Another Western Whitewash

Thanks to a reader who brought this article to my notice. I read William Dalrymple now and then. To me, he is nothing beyond a sophisticated intellectual nuisance who being biased, accuses others of it.

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, Dalrymple courageously asserts the Mughal rule was not blood soaked. Sample his reasons:

Yet if the Mughals represented Islamic rule at its most powerful and majestic, they also defined Islam at its most tolerant, pluralistic and eclectic. Their empire was effectively built in coalition with India’s Hindu majority and succeeded as much through conciliation as by war.

This was particularly true of the Emperor Akbar (1542-1605), who issued an edict of universal religious tolerance, forbade forcible conversion to Islam and married a succession of Hindu wives.

This is extremely mischeivous but expected. Notice how he dubs an entire dynasty as tolerant, etc and suddenly narrows it down to just one ruler. I challenge Dalrymple to show just one other Mughal ruler comparable to Akbar. Not that Akbar was exactly angelic. As I have noted earlier in this blog, marrying Hindu wives was a stroke of tactic that had nothing to do with religious tolerance. Question: why didn’t his progeny remain Hindus, the religion of the mother? Greatest example: Jahangir, born of a Rajput wife.

The mischief is now a lie. At the least, he should have completed the other half represented by Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. But the lure of the whitewash job is irresistible. More on tolerance:

Yet such simplistic binaries quickly fall apart on any sort of fair-minded examination. Both Akbar and his son Jahangir (1569-1627), for example, were enthusiastic devotees of Jesus and his mother Mary, something they did not see as being in the least at variance with their Muslim faith…

Accepted. Why don’t we see the same consideration extended to building Hindu temples or worshipping Hindu Gods? Out of the five “great” Mughal emperors, Dalrymple musters one as a stellar example of “tolerance” and an also-ran. This, in prose dripping with exaggeration: “enthusiastic devotees.”

The rest of the article heaps scorn on everybody from Samuel Huntington to Naipaul.

Postscript: Notice how he completely omits any mention of the lakhs of Hindus who were slaughtered, forcibly converted, uprooted, and enslaved to provide for the Mughal splendor.

29 comments for “Another Western Whitewash

  1. Malavika
    March 26, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    The British have a surfeit of historians and nothing else these days. And kissing up to Muslim interests in India is a no brainer for them. They don’t have to worry about Hindu backlash. They moreover get Salams from the white skin worshipping Indian elites. As an icing on the cake they have access to oil money!

  2. gajanan
    March 25, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Prof Ramdas Lamb’s article in Washington Post is a good one.

    An interesting extract from the article below

    “In early 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and agreed to stop all conversion attempts directed at Jews. A month later, Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited India and was asked while there if he would offer Hindus the same respect. He refused. There is a degree to narrow mindedness in every religious tradition, but when that is coupled with fundamentalist arrogance and powerful backing, nothing good can come from it”

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/ramdas_lamb/2010/03/missionaries_the_good_the_bad_and_the_ugly.html

  3. Sid
    March 25, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    Sorry, the third link was wrong. Here is the correct one:

    http://www.cfr.org/bios/10798/mukesh_d_ambani.html

  4. Sid
    March 25, 2010 at 3:42 AM

    Oh, important info:
    International Advisory Board for CFR also contains two eminent Indians.
    http://www.cfr.org/about/people/international_advisory_board.html

    Guess who? Pranoy Roy.
    http://www.cfr.org/bios/8469/prannoy_roy.html

    How did he reach there, I do not have any idea. Who is the other one? The known power broker, Mukesh D Ambani.
    http://www.cfr.org/about/people/international_advisory_board.html

  5. Sid
    March 25, 2010 at 3:34 AM

    Sudarshan,
    Hindus do not matter. Who care for few hundred million who are afraid to assert their own rights and can not come together to defend their own culture and dharma? World respect power, confidence or wealth. We have none. That is why do not you see media darling “Mr. Gentlman” says every month: “Baat chit karne ke siva aur koi chara nahin hai”. Bloody eunuch.

  6. Sudarshan
    March 24, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    FYI*

    The Council on Foreign Relations (www.CFR.ORG) has formed a Religion Initiative. According to its website, through the initiative “the CFR also seeks to connect with, and serve as a resource for, religious and congregational leaders, scholars, and thinkers whose voices are increasingly important to the national foreign policy debate.” The advisory board does not have any representation of Hinduism – a critical element in the US-India relationship?

    http://www.cfr.org/about/outreach/religioninitiative/advisory_board.html

  7. Bharat
    March 24, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    @shariq
    “Seeing vast amount of money spent by his father in construction of Taj mahal he was pained and desided not to take any money from the state”
    Can you please cite some mughal documents for these claims??

  8. Sid
    March 23, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    @Shariq,
    Is there no limit to public lying now-a-days? Mahakaleswar temple in Ujjain is at least a 1000 years old. What is your proof of this falsehood?
    “He was a true lover of this land…..high character?” – Really!!! And Hitler was a vegetarian and patriot. He owned most parts of India, is there a surprise that he would love his property!!! Hell, I love the house I owned.
    “..why mazars destroyed by him are not highlighted ?..” – what mazar has he destroyed?

  9. shariq
    March 23, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    I fell to understand why only temples or ashrams destroyed by Aurangzeb are highlighted ?,why mazars destroyed by him are not highlighted ?,why reason of such destructions is hushedup?,
    why many many temples such as mahakal temple at ujjain built by him are not highlighted at all.
    He was a true lover of this land . Seeing vast amount of money spent by his father in construction of Taj mahal he was pained and desided not to take any money from the state.He earned his money by stitching caps and copying Holy Quran.Has any one ruler to this date demonstrated such a high charecter?

  10. Kumar
    March 27, 2008 at 7:03 PM

    kaafir,

    Now if we were discussing Aurangzeb, that’s a different story
    It’s convenient to remember bad deeds of one and good deeds of other.
    After all the acorn didn’t fall too far off from the tree.

  11. kaafir
    March 25, 2008 at 9:23 PM

    Kumar,

    I wasn’t comparing Valmiki and Ashok to Akbar – I was merely giving examples of transformation. The scale, the reasons etc. are obviously different in these three cases.

    I personally have no issue in accepting that Akbar massacred thousands and was cruel in many instances, but he was also the most tolerant and open-minded of the Mughal emperors. I see no need to focus on one and not the other, but if you think that his massacres deserve more airing, then that’s your prerogative.

    Now if we were discussing Aurangzeb, that’s a different story. :)

  12. Kumar
    March 25, 2008 at 8:01 PM

    Google for “A Tyrannical Monarch” to get some link on Akbar’s achievements that’s not really mainstream history.

  13. Kumar
    March 25, 2008 at 8:00 PM

    kaafir:

    I’m not denying Akbar’s new found religion, compassion in his old age. I’m aware of Din-e-illahi and hindus in his ayroll.

    Comparing someone who massacared thousands in his youth with a common thief (Valimiki) who looted travellers on a highway is a bit of stretch. And even Valmiki had to do his bit to transition to the other side.

    More appropriate comparison would with say modern day Kaing Khek Iev (also known as Duch), (Pol Pot’s pal) who’s recently found Christanity and states that his acts were part of some divine will or design.

  14. sridhar
    March 25, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    I guess all of us should go back and read S.L.Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana” once again !!

  15. Kishkindhaa
    March 24, 2008 at 11:54 PM

    Din-i-illahi was the continuation of an inculturation attempt started by Akbar’s teacher Chisti. Fatehpur Sikri built by Akbar reveals a number of defaced Jaina and Hindu murtis.

  16. kaafir
    March 24, 2008 at 11:27 PM

    Kumar,

    Your comment is a bit unfair. Basically, what you’re saying is that humans are incapable of improving themselves by realizing their mistakes and making changes in their lives as their knowledge/experience increases. And if they do, then the focus should remain on their mistakes, and it is a case of sau choohe khaa ke billi Hajj ko chali (or, muh mein Ram, bagal mein churi).

    Wasn’t Valmiki a thief before he became a sage? And king Ashok was very cruel before he came in contact with Buddhism – transformed from chand Ashok to priyadarshi/dhamma Ashok.

    I’m in agreement that any whitewashing of history to present a rosy picture needs to be criticized and countered, but that also goes for any tarring of history while disregarding the facts just because a king was Muslim.

  17. Kumar
    March 24, 2008 at 10:39 PM

    Sridhar,
    Akbar was probably a better human being and was constantly looking for spiritual guidance and in the process toyed with all religions including christianity.
    Better human being at a later point in his life, perhaps.
    The phrase about cat going on Haj after swallowing 100 rats was coined with Akbar in mind; my guess.

  18. Mayuresh Gaikwad
    March 24, 2008 at 10:18 PM

    Forgot to mention – in such instances, I would say that talking about 4 rulers is a statistically significant figure, assuming that each one would have atleast 3 daughters. Has even one of the (atleast) twelve girls born into the Mughal family been married to a Hindu king for a strategic alliance?

    Why do these historians not resort to logical thinking before making sweeping statements?

  19. Mayuresh Gaikwad
    March 24, 2008 at 10:11 PM

    I want to know whether any of the magnanimous Mughal rulers married off their daughters to Hindu kings to form strategic alliances with them. Or was it always a one way street?

    A positive answer to this question will tell me that the Mughals were magnanimous rulers and actually cared about strategic alliances.

    A negative answer (it is what I expect history to reveal) will surely mean that the Mughals had a conversion agenda! We have four great Mughals starting from Akbar to Aurangzeb (great because the Mughal rule was at its peak during their times).

    Can someone with a better knowledge of history answer this question?

  20. Shanth
    March 24, 2008 at 6:31 PM

    Akhter,

    I do not know what your intention was when you posted the link. And I am in no mood to list out verses that you may find offending from Quran or rather I might offending. I will wait until you make your point clear on why you posted the link. Firstly no one is trying to hide or feel embarassed about the great REVEALATIONS your link makes. We are all aware of it. At least we do not go burn and behead people who wrote it. And each one of them have a meaning to convey which people of your cult would find difficult to understand because you are always made not to question but accept things as they are.

    I am not surprised by your behaviour though. You guys are made to retain notions of a religion being defined in a book. Unlike it Hinduism is not defined in one book and doesn’t limit the knowledge of this worldly life in one book. So I can empathise with you. Anyway spit out your intention and then we will take our debate further.
    Perhaps not here in this site but somewhere else. I do not want to distract readers here who are discussing issues of intellectual and political importance. Also I am not willing to descend these great men and women to the abyss of ignorance and bigotry that you might take me to during our debate. Also if you are an Indian by race I will have to gently remind you that please have respect for your forefathers who would have been Hindus as well.

  21. March 24, 2008 at 2:41 PM

    Quote from Dalrymple above: “Yet if the Mughals represented Islamic rule at its most powerful and majestic, they also defined Islam at its most tolerant, pluralistic and eclectic.”

    I think it is easy to misread that statement. It says that the Mughal rule defined “Islam at its most tolerant …” It is a relative statement, not an absolute statement, and the comparison implicit in that statement is to Islam’s tolerance in all other instances. It does not mean that Islam is tolerant, pluralistic, and eclectic.

    Suppose I were to say of someone: “The cruelest thing that he did occurred on that particular night …” What did he do? He kicked a dog that was about to bite him. That statement does not imply that he was a cruel man; it just means that compared to all his other actions, this was the least kind.

    Another statement: “The kindest thing that he did was to throw a coin at a starving child…”

    I think that statement of Dalrymple is quite consistent with the notion that Islam is generally intolerant and hateful, and only during the Mughals did Islam reach its least levels of intolerance and hate.

  22. sridhar
    March 24, 2008 at 11:22 AM

    I have a slightly different view from others. Akbar stands apart from all other Muslim/Moghul rulers of India with his reasonably tolerant view of non-muslim religions. Akbar was probably a better human being and was constantly looking for spiritual guidance and in the process toyed with all religions including christianity. He did practice Islam but was deeply dssappointed by it and hence the move towards introducing Din- E- Ellahi. His virtue lies in the fact that he was not a bigot like Aurangzeb. As I mentioned earlier Akbar was probably a better human being, A “Rajarshi” perhaps? ( I can already see some regulars fuming).This piece in no way to defend zealots like Aurangzeb or pseudo-heroes like Tippu Sultan

  23. March 24, 2008 at 8:44 AM

    We can safely equate this to the stockholm syndrome , Every body and anydoy who has treated Hindus badly is spoken highly!

  24. Sandeep
    March 23, 2008 at 11:24 PM

    @Akhter,

    What’s your point in giving that link? And what’s the big deal about Hinduism’s “XXX files/hidden files” as that site says?

  25. AG
    March 23, 2008 at 3:07 PM

    Well said, Kishkindaa (evocative name there!)

    @ The intermarriage point, well said. These poor women were conquered women who had to marry under duress.
    Either explicit (as a result of conquest) or implicit (as a price to pay for not having the mughal hordes invade your kingdom) duress.

    Those who refused to accept this “choice” chose Johaar.

  26. Kishkindhaa
    March 23, 2008 at 9:52 AM

    As I have noted earlier in this blog, marrying Hindu wives was a stroke of tactic that had nothing to do with religious tolerance.

    The amazing thing is that this has always been the commonsense Hindu view. Not only were the Mughals acting in a tactical capacity but this was also an untransparent attempt to humiliate and degrade Hindus to their very core. But alas, according to our secular nehruvian and romila-type clowns, these marriages signify some fabled “composite culture”. Hindu humilation transforms into a magnanimous gesture of the “religion of peace” and the peace of the graveyard becomes heaven on earth.

    Dalrymple has his own moribund western motivations in parroting such a view on indian history. He identifies with the Mughal marauders just as America identifes with Pakistan. India is simply a stage where Dalrymple can relive his imperialist and racialist fantasies.

    The truth is that Akbar was a dissolute and debauched rake who wanted to “enjoy” his Hindu conquests rather than have to continually fight over them. The initial British conquests were no less bloody that Ghazni and Ghori, but both had to eventually settle down with a local structure which was more effective in looting and destroying the Hindu culture. Of course, the secular clowns interpret this relative decline in savagery as a magnanimous colonial experience.

  27. akhter
    March 23, 2008 at 2:25 AM
  28. Aam Aadmi
    March 23, 2008 at 12:49 AM

    interesting though is the statement “forbade forcible conversion to Islam”….it is acknowledged then that there was indeed forcible conversion to Islam and not necessarily because it answered to an individual’s spiritual quest.

  29. Krishnan
    March 22, 2008 at 9:08 PM

    Thanks Sandeep for the post. This seems to be a trend these days. Anyone who defends Moslems/Moslem rule/Moslem authors/Moslem scripts is considered a champion of free speech or worse, an intellectual. So far, this trend was vibrant in India. But after 9/11, America and other Western countries have become almost like India. If you hold a contrasting opinion against something so obvious, Moslem terrorism being the case in point, you are considered an intellectual.

Leave a Comment