43.) Evidentiary Elisions of Mutual Convenience

India’s struggle for independence against British rule was essentially a non-violent struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), who adapted Indian and Western ideas “to the needs of the political movement which, with remarkably little bloodshed, was to drive the British from India’”[1] In the context of such a struggle it was helpful to project the view that India was a pacific country so far as other countries were concerned. If the Cōlas conquered Ceylon and “sent out a great naval expedition, which occupied parts of Burma, Malaya and Sumātra,” then “this naval expedition is unique in the annals of India”.[2] I just quoted a Western historian but it was also in Indian interest to say so. This pacific imaging is not merely the product of history but, it seems, has even been an element in the writing of it. George Macdonald, for instance, makes the following statement:

The geographical connexion between India and Persia historically was a matter of fact that must have been known to both countries in antiquity through the contiguity of their territorial situation. The realms which correspond to-day to the buffer states of Afghānistān and Balūchistān formed always a point of contact and were concerned in antiquity with Persia’s advances into Northern and North-western Indian as well as, in a far less degree, with any move of arrgrandisement on the part of  Hindustan in the direction of Iran. Evidence from the Veda and the Avesta alike attests the general fact.[3]

He supplements this remark with the following footnote:

Arrian, Indica, 9, 12, for example, may be cited in support of this statement; for he avers, on Indian authority, that a ‘sense of justice, they say, prevented any Indian King from attempting conquest beyond the limits of India.’ This assertion certainly seems true for the earliest times.[4]

This chapter also contains the following passage:

Megasthenes, on the other hand, as quoted by Strabo (Georgr. XV, 1, 6, pp.686-687 Cas.), declares that ‘the Indians had never engaged in foreign warfare, nor had they even been invaded and conquered by a foreign power, except by Hercules and Dionysus and lately by the Macedonians.’ After mentioning several famous conquerors who did not attack India, he continues: ‘Semiramis, however, died before [carrying out] his undertaking; and the Persians, although they got mercenary troops from India, namely the Hydrakes, did not make an expedition into that country, but merely approached it when Cyrus was marching against the Massagetae.’[5]

It is also clear, particularly if one is canvassing an Aryan invasion into India, to be able to say that the Indians (and by implication Aryans) could not have gone out in a reverse direction, thereby squelching the possibility of India as the homeland of the Aryans.

Thus the idea that India did not even invade other countries met the emotional needs of both India’s rulers at the time and those who were fighting against them. Is that why one barely finds any reference to the following account of Indian aggression carried out beyond India’s traditional borders:

The Yavanas, Kirātas, Gāndhāras, Chīnas, Savaras, Varvaras, Sakas, Tushāras, Kankas, Pahlavas, Andhras, Madras, Paundras, Pulindas, Ramathas, Kāmbojas, men sprung from Brāhmans, and from Kshattriyas, persons of the Vaiśya and Sūdra castes—how shall all these people of different countries practice duty, and what rules shall kings like me prescribe for those who are living as Dasyus? Instruct me on these points; for thou art the friend of our Kshattriya race.’ Indra answers: ‘All the Dasyus should obey their parents, their spiritual directors, persons practicing the rules of the four orders, and kings. It is also their duty to perform the ceremonies ordained in the Vedas. They should sacrifice to the Pitris, construct wells, buildings for the distribution of water, and resting places for travelers, and should on proper occasions bestow gifts on the Brāhmans. They should practice innocence, veracity, meekness, purity, and inoffensiveness; should maintain their wives and families; and make a just division of their property. Gifts should be distributed at all sacrifices by those who desire to prosper. All the Dasyus should offer costly pāka oblations. Such duties as these, which have been ordained of old, ought to be observed by all the people.’[6]

[1] A.L. Basham, “Hinduism”, in R.C. Zaehner, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959) p.258.

[2] A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (London: Sigwick & Jackson, 1967) p.75.

[3]George Macdonald, “The Persian Dominions in Northern India Down to the Time of Alexander’s Invasion”, in E.J. Rapson, ed., Ancient India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922) p.321.

[4]Ibid note 1.

[5] Ibid 331.

[6] J. Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts (Delhi: Oriental Publishers, 1972) Part I, p.484-485. This should be distinguished from another account which indicates an attack on the ‘foreigners’ to avenge an earlier invasion by them (ibid p.487-488).


One Response to “43.) Evidentiary Elisions of Mutual Convenience”

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