Saturday, September 22, 2007

Science and Mythology: Ram Sethu

A lot of people asked this question: “Why do you question mythology? Is Science good enough to answer all the questions? Is Science infallible?”

Science is not infallible. In fact, the basic premise on which science is constructed is on questioning: “Really?”, “Are you sure?” “Where is the proof?”

The onus of explaining a theory and proving it has always been on the person proposing it. And everyone else sits around asking lot of questions. Science by its innate nature questions itself all the time. If a certain practical result is found to contradict a theory, then that theory has to be rejected or modified. And even when a theory seems to work fine for hundreds of years, such as Theory of Gravitation, we still cannot say with 100% confidence that this theory works forever and in all places. There is always a possibility that it may not work in certain places and in certain times. Then we go about enhancing it or confining it or rejecting it or modifying it.

The beauty of Science is that it accepts (at all times) that it does not have answers to all the questions. Since it asks itself lot of questions, it questions others with the same rigor when someone proposes a solution to a practical problem. If you say that a crystalline energy coming from an amulet will heal you of cancer, it will ask you questions, such as ‘How?’ ‘Where is the evidence?’ ‘Did you conduct enough experiments to suggest this?’ ‘Can you explain it to us?’

Science is not good enough to answer all the questions. Though it attempts to answer many questions to the natural phenomenon and is even able to predict the events in certain cases, it has no role to play in the works of art, fiction, mythology, fables, stories, etc. Can someone prove or disprove there is Middle Earth in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? Can someone prove or disprove whether Harry Potter can fly by sitting on his broom? Can someone prove or disprove the existence of Mickey Mouse? Can someone prove or disprove if Hanuman lifted a mountain and flew in the sky?

Science is not good enough to answer these questions because such stories exist in the minds of the people. People are entitled to believe anything if that belief gets them entertained. However, it will start questioning you when you go to court and obstruct construction of a building because you contested it will violate the airspace when Harry Potter flies through that space. Science will ask you a question- ‘Does Harry Potter really exist? Or is he in the minds of people?’

Ram Sethu Episode

During the current episode of Ram Sethu, some people claimed that Rama is real, because he exists in the ‘collective conscience’ of millions of Hindus. So, then Superman should be real because he exists in the minds of millions too. So should Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus.

Nobody wants to question mythology and verify its authenticity just for the sake of hurting your sentiments. However, when some people believe that their Harry Potter is so true that the book written by JK Rowling itself is considered the evidence to prove his existence, then all we ask is, ‘Are you sure?’

Imagine a court scene:

Petitioner: You cannot dredge this Ram Sethu.

ASI: Why not?

Petitioner: Because it is a monument of our ancient heritage.

ASI: Really?

Petitioner: Yes. It is man-made construction and hence we need to preserve it.

ASI: And can we ask who made it?

Petitioner: Lord Rama made it along with vanar-sena (army of monkeys).

ASI: Well, we don't believe it is man-made. How can you say it is made by Rama? Do you have a proof for that?

Petitioner: Yes. We do. Here is the Ramcharita Manas written by Tulsidas and here is Ramayana written by Valmiki. Right in there, it clearly says that Rama built Ram Sethu using vanar sena.

ASI: Yeah, thank you. But we believe Ramayana is a mythology. It is not historical evidence. This does not prove Rama existed and built a bridge.

Petitioner: No. Lord Rama exists. And we know that. And we know that from these books. In fact, Lord Rama existed 1.75 Million years ago and he built this bridge with vanar sena.

ASI: Sorry, thank you for producing this evidence. But this is not acceptable. As far as we are concerned, from what we know, there is no evidence to suggest Rama ever existed.

The next day newspapers flash the story [emphasis mine]:

The Ramayana may have moved millions since civilisation took root, but for the Centre, Valmiki’s immortal tale of Lord Ram lacks scientific and historical veracity.

"Valmiki Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature, but these cannot be said to be historical records to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters and occurrences of events depicted therein," the government said in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, instantly setting the stage for a political showdown with the Sangh Parivar.

Why question mythology?

No one set out to challenge the mythology. When mythology was confined to movies, to bed-time stories, to go and celebrate festivals, and do fasting, it is all fine. But when those stories are produced as evidences to stop an activity that the government is undertaking, then questions are asked. That’s the only reason why mythology was questioned here.

Some people ask: “Why question belief systems of Hindus alone? Why not Muslims and Christians? Why don’t we ask the authenticity of existence of their religions? Ask if Jesus existed, if Abraham existed?”

The answer is very simple. Normally nobody goes around questioning mythology and belief systems. One questions them only when someone produces these mythologies as evidences to stop certain activity which the government is undertaking.

Suppose if some Christians cite Bible as evidence to stop sending PSLV into space, then ISRO would question the mythology and say, ‘There is no evidence to suggest the angels you are talking about actually exist’.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Indians and Awards

Indians have a weird way of dealing with Awards.

When I was working in the Indian services oriented industry, a director recommended his whole group for an achievement award which is usually given to a single person. When one of the top executives asked him why he chose the whole team, the director responded he didn’t want to upset anyone in the team but yet wanted to give them an award to motivate them. The top executive insisted that only one person be chosen for the award. I agree with that decision but in addition I am also of the opinion that an award should be given for an achievement and not as an incentive to motivate.

Indians dole out awards of all kinds reducing the whole exercise to a charade of ‘celebration of mediocrity’.

Take Indian Cinema, for example! The many-a-times-in-a-year ceremonies are held only to confer awards on each other and on all and sundry of the Indian Cinema. They have all kinds of awards – side hero, side heroine, best comedian, best villain, best new entrant, best old timer, best child hero, best child villain, and what not. Many new kinds of awards are invented every year to ensure that every actor is awarded. If a certain actor does not get an award this year, he is bound to get it next year. Everyone agrees, ‘Poor guy! He did not get an award though he has been acting for few years now’. The general agreement amongst all Indians- the judges, the actors who receive the award, and the people of India, is that awards are given to make everyone feel special and feel included and it is nothing to do with recognition of excellence.

Consolation Prizes

Consolation prizes are most overly used awards in India. They are given to everyone who participates so that everyone goes home happy. In the end the guy who got the first prize feels he is like everyone else, and nothing special. Consolation prizes are good to give to young kids to make everyone feel somewhat special. For some reason, Indians never seem to outgrow this. They extend this to every sphere of adult life.


Another phenomenon which is quite unique to Indians is ‘felicitations’. In every conference or a seminar, there is a beeline of people receiving ‘felicitations’. It starts with one guy inviting another onto the stage for felicitation in which a memento is presented and sometimes a shawl is draped over the guy. Everyone claps as if it is an achievement. I don’t get it. What is the whole idea of celebrating the fact the other person just showed up for the event? Nobody questions what the reason is for such a felicitation. This whole charade continues till every senior member who has attended that event is called onto the dais one after the other. Nobody knows why such felicitation is happening and what each contributed related to that seminar.

Lobbying Awards

Another phenomenon that happens in Indian Universities is the way the best teacher or best researcher is chosen. It is a set of negotiations involving all kinds of lobbies – If the best teacher award goes to an upper caste person, then the best research award should be given to a backward caste person, and if a certain lobby arm-twisted the judges to secure the award to its candidate the other lobby boycotts it. Receiving the Award is reduced to lobbying politics. And most of the time the candidate who is most pleasing and is sucking up to the most number of people is chosen because he is the least controversial. In a sense, it is the ‘celebration of mediocrity’.


I believe awards should be kept to a minimum number and should not be seen as an incentive or motivator. Awards should be given for really special achievements so that the people who receive it actually believe they are someone special. When hundred people get it, the whole exercise becomes a nonsensical charade of celebration of mediocrity. If in a quarter, no one performed well then no award should be given. I want to see a day when an organization confesses it does not have a candidate for its best performer award.

Types of Atheists

Contrary to popular opinion which seems to club all kinds of atheists into one type, there are different kinds of ‘atheists’. ‘Non-belief in an organized faith’ is usually considered a ticket to atheism. However there are different kinds of people who profess such non-belief. I could think of four types here:


These are idol-breakers. They would like to break the existing notion of belief in the God as preached by a certain religion or cult they are familiar with. They see a certain religion and its practices to be detrimental and hence they go about shattering those icons, those symbols, those houses of worship. Sometimes these iconoclasts tend to establish a different kind of ideology in the place of the idols they have fought. Certain Communists fall into this category. Karunanidhi and Periyar fall into this category to an extent. Adolf Hitler and Stalin could be grouped into this.

Their non-belief is not scientific in origin and it may not have a rational outlook either. The rejection of God could be out of anger, frustration with the way the world is working, or with a hidden agenda to replace existing faiths with a different ideology. Some iconoclasts who broke up paganism settled down to embrace Abrahamic religion. Some iconoclasts who broke up Christianity embraced Nazism or Communism.


They are practical people who rationalize and see that most things in life can be explained away without involving God or his divine intervention. They see no need for God to run things. They see rituals as an encumbrance to leading a practical life. They see organized religion serving certain vested interests. For them miracles are just coincidences. These people may not have known the deeper topics of science or inner understandings of nature. But they have enough logical and reasoning power to conclude that running of things does not need intervention of a supernatural being and hence there is a good enough reason to conclude that God does not exist. ‘Show me the proof, only then will I believe’, is their stand.

Some pragmatists may turn into believers if they are touched by supposed miracle. They may take a U-turn to embrace religion and its all elements to become their champions. Some people in their young age may dabble with atheism, more as a rebellious streak, and they may eventually become strong proponents of religion and belief in God after certain incidents or revelations.


They are complete nonbelievers of a religious God. They are of scientific bent and have asked deeper questions about the forces of nature, and how nature is run. They don’t think a God is running this place. They don’t think God listens to one’s prayers. They do not see God as creator of life. They do not see God intervening into human life. However, they do feel that there could be some supernatural force that has brought this Universe into place. And that supernatural force need not be a conscious being, not someone who is concerned with affairs of men and their petty exams and wars. But they concede that certain supernatural force may be the one that set the universal laws and their properties in motion, only during the first few nanoseconds of the creation of Universe. And thereafter has NOT tampered with Universe ever again. (Example: Albert Einstein)

Absolute Atheists

They are nonbelievers of all kinds of God including a supernatural force. They are of scientific bent too and have asked deeper questions about forces of nature. They inherit all other traits of Deism, but they do not believe that a supernatural force is needed to set the Universe into motion. They believe we just happen to be a in a Universe that could spawn life and hence we happen to ask these questions. In Universe which could not spawn life there is no one to ask these questions.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Indians Too Argumentative?

Long ago, I wrote an article, titled ‘Are Indians creative and original?

To a question, ‘How creative are Indians?’ Edward De Bono says:

From the limited interactions I’ve had, I find Indians very argumentative. Argument is a primitive way of discussion – not constructive one at all. Americans are creative and have a ‘go-getter’ attitude. The Chinese are not much creative. The Japanese, on the other hand, are moving from logic-based thinking to more creative one.

When I came back from USA to work in India, I started to observe many new things in this industry. All my opinions about Indian industry are from those eighteen months I spent in a ‘high-tech’ services company based in Bangalore. I was working in India for the first time. I was working in a services company for the first time.

Something that I observed was the way meetings were held. First, nobody spelt out the agenda. Second, there were too many opinions. Some opinions were taking the course of meeting completely astray and divergent! Some of them were completely nonsensical just taking up everyone’s time! Many meetings just got extended, and some of them didn’t produce any result. For the first time, I saw ‘democracy’ in action on a completely different definition from what I was used to. [I keep sticking to that famous line from Crimson Tide, where a military guy says, ‘We are here to preserve democracy, not practice it!’ My rule for an organization is simple- ‘Ideas flow bottom up, decisions come top down’].

On few occasions, when a manager said, we will do this, few subordinates just brushed it off emphatically saying, ‘No, we won’t do it’. And the way the manager reacted was something that I did not anticipate. He suddenly took a conciliatory stance and tried to cajole them.

I would have expected something completely different. I would have expected the manager to be stern and not tolerate such indiscipline. When I started to learn more about Indian industry, I realized that it is heavily services oriented where attrition is a big problem. The manager has to somehow ‘manage’ the show, maintain the headcount to get the revenues. And the fact that excellence is not rewarded nor recognized in this industry, it allows everyone to fall into a mood of complacency, saying, ‘sab chalta hain’ (anything goes), including being belligerent and rebellious towards your manager.

In another episode, an Indian company recruited an American as their VP. When he was holding a meeting here in Bangalore, one of the Indian managers gave a very curt and insulting reply. This VP suggested they discuss the matter later after the meeting. The manager insisted that they should discuss the issue though it was outside the agenda. He insistence was undermining the authority of this VP. The situation went out of control when the manager was not ready to stand down. He was only trying to show the rest of his team who is the boss. After few attempts to calm him down which failed, the VP fired him right then and there and asked him to leave.

I was sharing notes with few others from the West who have experienced Indian industry and I realize that definitely there is much more room for unnecessary arguments in Indian companies, sometimes to the point of being unproductive and sometimes destructive.

Are we ‘too argumentative’ to the point of making the discussion not constructive?

I have many examples from Indian TV. Each time I sit down to watch a debate on Indian TV I really get fed up within the first few minutes because every member starts shouting at the other. After some time, everyone is bickering, fighting, and they don’t stop talking even when the other person is talking. The mediator just cannot stop the fight and even he enters the fray, talking and shouting to make other people stop talking and shouting. That’s when I change the channel. That’s too much of argument for me. Nowadays, I flip the channel whenever I see such a debate.

What use is it when there is nothing to take home after such a long debate? What we all do is come, argue, and nothing gets done. Debate is something quite different from an argument. What we see on Indian TV is usually heated and nonsensical arguments, not a debate.

‘All talk, no action’, is what I call them all. [I have another one, ‘All fluff, no stuff’]

And as I said before, I like the slogan from Nike, ‘Just do it’.

More of action and less of arguments would be quite healthy for Indians.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Are you rational? (Part I)

Even though I have written copious amounts on this subject some readers stump me with their questions. They want me to concede there is room for irrationality, and when I don’t, they think I am trying to impose my ideas onto them. I am NOT imposing my ideas onto you. I am only asking us to question first, and then accept later, instead of accepting things just because someone told us long ago codified in a book. In short, I am asking you to grow up. Be mature. Use your brain. Be rational.

How do you know if you are rational? Is Rationality another ideology that can be imposed onto others? Which is better? A state run on the basis of blind belief, superstition and irrationality or a state run on the basis of rationality, logic and reason?

What is rationality?

It is the ability of a human to think, ask questions, get answers, debate, discuss, and reason to arrive at a standpoint using a set of generally agreed logical rules. It is the opposite of the ability of human not to think, not to reason, to suppress debate, and then come to an obstinate standpoint by citing a certain idea which is considered unassailable, unchallenged or unquestioned.

According to Wiki:

A simple philosophical definition of rationality refers to one's use of a "practical syllogism". For example,
I am cold.
If I close the window I will not be cold.
Therefore, I closed the window.

The irrational way of looking at it is:

I am cold.
If I close the window I will not be cold.
But I will not close the window because my God Vayu will be offended according to this book written thousands of years before man was born.
Therefore, I will open all the windows including those of other people’s homes, even if it means others will get cold. And if someone stops me, I will bash him up because I am carrying the message of God which is the ultimate truth.

Is Rationality an ideology?

Many people consider rationality to be an ideology. They think it is another set of belief systems, just like religion. The way we say, 'You have Islam, I have Hinduism'. These people want to say, 'You have rationality and I have blind belief'. They think it is a choice we make between different ideologies, like choosing one between CPM and BJP, Republicans and Democrats, Communism and Democracy, Capitalism and Socialism, vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism, Abortionism and Anti-abortionism, etc.

Rationality is not an ideology, but is a method to deal with conflict between different ideologies. We will always have different opinions, different stance, and different positions on various issues of human affairs. And sometimes those positions come into conflict.

Earlier in history, one of the ways to resolve conflicts was to impose one ideology onto others suppressing other’s opinions, voice and freedoms. If one disagreed with the other, they killed the other. If you were different you were tortured, and then incarcerated. Sometimes, like in the times of Inquisition, various innovative ways were developed to torture people, just because these others had a different set of belief systems.

The ideology that reigned over a land was one which the autocrat embraced. If he quickly changed his ideology, the people who earlier enjoyed the privileges were now targeted like their erstwhile enemies. Those were the times when irrationality prevailed. They had different set of tools to end conflicts- by suppression of voice suppression of dissent, suppression of freedoms and that of choice, by curtailing all discussion, debate or questioning, and acting unilaterally based on assumptions coming from blind belief and superstition and on certain illogical set of rules.

(Not very long ago, in Communist Russia, one could be sent to Siberia to be tortured and killed just because you had a different set of beliefs. In the modern days, we still have some regimes which continue to have this practice in place. And now, Indians are doing their best to join the elite club of such irrational regimes.)

Rationality gives man a different set of tools- and those are- reason, debate, discussion, using certain agreed steps called logic. Using these simple tools which almost any thinking person can come up with on his own, a reasonable discussion can be brought about to resolve conflicts between ideologies. Some of the modern nations have been able to guarantee rights to its citizens, resolve issues through discussions and debates through participation of people's representatives accountable to the people, tolerate different kinds of cultures, ethnicities, religions, languages, give equal rights to women and minorities, give equal opportunity and access to fair justice, all because they had embraced tools of rationality.

Rationality is not the truth. It is not a doctrine. It is not an ideology.

It is not about choosing Abortionism as against Anti-Abortionism, but it is the method you employ to resolve that conflict. You have a choice between irrationality and rationality to use as a method to resolve that conflict. Either you can debate the pros and cons of each stance, bring in evidences, results of sociological and medical experiments, and then come to a decision on what suits the best for those who are victimized because of each stance, OR you can decree that a certain book written thousands of years ago is good enough to decide all conflicts for all time and therefore no questioning or debate is allowed since the decision is already made long ago.

Tools for resolving Ram Sethu Controversy

A rational way to deal with Ram Sethu is to debate about it, study what we have as evidences, question what we know as humans, and accept what is known as known and what is unknown as unknown. Discuss the pros and cons of such a project in terms of its effect on environment, the fishing population, the national security implications, etc.

An irrational way to deal with Ram Sethu is to come up with stories, fables, mythology, fantasy and mix it with history, science, archaeology, facts, positing one as the other, and then stopping all debate saying, ‘There’s God, that’s proof enough’.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where are the Indian Scientists?

Where is the Indian Scientific Community when you need them the most?

The saddest part of the current episode of the controversial Ram Sethu project in which religious superstitions won over rationale is the absolute silence from scientific community of India. If they were doing their job of defending rationale from getting hijacked by blind belief, I don’t think I had to put in my harsh words.

Many people just brush this episode saying it is one of ‘those religious issues’. It is not. The present episode is a perfect example of the challenges we are facing as a nation on the questions of which direction this country is headed.

It is not that I like to trounce down religion for the sake of trouncing it. I am not ridiculing it as long as it is not affecting the mainstream of society. I do not like to discuss science and religion with religious people. I do not like to get into debates just to quench my intellectual curiosity. I am quite OK with religious people practicing their religion while the state is doing its job of running the state. However, when a conflict arises, such as this, where in a religious idea challenges the running of the state, what do we do? The outcome of such conflicts set a precedent for the future outcomes and will decide the direction this country is going to take.

What should one do if in near future some weird interpretation of Koran asks for stopping all rocket launches citing religious books and some mythological documents as evidences?

You set one precedent, and you have to succumb to other religious antics! After a spate of such events, you get Iran, right here in India. And the scientific community of India should take the blame for it because it chose to hide behind a curtain called ‘let’s NOT meddle with religion’!

This is to all those scientists hiding behind those curtains, ‘You are scientist ONLY because long ago certain scientific communities in faraway lands fought their battles against superstition, blind belief, witchcraft, religious orthodoxy, etc. If those scientists hid the way you are hiding now, then you wouldn’t be scientists in the first place.’ (And I wouldn’t be an engineer!)

Those faraway lands have created nations striking a balance between state and the church. They have reached a stage wherein they are ready to concede- ‘its your domain, and this is my domain’. That is why in spite of so much religiosity in US and Europe, you see so much funding of science related activities.

India just cannot lazily inherit the outcome of their struggles- the separation of church and state- without having its own frictions. There will be frictions. And the outcome of each friction will decide which path we will be taking.

Unfortunately, majority of scientists of India lack scientific temperament. Science, anyway, is on the decline in India. And the Indian scientists, towards whom most rationalists look, are silent on this issue citing some weird interpretations of secular concepts. Scientists of India are a disgrace and a shame.

Scientific community of the West waged a four hundred years battle to bring rationality into this world. With it came equal rights to woman, rights to different ethnicities, justice to all, etc. And in this fight some people had to give up their lives to defend a stance of letting rationality prevail over blind belief in matters of universal concepts. The West has come to a strike a balance between religion and science after prolonged struggles.

We in India blur those lines quite easily, mainly because our scientific community is absent.

My fight is not against individuals and not against religion. I am not trying to change opinions here. I am just looking for some rational minds out there hoping that we still continue to maintain a modicum of rational thought in this country. Hoping we will be able to strike a balance in this country. I am a bit disappointed! Whenever a conflict arises- such as this, I expect scientific community to speak up. When no such voice is found, people like us have to speak up!

An Indian lady scientist writes:

In order to have a progressive world we need to pick our battles carefully.

I am not sure what is holding the scientific community back? What are they waiting for? The day when India will close down ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) and instead use our mythologies as official research? The day when India stops all scientific activities and replace them with astrology, numerology, vedic mathematics, where no one has to do research, but sit under Banyan trees and meditate?

Some Indian scientists believe they should not step in till it is too late when they see actual detriment to society and only when that detriment is tangible.

We should realize that each of these nation-wide conflicts set a precedent on the highest level. All these mega events will encourage many radical elements to impose their blind belief onto the mainstream society. Yesterday, some vandals set fire to a library because it housed a book which had critical remarks on Ram. That’s how things start. Fascism started out of innocuous theories of aggrandizing one’s culture. Fascism was a culmination of many such small events.

The same Indian lady scientist writes:

You take chronology, history and documented facts and evidence and fight faith, you will always find people who will be genuinely hurt and upset.

So, shouldn’t we present facts and evidences in a court of law to counter the faith’s petition citing mythology as evidence? Aren’t scientists getting a bit pusillanimous here? Today it is about Ram Sethu, tomorrow it is about banning a book, and then it is about stopping all genetic engineering, and then it is about establishing superiority of races through such apocryphal evidences! Didn’t we already witness this trend in our history in a different part of the world?

This scientist asks:

Do we really need to offend religious sentiment by questioning mythology?

I agree that there is no need to question mythology. We continue to have Santa Claus, we continue to have Frankenstein, Superman, Spiderman and Harry Potter. We continue to have fables and stories. But imagine a petition in court asking everyone to make big chimneys so that Santa Claus can come into each home? That’s when this mythology comes back to you as blind belief and is knocking on your door!

What should we do when that mythology starts having an influence on the state and its functions?

What do we do if tomorrow some Muslims provide some weird interpretations to stop all scientific activities in India? Being secular, should we not bow down to their religious sentiments as well, as we did here right now to Hindu sentiments, to ban all scientific activities?

Where does one draw the line? How long will the scientific community of India wait? Or will they just pack up their bags and flee to the West?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Indians embrace Irrationality as a conscious choice

While we continue to obliterate history, establish myths, discourage science, we are also making idiots out of our kids.

BJP Government of Uttarkhand has decided to introduce the subject of Rama Sethu as part of school syllabus, teaching them how Lord Rama built this bridge using ‘vanar sena’ (army of monkeys).

Thank you! Now, can they please tell us how long it will take to reverse millions of years of evolution so that we go back to shrinking our brain size to a size of a peanut?

Thanks to Krish for the link.

Rejection of Rationality IV: Snippets

In my previous article, Rejection of Rationality III: Western constructs, I have made sweeping statements about the present mood of Hindus. Most of these observations come from my experiences from debating with various people on the topics concerning India. The moods I presented in that article are coming from various sources and you will hear them too if you poke some people and keep your ears open. In this article, I wanted to capture some of the moods coming from some of the forums. Please don’t miss out on the article from Times of India (TOI) which is linked in here.

An Indian lady from Britain would like to absolve Hindus of all discriminations by moving it onto British:

Lets not forget that the Schedule of Castes and Tribes that codified "caste" in India is a colonial British invention. Thanks to this wonderful document, certain people were not only allowed to hold certain jobs, but also prohibited from employment…

A paper on status of Indian women writes:

But in the later period the position of women went on deteriorating due to Muslim influence. During the Muslim period of history they were deprived of their rights of equality with men. They were compelled to keep themselves within the four walls of their houses with a long veil on their faces. This was definitely due to Islamic influence.

An article in recent TOI captures the mood completely (all emphasis mine).

If you read the Ramayana and Mahabharat as history, you will find lots of mythology. If you read them as mythology, you will find lots of history- A L Basham

Hindus do not like facts, we just like mythology.

Try telling any child — and that includes the inner child within all of us — facts and dates, and they will quickly lose interest. But narrate a mythological tale, and they're all ears. Parents know that. So do advertisers. After all, as Deepak Chopra once wrote in The Times of India, "A brand is an encapsulated mythology. A person will buy a product not because she is consuming the product but because she is consuming its mythology."

We do not need proofs, we already know Rama exists.

Which is why the whole debate about whether or not Lord Ram existed as a historical figure is redundant.

To millions of Indians, Ram and the other heroes of the epics are living entities; eternal role models who exist outside of time and space. To try and confine them within the boundaries of geography and chronology — as attempts to prove their historicity must necessarily do — is to do them a huge disservice.

We don’t need history, we are quite happy with fables.

In any case, the obsession with historical accuracy is a Western, rather than an Indian construct.

Historians have cited the traditional Indian habit of creating myths and fables rather than 'accurate' historical documents to lament that India has no sense of history. Absolutely true. But rather than getting defensive about this 'criticism', we should be proud of our ahistorical view of civilization.

Because our forefathers intuitively knew that mythology provides a far more authentic understanding of a civilisation than history does.

And here is the gem!

Indeed, as Indians, we believe in creating myths, and obliterating history.

Why is Ram human and at the same time a god? Here’s the answer:

“There was initially no ontological gulf between the world of the gods and the world of men and women," says Karen Armstrong in one of her books on mythology.

Did I already mention that we need a Westerner to validate our ridiculous claims?

Ironically, the statement that's possibly the wisest ever made on Indian mythology was by a westerner, one of the few who understood 'The Wonder That Was India' — the renowned historian A L Basham, who we've quoted at the beginning of this piece.

I rest my case! TOI comes up with so much idiocy I don’t need to prove much.

Rejection of Rationality III: Western constructs

Bereft of any achievements in the contemporary history, Indians have to settle on their glorious past alone. While Indians continue to establish their own identity in the grand scheme of world civilizations there are renewed attempts to glorify its ancient past to secure its place as a great civilization.

Now, what do you do with glaring examples of our flaws as a civilization, such as untouchability or burning of widows, etc?

Well, we have learnt the art of blaming the West for all our flaws and we have been doing this quite effectively these days. We are training our kids the art of sophistry to evade the questions directly and answer them obliquely putting the blame on alien invaders.

Here, I list some of these attempts


When confronted with continued persecution, discrimination and ostracism of untouchables for nearly two thousand years, we are confronted with some intellectual explanations from upper caste Hindus that the whole notion of ‘caste’ was an artificial construct imposed onto Hindus by British when they started to take population census based on caste. According to these upper caste Hindus, Indians always lived harmoniously adhering to laws of nature in perfect balance with no inequities before British exacerbated the problem by introducing caste system into India. Historians who talk about existence inequities due to caste system in India prior to British Rule are rubbished as Marxist-Communists whose only purpose is to denigrate the grand old civilization of Hindus.


When confronted with widow-burning practice of Sati and the prolonged subjugation of woman treating her as a lesser human, Hindus cite a glorious and fantastical history where women enjoyed equal freedom. To do this, they conveniently highlight selected texts while hiding the glaring truths. According to these Hindus, which include some liberated and emancipated women who have fought their fights with men and now upgraded themselves to fight other civilizations, the discriminations against women were introduced into India only after Muslim invasions and then during British Rule in India. They tell you that the women of ancient Hindu India always enjoyed freedom as in present day democracies. It was the Koranic interpretations of the Muslims and then the Victorian English conservatism that chained Indian woman. Therefore, we as Hindus do not take any blame for practicing sati or treating woman as a lesser human.


Indians believe that they do not need the modern version of Science as dictated to us by the West. Empiricism is a western construct and therefore completely alien to Hindus. Hindus could arrive at the same conclusions which the West took four hundred years to arrive at just by meditating under a Banyan Tree. We are holistic and spiritual, while the West is individualistic and materialistic. Scientific methods of detailed investigation, dating, measuring, calculating, analyzing, theorizing, etc, is an artificial construct imposed onto Hindus. Though these tools are introduced into Indian education by the British the Hindus never embraced them completely. Now, we are poised to reject this Modern Science because we have alternative theories from our ancient histories. All we need is little translations of these conundrums and riddles, that’s all. When our ancestors wrote about foxes, they are in fact fermions, and when they talked about bears, they are in fact bosons. And people like Fritjof Capra, a Westerner, has already validated our claims. You have to understand that it is extremely important for us to know that a Westerner ratifies our ridiculous assumptions.

We don’t need Science as it is taught in the West. Instead, we just need to renew our very own versions of ancient and alternative pseudo-sciences. We will soon have our own universities of Ayurveda, Astrology, Vedic Shastra, Mantra Tantra, Vaastu Shastra, Vedic Mathematics, etc, and produce PhDs to compete against you. And it will be very cheap too. We will not need labs, experimentations. No cyclotrons, no massive scale archaeological expeditions. No genetic research, no fusion experiments. All we need is a big farm of Banyan trees. Our scientists will sit under the trees and chant OM to reveal the truth to you.


We do not believe in the exact chronology and carbon dating that West adopts to establish veracity of historical events. Indians mix mythology with history, fantasy with facts, and ‘obliterate histories to establish myths’. We do not care if Rama is real, because he is hyper-real. For us, history is a myth anyway. We believe Rama trained monkeys to build a massive bridge from India to Sri Lanka around 1.75 Million years ago. If the West believes that humans did not exist at that point of time, it is their drawback. They have not researched enough. We don’t need any research, because our Ramacharita Manas has recorded everything. This whole notion of exactly dating incidents and recording is an artificial and Western construct. We are happy living in a fantasy land. It really doesn’t bother us to see our characters in Indian movies living in India one moment and suddenly involved in a car chase in Switzerland the next moment. Indian Cinema (which we call Bollywood, a completely original term) clearly explains our attitude towards the real world. It really doesn’t bother us to see our historical figures fighting British one minute and suddenly jumping into a dance song running around trees the next minute. For us, history is fantasy, fantasy is history. This whole notion of exact time, exact experimental results, exact flight plans, exact figures in economy, exact historical dates is anathema to Indians. We love ambiguity and we thrive in ambiguity. It allows us to fudge things, copy anyone’s inventions without paying royalty or a fine, and also befuddle our innocent Indians by draining of their tax money to feed our coffers. It allows us to buy justice whenever we want. It allows us to hide our incompetence under garbled pseudo-scientific bullshit. For us nothing is real, everything is hyper-real. In fact, Rama is hyper-real.

Why Hindus are so upset?

Why most Hindus, even the secular and the so-called liberal ones, are so offended by Center’s contention that there is no evidence to suggest existence of Rama?

The obsession with Rama is a recent phenomenon. I have written earlier in an article that different Hindu gods were popular in different times – more like popularity ratings. Ram has been becoming popular in the recent times, starting with Gandhi who kept repeating his name many times and culminating in Rath Yatra taken up by LK Advani.

Hindus were quite OK for a long time in accepting their mythologies as pure myth, because their gods were quite real to them and no matter what Science said, it didn’t bother them. They continued to pray to them as if they were real. Only in the last century, unfortunately, Hindus have been introduced to Science which questions things. Before that, Hindus were quite happy just learning things by rote for thousands of years. Any profound questioning thoroughly discomforts most Hindus and that’s also the reason why we don’t see revolutionary scientific thinkers from this land. It goes without saying that even a renowned ‘scientist’ from India is a deeply religious man who mixes myth with reality at any point of time without qualms.

Another introduction to Hindus is the rule of law, which is a recent phenomenon. Hindus are also very averse to rules coming from the state. They would like to cross the road when they want to, just like their venerated cows. All these street lights are a major encumbrance to them. It is an 'artificial Western construct' imposed onto them which they detest completely. Rule of law demands a certain degree of exactness which Hindus are completely averse to. Hindus have wallowed and took rejoice in ambiguity. Hence a rule of law of demanding exactness is an anathema. Reproducing exact evidence is completely irrelevant since justice can be bought at a certain price- all Hindus have grown up knowing this as part of our culture- hence there is no need for actual evidence to make a case.

The other introduction that happened in the last hundred years is the familiarity with other major religions on a massive scale. Earlier, Hindus lived as Hindus without ever knowing what Christianity or Islam was. Only in the last hundred years, they were exposed to these other religions on a more-than-desired levels - through 'unnecessary' campaigns of Gandhi, through media, and through the recent 'conversion' episodes. What they found is that these religions had a founder and also a religious book. Hindus, instead of just accepting they don’t have a founder and no religious book, tried their best to posit one such hero and one such book as its holy book. Enter Rama and enter Bhagvad Gita. Though there is no unanimity in this, in recent times Indians have been positing these two icons as symbols of Hindus. If Mohammed existed and lived, so did Rama. If Christians had Bible to quote, so Hindus had Gita.

So, when suddenly some high authority of 'secular' India suggests that there is no evidence to prove existence of Rama, these Hindus, which includes almost everyone, including those secular one and those liberal ones, stand up and protest. Because this contention directly competes with the recently formed opinions (in competition with other religions they have been exposed to).

Hindus have been taking Rama quite seriously only recently, and more so since LK Advani’s Rath Yatra and the Ayodhya episode. Rama became an icon they are going to die for, just the way Muslims are ready to die (and kill) for the sake of Prophet Mohammed. While there is lot of evidence to suggest that Mohammed existed and walked on this planet in flesh and blood, and while there is scant evidence that Jesus may have existed, there is no evidence to suggest Rama ever walked on this planet. This is nothing to do with our inadequate research. It is got to do with time and our mythologies. While Muhammed walked on this planet around 1500 years ago, and Jesus might have walked 2000 years ago, most dates for Rama are not less than 3500 years ago. Our recorded history is more robust only from the times of 800 BC in case of Western Civilizations (not including Egyptian Civilization). And Hindus have been little lax about historical documentation of their histories, mixing fantasy with facts wherever possible.

Rama may have existed, or may be he did not exist. That does not diminish richness of Hinduism. It should not invalidate their belief systems or their religion. But for some reason, Hindus want to compete with other modern religions and in that effort would like to validate his authenticity to suit their belief systems by asserting that their icons are indeed real just like founders of other religions.

Hinduism is an ancient religion which predates most other modern religions. Hindus should take pride, if they want to, in the fact that our religion has evolved over thousands of years instead of being static, interpreted narrowly by one single icon or one single book. But then, most Hindus do not understand the essence of their own religion beyond the mere rituals and mere competition with other religions. Self-confidence is lacking and hence this flurry of activity to posit their religion equivalent to other modern religions.

Would Hindus raise their voices if someone said there is no evidence to suggest existence of Lord Indra? Not really. Because Lord Indra is not as popular as Lord Rama these days. The same is true for Vamana avatar, Narsimha avatar, Kurma avatar, et al, of Vishnu. Rama is important but not other avatars. It is nothing to do which avatar is important. It is to do with the present generations which grew up with knowing Rama as the most popular god, thanks to LK Advani and his BJP, and sister groups such as VHP and Bajrang Dal, and also a little thanks to exposure to competing religions.

In the last hundred years, there has been a slow and concerted effort to construct Rama as the most popular god to consolidate Hindus under one banner so that they can be manipulated with one stroke. How else would you move the Hindu sentiments as monolithic religion? Hinduism was always a collection of myths, stories, gods, books, rituals and practices. There was no unique icon to unite them all. That also poses a problems to those who would like to ensure they get the sympathies from Hindus on a religious basis. Hence, borrowing from what Gandhi had already set in motion, the modern day Hindu organizations and affiliated political parties have started to position Rama as the strong contender. Lord Krishna always had some flaws which seem to dominate more than his strengths and he would not have stood the mass appeal from a dias as much as Lord Rama whose impeccable record (other than one or two guffaws) made him the ideal contender from the available Hindu pantheon.

Therefore, in the last hundred years, Hindu organizations, groups, sympathizers, devout, radical, fanatic, et al, have been positioning Rama to be the icon for Hindus. Popularization of places related to Rama, stories of Rama, embracing Rama Rajya for Hindu Rashtra, etc, were carried out on a massive scale. To help this further, the present generation of Indians grew up knowing Ramayana from the TV serial. They all have images to relate to thus accentuating the belief he really existed. It is not just the political parties with vested interest that campaigned for this. It includes all Hindus who had a selfish interest to promote their religion. It includes all devout who wanted to get a ratification of his belief system. It includes even secular and liberal Hindus who wanted to glorify their culture. It also includes leftist and Marxist groups who wanted to posit India as a great country with great ancient history.

Rama is not only real but ‘hyper-real’. His existence cannot even be challenged because he is so real that he lives in the ‘collective conscience’ of billions.

Our inadequate education that does not impart rational and logical thinking completes the story. Not equipped with the right tools, most Indians get carried away by rhetoric, blind belief and superstition. They do not differentiate between what is evidence and what is ‘collective conscience’. They do not differentiate between myth and reality. According to them, Rama is real and you just have to accept it. No proof required.

When the present government, led by a Christian Italian Indian woman, a Sikh, a puppet President, and a Muslim Vice-President, backs Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to suggest there is no evidence to prove existence of Rama, all Hindus, including the so-called secular ones and liberal ones, rise up in unanimous protest, because it challenges their belief systems that was carefully constructed in the last hundred years on which they have taken their inspiration and confidence. Rama’s inexistence suddenly invalidates their confidence levels. It is like pulling the rug from under their feet causing them to lose balance. They just don’t like it. If Islam has Mohammed in flesh and blood, and if Christianity has Jesus, in half flesh and blood, then they better have their Ram in hyper-reality. Whatever works!