My Maternal Grandmother Dropdi Devi
Affectionately called Bebe Bhopi
By the Narwana Agrawal Baniya Community
Who respected and sought her advice
As their Leader
And Protector of Their Rights
Chapter 2. Hindu View of History and Rulers
>Hindus inherited their traditions from the Aryas. Aryas did not care for history, much less for political power and political heroes. Rama and Krishna, protagonists of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are epical heroes Hindus celebrate, revere and even worship most but not as kings.
>Cultural continuity and political disunity form a basic design in the mosaic of Indian history. India is perhaps the only country that evolved cultural unity over so large a territory before it became a nation-state in the western sense. In the U.S.A. political unity came first, cultural unity is still groping. Cultural unity has played little role in European integration. Even in countries like Germany, national unity was imposed through “blood and iron”.
>Agroha is also a politically tiny but culturally significant motif in the peculiarly Hindu pattern of history of Bharat, that is India.
>Western democracy is a conflict model and that is the reason for its success in India. The Hindu Mind is “naturally argumentative”, argues Amartya Sen. An average Hindu seeks peace but delights in conflicts.
>Modern Hindus are capable of indulging in ugliest forms of flattery of their boss, or powerful superiors. Mahabharata prominently points up this Hindu trait. Current Hindu politics is infested with flatterers.
Hindus inherited their traditions from the Aryas. Aryas did not care for history, much less for political power and political heroes. Rama and Krishna, protagonists of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are epical heroes Hindus celebrate, revere and even worship most but not as kings.
Raja Ram is remembered as Purushottam, “the first or finest among men”, not as a king or conqueror. In fact, in the epic at the end of the battle, he is made to sit at the feet of Ravana and seek wisdom from his arch enemy and hs wife, Sita’s abductor. Rama’s human qualities have made him a timeless symbol of the divine in man. He remains a timeless figment of Hindu imagination and inextricable content of the collective Hindu consciousness, irrespective of whether he actually lived on earth or in fiction only.
Krishna was neither a great king nor a conqueror. In fact, one of his names, “Ranchhod Ji” suggests that he withdrew from battle. In his last days he was not seen around Kurukshetra or Dharamkeshtra [situated in the present day Haryana state of India], the battlefield where the Mahabharata’s ‘War of Brothers’ was fought and Krishna taught the Gita to Arjuna. This epical war lingers as a bad memory to this day in the Hindu Collective Mind because it was a battle for political power and in violation of the Aryan code. Worse, it was a fight among kith and kin brought up and educated by common guardians and gurus who cringed before their ruling disciples or remained silent spectators to their unjust and unethical actions.
Krishna lived in bad times when fair was foul and foul fair like in Scotland in Macbeth’s times. Krishna is remembered for his Gita, or Song Celestial, a lesson in immortality amidst inhuman killings of close relatives for worldly gains and temporal power. In the very midst of mindless death and destruction, Krishna assumes a teacher’s role as Arjuna’s charioteer and dispels confusion from Arjuna’s mind. He goads Arjuna to fight, perform action on the field of battle, live consciously or timelessly without worldly attachments, through death become deathless, through destruction become indestructible, through time become timeless. Because, as T. S. Eliot explains the Hindu view of life in his Four Quartets:
“It is through time time is conquered” and “to be conscious is not to be in time”.
Krishna, then, is remembered not because he was a great king. In fact, he was a small-time ruler of a city state, Dwarika, in Gujarat.
Krishna is remembered because he reminded Arjuna, other Aryas and their Hindu descendants, that Sansar or the Time-world is not a place to seek happiness in but a place to seek liberation from. Even the most ordinary human being can seek and attain timeless delight by performing detached and desireless acts of daily life. By observing one’s dharma, or doing duties or daily chores, one can achieve spiritual liberation from the sufferings of the time-world.
Krishna is remembered for correcting the perceptions of the Hindus about life and death in the temporal world or Sansar because we die and are born every moment of time endlessly; paradoxically, we can also realize ourselves if we act and desire nothing from our actions or karma. Desire bounds us to time and time-world; freedom from desire is everlasting life. In fact, desirelessness abolishes all distinction between life and death; when we have no desire, we are not in time because all desires are rooted in time.Living desirelessly is living timelessly or spiritually.
Krishna is not remembered for any great political power like Ashoka, Alexander, Akbar, Great Kings and Emperors but as the reciter or teacher of Gita, a practical guide to overcome fears of death. He is not celebrated as the Perfect One of History unlike Jesus the Christ, even though he is regarded as Puran Avatar or a complete worldly version of the Divine. He was gifted with all the sixteen kalas or attributes of a perfect avatar. Yet, he lived only in time and history, though he is not of time or history.
Rama and Krishna are remembered as avatars. They became timeless, though they lived in time. They are avatars, not because they performed great and powerful actions as kings and heroes of their time and history. They are avatars of the divine because they inhabit and live in human consciousness, beyond time.
This is where Christian Humanism and Hindu view of life fundamentally differ. For Christians, man has to attain perfection through and in history. The Christ is the Perfect One of History. Man must fulfill himself through history. But, in spite of Shelley’s Ozymandias and Christ’s being the Son of God, Christians celebrate history’s kings and queens. Even Christian saints are great for historical reasons.
Western quest is for happiness in the joy, peace, prosperity and good things of life that one’s time in the world offers. American Constitution even postulates the Right to Happiness to the citizens of the United States of America.
A true Christian lives and realizes self in and through history, a Hindu lives and realizes self in spite of history. A Christian can realize self by owning and surrendering to Christ; a Hindu has to merge his little soul [atma] with the Great Soul [param atma] by living timelessly or consciously, by freeing self or liberating self by detaching it from the objects of time.
Hindus make no distinction between foreign rule and self-rule. Any ruler who follows the ruler’s dharma deserves respect and allegiance, if not loyalty. Any ruler who leaves the Hindu alone to pursue his own way of life is acceptable to him. This explains a thousand-year Muslim rule in India and 400 years of British dominance of Indian history. Likewise, Hindus have no difficulty in accepting and following god-men of all kinds, indigenous or foreign, belonging to any religion or prophets of other religions. Good values are not the monopoly of the Hindus, so taught their ancestors; Hindus’ basic concern is to maximize their individual awareness and realize their potential, human and divine, by doing their dharma [right, detached action].
Foreignness makes one existentially aware of the other; the foreigner personifies anti-environment and as Marshall McLuhan points out, anti-environment impels self awareness. Foreigner is always welcome in India and is considered superior because the foreigner imparts more and extra awareness than is available from the indigenous environment or culture. The foreigner, because of different ways enlarges and enriches the Hindu’s experience. In the Hindu psyche, interaction with the foreigner always extends the horizon of consciousness. The Hindu response to the foreigner and things foreign can be nutty and ludicrous.
Indian texts and traditions consider a guest as a god. In fact, ‘atithi devabhav’ means he that arrives without prior date is a god. [tithi= date, prefix a= without, deva= god, bhav= is].
Enthusiastic acceptance of the British Annie Besant as President of the Indian Home Rule League and of the Indian National Congress by Indian leaders like Tilak, Motilal Nehru and others was part of the Hindu tradition to honor and respect the foreigner and accept her/him as leader in her/his own right. Likewise, acceptance of Italy-born Sonia Gandhi as the maximum leader of Indian National Congress from 1997 to 2017 is yet another example of a foreigner’s willing acceptance as leader of the Hindus.
Hindu nationalism is cultural, not political.
As to the status of Kings and Queens, this can be said on the authority of Ramayana that even a pair of wooden sandals is good enough to rule over the Hindus. For fourteen years wooden sandals ruled over the Hindus and Hindus are proud of it. They deem it as the raj or rule of Rama in absentia because Bharat, a step-brother of Rama refused to sit on the Rama’s thrown during the latter’s exile and begged his elder brother to leave behind his sandals. He kept Rama’s sandals seated on the throne for full fourteen years until Rama returned and sat on his throne as the King of Ayodhya.
Hindu tradition did not permit the kashtriye king to do his will; the king was ordained to carry out the will of the people. He had to abide by the advice of the Brahmin Raj Purohit [from Sanskrit Purohita; Puras meaning front, and Hita, placed. Hita also means welfare, gain or benefit in Hindi. Rajpurohit is a term used to denote a priest for a royal family or a king, both the Raja or Ruler and his Purohit had to keep the people’s interest and welfare in front of them].
Nor do the Hindus care whether the ruler is male or female. Many Hindu and Muslim, even Christian women have been rulers of Indian principalities. Chand Bibi of Ahmednagar, Razia Sultana of Delhi, both Muslims; Rani Padmini of Chittor and Rani Jhansi of Bundelkhand, both Hindus and Begum Sumru of Sardhana, a Christian are examples from India’s history.
Hindu tradition cares little for political heroes. Hindus have only culture-heroes. These traditions are no longer in force but do inhere silently in the Hindus of all hues. Western-style democracy is furiously destroying the Hindu values in politics and business and all other spheres of life. Ugly and base self-seeking and immorality of the present day Hindu politicians has no resemblance to the past Hindu Rajas and Maharajas.
Hindus, according to Morarji Desai, a Gandhian past Prime Minister of India, are “moral cowards”. They please their gods and goddesses by offering flowers stolen from public parks or private gardens; modern Hindu would seek blessings to commit any sin or violate any law in return of petty offerings or even promise to distribute in the name the deity a five-rupee Prasad [anointed eatable offering] Modern Hindus are capable of indulging in ugliest forms of flattery of their boss, or powerful superiors. It is hard to believe that these denizens have descended from Rama, Krishna, Rishis like Vishvamitra, Vashisth, Valmiki and Patanjli. But then, in their own classics, it is written, and Hindus do believe that in the present age or the Fourth and Final Cycle of Universal Time called the Kaliyug, Hindus shall morally rot and face Parlaya, a more complete and fiercer version of the Apocalypse.
This short discussion on Kings and their place in Hindu tradition is necessary to understand modern Agrawal’s reverence for Maharaja Agrasen as a source of inspiration for achieving success and living like kings that their traditional Vaish ancestors never sought or craved for.
The Agrawals’ soaring resurgence on the wings of Maharaja Agrasen is a phenomenon contrary to Hindu tradition that assigned very low value to wealth and very low status to men or women of wealth and attached no special significance to political power and rulers.
Maharaja Agrasen is not worshiped like Rama or Krishna as an avatar or demi-god. Agrawals of today like to think, imagine, believe and accept Agrasen as a real Maharaja who actually ruled like a kshtriya and enjoyed all the power and glory that is due to a king, a presiding deity of worldly achievements,wealth and political power.
Vaish Agrawals, more popularly known as the Baniyas, remember and celebrate Maharaja Agrasen as The Blessed Devotee of Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Glory.
====The End of Chapter 2. Hindu View of History and Rulers====