When Will The Hindutva Brigade Learn Science?

When Will The Hindutva Brigade Learn Science?

Unscientific overenthusiasts are celebrating the 5125th anniversary of the Gita being told to Arjuna. They should spend some time reading valuable research data on the Gita. And then read this extraordinary text and realize its true value, which has little do with its antiquity.

When Sushma Swaraj asked the Union Government to declare the Bhagavat Gita as the ‘national scripture’, she made that appeal only in ‘her personal capacity’—as a  citizen. Not as an Union Minister and nor was it a policy announcement.

Nevertheless she should have been fully aware of the impact and media attention such a statement would generate. It was an avoidable controversy. But it seems a section in the ruling party and the vast majority of the media, particularly the English media, want to generate such controversies.

In his excellent article in Swarajya , Jataayu had pointed out how the Gita is considered in the overall scheme of things in the dominant Hindutva framework.

Ekatmata Stotra—the morning veneration hymn of RSS is an excellent document of how the Hindutva discourse is built and evolves. It is inclusive, diversity-oriented and non-sectarian. The idea of one scripture-one people is of course Abrahamic.

However if there is one ancient text that has truly influenced the Indian freedom struggle, it is the Bhagavad Gita. Swami Vivekananda lectured on the Gita. Balgangadhar Tilak wrote Gita Rahasya.

Gandhi added his own commentary. Sri Aurobindo wrote his famous Essays on Gita. Subash Chandra Bose always carried the book with him. The great revolutionary mentor of Bhagat Singh was Ashfaqullah Khan. A martyr for Mother India’s freedom, he expressed how his worldview was shaped and inspired by the Gita:

मौत और ज़िन्दगी है दुनिया का सब तमाशा,

फरमान कृष्ण का था, अर्जुन को बीच रन में|

And then we have a person describe the Bhagavat Gita as the ‘Bible of real revolution’. That was André Malraux, the French novelist and intellectual. He should know. After all he had been a soldier fighting the fascist Franco regime in Spain, and the Nazis in France.

Even as we deny the justification of birth-based caste by Hindu orthodoxy using the Bhagavad Gita, we cannot deny the fact that in the building of modern India, the Gita  played a more significant role than any other ancient Indic text.

A painting depicting the Kurukshetra
A painting depicting the Kurukshetra

That said, there are a couple of comedy of errors, the overenthusiasts of Gita Jayanti that is being currently celebrated with much pomp, should take into account.

The first one is about the date of Gita.

It was declared that this was the 5125th Gita Jayanti. By this account, the Gita seems to have been told in 3111 BCE. Arriving at such a date is through a methodology that is not much different from the one used by Bishop Ussher who famously fixed the date of creation at 23 October 4004 BCE. Unfortunately, again, Indic scholarship had been more scientifically rigorous than the loud voices of the present day Gita Jayanti celebrators.

Dr. B.B.Lal and late Dr. S.P.Gupta had worked on the archaeology of both the national epics. Dr. B.B. Lal had arrived at the date of 1000-900 BCE synthesizing data gleaned from literary and archeological sources.

Particularly interesting is his archeological validation of a Puranic account of the flooding of Hastinapur. Matsya Purana and Vaayu Purana which speak of Hastinapur destroyed by a flood in the Ganga during the reign of King Parikshit, the fifth in the line of the Pandavas, who then shifted his capital from Hastinapur to Kausambi.

Dr. Lal, who discovered the archaeological evidence for this flood, thus uncovered an important point in the timeline that would allow us to solidly place the Mahabharatha in the actual historic timeline.

Archaeological validation of such a mythological event would have generated in any other culture a widespread public sensation at least in the media. For example The Illustrated Weekly of India, which then ran a cover story on the crackpot theories of P.N. Oak did not seem to have given much attention to these discoveries.

Finally Dr.S.P. Gupta and his colleague K.S. Ramachandran arrived at a date of 1000 +/- 200 BCE, a time bracket that ties in closely with the one arrived at by B.B.Lal  himself. (Mahabharata: Myth and Reality, 1976)

It should be remembered that the major portion of the Ayodhya archeological evidence in favour of the temple theory came from Dr. B.B.Lal and Dr. S.P.Gupta. But for their work, the tall claims made by Hindutva pamphlets on Ayodhya would have fallen flat before the high-voltage academic and media deceit indulged in by the pseudo-secular forces.

It is high time the Hindutva movement takes care that it should not fall into the pit of literal fundamentalism. Perhaps Gita Jayanti should be an opportunity to face the debates on the historicity of the Gita and the epic in which the Song of the Divine is embedded.

In fact a meaningful debate related to the material culture at the time of the Mahabharata  should be about whether it involved the cultures of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) or that of Ochre Coloured Pottery(OCP) and not whether they used hydrogen bombs or flying saucers.

The 1976 debate on the historicity of the epic was about  PGW and OCP and the archaeologists who debated these questions belonged as much to Hindutva thought as Romila Thapar belonged to the Marxist school.

That the Kurukshetra war fought with much more down-to-earth localized weapons in a cultural milieu that used painted grey ware or ochre colored pottery in no way reduces the spiritual significance of the Bhagavat Gita.

It remains a text that was used by humanity in its fight against the British colonialism and Nazi-Fascist darkness, or the inhuman religious apartheid into which Nehruvian pseudo-secularism has naturally and predictably degenerated into.

The second is about the ‘Einstein quote’ that is in circulation which attributes to Einstein the following: “‘When I read the Bhagavad-gita and reflect about how God created this universe, everything else seems so superfluous”. The collected works of Einstein shows no knowledge of Gita and Gita itself is not very much into ‘creation’ account. Einstein could have been sympathetic to Advaita, had he known it, as he was enamoured by the monism of Spinoza.

As a religion, he held Buddhism in high esteem. Einstein seemed to have known and been sympathetic to certain aspects of the Hindu cosmology. Sociologist, poet and survivor of Nazi regime, Prof.William Hermanns records that Einstein said “I believe,that energy is the basic force in creation. My friend Bergson calls it élan vital, the Hindus call it prana.” (Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man, 1983) That is a very interesting statement. It upgrades Bergson’s élan vital into something far larger than a simplistic vitalist speculation.

Interestingly Henri Bergson and Einstein were both  impressed by Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose’s work. Bridges & Tiltman in their Master Minds of Modern Science (1935) state that Einstein was among the audience of one of Bose’s lectures and he was so impressed that he stated a statue ought to be erected honouring Bose at the capital of the League of Nations.

Of course the Prana-Akasha cosmological model had been brought to the West by Swami Vivekananda in the now famous interaction he had with Tesla. Beyond the pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories weaved around Tesla, the idea of Prana had clearly percolated up to Einstein.

J.C Bose
J.C Bose

Talking about Jagadish Chandra Bose, one is always reminded of Meera Nanda. In 2004, she wrote in the magazine Frontline: “In India, Jagdish Chandra Bose first claimed to find evidence of consciousness in plants.

Bose’s work was falsified and rejected by mainstream biology in his own life-time. It is still touted as India’s contribution to world science in Hindutva literature.” She was wrong here even factually, as it was Darwin who first proposed the now famous root-brain theory.

Anyway, let us fast forward to 2014. A reputed popular science weekly runs a cover story titled Roots of Consciousness. Among other interesting observations and controversies raging over plant intelligence, it is pointed out that,

in 1900, Indian biophysicist Jagdish Chandra Bose began a series of experiments that laid the groundwork for what some today call “plant neurobiology”. He argued that plants actively explore their environments, and are capable of learning and modifying their behaviour to suit their purposes.

Key to all this, he said, was a plant nervous system.Located primarily in the phloem, the vascular tissue used to transport nutrients, Bose believed this allowed information to travel around the organism via electrical signals.

Bose was also well ahead of his time. It wasn’t until 1992 that his idea of widespread electrical signaling in plants received strong support when researchers discovered that wounding a tomato plant results in a plantwide production of certain proteins–and the speed of the response could only be due to electrical signals and not chemical signals travelling via the phloem as had been assumed. The door to the study of plant behaviour was opened.” 

That was the New Scientist issue dated 6 December 2014. Surely that should be some Hindutva conspiracy!

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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