NCERT history textbooks have progressed from a total denial of temple and idol destruction to a too clever by half cover-up of the Islamic roots of iconoclasm by Muslim invaders.
During the Rama Janmabhumi commotion ca. 1990, it was the ‘done’ thing for secularists to deny that Muslims had ever committed destruction of Hindu sacred buildings and statues. This even became the official position worldwide, for practically all Indologists and India-watchers interiorized it and zealously condemned any acknowledgment of Islamic iconoclasm as stemming from “Hindu fanaticism”. However, this position is hard to sustain, because it is so obviously untrue. Therefore, they have recently refined their propaganda strategy, in two ways.
First, they now minimize Islamic iconoclasm but admit some of it. Not that they would concede the Islamic motivation for this Mandir-and-Murti destruction, but alright, some Muslims had done it. That, after all, is what human beings do, Hindus included, see? As long as Islam remains out of the picture, they are willing to admit a little bit of destruction for the sake of salvaging their own credibility.
Second, they now try to make Hinduism guilty of the crimes of Islam, viz. by providing the inspiration through its own example. Muslims destroyed Hindu temples because Hindus had destroyed Hindu temples. Provincials like our secularists and their foreign imitators try to lead you by the nose towards whatever happened within India’s borders, and never ask, nor want you to ask, what the record of Islam outside India is, including in the period before it entered India. They don’t want you to realize that Islam’s behaviour in India was only a continuation of its behavior in West Asia and around the Mediterranean, starting with Mohammed’s own model behaviour in Arabia.
The secularist narrative is now being propagated everywhere and inserted into the textbooks of history, including in the projected new textbooks mulled over by the National Centre for Educational Research and Training (NCERT). As per the official procedure, there is a provision for feedback from the public. A friend of mine sent in an objection to the NCERT’s scenario. What follows is the NCERT’s response, interspersed with my comments.
“The objection to the cited passage – that temples demonstrated the power and resources of the kings who built them and that is the reason why medieval rulers targeted the temples of rival rulers — can be substantiated by innumerable references.”
This is a sheer bluff. The two examples given do of course not amount to the “innumerable” cases which they mendaciously claim to have. Nor have such numbers of cases been mentioned elsewhere. Yet, given the strong motive the NCERT secularists have to overrule the straightforward narrative of Islamic iconoclasm, they would by now certainly have published a book full of such evidence and made sure it was quoted in every relevant paper and editorial – if it existed.
Sheer bluff, we said, but in the real world, there is nothing “sheer” about bluff. On the contrary, a bluff is a mighty weapon that can produce impressive results. Take the Rama Janmabhumi controversy. The secularists suddenly claimed that all the Muslims and Hindus and Europeans who had unitedly assumed that a Rama temple had stood at the disputed site on which the Babri Masjid had been imposed, had all been wrong. They offered no evidence whatsoever for their proposed scenario (say, a sales contract in which a landlord sold Babar a piece of empty real estate to build a mosque on), and denied the evidence on the opposite side which had existed all along and which accumulated further once the challenge to bring more evidence had been raised.
Though their behaviour was that of conspiracy-mongers, their shrill bluff carried authoritative public opinion with it. They managed to make the Government abandon its plans for a negotiated settlement, they managed to have national and state governments toppled, they managed to trigger a number of bloodbaths, all through “sheer bluff”. Even when they collapsed one after another when questioned in Court, even when their bluff had been exposed (though the media did all they could to hide this development from you), they have never apologized, never publicly admitted how wrong they had been. Bluff can get you very far in life, so the NCERT tries more of it.
Even the evidential value of their “evidence” is a bluff. No matter how many cases of Hindu idol abduction they manage to find, it will never amount to proof for the hypothesis they really want to push: that Muslim conquerors and rulers did what they did because Hindus had inspired them to do it. These conquerors mostly didn’t even know the record of Hindu kings, and at any rate they didn’t care. They would never have wanted to be seen imitating the idolaters and instead invoked the solid justification for iconoclasm within their own tradition. Mohammed himself had set the example, and in his wake came the conquerors of West Asia and the Mediterranean, unaffected by Hindu examples.
Power of discrimination
“Consider the gold statue of Vishnu which was once in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho. The statue actually belonged to the rulers of Kangra, it was taken by the Pratiharas and finally by the Candell ruler Yasovarman just before 950 CE (and a near contemporary of Mahmud Ghazni). The inscription in the foundation stone of the Khajuraho Laksmana temple commemorated these events and stated – “With his troops of elephants and horses, Herambapala (Pratihara, ruler of Kanauj) seized it form [the king of Kangra]. Obtaining it from his son, the (Pratihara) prince Devapala, the illustrious (Candella) king Yasovarman – an ornament among kings and a crusher of enemies – performed the ritual establishment of [Vishnu] Vaikuntha [in the Laksmana temple at Khajuraho]”. See, F. Kielhorn. “Inscriptions from Khajuraho”, Epigraphica Indica, vol. 1 (1892), p. 192.”
This example is a beautiful illustration precisely of how Hindu idol-kidnapping differs radically from Islamic idol-breaking. According to the NCERT itself, the Vishnu statue from Khajuraho was abducted not once but twice, and ended up (not walled into a lavatory or underfoot, nor smashed to pieces, but) consecrated as a prominent Murti in a Vaishnava temple, exactly where it belonged. What was abducted, was merely an object of art, duly consecrated. There was no destruction of the religion behind the Murti. It was used for Vaishnava worship in its original site, after it was abducted, and again after Yasovarman abducted it. Further, the worship at the temples robbed of their Murtis, was perfectly allowed to continue, though they would have to install a new Murti.
By contrast, in Islamic iconoclasm, the goal was to destroy the “idolatrous” religion of which the Murtis were an expression. The destruction of Murtis and the demolition of Mandirs had the purpose of destroying Hinduism or whichever the Pagan religion behind some given Murtis was. When Mahmud Ghaznavi was done destroying the Somnath temple, he did not mean to let Shiva worship resume at the site, not as long as he was militarily in a position to prevent it. While Yasovarman installed the abducted Vishnu Murti for worship, Mahmud Ghaznavi would have the captured Murtis destroyed or worked them into lavatory walls or into floors in order the humiliate them — not so much the Murtis themselves but the religion they represented. In destroying the Somnath Shivalingam, he meant to destroy Shiva worship.
[Lakshmana Temple at Khajuraho]
One day, a man needed some paper to light a campfire, but he had none. His friend suggested: I have some paper, wait. And he took his wallet to produce a wad of dollar bills. The friend turned out not to see any significance in the dollar bills, only their material dimension. Whether a little rectangle of paper was a currency note worth an exchange value, or a newspaper clipping containing specific information, or merely a blank slip of paper, they were all the same to him: enough paper to light a campfire with. Now that is Nehruvian secularism for you: a deliberate suspension of the power of discrimination. This wilful superficiality claims not to see any difference between abducting an object without any further consequence and destroying this object as part of the attempted destruction of the religion it stands for.
“From a different cultural zone note also the example of the conflict between the soldiers of the Gauda (Bengal) ruler and the ruler of Kashmir, Lalitaditya. The episode concerns the moment when the Bengali rulers chose to attack the idol of Vishnu Parihasakesava who was providentially saved because the soldiers mistook this image of the royal God for another. The Rajatarangini notes – “Though the king was abroad, the priests observed that the soldiers wanted to enter, and they closed the gates of the Parihasakesava shrine. Aroused with boldness, the soldiers got hold of the silver Ramasvamin image, which they mistook for Parihasakesava. They carried it out and ground it into dust. And even as Lalitaditya’s troops who had come out from the city were killing them at each step, the Gaudas continued to break it into particles and scatter them in every direction.” See Ranjit Sitaram Pandit, trans., Rajatarangini, The saga of the Kings of Kashmir, Allahabad: The Indian Press, 1935, pp. 326-28.”
Note firstly that this Lalitaditya episode is also related, complete with the spin dear to the NCERT, in Robert M. Hayden, Aykan Erdemir,Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir, Timothy D. Walker, Devika Rangachari, Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, Enrique López-Hurtado, and Milica Bakić-Hayden: Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces, 2013, p.136-137. As you can see, the Nehruvian secularist bluff is being spread far and wide and is acquiring the status of academic orthodoxy.
We are here dealing with a typical case of Western imitators, if not careerists who want to serve the current orthodoxy of battling “Islamophobia”. Concerning India, they have completely swallowed the Nehruvian bias. Thus, about Islamic iconoclasm deniers Romila Thapar and Richard Eaton, they say: “As scholars of India in the late 20th century, their aim in doing so is to counter the accusations by Hindu nationalists that the Muslims uniquely violated the sensibilities and rights of Hindus by destroying temples, by showing that Hindu rulers had done much the same thing before Muslims reached India.” (RM Hayden et al.: Antagonistic Tolerance, p.136)
It is in itself commendable that they point out the political intentions of these academics. These have a purpose other than dispassionately seeking the truth, which to Marxists would only be “bourgeois objectivity”. While not in itself disqualifying their research, it should at least set some alarm bells ringing. But this political bias only enjoys the unquestioning approval of the new generation of dupes.
So much have they already interiorized the belief in Hindu iconoclasm that they take it one step further: “From the perspective of the AT [= Antagonistic Tolerance] project, of course, it would be surprising if Hindu rulers had not done so.” (RM Hayden et al.: Antagonistic Tolerance, p.136)
Naturally, they should think so, for it fits in with the reigning paradigm that “all religions are essentially the same”.
At the end, when practical conclusions are drawn, fashionable academics tend to differentiate again and favour Islam over Hinduism, e.g. by clamouring about “Islamophobia” but ignoring “Hinduphobia” (including their own); but at some point within their narrative, it is useful to put forward the equality and sameness of all religions, viz. in order to preclude or drown out all specific Hindu complaints about distinctly Islamic behaviour.
Since those authors are only second-hand spokesmen of the Nehruvian view, they sometimes let on facts that, when properly analyzed, don’t really fit their narrative, e.g.: “Tantalizingly, Eaton (2000a:293) mentions that temples not identified with royal patrons were generally left unharmed.” (RM Hayden et al.: Antagonistic Tolerance, p.136)
Tantalizing? Only if you pursue the Nehruvian paradigm. In fact, it follows logically from the difference between Hinduism and Islam. If at all there were Hindu kings who “harmed” temples because through them they wanted to harm hostile kings, they clearly opted for a policy that constituted another distinction with Muslim iconoclasm: they left politically irrelevant temples untouched. By contrast, when Muslim armies went on an iconoclastic spree, they did not care about these petty considerations, precisely because their motive had nothing to do with “royal patrons” but only with non-Islamic religion.
Thus, when the Ghurid army ca. 1193 destroyed a “thousand” temples in Varanasi (as admitted by Eaton), obviously, not all of them had enjoyed royal patronage. But all of them contained Pagan idols, and what was enough to get the Muslim conquerors in a destructive mood. This off-hand refutes the whole point of this new-fangled soft-Marxist hypothesis: that iconoclasm had nothing to do with religion.
Now, as to Lalitaditya, he defeated the Gauda king, invited him with the Parihasakeshava (Vaishnava) idol as a guarantee for the Gauda king’s safety, yet had him murdered. To take revenge, the Gauda servants contrived to visit the relevant shrine in order to destroy this idol. Though they mistook another idol for Parihasakeshava (and apparently the story is gleefully told in order to convey this idol’s supposed cleverness in arranging for its own safety at the expense of another), they did indeed destroy the idol that they could lay their hands on. The fragmentation of the idol is duly described.
So, this indeed is one rare case where Hindus destroyed a Hindu idol. To be sure, they did nothing to Vaishnavism in Kashmir, nor in Bengal, nor anywhere else. They only wanted to get at that particular idol, a radical difference with the numerous campaigns of idol-breaking by Muslims, who were not so fussy. While Hindus did it, Hinduism was not involved. On the contrary, the text itself stipulates that their motive was quite mundane, viz. vengeance for their murdered king. The perpetrators did not quote any Hindu scripture prescribing: “Thou shalt destroy a Parihasakeshava idol whenever thou seest one!” They did not invoke any idol-breaking model behaviour of a Vedic Rishi.
[Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi. The remnants of the temple structure are still visible.]
We have spent some time writing out several pages in analyzing the NCERT response to an objection. To be sure, a fool can famously ask more questions in a few lines than a normal man can answer in a number of pages. Nevertheless, the fact deserves mention that, through misdirection, the NCERT has succeeded in keeping us busy all while the true answer was so simple. We have been forced to deal with two of the handful of cases of idol-abduction and iconoclasm by Hindus as the supposed reason for Islamic iconoclasm, when in reality, Islamic iconoclasm had nothing to do anything good or bad done by a Hindu. And no secret is made of this in Muslim chronicles, clear enough about the real motive.
Neither the folks at NCERT, nor the Nehruvian historians, nor their foreign followers, have ever succeeded in finding a Muslim chronicle saying that “the Sultan was inspired by Hindu example to destroy idols and demolish temples”. The point, after all, was not finding fault with what Hindus may have done (though finding fault with Hindus is certainly also on the secularists’ agenda), but to explain through Hindu behaviour the known Islamic conduct of iconoclasm. This relation between Islamic iconoclasm and Hindu example has never ever been established. On the contrary, whenever Muslim iconoclasts feel the need to motivate their destructive behaviour, they cite Islamic examples, first of all, the destruction of the idols in the Ka’ba by Mohammed himself.
And let alone the words in chronicles or elsewhere, it is actual deeds that prove the radical difference between Islamic iconoclasm and any possible Hindu attitude. The NCERT itself quotes a case where a Vishnu statue was abducted, and then installed for worship by the abductor himself. If such were the example followed by Muslim iconoclasts, we would expect to find mosques where Hindu statues from, say, the Somnath temple or the Rama Janmabhumi temple had been installed. Unlike the Nehruvians, we are not provincials and will not confine ourselves to India, so images of Apollo, Osiris, or any other deity will also do. Pray, NCERT, where is that mosque where an abducted idol has been installed for worship? We are not asking for two examples, just one.