Civilization refers to a complicated way of life that evolved when humans began to establish networks of urban communities. Between 4000 and 3000 BCE, the early civilizations arose, when cultivation and commerce-enabled people to have surplus food and economic stability.
Many civilizations have thrived and ultimately collapsed or disintegrated. There are several causes for this, but many historians point to three tendencies in civilizational decline: internal transformation, external pressure, and environmental collapse. Civilizations never fall as a result of a single event or trend. Civilizations appear to “vanish” at times.
Ancient Greece was a confederation of autonomous city-states united by a shared culture. Most historians think that Greek civilization was a foundation culture of Western Civilization, which indicates a beginning or root. In 338 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Greek city-states. Alexander ruled for around 13 years. Alexander died too young. He was just 32 (or maybe 33) at the time. He perished while conquering other countries. He appreciated and valued Greek culture. The Hellenistic Age was the period following Alexander’s death during which Greek culture blended with the other civilizations of Alexander’s Empire.
The Hellenistic Age began with Alexander’s death and lasted around 200 years until the Romans controlled the Mediterranean area and beyond.
Greece was conquered by the Romans, and their civilization then became the cultural engine of the Roman Empire, driving education, art, and much else. And then, when the Western Empire fell, the Eastern Empire was a Greek-speaking society, with Greek culture, altered somewhat with Roman organization and law.
Similarly, The fall of Rome was completed in 476, when the German leader Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor of the West. Through the European Middle Ages, the East remained richer and stronger than the Byzantine Empire.
Several secular intellectuals who misread and mistranslated the Vedas and Upanishads have slandered and condemned Hinduism. Nonetheless, this religious system, known as Sanatana Dharma by others, has endured, much like the Earth itself.
the profundity of a ‘Faith’ known as Hinduism (in English), or Hindutva, as it is termed in these contentious political times, or just Hindu, which is ultimately what it is. A phenomenon that will not be contained by a few hymns and prayers, or wrapped around a few thousand gods and goddesses, patronized by believers and vilified by non-believers alike, or interpreted by self-styled scholars and pundits, or swallowed lock, stock, and barrel by the uncritical and superstitious. And yet, this great source of universal wisdom and spiritual enlightenment, this superior literature, in fact, the best that any civilization could ever offer humanity, remains an enigma, a hypothesis that anyone and everyone is free to enter its ancient catacombs and explore according to his or her own vision or vicissitudes, caprice or confidence.
Like our own blue planet, which has survived nearly five billion years of galactic poundings while remaining the best in our known universe, this unique belief system has survived thousands of years of civilizational raids and invasions while retaining its inner core, teachings, literature, and even fables. Not via violence and carnage, but by being inclusive and accommodating, while remaining fully certain of its eternal existence throughout time and space.
Many people are surprised to learn that the Ramayana—the narrative of Ram—has been cherished in many Southeast Asian nations, such as Thailand, where the Kings are still called after Rama and the full history of this magnificent epic is engraved on the walls of the big palace. India extended its culture and thinking not just in South East Asia, but also from China and Japan to the Middle East, thanks to Hindu philosophy and Buddhism.
Indian philosophy and culture, as well as our deities, are being resurrected after being brutally destroyed by 1000 years of barbaric invasions from distant lands, which demolished not only the world’s first great university in Nalanda, but also many kingdoms that were the pride of the world in architecture, art, and design, from Somnath in Gujarat to thousands throughout North India. The subterranean caverns of Ajanta and Ellora, constructed from 2 BC to 6 Century AD and only unearthed in the 19th Century, kept the Vijayanagar Empire concealed from those who destroyed it.
The Vedic Age lasted from 1500 BC until 600 BC. After the demise of the Indus Valley Civilisation around 1400 BC, this was the next significant civilization in ancient India. The Vedas were written during this time period, thus the name. The Vedas are also the primary source of information during this period. The arrival of the Aryans, or Indo-Aryans, marked the beginning of the Vedic Age.
The phrase ‘Sanatana-dharma’ appears in Veda, the world’s oldest book, thousands of years before the terms Hindu or Hinduism were coined. The tasks stated above can be divided into two categories: Sanatana-dharma and Varnashrama-dharma. Varnashrama-dharma defines human economic and social responsibilities. Sanatana-dharma entails tasks that are usually spiritual in character. It relates to atman or spirit and so cannot differ across people.
THE INTRUSIONS BY MUGHALS
Even though Babur ruled in India for only four years (1526-1530 AD) before his death, he continued systematic religious oppression of Hindus and Sikhs, as noted by Guru Nanak in four hymns, when he witnessed it himself. Baburnama records massacres in, and destruction of, Hindu settlements by Babur’s army.
Suri conducted a campaign of religious violence across numerous regions of the empire in India, both east and west, in 1545. Suri’s counselors, like those of the Sultanate, advocated religious violence, with Shaikh Nizam once saying: :
There is nothing equal to a religious war against the infidels. If you be slain you become a martyr, if you live you become a ghazi.
Sher Shah’s army also attacked the Hindu fort of Kalinjar, captured it and killed almost all Hindus inside the fort. Although Humayun’s son Akbar is regarded as a very liberal and progressive guy, he, too, waged deadly and destructive battles against Hindus, notably those at Garha (1560 AD), Chittor (1567 AD), and Nagarkot (1582 AD).
Maulana Ahmad, a historian of that era, writes about the battle at Chittor fort in Tarikh-i Alfi :
They (Hindus) committed jauhar (…). In the night, the (Muslim) assailants forced their way into the fortress in several places, and fell to slaughtering and plundering. At early dawn the Emperor, went in mounted on an elephant, attended by his nobles and chiefs on foot. The order was given for a general massacre of the infidels as a punishment. The number exceeded 8,000 (Abu-l Fazl states there were 40,000 peasants with 8,000 Rajputs forming the garrison). Those who escaped the sword, men and women, were made prisoners and their property came into the hands of the Musulmans.
Akbar’s son Jahangir may have been a connoisseur of the arts but he was no peace-loving man either. In his reign, religious violence was targeted at Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs, as seen in one of the pieces in the Intikháb-i Jahangir-Shahi:
One day at Ahmedabad, it was reported that many of the infidel and superstitious sect of the Seoras (Jains) of Gujarat has made several very great and splendid temples, and having placed in them their false gods, had managed to secure a large degree of respect for themselves. Emperor Jahangir ordered them to be banished from the country, and their temples to be demolished. Their idol was thrown down on the uppermost step of the mosque, that it might be trodden upon by those who came to say their daily prayers there. By this order of the Emperor, the infidels were exceedingly disgraced, and Islam exalted.
However, it was Shah Jahan’s offspring who is often regarded as the cruelest Muslim monarch India had ever seen. During his reign, India saw religious bloodshed on a magnitude that ranks 23rd among the 100 worst instances of atrocities in human history, according to Matthew White’s Atrocitology: Humanity’s 100 Deadliest Achievements. After imprisoning his father and murdering his siblings for the throne, Aurangzeb launched one of the most violent religious wars in Mughal Empire history. Aurangzeb reintroduced the jizya tax, launched a series of anti-Muslim campaigns, and demolished Hindu temples. In 1669, Aurangzeb gave orders to all of his provincial governors to :
destroy with a willing hand the schools and temples of the infidels, and that they were strictly enjoined to put an entire stop to the teaching and practice of idolatrous forms of worship
Aurangzeb not only demolished temples (though he certainly erected several), but he also constructed mosques on the ruins of ruined temples. Idols were demolished, and Mathura momentarily became known as Islamabad in local government records, while key Hindu pilgrimage sites in Varanasi and Somnath were destroyed.
Because of the enormity of the slaughter, entire towns and provinces were depopulated as a result of religious conflict. Aurangzeb’s Deccan campaign alone claimed the lives of 4.6 million Hindus, nearly as many as the Holocaust! Approximately 2 million inhabitants died in war-torn countries during the Mughal-Maratha wars as a result of starvation, drought, and disease.
When the European Colonisers entered
Soon after the entry of the Portuguese into India, the Goa Inquisition was established. It was an institution established by the Roman Catholic Holy Office between the 16th- and 19th centuries to stop and punish heresy against Christianity in Asia. The institution particularly persecuted Hindus, Muslims, and Judaizing Nasranis, among others, by the colonial era Portuguese government and Jesuit clergy in Portuguese India.
Conversions to Catholicism were forced as part of this endeavor, and thousands of Goan Hindus were killed by the Portuguese between 1561 and 1774. When the British seized Goa in 1812 AD, the remaining remnants of the Goa Inquisition were destroyed. The British and French fared no better. Both attempted to proselytize, with some East India Company officers openly attempting to convert Indian army sepoys.
Some think that this may have been a source of discontent, which was exacerbated by rumors of the use of pig fat on army ammunition. This finally led to the Sepoy Mutiny, which was repressed and resulted in the cruel murder of 100,000 people (some claim).
The British Raj was also quite smart in its use of the divide-and-rule tactic, which pitted one Indian ruler against another, one Hindu against a Muslim, and so on. This resulted in minor injuries to their soldiers but substantial losses for the Indians. A number of Hindus and Muslims were killed in riots during the Bengal partition of 1905, which turned out to be a precursor to the riots of 1947 when East Bengal and West Bengal were divided into separate countries based on religious lines. The Muslim League-organized Direct Action Day, which began on August 16, 1946, a year before India’s independence, killed around 3000 Hindus and wounded 17000 more.
Approximately 14.5 million individuals crossed the boundaries during the division. With the British administration had left the Indian subcontinent, the newly created governments were unprepared to deal with such massive migrations. On both sides of the border, there was widespread communal violence. The number of deaths is estimated to be about 500,000.
Riots in Mumbai and Gujarat, as well as anti-Sikh riots, the evacuation of Kashmiri Pandits, and insurgency in different regions of the nation, have resulted in the loss of life in post-independence India. Christian missionaries and Muslim terrorists have carried out a series of attacks against Hindus and their temples.
The Chamba massacre (1998), the Fidayeen assaults on Raghunath temple (2002), the Akshardham Temple attack (2002), the Godhra train burning (2002), the Marad massacre (2003), and the Varanasi bombings (2006) were the most notable, resulting in a number of fatalities and injuries. Hindu priests and saints have also been assassinated.
Swami Shanti Kali, a prominent Hindu monk, was shot dead inside his ashram in Tripura in August 2000, with the authorities blaming 10 members of the Christian terrorist organization National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) for the crime.
They also raided and destroyed some of the ashrams, schools, and orphanages set up by priests in the state. Christians were also responsible for the murder of Swami Laxmananda in 2008. Riots have also affected Hindus a lot in the country, from before India attained Independence. One case in example is the Godhra riot of 2002. Around 254 Hindus were killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots. A similar number of deaths were reported during the 1992 Bombay riots, with 275 Hindus having died.
One natural query is, “What makes the dharmic tradition so resilient?” To begin with, because of the tolerance embedded in Sanatana Dharma, many schools of thought, sects, and even cults have been a part of Hinduism over the millennia. Often, these groups have been so antagonistic to one another that they could hardly be considered members of the same faith.
As a result, in India, we have never seen a pope initiate a war to have his king sit on the throne, however, there have been cases, such as with Chanakya, where an adviser or Brahmin tutor gained enough power and employed statecraft to elevate his choice to the throne.
Because Hinduism is such a personal religion with no over-reliance on any figure, place of worship, or even book, eliminating any or all of them does not harm the spirit of Hinduism. That is the power and beauty of Sanatan Dharma.