(Based on my address on the occasion of 74th Independence Day of India, celebrated, online, by the Indian Seniors Association of Arizona (ISAA))
Author: Uma Aggarwal
It is not my wish or prayer. It is ‘what I have seen compels me to believe what I have not seen’! Think of it. There is something in the nature of Hinduism that it is today the only oldest continuing civilization of the world. That is despite never- seen- in- the- human- history scale genocides of Hindus in India (Bharat) by Muslim invaders and conversion by Christian missionaries.. That attribute of Hinduism is called, ‘Sanatan’. Sanatan means self- renewing, every day, every moment. No Single Book. No Single Founder. Open to debate and discussion. Inclusive. Works for the good of all humanity and universal brotherhood.
Hinduism originated from Vedas. The word Veda in Sanskrit means Knowledge. Hindus believe that Vedas have always existed and are of divine origin apprehended by sages in their deep meditative state. Unlike other religions we do not have founder of our religion, but it is instead a fusion of various beliefs and commandments bestowed upon us by the great sages and rishis who achieved this knowledge after years of Sadhana. That is why it is called Santana dharma “meaning the eternal Way “or Vedic dharma or the Vedic way. Vedas existed in oral form many thousands of years and were transferred from master to students until they were written down between 1500-500BCE.
It was the richest country in the world was called the golden sparrow not only with wealth but because of immense knowledge in every field of life. It had International Universities where foreign students used to come to learn Mathematics, Astronomy, Spirituality, Medicine, and more. India was the learning center of the world since 1500 BCE. India invented the Number System. the decimal, concept and Zero was invented by Aryabhata. The World’s first university was established in Takshila in 700BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century BC was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
We were told many times growing up that our religion and culture is ancient well tested and it is where reasoning ends, and divinity begins. Our country was a leader in intellect, spirituality, cuisine and culture and it has given birth to almost all religions in the world whether some people believe in it or not. Hinduism is a way of life and it is something that is logical can be explained. Each ritual and tradition have real meaning and makes sense.
There has never been a time Indian history that citizens of any country were forced to convert to our religion. Hinduism was accepted willfully in all the Indo Chinese countries for thousands of years, Like Indonesia, Thailand, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Burma, China, Japan, Korea, Cambodia, and sri Lanka. Even to this day in some Mideast countries and European countries you can find remains of our deities and temples. Never by force or at the point of gun or by bribe we have tried to convert people to Hinduism. People adopted it by their own free will. We were told to believe that in order to be called Hindu you have to be born a Hindu. Expanding our borders was never in the mind of any of our past or present authorities of India. In North America there is movement Called Hare Krishna, Hare Rama. Where people are declaring themselves Hindus of their own free will. We welcome them.
Our immense wealth of Precious stones, gold, diamond, pearls, silk, its deposits of raw material, and last but not the least its precious spices and Herbs attracted Invaders from Persia, Greece, Mideast (Iran, Turkey, Mongolia) Britain, Denmark, France, and Portugal. In last thousand years especially these invaders systematically plundered, looted and burned and destroyed the universities, the beautiful temples and Monuments but India and its culture survived. India had a strange way with its conquerors. In defeat, she beckons them in, slowly seduces them assimilates them and transforms them and then comes out victorious with its beautiful ancient culture, religion cuisine, colorful rituals and festivals quite alive again. India stayed the richest country till the British colonized it in the 18th century. They left the country in 1947 completely in ruins. Recent estimates put the loot of India by Britishers at 45 Trillion, USD.
India has never invaded any country in her last 10,000 years of history. But it had to defend itself from invaders throughout history. We have a saying in our holy scripture Maha Upnishad “Vasudhaiva kutumbkam”. Meaning the whole world is our family. We were tolerant, open-minded we respected all religions and were courteous to them because again we have a famous saying “Athithi devo bhava” means- your guest should be treated like a God. After centuries of brutality from our foreign rulers we came out long and tall assimilating all cultures and religions but still maintaining our identity.
Compared to us -How old is the history of Great Britain or America or Pakistan? The easiest way for them to show us their greatness is to -discredit our long and beautiful history. Islamic Invaders did everything to obliterate our history and existence and now we should not let them disgrace it again. Lessons learned once should be enough. Christian Missionaries did everything to discredit it. If you say, they are still doing it, then you are very right. Please fight against all those elements that try to defame our religion or our race because Hinduism is good not Only for Hindus but for the humanity to survive. No other religion teaches you to respect other religions by following a path of truth and Ahinsa, as much as we do. Our religion is our way to life and teaches us to live and let live. Other religions mostly say-Might is right, but we are taught right is right. It is our dharma to protect what is right. We have to follow now, a verbal discourse of Lord Krishna to his disciple Arjuna in Bhagavat Gita our most sacred book. It says -Do not ever hesitate a moment to lift your arms with full might and strength to fight against Adharma that is any torture against humanity.
Since we came to this country, we have shown our fellow citizens, we are hardworking, tolerant, ready to help and serve the community. Our children have shown to the whole world especially in America that we can even run this country. It is time we felt proud of who we are. People respect us now far more than when we came to this country 50 or more years ago. We have gained this respect by our way of life. That is the charm and reality of our culture and religion and our way of life.
“India is, the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” These are not my words. These are the words of the Mark Twain.
Please wake up and spread this awareness everywhere about who we are and what our mission is, for this world and for humanity. Vande Mataram!
Uma Aggarwal, Ret. Chemist, Bioport Pharmaceuticals, Author of several cookbooks on Indian as well as American Cuisines, Web site- cookingwithuma.com