Natural rationalism, human engagement with natural reality, social institutions and production process are the only factors which have been playing important role in shaping the human way of way of life. But we convinced ourselves that it is religion that is prime factor. Even after agreeing that with living in the age of reason, we still believe that human life is impossible without religion and the role it plays in carving the way of life. We developed into multi-cultural societies in which way of life is determined by multiple factors. There is multiplicity in religions, ideologies and convictions which leads to multi-cultural societies. And it is also true that not all of them numerically equal. There would be one racial/religious/ethnic majority in every nation and along with it there exists religious, racial, ethnic and ideological minorities as well. Out the religious communities, there is an atheist community, minority but drawn from all religious faiths. Their way of life, a most appreciating way of life but is at the disposal of the cultural majority that criminalises and allows it to be attacked at the will and wish of the custodians and foot soldiers of majority. Dominant way of life is usually drawn from the majority religious, racial and ethnic community. This, by logic, works against the very idea of multi-cultural democratic society. Yet, the majority believe that given its history, religion and culture it is only natural for it to become national culture as it allegedly possesses such ability. But the question how it gets that ability. In a multicultural society national culture is supposed to composite. Majority negated this compositeness and allows its culture to dominate the national culture or declares its culture as the national culture. In its long history, the majority in India has made conscious efforts in normalizing its culture as national culture to keep its social position as majority which automatically qualifies itself to acquire national identity. But normalization is manufactured one. Unless until conscious efforts are made, culture of one community naturally do not acquire the identity of the national culture. If we look at Hinduism, normalization of Hindu culture as Indian culture began when Hinduism entered into conflict with Buddhism. Along with violent attacks on Buddhism, narratives are being built in order to other Buddhism. Othering of Buddhism is the first step towards providing pan-Indianness to Hinduism. Builders of national culture were mostly belonging to the upper echelons of society such as kings, literary experts and Hindu bourgeoise. And building such ability would not begin one day and die one day. It is a continuous process. Therefore, the culture of majority as national culture is very much the conspiracy of the majority. It is ascribed with the status of national culture. K.P. Jayaswal, nationalist historian, exports the idea of national culture from 20th century to the 2nd and 4th century CE and argue that national cultural system like Varnasharma Dharma was destroyed by Kushans. His intention was equating the culture of Hindus with the culture of nation. Thus, intellectuals belong to upper caste have made serious and conscious efforts to give the impression to the nation that there is inbuilt capacity in the culture of Hindus to become culture of the nation. So is the case with Vedic life.
The Vedic period c. 1500 to 500 BCE was the time where four Vedas came into existence.i.e. acquired textuality. They, existed forever, it seems, to acquire textuality at this point in history. The social and cultural life was designed based four Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Atharvanveda and Samaveda. These texts again divided within then into Aranyakas, Samhitas, Brahamanas and Upanishads.
Vedas though means ‘knowledge’, in different linguistic contexts Vedam, Vedantham, Vedantu, Vedanthangal are used to mean philosophy, truth, final word, divine sayings and so on. Content and meaning of Vedas of the pre-modern, modern and post-modern times might be the same. But their meaning might change when they are applied in daily life.
Yet, the communal majority would not like forego their importance. As a source of profession for individuals, Vedas may not mean much today. But when the communal majority is reformulating the idea of nation on its historical, religious, social and cultural identity, it would begin to allocate new functions to its culture. This is how Vedas/Vedic life regains importance. In the processes of national identify formation, the custodians of Vedas and its culture, now changes the gear and liberates them from Manu’s restrictions which were imposed to protect the purity and guarantee monopoly to make them appeal to everyone. If individual or social, religious and caste groups from minority voluntarily agreeing/accepting the culture of the majority as the national culture, then the culture of majority would become national culture. if not, the majority has to use some strategies. One such strategy is democratization of Vedas. But this is half-hearted. Liberation of the Vedas and Vedic Hindu culture from the clutches of the Brahmanism was less to do with genuinely allowing it to become the culture of everybody but more to do with allowing it be a political tool that could be effectively used to expand the boundaries of the culture of majority only for the purpose of accommodating the religious and social other in the peripheral areas. Therefore, the liberation would not automatically lead to the democratization. Yet, it might help expand the influence of majority over many.
Modernity against Vedicism
The sole of the culture of majority resides in its purity. The cultural majority would be afraid of polluting its culture. But the flow of history, does not allow them to maintain such purity. They need compromise with purity to retain the reformed version of culture. When threatened with total extinction, they could hold to the reformed version and rebuild on it. Dayanada Saraswathi and M.K. Gandhi’s call for ‘Go Back Vedas’ was such call for rebuilding on the reformed version. But neither the orthodox nor the reformed Vedic culture would suitable for every citizen of the 19th and 20th century India. Both these leaders would know that their call would not suite to every citizen those times because it was multi-religious/cultural society. We can understand that they were giving call for Hindus for protecting the Hindu culture that was allegedly getting polluted under the British rule. Prior to modernity, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity already had thrown some challenges to the domination of the Hindu culture. But the constituent philosophies of the colonial modernity: enlightenment, scientific rationalism and humanism even more powerful which forced the Hinduvta reformatory forces to give the call.
The call needed to be analyzed from the point of opening the doors of ‘a culture’ or ‘a way of life’ that was exclusively reserved for the upper caste Brahmans and to a lesser extent to Kshatriyas and Vaisyas. The reformers of the colonial India ware aware of the fact that multiculturality of the Indian society makes it impossible for the one stroke Vedicisation of Indian way of life. Therefore, the call was not for the entire nation. If it was so, it would have faced with rejection from the religious and social others. Neither Dayananda Saraswathi nor Gandhi made it clear who were they asking to go back to Vedas. And neither the cultural nationalists who were entertaining of the idea of Hindu Rastra as a counter to the idea of Pakistan were demanding for the Vedicisation of total national life. However, K.B Hedgewar and V.D. Savarkar, the ideologues of Hindu Rastra were arguing that every non-Hindu who remained to stay in India were Hindus. Even this too, at least, at that point in time, was mere rhetoric. Nonetheless, the emergence of the middle-class modern Hindu bourgeoise more from Kshatriya and Vaishya and less from upper class landed Sudra from late eighteenth century and in greater numbers from the landed Sudra from the beginning of the twentieth century created favorable conditions for vedicisation. While the bourgeoise from the Kshatriya and Vaishya became patrons of the religion/culture, most of the Sudra middle class from the land holding or rich peasants who also from twentieth century were becoming small scale industrialists encouraged by economic upward movement simultaneously were trying to scale up their social position by adopting baraminic culture which was called as Sanskritisation by M. N. Srinivas. Along with Bramanism they a adopted modernity as well. This cultural hybridity exists across all castes and communities, except in the rationalists and atheists. This has grown into a bigger constituency for the Vedicisation. It is this which has been playing dominant role in transforming the Hindu religion into a bigger religion and Hindu community into a communal/religious majority. They are called as caste Hindus or intermediate castes. They are not upper caste. But their adherence to religion/rituals/social norms equates them with the upper caste. Today, they are the backbone of the Hinduism. As a large-scale consuming community, they have been the prime target for the Hindu industrial bourgeoise. For the upper caste brahmins, the caste Hindu majority is a perfect culture consuming category. Therefore, they make all efforts to keep them adhere to religion and culture.
Under the influence of western modernity, social religious movements, anti-caste movement, secularism and socialism, entire nation has developed a character that gives lesser importance to glory of the past. Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Periyar, Narayana Guru, Ayyan Kali, Mohan Roy and many reformers have put pressure on the citizens of the nation to stay connected to the changing times and context. The scientific rationalism and humanism barrowed from the west and the local versions put pressure on the pre-modern Hindu traditions. They are scrutinized, evaluated and most of it was dismissed as unsuitable to the changed context and times. Therefore, the Hindu majority of the pre-post-modern times was forced to be guided by the positive philosophies of the nation. In such times, possibility of Vedicisation of the life of the Hindu was quite minimal. However, one or the other way, Vedic is continued into future. Romanticism and Pos-modernism have made things easy for the return of the Vedic in different reformed forms. The Gandhian revivalist movement as a counter to the domination of the western modernity, as part of anti-west or anti-Europe, gave new life to traditional/local systems of knowledge and culture. During colonial times, despite anti-Vedic modernity, Brahmans, modern Manuwadhis and practioners of Ayurveda have provided some amount of continuity to the Vedic.
Post-modernism and re-coming of the Vedic
Postmodernism as a challenge to modernism/modernity, has opened gates for reentry of the religious orthodoxy and irrationalism. All that was dumped and despised came as something that was unfairly rejected by the arrogant modernists, humanists, rationalists and social reformers. In the process of building science/scientific rationalism as dominant, torturous and violent superstructures, in India, post-modernism has given new life to the supposed cultural, religious, rational and social pluralities without realizing that these specificities and particularities were not put through proper scrutiny of rationalism and humanism. During colonial rule, religion-social irrationality was controlled and very less of it was reformed. Most of it was waiting for to comeback when situation was favorable. Brahmans, modern Manuwadis and Hindu bourgeoise got together with new enthusiasm to reconstruct positive narratives around the idea of Vedic.
Attempts are made to explore the possibilities of generating discourse, narratives, creating institutional infrastructure and actualization of the Vedic culture in any sphere of human life possible. Vedic, Vedas and Vedicness, need not necessarily a defined revival of The Vedic way of life. It could be bits and pieces of it. Vedicness is already is inbuilt into the general Hindu culture that is normally considered as national culture. In popular culture, there is great amount of everydayness for Vedas. Most of the Hindus believe that everything that is positive in Hinduism that is seen today was existing in Vedic times. Therefore, every time, a simple reference is made to Vedas and Vedic times, it was about something good. For Brahmans, keeping the Vedas and Vedicness alive is social and occupational necessity. It may not be for all Brahmans. But those who are sticking to the sastras, priesthood and astrology as means of livelihood would do all that they could not only to provide continuity but also refresh, update reform, remodel the commentaries and interpretations of Vedic texts if not diluting the original texts. Moreover, as they are considered to be custodians of the culture of the majority, based on their hierarchy as the Hindu spiritual leaders they would have influence on important persons holding constitutional positions from President of Indian to the President of village panchayat. Since, most the those who holds constitutional positions in this country are Hindus, the Brahman works as chief advisor to every person in power. Thus, this proximity is used to obligate the state machinery to keep Vedas and Vedic culture alive. The second are the modern Manuwadis. They neither wanted to keep the Vedas or Vedic culture completely away from the Dalits and Adivasis who are believed to be part and parcel of Hinduism nor they believe that these two social groups are capable of reading Vedas nor it is essential for them. They even would like to allow non-Hindus to read Vedas.
After the partition, it is proved fact India can never be purely Hindurastra. It’s composite culture, social groups regional cultural variations even within Hinduism makes its impossible. Therefore, pre-modern pure Manu’s Hinduism that kept the Sudras, Dalits and Adivasis away from Vedas would not work anymore. All that works for them was to use the Vedas, Vedic culture and Hindu culture to generate Hindus religious and cultural sentiments by glorifying their purity and positivity. For this to happen, two main enemies needed to be invented: religious and ideological. Christians and Muslims are religious enemies they needed to be projected as anti-Hindu and as anti-India as well. They are foreigners, invaders, attackers, destroyers of India (Hindu India). Ideological enemies are Rationalist, Marxist, Humanists, Secularists and Ambedkarists. They needed to be criticized, controlled and criminalized. The Modern Manuwadis chose Muslims and Christians as immediate enemies who should be attacked at their will and wish. They being non-Hindu is enough to attack.
At the same time modern Manuvadis would like to expand the scope of Hinduism within the nation and abroad. Mostly drawn from the Brahman, Kshatriya and Vaishyas, the latter two would believe that their social and historical identity comes from Brahmanistaion and vedicisation of their lives that needed to be protected and promoted by being the patrons and promoters. They own land, power and money. Therefore, it would be easy for them to be patrons. Moreover, they are modern. They are spread everywhere and capable of understanding the importance of modernization of spiritual, cultural and religious institutions for internationalization. Today’s domination of Hinduism does not from its inherent status of being majority alone, it comes from the huge network of international institutions. They are built with the assistance of Non-Resident Hindus (NRH) spread into various part of the world during and after colonial times. Both the migration and immigration of Hindus helped to assist building of the network of Hindu organizations. This internationalization of Hinduism has been serving the purpose uniting the rich NRHs from all continents, helping to transform Hindu religion the one that can attract even non-Hindus of different countries who would help in continuously financing these networks as donors and as members. The flow of international non-Hindu foreigners into various Hindu spiritual, yoga and life style ashrams mostly run by self-claimed human Gods, yoga and life styles spiritual gurus needed to be attributed to the work done by these international Hindu organizations and NRHs.
Inside the country, they pursue their goals more aggressively through power structures apart from the internal network of communal and spiritual organizations. Vedicisation, here, happens under the carpet. India, after become Independent, by mere logic of being the country that is dominated by Hindus, state has always been on the side of the Hindus and Hinduism. Free hand to Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) touted to be one of the biggest non-governmental originations, Akshaya Patra and many such organizations are never scrutinized by any state organ. They, for sure, are promoting Hindu specific cultural pattern among children and adults. Yet, it was never been a matter of concern. But non-governmental organizations which are having links to religions such as Christianity and Islam have been under scanner of the central government. Even the secular NGOs which are working to protect the rights of minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, children, women, environment and ecology are forced to prove their intentions. These restrictions come as counter to the promotion of alleged disinterest among Indians on Hinduism.
Simultaneously, they also adopted the policy of ‘inclusion’. They allow the earlier excluded into their fold and cleverly create internal exclusion. Perhaps, there are Dalits and Adivasis in every organization run by the Hindus. Yet, their existence in them is not known. These two social group exist in Hindu originations for nothing. Outside world would not notice their existence till they speak out on the internal discrimination. Recently, a Dalit RSS member coming out of the origination and writing about its internal working and the discrimination he and Dalits face is perfect example to argue how the modern Manuwadis are going extra mile to include the excluded only to use them as foot soldiers but pre-programmed minds of the caste/religious Hindus do not allow them to treat Dalits and Adivasis as equals. These unfortunate Dalits and Adivasis part of these organizations are the best channels for the Vedicisation of the marginalized.
In every country, majority dominates state machinery. It is the case with Indian Hindus too. In the modern India, there is no state which is dominated by any religious community other than Hindus. Most of the prime ministers, chief ministers, presidents, governors, ninety five percent of Indian bureaucracy, managerial staff, intellectuals, scientists, engineers, students and police force are Hindus. This dominant omnipresence of general Hindu everywhere and orthodox and pious Hindus in the positions of power normalized the under the carpet Hinduisation of public sphere and organized vedicisation of culture. Indian state, as a defcto Hindu state, invests a lot on preservation of the Vedic culture. For modern Manuwadis, revival of Gurukula (Veda Patasalas) by replacing the modern, secular, scientific and humanist Macaulay’s 19th century western education is the only way for vedicisation of India. Prior to radical Manuwadis (Hindutva ideologues) coming to power, the secular Hindutvawadis, the congress party, did all that it could to promote Vedicism. From Nehru to P. V. Narasimha Rao, all major decisions on the promotion of Sanskrit came when congress leaders were prime ministers. After Independence, in 1957, the First Sanskrit Commission was constituted in by Jawaharlal Nehru with Suniti Kumar Chatterji as chairman. The first government sponsored institution for the promotion of the Sanskrit the Rastriya Sanskrit Vidhyapeetha came at Tirupathi in 1961. Lal Bahadur Sastri set up the Kendriya Sanskrit Vidhyapeeth in 1965. It was later renamed as Sri Lal Bahadur Sastri Sanskrit Vidhyapeeth (SLBSRSV). In 1969, the then education minister, VKRV Rao has introduced Sanskrit Diwas to be observed on Purnima of Shrawana month of Hindu calendar every year to promote Sanskrit. Following year, Indira Gandhi government has established the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan as a nodal agency for Sanskrit education which has fifteen campuses across the country. In 1974, the All India Radio started Sanskrit News Bulletin when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister and the Doordarshan started its edition of Sanskrit Bulletin on Sanskrit Diwas in 1994 when P. V. Narasimha Rao was prime minister. In 1987, the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Ved Vidya Pratishthan (MSRVP) in Bharatpur, Ujjaini, Rasatan was started to preserve, conserve and develop vedic studies by setting up Vedha Patasalas when Rajiv Gandi was on the top seat.[i] In 2013, Manmohan Singh’s Congress government has constituted the 13 member Second Sanskrit Commission headed by Padma Bhushan awardee Satya Vrat Shastri. Its prime focus was effective communication of scientific achievements of people of Vedic times. It recommended special laboratories, collaboration between scientists and scholars to work together to corroborate ancient beliefs such as the power of Vedic sacrifices to induce rainfall and the healing qualities of sacrificial ashes, proposed four language formula (mother-tongue, English, Hindi or any modern Indian language and Sanskrit) in which Sanskrit is compulsory for students from VI to X, compulsory Sanskrit paper in all science and technology institutions and induction of Sanskrit teachers, a school Board of Sanskrit education and a Sanskrit university in every state, periodic revision of Sanskrit syllabus, setting up of Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyalayas on the lines of Kendriya Vidyalayas, upgrading Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan university in Delhi to an institute of national importance like IITs and IIMs, foreign faculty exchange programme in the area of Sanskrit, prohibit diversion of funds meant for Sanskrit, broadcast of Sanskrit programmes by private channels and radio stations, separate TV channel for Sanskrit, Signs on roads, government offices, hospitals, etc in Sanskrit and all posts of Sanskrit teachers to be filled with full-time appointments and not ad-hoc teachers. The committee opined that education that is being provided in all modern institutions increases the distance between the past and the present. To solve this problem, it has recommended certain texts. For students of science, engineering, social sciences and agriculture studying in Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management and universities, it has suggested texts like Arthasastra, Sukraniti, Viduraniti and Mahabharata for political science students, Rasasarasamuccaya for chemistry students, and Krsiparasara and Vrksayurveda for students of agriculture.[ii] The commission submitted its report in August 2015. Though the congress party did enough to satisfy its own political majority and the larger cultural Hindu majority that is represented by the radical Hindu communal forces, the aggressive state sponsored Vedicisation comes after National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
As the Second Sanskrit Commission report delayed, the NDA government formed a committed under the Chairmanship of N. Gopalasawmi, Vice-Chancellor, Rastriya Sanskrit Vidhyapeet, Tirupathi to suggest long term vision and road map for the development of Sanskrit. The committee submitted its report in February 2016 and some of its recommendations were made public in 2018 as the government step by step implementing its recommendations on Sanskrit education at school and college level and also Astaadashi (eighteen projects) for development of Sanskrit. The recommendations of the Second Sanskrit Commission, though, would not have disappointed a communal government, its recommendations were not taken up. It was perhaps because the commission was constituted by the congress which BJP would not naturally like.
The Gopalswami committee recommendations seem to have attracted government. From 2018 onwards, government began to give shape to the narrative on the significance of Sanskrit. Through Ved Vidhyalayas, Ved Bushan and Ved Vibushan courses were planned and they were to be equated with class 10 and 12 certificates to allow children to get employment. The National Institute of Open Schooling was to recognize these certificates of students passing from these schools. In January 2019, the government of India had accepted proposal to start Bharathiya Siksha Board (BSB) or National School Board for Vedic Education through these Veda Patasalas. The intention of this was to counter the alleged growing influence of communist thought among Indians. The MSRVP which has been promoting Veda Vidhaya was given approval to establish BSB’s governing council, frame bylaws and syllabus. The role of BSB is to standardize Vedic education through which it is intended to promote Vedic wisdom which according the modern Manuwadis was lacking. They are intending to blend this with traditional Vedic schools such as Acharyakulam and Vidhayabharathi schools run by the RSS and Gurukulas run by Aryasamaj so on to decolonize the and Hinduise Hindu mind at the same time. The Modern Manuwadis believe that anglicized modern education unfairly taught secular values undermining the ancient Hindu culture. Therefore, this move is being seen a counter that would serve the political interest of the Hindu majority.
Vedic Heritage, a portal for promotion of Vedas was inaugurated in March 2019 by the Ministry of Culture, touted as the new paradigm by Arun Goel, Secretary to the Ministry, ‘to disseminate scientific information’. The portal is full of claims science in the texts published under the banner of Vijnana Bharathi, that focuses on ‘Swadeshi Science’. Sankya Dharshan is a book of science and the word science was accepted synonymous to science centuries before Christ, the Vedas or the Vedic Particle Physics starts studying the universe from the beginning of the building blocks of the huge creation where the modern science awfully confused on this and that the S-matrix Theory and the Bootstrap Approach which became String theory is much in line with Vedic Particle Physics . The portal contained forty-one of such documents.[iii]
Apart from these institutional arrangements, the politicians, intellectuals, few scientists from acclaimed science and technology institutions, universities and colleges from the very beginning of the NDA rule have been using every occasion to glorify ancient Hindu scientific and technological heritage. From head transplantation to inter-planetary flights, there was nothing that was not existing during Vedic period. This narrative, intentionally generated to influence the gullible has gained momentum as it is satisfying the cultural sentiments of political and cultural Hindutvawadis and common Hindu. Historicity and scientificity of these claims were never a matter of discussion at all.
History of the nation from Indus Valley to the present subjected to Vedicisation. The date of beginning of Vedic period was being pushed back to 10,000 years, while the available evidence places it at 1500 BCE. the Union Water Resources ministry and Ministry of Culture appointed committee headed by K.S. Vaidhya to trace the mythical Saraswathi mentioned in Rig Veda. In the state of Haryana, the government has released water into an excavated channel believing it is the river path. In 2017, this state government created Saraswathi Heritage Development Board and demanded the Indus Valley civilization be renamed as Saraswathi civilization. In February 2020 central budget, Nirmala Sitaraman made an attempt at the vedicisation of the Indus valley civilization by calling it as Saraswathi-Sindu civilization. All this is done with the intention of historicizing ahistory to serve immediate communal, cultural and political agendas at the cost of the national economic resources. Communities other than Hindus have their own history. But the Indian government has been investing heavily on the history of Hindus, while the rest of the communities doing whatever they can to write their history. The state patronage to the history of majority is creating un-equal histories in this country.
Among the systems of knowledge too, systems belong to majority position themselves on the top pedestal. This is, of course, manipulated and manufactured with the intention of the maintaining hegemony over the ‘other’. This othering has a long history and it is continuous process. Otherwise, the culture of the majority would lose its position. Prior to post-modernism opening doors for the re-coming of the so-called alternative rationalities, among the pre-modern local systems of knowledge, Hindu’s knowledge given its dominant position has not only survived the onslaught of modernity but also allegedly possessed the ability of reviving itself. As culture of majority, it stood better chance of being projected as national culture and thus gathered more sympathy than the culture of the other. During colonial times, the swadeshi movement provided fillip to the revival of pre-modern systems. But unfortunately, the movement did more to the revival of the Hindu culture than the composite culture of India. Like now, then too, the culture of Hindus had the patronage and sympathy of the dominant political figures, political and cultural organizations. What was rebuild as Indian against the supposed discriminative western/European/modern culture was the culture Hindus. Even a liberal Gandhi’s swadeshi too had very minimal cultural content of the non-Hindus. The same is the case in Independent India.
The idea of national culture is remained as culture of Hindus. For example, the alternative medicine that emerged as a counter to the increasingly violent, torturous, commercial and inaccessible modern medicine was dominantly Hindu’s. The Ayurveda Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy (AYUSH) Ministry created to develop and propagate alternative medicine that includes all those are mentioned in the name of the ministry is mostly supporting Ayurveda. Every branch of pre-colonial medicines, part of the AYUSH, are having national institutions for their development. Yet, Yoga and Ayurveda which are part of Hindu tradition of medicine are dominating in terms of government patronage. They, of course, are part of the alternative wellness and medicine movement that was gaining momentum from 1970s. So was the case with Buddhist meditation, Siddha and Naturopathy. The non-Hindu systems of medicine do not get same patronage. With the efforts of NDA government, the United Nations has recognized the Yoga and declared 21 June in 2014 as the International Yoga Day. Protocol issued for the participants of Yoga days celebrations. Yoga is a practice of Hindus which is not even known many Hindus till it began to be celebrated by the government. Voluntarily, many could have been practicing it. Transforming Yoga into a gift of civilization to nation and world through display of massive Yoga sessions and its celebration has its own politics i.e. internationalization of yoga also meant vedicisation of India which is more dangerous. The earlier eclipses the latter from being viewed imposition. Its international recognition eliminates the inbuilt politics of the move. During the last three decades, lot of Hindu culture has regional existence or exclusive to Hindus is acquiring pan-Indianness through the government patronage. Yoga wellness centers are mushrooming throughout the nation and they are getting the patronage of the Hindu rich and upper middle class. Ayurvedic hospitals and spiritual centers are coming up as private firms/institutions but they are backed by the network of Hindu religious organizations. Moreover, the direct and indirect patronage of the government to them explains how unfairly the culture majority prospers on the resources of secular, rational and democratic state. The institutionalization of Yoga through massive investment on creating institutional infrastructure throughout the nation, especially in the educational institutions is dangerous to the nation. Students, National Cadet Crops, National Social Service, government employees of center and state are obligated to be part of the Yoga day. Why a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, even a Hindu should be part of it if they do not subscribe to it? International Yoga day in the initial two years has went through many controversies. Participants were asked to chant Vedic Om mantra and do Surya Namaskara. Later, in 2016, these were removed from the protocol of the Yoga celebration. While Patnajali, the father of Yoga, saw it as individual search for spirituality and said if failed one could choose other means, the modern Manuwadi is imposing it one very citizen. Ram Madhav complained that Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India, did not participate in the Yoga day celebrations. Why should he? Why should everyone of part of it? It is ones’ own wish to be part of it or not. When Muslims raised objections to Suryanamaskara, BJP leaders have asked then to jump into sea. In a secular democratic country, Yoga can be chosen by anybody who has interest in it. So is the case with Kalari from Kerala and Silambattam from Tamil Nadu. There are better traditions of wellness in many regions of the country. Why they do not get the same patronage as that of Yoga?
The majority Hindu society’s sentiments on their culture is always source for generating cultural and political capital. People in the corridors of power have always used mass sentiments of Hindus to build narratives to signify their culture. like Yoga, Ayuveda too has got unfair patronage from the central government. Babas like Ramdev who mixes Yoga with Ayurveda is flattered with huge favors in the form of land free or subsidized land.
Government is quite open in discriminating non-Hindu systems of medicine. Ayurveda became sole national alternative medicine. Rest of the local medical system are not part of the narrative. For example, during this ongoing Covid 19 crisis, the AYUSH department has issued a circular on the Ayurveda immunity boosting measures for self-care during Corona crisis. Recommended by sixteen Ayurveda vaidhayas, the department has suggested Dinacharya (daily regimes) and Ritucharya (seasonal regimes) consisted of general measures such as drinking warm water, Yogasana, Pranayama and meditation for 30 minutes and consuming spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander and garlic and Ayurvedic immunity boosting measures like chyavanprash, herbal tea made from Tulsi, cinnamon, black pepper, dry ginger and raisin and gold milk (Turmeric mixed milk). One would expect the department would give similar respect to all local systems of medicine which are part of the department. But the AYUSH is a de facto department of Ayurveda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is saying Yoga is solution to beat the Virus. The AYUSH minister Sripad Y. Naik believed that our traditional medicine could show the way to overcome the pandemic. Of course, he was not referring to every traditional medicine part of the department. Apart from this government patronage, it extended support to Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishan Chief Executive Officer and the co-founder of the Panthajali Ayurveda Private Limited. The CEO of the company claimed that his company produced Coronil Kit, Ayurvedic medicine for curing Corona Virus and patients were cured of virus in five to fifteen days. It was proved to be lie. This company applied for license to develop immunity booter and also medicine for cough and fever but later claimed as drug to cure the virus. The companies claim has been exposed by the Uttarakhand Ayurveda Department where it applied for the license. After the controversy, now the AYUSH department gave permission to sell it as immunity booster. Here too, AYUSH department is acting fast in making things happen to Panthali Company just because it is being run by Baba and it selling Ayurvedic products. For making false claims all that the government could do was stall the selling of the Coronil for some time.
Apart from the AYUSH department, perhaps, it is only Kerala which also brought in Ayurvedic measures to some extent. Kerala, the state known for the high presence of Ayurveda, has set up State Ayurveda Covid19 Response Cell for the early detection and formulation of drug for management of the Corona virus. But Kerala was careful in making it clear that it was life style and supportive care, the diagnosis, medication and treatment is through the scientifically backed modern medicine.
While Ayurveda is pampered and favorite child, the Siddha medicine in Tamil Nadu has got step motherly treatment. Dr. Thanikasalam Veni, Rathna Siddha Hospital in Chennai claimed that along with team of doctors, they formulated herbal medicine for the cure of the corona virus. It did not get much attention. Like that of Baba, he might be making claims. But he was given a chance to prove what he as to offer. While Ramdev was celebrated as hero despite, false claims, Thanikasalam was arrested for making false claims. For Tamils, Siddha medicine provides some cultural identity and it is specific to Tamil Nadu. Therefore, is gets the support and patronage of the government. The Tamil Nadu government has given permission to use to Siddha treatment for Covid positive patients. The state is claiming 100% recovery rate.
At the beginning of the July, the National Institute of Siddha which started a sperate facility at Vaysarpadi, claimed that 92 patients were cured out of 160 and in private hospital in Saligramam, Chennai, it is calimed that 744 Covid patients were given Siddha treatment among them 531 were recovered. Like Kerala Tamil Nadu government does not claim that Siddha could be used in critical cases. It believes that modern medicine with ventilators and oxygen must come in at this point. Unlike the modern Manuwadis, people of Tamil Nadu are not sentimental about Siddha. The government itself has accepted that the siddha treatment is blend of siddha, yoga and Ayruveda. It is not claiming exclusivity of Siddha as the AYUSH minister is doing in the case of Ayurveda. The state government also has recommended Kabasura Kudineer, a siddha concoction as an immunity booster which seems to have been used widely in Tamil Nadu. But this remained regional. Like in the case of the Coronil of Patajali, the government of India should have shown same enthusiasm to promote Kabasura Kudineer as immunity booster throughout the nation. But it did not. Only Ayurvedic immunity boosters or methods of treatment getting recognition and promoted by the government agencies. This, as pointed out earlier, homogenization or universalization of Ayurveda and Yoga and provincialization of the rest of the medicine part of the AYUSH department is done with the intention of normalizing them as parts of the common culture of nation. These efforts of modern Manuwadis, of course, paying dividends to them in the form increasing political and cultural capital.
If the Ayurvedic medicine is to be made, there are many national institutions which are teaming up together. For example, the National Institute of Medical Sciences in Jaipur, Rajasthan teamed up with Patanjali for human trails without the permission of the government for which it received notices. This proves the fact that the AYUSH is a de facto department of Ayurveda and the Ayurveda is the undeclared boss of the so called traditional and indigenous medicine. It became synonymous for indigenous medicine.
The last category of people who involve in the process of Vedicisation of India in the post-modern times are the Hindu capitalists. They could be divided into spiritual capitalists and secular capitalists. While, the earlier have emerged to sell Yoga, Ayurvedic, color stones and other such spiritual material throughout the world, the latter have been selling products made of Ayurvedic ingredients from the beginning of twentieth century. The Pantajali of Baba Ramdev (Haridwar), Isha Yoga Centre of Jaggi Vasudev (Coimbatore), Art of Living of Sri Sri Ravishankar (Banglore) are selling Ayurveda, Yoga and spirituality in different ways and forms. But among the spiritual capitalists, Ramdev’s Patanjali made inroads and created trend among middle class Hindu consumers. Though came as Ayurveda products Pharma in 1997, it became Patanjali Ayurveda Limited in 2006, it expanded its tentacles into almost all consumer products. It is competing with the Nestle India, Godrej Consumer and Dabur. Known as Fast Moving Consumer Goods Companies (FMGCs), during the financial year 2015-16, while Patanjali posted Rs. 10, 216 crore revenue, Nestlé (1866) India posted Rs 9,159 crore and Godrej Consumer ( 1897) posted Rs 9,134 crore and Dabur (1884) posted Rs 7691 crore.[iv] What explains such growth of profits for Patanjali that is started recently, while the rest of the companies with a long history and global business fails in the race? Patanjali and its Ayurvedic products came at a time where the anti-science and anti-big movements not only were paving the way for alternative science movements but also encouraged nationalist forces which always belong to racial/religious/ethnic majority to gain from actualization of the alternatives. In the case of Ayurveda, its nearness to a common Hindu, ‘indigenousness’, supposed positivity to human soul and body and its harmony with nature allowed it to gain acceptance. Post-modernity has also released it from the clutches of the unfair scrutiny of rationalism that dismissed Ayurveda as irrational and unscientific. Apart from these, the inbuilt swadeshi, Hindu religious/cultural sentiments and cultural/communal nationalism and patriotism worked in favor of Patanjali Ayurvedic products.
Even Indian companies like the Dabur producing Ayurvedic products from 1900 is not became favorable to Hindus. Back in 1900, the Dabur has started Ayurvedic red tooth powder. It was perhaps only product for oral care existing among rich and upper middle-class homes in India. Rest of the classes were using neem and other chewing sticks. In America, in 1850 Colgate introduced tooth paste. Toothpaste has become product of science. At this point in time, domination of science over the rest paved the way for toothpaste as a result Dabur Ayurvedic red toothpowder lost its market. However, Dabur red tooth powder was existing in market till 1980s. Modern cosmetics, oral care and skin care products have dominated Indians minds and market still 2000. Though the anti-science and alternative science movements started in 1960s, it took another five decades for the movement to build practical alternatives. In the process, the knowledge of the dominant gained prominence and discriminated the knowledge systems of ‘others’ part of the national culture. Indian alternative science movement is dominated by the Ayurveda. Indian government under pressure of regional and social forces for which knowledge systems specific to their culture are having historical and cultural significance gave some space and recognition. Otherwise, in India, alternative medicine is Ayurveda. Its inbuilt pan-Indianness and it being the culture of the majority allowed it to claim prime spot.
The existing government support, Hindu sentiments and anti-science attitude favored Patanjali to come up with the commercialization of Ayurveda. Prior to Patanjali Ayurveda was dominantly a medical alternative. But now there is nothing which is not Ayurveda. Patanjali has not only Vedicised every minute part of life by penetrating with its products from atta (wheat powder) to noodles, soap and shampoo but also Ayurvedised entire human care (skin, oral, food, body). Its five products: Cow Ghee, Dhant Kanthi (toothpaste), Kesh Kanthi (shampoo and hair oil), wheat atta noodles and aloe vera juice and gel are said to be game changers of the company. Now, it is entering into every modern busines from adult diapers to SIM cards and Solar panels. I wonder what is Ayurvedic about these products. Nothing. This is humbug. Middle class Hindus are buying Patanjali products because it is a company run by a Hindu Baba. It is very less to do with good health, natural products, Ayurveda and quality. It is only religious and cultural sentiments worked in favour of Patanjali. Before Patanjali’s existence, companies focusing on the skin care, hair care and other consumer goods companies have been using these ingredients in their products. There is nothing special about the ingredients the Patanjali uses in its products. Yet, it grown bigger in short time. It has become the company of Rs. 30 Billion with 350 products, 4000 distributors, 10,000 stores and 100 mega stores. The Networked Hindus mostly of who were rich and middle class become health conscious and at the same time patriotic and communal as well. Most of the modern Babas, used social media platforms to popularize themselves by creating narratives on national culture and in that they posed themselves of selfless sacrificing heros. Yoga is a rich and middle-class Hindus cup of coffee. It has never been a thing for working class. It still dominantly remains same. But Patanjali Yoga has become important constituent of BJP cultural nationalism. Yoga, Ayurveda and Patanjali become representatives of the national culture. Moreover, Patanjali very easily able to locate itself in the hallow Make in India or swadeshi campaign that has offered many unfair favors by the government. The Swadeshi narrative is able to project Chinese and multinational FMGCs like HUL, Proctor & Gamble and Nestle as enemies of Indian culture and economy. Patanjali re-employed the critique of economic colonialism of colonial times to boost its growth. Ramdev built anti-MNC critique to expand his company. Targeting the Colgate-Palmolive, he said that so far, FMCG has meant MNCs in India, we have broken that monopoly and the American oral care giant Colgate-Palmolive which has already de-grown might close its gates soon. It has advertised that buying Patanjali goods is a patriotic duty of the Indian.
But none of the other Indian companies felt the need of employing such patriotic, nationalistic sentimental narratives to increase their trade. Ayurvedic commercial companies like Dabur, Himalaya, Baidyanath, Vicco, and Emami did not do so. Patanjali has monopolised that narrative the even effected the government run initiatives like Khadi Bhandar and Gramudyog outlets.[v] Such patronage will come easily from government, unless Patanjali maintains rapport. Ramdev is part of radical Hindutva ideology. He openly bats for BJP. He campaigns for BJP and it reciprocates with land allotment for free or at the subsidised rates for opening of new branches of his company. In May-April campaign he called Modi as a pride of Mother India.[vi]
Alternative medicine movement, throughout the world, gave an impression that the Baconian utilitarian science has allowed humans to consume and destroyed nature and this movement, at a right time, is reestablishing needed connection between human and nature. It is true that anti-science movements are reemphasizing on the refashioning of human life style in a manner that create harmony with nature by consuming material that are not factory made or not finely processed. In India, millets coming back on the eating plate is such a trend. Sure, nature is back in demand. But the question is, is the nature belong to communal/cultural majority in India? To make most out of the new wellness health and consumer movement, today we are witnessing the major FMGC companies are Ayurvedising of every leaf, twig, seed, fruit, spice, herb, root and flower. Are the non-Hindu Unani, Siddha, Flock Medicine, Triable medicine and Naturopathy not using many ingredients used by Ayurveda? What happens to internal medical/cultural pluralism? This is monopolization of nature by the majority that eventually leads to homogenization of culture. It is time we pay attention to the politics of the contemporary revivalist movement that openly claims that the only alternative that would be good for nature and human is way of life that was existing during Vedic times. This is successfully propagated by the state, custodians of majority culture, spiritual organizations, Gurus, Babas, corporate companies and media.
[iii] Vasudean Mukunth, Culture Ministry’s Vedic Heritage Portal only Debase the Study of Vedas, The Wire, 22nd August 2019.
Dr. Y. Srinivasa Rao is Associate Professor, Department of History, Bharathidasan University.