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Of Akbar, Shivaji, Gandhiji, and the heart of India

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Of Akbar, Shivaji, Gandhiji, and the heart of India

Post by sashashyam on 2014-07-12, 16:09

Folks,

I had a very interesting exchange with a couple of young friends in the IF, who were so enraged by our marshamallow Jalal that they concluded that not just Balaji, but the whole of India itself did not deserve Akbar, but was fit only for the likes of Nadir Shah and the East India Company.


I could see where they were coming from, and Sandhya later clarified that she had meant "the most magnificent Indian emperor" when speaking of Akbar, and not "the most magnificent Indian", which was what set me off in the first place.


Still,  my very detailed response,  which ranges beyond the simple Akbar-India issue, might be of interest to some of you, as it goes into human traits that are universal, both for bad and for good, and also tries to answer why there is no public outcry against Ekta's systematic  whittling down of one of the  greatest and wisest rulers the world has ever seen. 

So my post in the IF is reproduced below, as is, along with the two other posts to which it was  a response. I hope that my young friends Sandhya and AKT.JA will not mind my attaching their comments here, along with mine.


Shyamala/Aunty

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Look, my dear girls, this is all too strong  and sweeping. You cannot make such broad generalisations  either about Akbar or about Shivaji or about India, and I am afraid your laments too sound typically like the Indian penchant for breast-beating and pessimism.  Let us try for a bit of balance, shall we? .

Every great leader and visionary the world has ever seen has had his legacy corrupted and degraded after his passing away, and this not so much by enemies, but by his followers and in his name. This is not exclusive to India. I  am sure Jesus Christ would have disowned  and condemned the Spanish Inquisition and other excesses in the name of Christianity, and the Lord Buddha would  have disowned and condemned  the highly politicised and corrupt Sanghas that came up in all the Buddhist countries in South Asia and South East Asia a few centuries after his passing away. I could cite any number of other such example thru the ages.

It was the same with Akbar; his magnificent legacy of sarva dharma samabhavaI  and justice for all -  which was way ahead of even our times, and not just in India but the world over -  was tarnished after his passing, and by the time Aurangzeb came along,he completed the job and  it was in tatters.

This happened because ALL human nature, and not just among the genus Indica, is 'like that only". It is very difficult, as all the great prophets found out for themselves, to rise above one's baser instincts. It is far easier to give in to them, to be prejudiced, insular, bigoted, clannish. Just as, on the moral plane, but for a few blessed individuals, being unfailingly good is a perennial struggle.

So the segment of humanity that had the good fortune of coming under the influence of a great soul, a Mahatma,  in their time,  rose above their baser self to reach at least 10% of his/her greatness. But after his/her passing away, the glow faded with time, and then it was back to business as usual.

He is the most magnificent Indian that our History has seen??


This is too much. Please do not talk as if there was no  great leaders  in India before,  or after Akbar till  today. Leaving aside the likes of Lord Buddha and the innumerable saints that dot our history down the ages, on the all India level, there was Mahatma  Gandhi, for one, and a little earlier there was Swami Vivekananda. And I am not even mentioning the great social reformers of the 17th century onwards. I am a very great admirer of Swami Vivekananda, whose passing away at 41 was one of our great national tragedies.

Gandhiji went much further than any other leader or ruler before him in extolling the power of unconditional love and caring to change even the hardest of hearts. Nor was he a mere armchair preacher, he changed the course of not just Indian history but of that of many other lands, by influencing and helping generate peaceful movements for change in apartheid-ridden South Africa, the racist American deep south, and Communist Poland, to cite just a few.

With no rank or power or army to back him, he not only restored our sense of pride in ourselves and our civilisation, but got rid of not the East India Company, but of the British Empire on which the sun never set, and this without having to fire a shot or wave a shamsheer.

It was said of Gandhiji  that he had the ability to "draw millions into a circle with him". But who were these millions and why did they come to him? Why, they were the common people of India, who not only gave up their tan, man, dhan  to join his civil disobedience movement, but also, and the most difficult of all, adopted his doctrine of ahimsa, and took beatings and bullets without raising a hand to defend themselves. This was truly a miracle, for violence in self-defence is etched in the human DNA. But they did it.

These were simple people from every part of India, from every caste and creed, of both sexes and of all ages. How were they able to absorb Gandhiji's very demanding philosophy and then live up to it? Even the fierce Pathans of the Northwest Frontier Province, now in Pakistan, who lived and died by a violent code, bowed to him and became his followers. 

They did it because it was in them, this readiness to accept all that Gandhiji stood and fought for. You could not say of them  that they" deserved Nadir Shah and the East India Company", could you?

It is true that Gandhiji's hold on us has faded in this age of crass commercialisation of everything and the obsession with  getting ahead at all costs, and the consequent exploitation of the solidarity of class, caste,religion,  regionalism - all the demons that he had tamed but not exterminated, for they can never be exterminated, any more than Satan can be destroyed once and for all. But this is just the downside of a never ending cycle.

Then there was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, whose vision for and of India was as broad and all-inclusive as Akbar's and as emotional as Mahatma Gandhi's. He too was greatly loved and admired in every part of India. Why was this so? It was because inside every Indian is the ability conquer his inner demons and aspire to the great and the good. It has faded now in so many of us, but it is still dormant and it will resurge when there is  a leader who can tap it anew.


Even today, across India, there are millions of young people who share the vision of these great men and work to spread the same message in a quiet way. There are also so many who are ready to exploit every division that they can find in the mass of humanity to bring out the worst in these human beings. It is the latter who hog all the headlines, that is all. The ones who do good without tomtomming it do not make good copy, just as a good, sensible serial rarely gets good TRPs.

And it is not as though these demons have a permanent resident status only in our Bharatvarsha. It took a century after slavery was abolished in the USA for the civil rights legislation to be passed, and that too was achieved only because of the shock of the Kennedy assassination and the legendary wheeling dealing skills of Lyndon Johnson. The brutalities perpetrated on black Americans in the deep south if the US till the 1930s would turn your stomach.

The Nazi regime, which reduced the extermination of 6 million Jews to an industrial assembly line, was full of people who loved  grand opera and wept over Wagner arias, votaries of high culture in fact, in one of the most culturally advanced countries in the world. What does one say to that?

Brutal apartheid flourished in South Africa till very recently, with the full,  and when necessary clandestine support of the UK, the US and the European countries. And as for the Belgian atrocities in the Belgian Congo under King Leopold II, why that would make you throw up (in whichever colour you choose! hpee ).

So, these vile traits are part of the human DNA, in India as elsewhere, of course in varying degrees in  different individuals. When a great soul comes along, the transformative power of his goodness prevails over these traits for  while, Not forever. After all, we are not in the Satyuga, but in the Kaliyuga!


Akbar too, for that matter, was extremely violent at times, as after the fall of Chittore in 1568, when he had all the defenders massacred. I was remembering this when I was listening last night to Jalal telling Jodha about how his battle gear turned him into a khoonkhar darinda,  as if he was getting ready to do an Asoka.

Except that Asoka switched to non-violence after he had conquered practically everything left to conquer. Plus, Akbar did undertake many more wars of conquest after 1563, which is where we are, and none of them, to the best of my knowledge, were purely defensive like this one. But when did this serial ever make any sense?

Next, coming to the  question about Shivaji and Akbar,  and why no one protests these insults to Akbar that are being peddled as natakiya rupantar in Jodha Akbar, as  they do in Shivaji's case,  I would say this.


No one can say that Shivaji is adored only by fanatics, and Akbar, being a moderate, has  no constituency. Shivaji Maharaj was a very great man, who stood for the same values that Akbar stood for, and for that, as also because he stood up to the might of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and did quite a good job of it, he is admired universally  across India. 

In Maharashtra, there is a special, fierce local pride in him that will not tolerate even the mildest hint of any derogatory comment about him. There might be the same admiration for him elsewhere in India but  not the same readiness to take to the streets to defend his prestige and his name. This kind of  violent public reaction surfaces in many cases across the world in various cases.

As for Akbar, he is universally and deeply admired all over India, and when I was studying  his reign at school, I was barely conscious of his being a Muslim. There was Asoka the Great and there was Akbar the Great, and one admired both unconditionally. I do not think much has changed in this respect, except that Gen X and Y are not as  much interested in history!

But Akbar's greatness, for most of us is, as the Americans put it, like motherhood and apple pie. It is there and it is taken for granted without too much thought being given to it. Most people who have high regard for him do not think that his prestige is going to be in any way affected by the idiocies he is being subjected to by the likes of Ekta Kapoor. So they shrug their shoulders, laugh at this nonsense, and pass on. 

This  is not because Akbar  has no constituency. He has all those who, just a few decades ago, walked behind Gandhiji at Dandi and Noakhali, and their children and their children's children. It is because he is thought by these people not to need the support of violent followers.

Which of course works just fine for Ekta,  who does whatever she wants to with the image of Akbar, and goes laughing all the way to the bank.

One consolation, if it is any. If Asoka was treated the way Akbar is being treated in this serial, then too there would be no public protests. Why, Shahrukh Khan made Asoka dance in village squares, and reduced his epiphany on the battlefield of Kalinga to a purely personal conversion due to his love for the Princess Kaurawaki. (Shades of Jodha Akbar?). But there was not a squeak of protest from anyone. The film bombed at the box office, which was some consolation!
Lastly, to answer another point that was raised,  the absence of protests against this shabby treatment of Akbar is not because Akbar was "Muslim and not Indian", which is itself a non-starter. India has more Muslims than any other country except Indonesia, and they are all both Muslims and Indians.

We have had Muslim Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Supreme Court Chief Justices, Air Force Chiefs, Ministers galore including the Home Minister, Governors of States, Secretaries to the Govt. - the list is endless, not to speak of megastars made so by public acceptance and affection. And the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, the highest gallantry award the Indian Army has to offer,  for courage and dedication during combat, beyond the call of duty, was Havaldar Abdul Hamid. So we should not go down that  road at all.


Shyamala/ Aunty



Originally posted by Sandhya.A @ green

Originally posted by AKT.JA Black and bluehpee )

Akbar was an Indian - one of the greatest Indians ever.


Undoubtedly. He is the most magnificent Indian that our History has seen. The ideals, the principles and values, the spirit that our composite religions have insisted upon, and our constitutional basics of equality, freedom, justice and fraternity that it promises to give to all its citizens (but there is a long way to go to reach there yet) Akbar had foresaw, implemented and put into force all these ideals that we are still striving to achieve 500 years later.


His grandfather Babur was a foreigner who, it so happens, did not even like India. Nothing wrong with that, we all have our taste; who can disagree with him about the climate of Delhi and Agra? :)

From Humayun onwards, all Mughals were Indian. Good or bad, but Indian. 

Akbar's "problem" was that he had a broad vision which did not appeal to those with narrower thinking. Many Muslims didn't like him because he wasn't a fanatic Muslim and tried to be fair to all. Many Hindus didn't like him because he was a "foreigner" to them. You see traces of this in the serial itself, but it is also the reason why he has no "constituency" in today's India. 

No fanatics to fight it out for him nail and tooth... 

For whatever reason, India effectively lost the idea of greater common unity long ago and has never really recovered it. We remain rooted in narrower loyalties. If Akbar had been a fanatic Sunni Muslim like his great-grandson Aurangzeb, there would be a vocal constituency for him today. If he had a geographical identity like Maratha, Bengali, Tamil etc, there might be violent demonstrations in front of the channel offices. Ditto if he was indentified with a Jat, Dalit, or Sikh cause. But he wanted to unite and be fair to all subjects.
He was good, moderate and fair-minded who saw the whole country as equal. So there is no particular 'group' to stand up for him now, when his character is so mercilessly butchered to glorify those who were but just a part of his life, because there are many strong and violent 'groups' to stand up for them. This only shows that even centuries later, we are unable to overcome the differences of religion, something that he upheld, fought for and strove to unite.

In a sense, people of India did not and still do not deserve Akbar. His vision and ideas could not survive in his absence. His legacy was lost after his departure from the scene, in fact systematically destroyed by his own heirs without much protest from most sections of society. Unwittingly, everyone was busy preparing India for the East India Company. 


Akbar did not deserve us. We did not deserve him. We deserved Nadir Shah and the East India Company. Sad but true.



@blue: couldn't agree more.


We didn't and don't deserve Akbar who strove to unite us. We only deserved the East India Company who divided and ruled and exploited us. We didn't and don't deserve Akbar who made India his home and worked for the upliftment of its his people and improvement of the land. We only deserved the East India Company that belittled us, insulted us and took away as much as it could to its own land. We didn't and don't deserve Akbar who treated us all as equals irrespective of colour, religion and race. We only deserved the East India Company that treated us all, the 'coloured lot'  like scums and vermin.

sashashyam
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Re: Of Akbar, Shivaji, Gandhiji, and the heart of India

Post by shobita on 2014-07-12, 17:16

It was said of Gandhiji  that he had the ability to "draw millions into a circle with him". But who were these millions and why did they come to him? Why, they were the common people of India, who not only gave up their tan, man, dhan  to join his civil disobedience movement, but also, and the most difficult of all, adopted his doctrine of ahimsa, and took beatings and bullets without raising a hand to defend themselves. This was truly a miracle, for violence in self-defence is etched in the human DNA. But they did it.

These were simple people from every part of India, from every caste and creed, of both sexes and of all ages. How were they able to absorb Gandhiji's very demanding philosophy and then live up to it? Even the fierce Pathans of the Northwest Frontier Province, now in Pakistan, who lived and died by a violent code, bowed to him and became his followers.  

They did it because it was in them, this readiness to accept all that Gandhiji stood and fought for. You could not say of them  that they" deserved Nadir Shah and the East India Company", could you?


Beautifully explained! Strange but true.....yatha raja tatha praja......and even today....we deserve the government we get ....after all we voted for it....so the Indians of those days deserved Akbar just as we deserved Gandhiji during our independence struggle....we do deserve these great men! 


Lastly, to answer another point that was raised,  the absence of protests against this shabby treatment of Akbar is not because Akbar was "Muslim and not Indian", which is itself a non-starter. India has more Muslims than any other country except Indonesia, and they are all both Muslims and Indians. 


- Honestly Akbar was condemned by the fanatics for he was not a fanatic Muslim.....he was a liberal one......Most of the noise in our country is made by religious zealots......but for someone like Akbar who was liberal minded about religion, admiration by the people would bring the greatest honour. I believe there are many who admire him and feel bad that his greatness is being insulted by the makers of JA! But alas, we are not these religious zealots. So all we can do is maybe vent out our frustrations on social media platforms!  So do we deserve him less...I don't think so

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Re: Of Akbar, Shivaji, Gandhiji, and the heart of India

Post by --sumana13-- on 2014-07-12, 17:47

Awesome Post Shyamala ....big hugs to you my dear friend ...
 long hug  hug1 

Shobita I am one of those who feel Bad that Akbar's greatness is being insulted !!!...
 Broken Heart 

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Re: Of Akbar, Shivaji, Gandhiji, and the heart of India

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