Edited By Nithin Sridhar and Inputs taken from Rajiv Malhotra
It is undeniable that Sanatana Dharma a.k.a. Hinduism has been under constant attacks for the last thousand years in one form or the other.
First, it was the brutal Islamic invaders who destroyed Hindu temples and killed or converted people using swords. Then, there was the Indian occupation by the British that gave a free run to various Christian missionaries to conduct evangelization.
And, now, we have various breaking India forces whose actual target for dismantling is Hinduism and its various institutions and structures because they realize that Dharma is at the very basis of Indian life.
It appears that the latest target in this dismantling project is the ‘Hindu Kumbh Mela’, according to a recent article written by noted Indologist and author, Rajiv Malhotra.
Western Academics, Christian Missionaries hand in hand in dismantling Hinduism
In this Western mission of dismantling Hinduism, the Western Academics, and Christian Missionaries have often complemented each other. This is not to suggest that all Western academics and Indologists have ulterior motives or that all of them have hidden connections with the Church. We have had and still have many genuine Western academics who are not only sympathetic towards Hinduism but also recognize and appreciate its richness and heritage.
But, what is also self-evident is the fact that certain sections of Western Academia are not only deeply connected with the Church and Evangelical organizations, one can also observe many trends in their activity which often complement each other, and has for their goal the dismantling of Hinduism.
First, the introduction of English education by the British resulted in the dismantling of Indian education system and the complete sidelining of Sanskrit language. Sanskrit was the storehouse and the preferred medium of transmission for all branches of Hindu knowledge: philosophy, mathematics, science, astronomy, medicine, law, and spirituality. Thus, by dismantling Sanskrit, they alienated Hindus from their own knowledge and education system.
Second, the Colonial Scholars introduced the concept of ‘Aryan race’ who invaded India and the ‘Dravidian race’ which was indigenous to India. The fruits of this division are visible even to this day. Using this Aryan invasion, the colonials denied both indigenousness and cultural continuity of Hindu traditions. This gave them a perfect excuse to take upon ‘White Man’s Burden’ at civilizing the ‘barbaric primitive society.’
This project of civilizing Hindu people was just another name for the Christianization of the society. The Western Academics prepared the ground for harvesting the souls for Christianity, by denying Hinduism its antiquity, continuity, indigenousness, and its tools for transmission.
Third, the inculturation attempts of Christian missionaries was complemented by the production of literature wherein various fictitious claims like Jesus came to India and learned Yoga, Saint Thomas came to South India and converted Thirukural, etc. were propagated. These myths were then used to implement the inculturation project by appropriating Hindu symbols like the saffron robe, bells, mantra, etc. for propagating the message of the Christ. Many of these myths and claims are being propagated even till this day.
Fourth, in the recent past, there has been attempts to remove Yoga from its roots. The Yoga is being now re-defined as Yoga for women, Yoga for pregnancy, Yoga for stress management, Yoga for weight reduction, etc. Various studies and literature have been written on the physical benefits of Yoga. By, this secularization of Yoga, it is being removed from its Hindu roots. This secularized Yoga is then appropriated by other religions. This is already happening in the form of Christian Yoga.
Fifth, a large band of scholars starting with Wendy Doniger and Jeffrey Kripal have carried out Psychoanalysis of Hinduism, its Gurus, Gods, and Symbols and have attributed all perverse meanings to them, thereby denying their spiritual and philosophical significance. Thus, Mother Kali becomes a Mother with phallus, Lord Ganesha’s trunk becomes his phallus, and Ramakrishna’s spiritual realizations become experiences induced by homoerotic and pedophilic passions.
Sixth, there has also been various attempts at discrediting the genuineness of various Hindu movements in the last century. Hence, Vivekananda’s teachings have been branded ‘Neo-Vedanta’ and “Neo-Hinduism’ which is something different from traditional Hinduism. It is further suggested that the Hindu reformation is largely inspired by Christian values.
These are all clear attempts at dismantling Hindu religious, philosophical, and spiritual foundations by reducing its religious symbols into aids for sexual fantasies, its practical systems of spirituality into physical exercises, and rooting its internal reformation in Christian values.
These various attempts at the academic dismantling of Hinduism, intentionally or unintentionally, prepare the ground for future evangelization. The Christian missionaries are well-funded and well spread across the world, and they are continuously involved in harvesting the souls through every possible means.
But, despite pouring enormous money and manpower over last 200 years, their evangelization project in India has been only a partial success bordering on failure. This failure has not demotivated them. Instead, it has further strengthened their resolve to find different ways and form different strategies to achieve their goal of Christian India.
Thus, we can see a clear relationship between the attempts at the academic dismantling of Hinduism by the western scholars and the evangelization activities of the Christian missionaries who are trying to dismantle Hinduism at the ground level.
Is Kumbh Mela the new target for dismantling Hinduism?
The latest target of these ‘dismantling Hinduism’ forces appears to be the sacred Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela is one of the most sacred events in Hinduism. Millions of Hindus from across India come and gather once every three years to take a ritual bath in the river and participate in other religious activities.
It is not only the world’s largest congregation of people but is also the largest congregation of saints and Yogis, belonging to diverse sects and schools. It is held in Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik, and Ujjain respectively on a rotational basis. According to some scholars, the earliest historical references to this sacred event is in the 7th century.
On the other hand, the Puranas record that, when the gods and demons churned the milky ocean for Amrita (the nectar of immortality), they began to fight with each other over drinking the Amrita. Then, Lord Vishnu, who appeared in a female form as Mohini, took away the pot containing the Amrita. It is said that, during this flight of Mohini, few drops of Amrita fell at four places on earth. And the Kumbh Mela is organized at these four places.
Now, it appears that the very foundation of this ancient and sacred event of Kumbh Mela may now be under threat. In 2013, Harvard University initiated a major project to study and map Kumbh Mela called ‘Harvard Kumbh Mela Project’.
The project not only brought worldwide attention to the Kumbh Mela, the initiative was also appreciated across the world. The initiative, which involved 50 academics from multiple disciplines, ‘mapped’ the Kumbh Mela by first recording various trends and observations on various aspects of Kumbh Mela and then analyzing them by categorizing them into various themes: Environment, Urbanism, Business, Public Health, etc.
Though, from the outset, the initiative appears to be genuine and useful, this intervention along with many similar western interventions may ultimately lead to the dismantling of Kumbh Mela, warns Rajiv Malhotra.
Malhotra says that the western interventions in Kumbh Mela may lead to distortion, secularization, and commercialization of the Mela. This may in turn prepare a ground for Christian missionaries to function.
Regarding the multidisciplinary approach of the Harvard project, Malhotra says: “Each lens is highly secularized, lacking even an iota of shraddha (Conviction) for our traditions. They are looking for “interesting specimens” to study.”
He further points out that the Western interventions try to analyze Hindu traditions using lenses of feminism, environment, sociology, etc. These interventions are devoid of Hindu philosophical insight and understanding and hence will lead to digestion and distortion of Hindu practices. This is nothing but another form of colonialism.
The Harvard project’s first phase was limited to mapping. Now, in the second phase, they will undertake prescriptions and interventions to remove the shortcomings in the Mela and supposedly improve them. In other words, Hindus will be told how to practice Hinduism and conduct sacred events. This is not to suggest that Kumbh Mela is without its shortcomings, but that a solution to these shortcomings must be evolved from within the tradition by taking into account all aspects of the event. But, this is not the case with western interventions. They break down Hindu practices into various themes and analyzes those practices using western lenses, and many a times they deliberately ignore Indian realities and Hindu worldviews.
Malhotra maps the trajectory that many of the western interventions adopt in their approach to Hinduism and other eastern cultures and how this will eventually result in the dismantling of those cultures.
He says that Western interventions start as curious field trips that record exotic aspects of the native culture. Then, academics from multi-disciplines like sociology, anthropology, etc. will create various frameworks and map their observations into those frameworks.
These frameworks form the basis on which the whole culture is analyzed and conclusions drawn. It is necessary to highlight that, these frameworks have no connection with how the native traditions perceive themselves and their practices. Thus, the frameworks act as tools for imposing western ideas and perceptions on native cultures.
Slowly people from native culture are made to adopt these new frameworks. This ultimately results in the western narrative of native culture becoming mainstream and the indigenous narrative of their own culture becomes sidelined and suppressed.
Further, the western narrative will absorb all that it finds as useful from the native culture into its knowledge systems and suppresses and finally discards those elements of native culture that does not fit into its frameworks.
Once, the western narrative becomes a dominant narrative, it is then used to modify various practices of Native culture. This modification is then portrayed as ‘reformation’ though in reality it uproots the native practices from its foundational ethos. This in turn prepares the ground for appropriation by Christian and other western religions.
In the case of Kumbh Mela, if these western interventions are not stopped and if they were to follow the above-mentioned trajectory, then the very Dharmic foundation of the Kumbh Mela will be first discredited by raising various social and environmental issues as a pretext. Then, the event will be secularized by removing those elements which are important to Hindu tradition, but which does not fit into the western secular framework. The Mela will then be commercialized by reducing it to a simple tourism activity. Finally, the ground thus prepared will be used by Christian missionaries for conversion activities.
It must be remembered that the scenario of the digestion of Kumbh Mela presented above is only a possibility at this moment. It may not materialize into reality. Yet, considering how western narratives have colonized Indian discourse in almost every aspect of life, there is a strong chance that dismantling of Kumbh Mela may indeed become a reality. This possibility is further strengthened by the Christian missionaries’ attempts at converting people in Kumbh Mela as part of Project Thessalonica.
According to Alex Pomero, Project Thessalonica is a sub-project of Joshua Project II that aims to convert all non-Christians into Christianity. He writes: “Project Thessalonica aims to stop or limit Hindu activity by converting people who form the pillars of Hindu culture, festivals, traditions, and activity. Traditionally missionaries hate any public expression or display of heathen religions in the form of festivals and temples. Missions want to ensure that no new temple construction activity starts. With this objective, they are converting masons, craftsmen and others involved in temple construction activity.
“The First Baptist Church of Nashville, Tennessee adopted towns where the annual Kumbh Mela takes place and has been actively converting the locals so that visitors face extreme hardship during their next visit trying to find services and supplies. Another mission group is adopting boatmen of Kasi where Hindus drop rice balls in river Ganges as an offering to their forefathers. The boatsmen are being trained in other fields so that they abandon this profession. They are making environmental groups raise the voice so that Ganesh processions, Kumbh Melas, and Jagannath Rath Yatras are limited.”
Therefore, considering how Western academic narratives and Christian missionary activities have gone hand in hand in the past, and how missionaries are already present in Kumbh Melas, it is better for Hindu leaders to wake up and assess the issues affecting Kumbh Mela and be attentive to any attempts at hijacking of the Mela by secular and liberal forces backed by western academia. As the saying goes, ‘better be safe than sorry.’