished the book only because it’s inspiring to read about such unknown heroes. The book explores her fortitude and unwavering loyalty to India during a time of war. The initial part of the book about Sehmat’s simple life, her marriage and her activities in Pakistan are paced very well. The writing itself is really plain and starts meandering towards the end. It could have used multiple rewrites with a good editor.. I am not even sure why one chapter of a failed Indian navy attack was described. That would have been better in an appendix or could be the matter for another book.

Despite all the courageous self-assurance displayed by Sehmat during her mission, her life ends in tragedy. Well almost. Memories of the ruthless things she had to do haunt her. Since her life in Pakistan was messy, chaotic and non-formulaic, she ends up suffering from depression. The book describes her encounter with a fakir who gave her spiritual lessons from various scriptures including the Upanishads to get her out of her gloom. In turn she was attacked by Muslim fundamentalists in her area and it required an intervention from RAW.

Her life was about love; to her country, to her parents and to her college mate. There is also a movie based on the book, but it leaves out multiple dimensions of Sehmat. As always, the book is better.

Book Review: Breath by James Nestor


A long time back, in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, some people had mastered the secrets of breathing, says James Nestor in his book Breath. The evidence is the meditating man seal or what we call the Shiva seal. It is from here that the wisdom spread to the world. The Indus-Sarasvati people discovered that breathing with different patterns — really fast, very slow, or holding breath — can cure diseases without medicines, influence body weight, and affect overall health. By influencing the nervous system and controlling the immune response, these breathing patterns can help a person live longer and healthier.

While the Yoga Sutras are well known, there are other ancient texts as well.

Thirteen hundred years ago, an ancient Tantric text, the Shiva Swarodaya, described how one nostril will open to let breath in as the other will softly close throughout the day. Some days, the right nostril yawns awake to greet the sun; other days, the left awakens to the fullness of the moon. According to the text, these rhythms are the same throughout every month, and they’re shared by all humanity. It’s a method our bodies use to stay balanced and grounded to the rhythms of the cosmos, and each other

This knowledge then surfaced worldwide, like Japan, Africa, Hawaii, and Native America. They developed breathing techniques and benefitted from the calming effects.

Two things make the book interesting. The first is when the author acts as a human guinea pig, trying out various techniques with breathing experts worldwide. These are not yogic techniques, but activities like Holotropic breathing or the Wim Hoff method or taking a carbon dioxide shot.

The other is when he explains what happens inside our body when you do these practices. Breathing is more than just the physical act. Medically it’s known that breath affects every single internal organ affecting heart rate, digestion, and moods. Deep breathing influences the parasympathetic nerves, which signals the organs to rest.

Often you see remarks like what’s there to learn about breathing, after all, it’s just inhaling and exhaling. The modern age has caused us to pay little attention to breathing. This has resulted in diseases like asthma, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Another aspect is that as we age, the lung capacity decreases, leading to high blood pressure and immune disorders.

The book acknowledges India as the source of all this knowledge. All the techniques the author tried, he says, comes from ancient Indian texts. The ancients people who did these experiments with breathing and discovered the possible miracles knew that breathing was not just inhaling and exhaling. They knew how to manipulate body functions by controlling their breath. They obviously knew a lot more than what Western science knows, like how the prana can control the mind.

When Buddhist monks chant their most popular mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, each spoken phrase lasts six seconds, with six seconds to inhale before the chant starts again. The traditional chant of Om, the “sacred sound of the universe” used in Jainism and other traditions, takes six seconds to sing, with a pause of about six seconds to inhale. The sa ta na ma chant, one of the best-known techniques in Kundalini yoga, also takes six seconds to vocalize, followed by six seconds to inhale. Then there were the ancient Hindu hand and tongue poses called mudras. A technique called khechari, intended to help boost physical and spiritual health and overcome disease, involves placing the tongue above the soft palate so that it’s pointed toward the nasal cavity. The deep, slow breaths taken during this khechari each take six seconds.

There are a couple of issues with the book. While the book mentions Indus-Sarasvati civilization by that name, it also mentions the Aryan Invasion Theory. It has a fascinating twist – the Aryans came from Iran and not Russia. Second, the author gives credit to Indians for discovering the secrets of breathing, but to talk to a yogi, he goes to Brazil. Why not go to the land where it started and where it’s a living, breathing tradition.

If you were one of those skeptical about yoga and pranayama, this book would change the way you think about breathing. By combing ancient wisdom with scientific evidence and first-hand experience, the book distills the knowledge in an easy-to-read narrative. In the end, it advocates breathing slow and less through the nose as it sends the maximum amount of oxygen to the maximum amount of tissues.

Swami Vivekananda wrote that the breath is the fly-wheel of the body. In a big machine, the fly-wheel is set in motion first. That motion is conveyed to finer machinery until the delicate and finest machinery is in motion. “The yogi’s life is not measured by the number of his days, but the number of his breaths,” wrote B. K. S. Iyengar. The fact that a sick child would live to the age of 95 is proof of the book’s secrets.

Nehru’s Tibetan Blunder

Map of Tibet from FreeTibet.org (Fair Use)

(Cross posted at Dharma Dispatch)

On August 20, 1950 Chou En-Lai was of the opinion that the liberation of Tibet was a sacred Chinese duty, but that would be done only via negotiations. On October 7, 1950, the Chinese attack on Tibet started. As Chou En-Lai was filling sand in hourglass in which the Tibetans were trapped, on October 21, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Chou En-Lai emphasizing the need for a peaceful settlement of the Sino-Tibetan problem. It was not because Nehru was concerned about Tibet but because it would be detrimental to China’s admission to the UN Security Council. The letter emphasized that the timing was bad:

“In Tibet there is not likely to be any serious military opposition, and any delay in settling the matter will, therefore, not affect Chinese interests or a suitable final settlement. The Government of India’s interest in the matter is only to see that the admission of the Peoples’ Government to the United Nations is not again postponed due to causes which could be avoided.”

This is from the great man who gave speeches like “It is not right for any country to talk about sovereignty or suzerainty over any area outside its own range… The last voice in regard to Tibet should be the voice of the people of Tibet and of nobody else.” Nehru’s pompousness as well as cowardice was known to Gandhi, who once observed, “Jawaharlal is extreme in the presentation of his methods, but he is sober in action. So far as I know, he will not precipitate a conflict.”

There were two reasons why Nehru should have recognized an independent Tibet. First, it was the morally right thing to do. Except for a short period in history, Tibet was never under Chinese rule. For the past two centuries it was under a vague relation and even then the Chinese did not have a viceroy at Lhasa. In 1912, the agent known as Amban was driven out and since then there was no Chinese control. The fact that there was nothing in common between Tibet and Hans — in culture, religion, language and script —- was known even to Nehru. Tibetans had their own coins and currency, their own postal system and army. From 1912, there was nothing resembling China in Tibet. Even the passports issued by Tibet in 1948 were recognized by other countries. In a book written by Nehru (Glimpses of World History), he showed an independent Tibet, lying outside the Chinese empire.

Second, it was important for India’s security and many Indians recognized it. On March, 17, 1950, a member from Assam said in the Parliament said, “there should be no loose ends in our relations with the Tibetans…with the success of the Communists and also the likelihood of Tibet being swallowed up, there is great danger and apprehension of complications arising in the near future… something has to be done to strengthen our relations with the Tibetan authorities in this area”.

Buddhist Monk (Peter Hershey, Unsplash)
Buddhist Monk (Peter Hershey, Unsplash)

Even the British recognized the strategic significance. According to General Tucker from British Army, Tibetan plateau was a good airfield to cover eastern India and for the airborne assault and occupation of U.P, Bihar and Bengal. Thus it was in India’s strategic interest to prevent the military occupation of the Tibetan plateau.

This was not the first time Nehru messed up with Tibet. On October 16, 1947, the Tibetans sent a telegram to New Delhi asking for the return of certain territories. There was no response. At that time the Tibetan border with India, Nepal and Burma were not properly delineated. Nehru could have rejected this territorial claim and instead recognized Tibet as independent. If he had done that, Britain, USA and maybe even the USSR would have recognized it. Instead the great anti-imperialist kicked the can down the road.

Why did Nehru sacrifice Tibet? The simple answer was given by Gandhi. Another reason is that Nehru was scared of China. He was an admirer too. The First Asian Relations Conference was held in New Delhi in March 1947 and Tibet was one of the 28 delegates invited by Nehru. When the Chinese protested at the invitation, their status was reduced to that of a representative. The boundary line on the big map of Asia dividing Tibet from China was at the same time erased. During the conference Nehru declared that he was not going to offend China by recognizing Tibet. A few months after Indian independence, the Tibetans sent a delegation to persuade Nehru to recognize Tibetan independence. Nehru refused.

Potala Palace, Tibet

When China attacked Tibet in 1950, Nehru forgot about all his anti-imperialistic speeches. Krishna Menon too argued that there was no historical background for Tibet’s independence. When the Tibetan invasion took place, Prime Minister, Nehru, told the country that a backward feudal country like Tibet could not remain isolated from the world and that it was not an independent country. What was leadership, after all, but the blind choice of one route over another and the confident pretense that the decision was based on reason?

When Chinese troops advanced to Tibet, Lhasa wanted to appeal to the United Nations. Since it was not a member of the United Nations, it asked India for support. India did the typical panchayat officer maneuver and asked Lhasa to talk directly to the UN. Meanwhile Nehru’s sister had already declared that India would not change it’s attitude of neutrality, despite the invasion. The country which had the courage to sponsor Lhasa was El Salvador. India, meanwhile, influenced Britain and made sure that this issue did not pop up in the General Assembly. Like how Chamberlain sacrificed Czechoslovakia, Nehru sacrificed Tibet.

After messing up the Kashmir issue, Nehru was looking for a larger opportunity to mess up. The opportunity to be a better fiddler than Nero and a better windmill chaser than Don Quixote came up soon. The secular liberal god requires human sacrifice and the Tibetans were sacrificed in it’s altar. This vertiginous enigma of blunder and stupidity will baffle any sane person, but Nehru was not done yet. Sometimes it’s darkest before it’s … pitch black. In 1954 the Panchasheel was signed and India recognized the end of Tibet’s autonomy.

This crime was hidden with myths. The Tibetans have forgotten who looked away while they were being attacked. The one redeeming act in the whole episode was granting asylum to a young Dalai Lama. We should not let that one act whitewash the historical crime of letting a culture be purged.

(Adapted from Six Thousand Days: Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister by Amiya Rao and B.G. Rao)

Turmeric Gets Popular in the West

Peets ad for Turmeric Coffee
Peets ad for Turmeric Coffee

That was an Ad from Peet’s Coffee. Who would have thought about adding turmeric to coffee? But looks like that is a thing now.
Costco, a popular wholesale store, too is touting the benefits of turmeric in their magazine. After mentioning that it has been used in India for at least 6000 years as medicine, culinary aid, beauty aid and fabric dye, the article invokes the God of Science (as a friend says). Approval from this God is mandatory for the Western world. Science has reported that turmeric can assist in the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcertative colitis and renal conditions. There is mention of Ayurveda and the observation that golden milk (milk mixed with turmeric) is getting popular in United States.
Mention of Turmeric in Costco Connection
Mention of Turmeric in Costco Connection

A recent study also found that curcumin, found in turmeric, is anti-inflammatory with antioxidant properties. It has the ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression. This is probably why senior citizens in India have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and better memory than their counterparts elsewhere.
Next time you order a latte, sprinkle some turmeric or you can buy the Feel Good Organic Turmeric Powder, 16 Ounces for a reasonable price from Costco.

The Self-Validating, Self-Sustaining Transcendental System

The best way of knowing something is through direct experience. You watch a beautiful sunrise and you feel joy. There is nothing here that deludes the senses. Another way is through inference. Observing that there is a distortion caused by some invisible object in space, astronomers infer that there is a black hole nearby. Though this is not direct perception, this seems like a perfectly rational way.
There is another way of knowing which is experiential. For example, yogis perceive certain truths by going beyond the mind. They profoundly alter their consciousness and experience heightened levels of insights. They experience knowledge beyond the senses and we consider them sacred. Raja Yoga has detailed descriptions of these experiences. The biographies of Sri M (See Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master) or Paramahamsa Yogananda contain experiences which would be considered blasphemy in dogmatic traditions.
This also gives an opportunity for charlatans to claim the same experience. Since it is the experience of one person, how can one validate it? Usually, when two of our perceptions do not contradict, that is proof enough, but here are talking about experiences beyond ordinary perceptions.
Rather than depending on a central authority, these systems are self-validating. There are few simple rules which can help to figure out if the person is making up things or if this is really a sacred experience. These are simple rules which long living civilizations can hold in their memory.
They are

  1. It should not contradict past knowledge in that tradition
  2. It must be true knowledge by someone who has transcended the senses.
  3. It depends on the character of the man
  4. This experience must be verifiable.
  5. He should not be selling this knowledge

In science, if a mass murderer like Stalin, makes a discovery, it is acceptable. That is not acceptable in dharmic traditions. The person has to be sattvic, following a well-established path (See No one does yoga anymore)
If someone says, this is an experience that only I can have and that the rest of us have to trust that, it has to be rejected. In scientific traditions, anyone should be able to have those experiences, provided they follow the right path.
Once we understand this, it is easy to figure out why there is so much hatred towards a decentralized, self-validating and self-sustaining tradition which has sustained for millennia. The fact that anyone can be divine goes against the only-one-divine-person-and-trust-him dogma. Belief in this dogma causes them to destroy anyone who does not believe so. (All in the name of “religious freedom”). Once you become a dogmatic prisoner of science too, you shut yourself from these possibilities by restricting yourself to what is directly perceived and inferred. Our mind and body are capable of much more.
Reference: Patanjali Yoga-Sutra by Swami Vivekananda (Kindle Edition – India, US)

Neuroplasticity of Vedic Pandits

Panjal athirathram by Asokan. R Raman (flickr)
Panjal athirathram by Asokan. R Raman (flickr)

It is not easy to be a Vedic Pandit.

Professional Vedic Pandits undergo rigorous training in exact pronunciation and invariant content of these oral texts for 7 or more years, with 8–10 h of daily practice (totaling ~10,080 h over the course of the initial training), starting in their childhood, and mastering multiple 40,000 to 100,000 word oral texts (compared to ~ 38,000 in the book of Genesis). The training methods strongly emphasize traditional face- to-face oral learning, and the Yajurveda recitation practice includes right hand and arm gestures to mark prosodic elements.

There are special exercises to ensure that the Vedas are chanted without mistakes. Now a new study shows that such intensive study changes the brain both in the white matter and gray matter. Extensive memorization and verbal recital practice resulted in the following changes

We found massive gray matter density and cortical thickness increases in Pandit brains in language, memory and visual systems, including i) bilateral lateral temporal cortices and ii) the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, regions associated with long and short-term memory. Differences in hippocampal morphometry matched those previously documented for expert spatial navigators and individuals with good verbal working memory. The findings provide unique insight into the brain organization implementing formalized oral knowledge systems.

There are few other interesting points from the paper

  1. The Pandits were highly competent in Sanskrit. They memorized large volumes of Sanskrit text and understood its complex morphology. They were multi-lingual as well. That was a contributing factor for the increased gray matter density.
  2. Another reason was the way of learning, using gestures and articulation. The result of using hand and arm movement could be seen in the brain. Indian classical  music students too use that extensively, especially hand movements.

Sharon Begley has written about the effect mindfulness has on the brain. The brain has the ability to grow new neurons and rewire itself. Now for those who wonder if learning a “dead” or communal language like Sanskrit is worth it, read the paper.

  1. Hartzell, J.F., et al., Brains of verbal memory specialists show anatomical differences in language, memory and visual systems, NeuroImage (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.07.027