Wednesday, December 7th, 2022 04:54:38

Pernicious Portent Of Gita-Distribution

Updated: January 17, 2015 7:30 am

India that is Bharat

BIRD-BRAINED Satiricus is feeling sorry for the birds. What business did foreign minister Sushma Swaraj have to let loose the Gita among the poor pigeons? Now look at them—instead of purring delightfully like doves the poor dears are screeching and swauking in secular sorrow. Sad as this situation is, the sadder part is that Prime Minister Modi is himself virtually on a wordwide Gita-distribution spree—from Japan in the far east to America in the far west. As if this was not enough, a Supreme Court judge followed in his fell footsteps by judiciously opining that the Gita should be taught in schools right from the first grade. And now, to cap it all, HRD Minister Smriti Irani is actually trying to do that.

These are pernicious portents, and an alarmed Satiricus must ring the alarm to rouse the secularists from the deadly daze of defeat and set about saving the “idea of India” from the Gita. Satiricus recalls that some years ago an Indian Muslim (not to be confused with a Muslim Indian) had written a letter to a journal demanding that the Gita be banned as it was a war-mongering book. And of course as Islam means peace, Indian secularism is Islamically peaceful. Then why was this Indian Muslim’s peaceful jihad on the Gita not waged with righteous rigour?

Oh, well, better late than bilkul never, no? So it is satisfying for Satiricus’s secular sensibilities to see assorted agitated secularists joining in the battle against the Bhagavad Gita, the Song So-called Celestial of the communal Krishna. A shining light among them is Shashi Tharoor, who eruditely asked why the Gita alone as the holy scripture? If the Gita, why not the Vedas? Why not the Upnishads? Why not indeed? They should be, they must be, and so, say some uncharitable, anti-secular souls, they are already there. And then they cussedly come up with that unquotable quote—vedopanishado gāvo dogdhā Gopalnandanah: The Vedas and the Upanishads are cows, and Gopalanandana, the cowherd Krishna, is the milkman, that is, the Gita is the milk, the essence of the Vedas and the Upanishads. How come Tharoor did not know this when he could write a Big Indian Novel on “Congress Kauravas”, the contemporaries of Krishna? Oh well, for secular Shashi a little bit of secular ignorance of the Gita should be acceptable.

Then there is West Bengal chief minister Mamata, who most piously said for us secular Indians, not the Gita but the Indian Constitution is the really holy book. Of course, of course. But despite a degree in Law under his belt Satiricus cannot help wondering: Was the Indian Constitution cussedly communal for thirty long years before Indira Gandhi made it secular by adding that adjective? And secondly, even before so specifically secularized, how Indian was the Indian Constitution? Was it because of its overwhelming non-Indianness that it had to be amended-cum-improved upon 90 times in 60 years? Satiricus recalls more than a dozen members of the Constituent Assembly remarking that the draft constitution was a string of borrowings from foreign constitution, and a member even saying we wanted the music of the sitar and the shehnai but got a western band. Ah, that is exactly the point, no? That would not have made a constitution for India—it would have made a constitution for Bharat.

Anyway, Satiricus is happy to see that the warriors of the secular brigade have widened the scope of their jihad on the Gita even to its language, Sanskrit. How can anti-Indian Irani’s idea of teaching Sanskrit to children be anything but childish? True, a school in London run by Englishmen is doing exactly that, but that does not mean we patriotic Indians should follow in foreigners’ footsteps. Moreover, as a learned columnist (an oxymoron, if there was ever one!) has pointed out, Sanskrit should be taught well, if at all, but where are the teachers who know Sanskrit well enough to teach it? Why, when he himself wanted to learn Sanskrit there was no scholar in India who knew Sanskrit well enough to teach him—and so he had to go abroad to learn Sanskrit. Satiricus is all admiration for him—but how did he know there were no Sanskrit scholars left in India? The answer is simple—a foreign scholar told him. That settles it. Satiricus quite agrees that Western Sanskrit scholars are matchless. Take Max Muller, who studied the Vedas for 30 years. When Swami Vivekanand and Swami Abhedanand met him and Abhedanand started conversing in Sanskrit, what happened? Max Muller could not speak a single Sanskrit sentence. Another matchless marvel was Monier-Williams, who produced a big, fat Sanskrit dictionary. When the Pandavas asked Duryodhana for five villages they named four villages and “any” fifth village. And how did Monier-Williams explain the Sanskrit word for “any”? He said it was the name of the fifth village. Did the Western Sanskrit scholar who told this particular columnist that there were no Sanskrit scholars in India belong to the illustrious tradition of Max Muller and Monier-Williams? Oh well, is not column-writing an illustrious part of illiterate journalism?

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