About Hinduism and India

Political stability is key factor for development and in its absence, all systems go out-of-order. When political conditions in India became unstable, everything was dislocated and Hinduism lost the patronage of the ruling class. As a consequence social, economic, and religious infrastructures crumbled down.

Prior to the rise of Islam Indian ideas and texts had already reached Baghdad. During eighth century the Arabs gained political power and ruled from Indus to Spain. Arabic schools were established all over the Abbasid Empire of Arabs.

Translation Centers

Indian texts that were picked for translation had been taken out of India even before the spread of Islam. Since pre-Islamic intellectuals were not biased against Hindu scriptures, many of the texts were read, understood and translated to Arabic, Persian and other languages as an academic activity. Translation Centers existed at the following places:-

  • Spain – Caliph Abdur-Rahman III (891–961) built a massive new library at Cordoba in Spain and filled it with manuscripts in Sanskrit and other languages brought from Baghdad. The library contained 400,000 volumes.
  • Sicily – Arabs governing Sicily also imported texts from Baghdad and had a rich library there. The translation of Hindu-Arabic literature continued till the end of sixteenth century.
  • Syria – Translation Centers were at work in Syria, Damascus, and Palermo where translations of Aryabhatta also found their way.
  • Europe – In 1120 an Englishman Robert of Chester living in Spain translated Al-Khwarismi’s Algoritmi De Numero Indorum into Latin.This work was in fact based on Aryabhatta. The translation  carried Indian numbers, arithmetic, Algebra and Astronomy to the Latin world along with Aryabhatta’s works in the field of fractions, quadratic equations, sums of power series, concept of version 1- cos, equations of imaginary numbers and square root of One.
  • Palestine Frederick founded the University of Naples in 1224 endowing it with a large collection of Arabic manuscripts. From Spain he brought a translator who created a Latin summary of Aristotle’s biological and zoological works. The library was endowed with a large collection of Arabic manuscripts of ancient Greek and Indian texts; as well as commentaries of the Arab scholars on them. Copies of Latin translation were sent to universities in Paris and Bologna. Frederick also led the Fifth Crusade to Palestine in 1228-1229, and recaptured Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. These efforts brought back to Europe the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It also brought to Europe the works of Indians in the field of Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy and Music.

Indian identity got camouflaged

Europe was still passing through ‘Dark Age’ and ‘Renaissance’ was far off. Even about more than thousand years after Christ, Europeans were ignorant of India and her progress. Their knowledge extended up to the Arab world due to which they attributed the inflow of knowledge only to Arabs.

  • By 976, Hindu numerals started appearing in plagiarized form as ‘Arabic numerals’, even though the Arabs had been referring the same numerals as  “Hind-se”, implying ‘from India ’.
  • It was only in 1202 that Leonardo Pisano introduced Arabic numerals to Europe and the original Hindu numerals Hind-se were adopted as modern International form of numerals under the brand of Arabic numerals.
  • Many of the Arabic manuscripts had been translated to Latin at the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripon in Spain. However the people of Spain had no inkling that the text material was originated from India.
  • In the tenth century, Gerbert of Aurillac (946–1003), became the Pope. He learnt the Indian counting system from the Moors of Spain, and in 990 he taught the Hindu numerals to his students and monks. He trekked to Northern Spain to carry home Latin translations of Arab treatise on Abacus and Astrolabe. He encouraged adoption of those systems especially by merchants. The new numbers revolutionized accounting and made Europeans a successful mercantile community.

Effect of Sanskrit on English

Relative Pronouns – Sanskrit word Pitra had been transformed into Pidar in Arabic and Persian. It travelled further and got converted to Father in English. Similarly Matra underwent changes in the order of Mather and Mother, Bhratra changed to Biradar and then to Brother. Many Sanskrit words as well as their connotations found their way to Europe. It is obvious that there was outflow from Sanskrit but no words found their way to Sanskrit.

Proper Names – The names of towns and places also have been affected.

  • Tashkent is derived from Takshak Khand. India was called Bharat Khand when King Bharata ruled over it.  The area inhabited by Bundela and Ruhela clans came to be known as Bundel Khand and Ruhail Khand
  • Fortified towns used to be named after their owners by adding a suffix Garh, such as Lakshman Garh, Pithora Garh and so on. The suffix Garh could be spelt in English as Gard also; like Lenin-grad and Stalin-Grad.
  • British often spelt Kanpur as Cownpore and Lukhnow as Lucknow. Likewise they mis-spelt Sinhpur as Singapore, Maley as Malaya, Kamboj as Cambodia, and Astralya as Australia. In India and Gandhara (Afghanistan).
  • Towns with watch towers were suffixed with word Names of cities in Europe have similar suffixes like Pitts burg and so on.
  • Hari-kul Ish (Balrama, the elder Brother of Krishna) got converted to Hercules, and Alkhshendra to Alexander.
  • River Ganga is known as Ganges.

That trend is reversed now. Many Indians shorten their names to mingle with Europeans and Americans. Otherwise if one made a list of proper nouns in English, the list will be a repetition or modification after about hundred original names have been noted.

Customs and Traditions – It has been customary for the new brides to kick a pot filled with rice at the main entrance of her husband’s house to denote that their new abode be blessed with plenty of food and comforts. Since Europeans preferred drinks, the young brides there kick a Champaign bottle on the occasion of her first entrance in husband’s house.

The English word husband too is linked to Hindu marriage rites. The word referred to the person whose hand had been tied to the specific female for the purpose of marriage. The ritual is still performed during Hindu marriages when the groom ties a wrist band to the right hand of the bride.

Calendar – The word Calendar is written and pronounced as Kalander in Portuguese. It is derived from Sanskrit word Kal-antra (Time interval). The English months September, October, November, and December also had their roots in Sanskrit such as Sapta-ambar.  Seventh Ambar meaning 7 th mark in Sky, Ashta- ambar – 8th, Nav – ambar – 9 th and Dasha- ambar 10 th mark in the sky.

The word ‘Ambar‘is a synonym for sky in Sanskrit. The yearly sky-route of Earth’s revolution around the Sun was marked by Zodiac signs. When Sun entered new Zodiac, which signaled the beginning of new month in Hindu calendar. Prior to 1752 March used to be the first month of the year in England also. Accordingly September happened to be the seventh month and so on.

Theological Opposition to Knowledge

It was Galileo in the late sixteenth century who for the first time tried to understand what was contained in the Latin translation of the Sindhind (Siddhanta Shiromani) of Brahmagupta. When he propounded the theory of rotation of earth he had to suffer the persecution of the Church, as it did not match the Gospel. Considered by many to be the founder of modern science, Galileo not only built the first telescope but also discovered the laws of bodies in motion.

But instead of rewarding his discoveries, Galileo was put under house arrest in Sienna. Theological rejection of Truth continued in other fields also in contrast to Hinduism.

Europeans took years in understanding science complied by Hindus and presented to them by the Arabs, because of Church’s domination in everyday life.  The decline of Christian faith coupled with rise of knowledge ushered Europe into all round development and they came in a position to dominate world.

Patenting of Knowledge

The sages and intellectuals in India had been in the pursuit of Knowledge and had devoted themselves for self-actualization.  There were no patent laws to protect intellectual property rights as there are today. The Sages never indulged in commercialization of Knowledge.  It is only in the Western world where they are trying to patent Basmati Rice, Neem tree and Yoga to make business out of knowledge. The plagiarism and conversion of Hindu knowledge continues unabated though India is projected as land of savages and primitives.

The positive View

The positive aspect of export of Hindu knowledge was that their compilations were put to use for inventions, otherwise the knowledge in unused state would have been perished. Unless one made use of knowledge, power, and wealth, he is sure to lose the same. Un-used assets always reach usurpers.

Need for Political Patronage

Lack of political patronage has resulted in massive loot and destruction of our intellectual wealth. We have not even estimated and identified the losses. Since our government is “secular” – there is none to stake claim. Unless Indian youths are acquainted with their past heritage and are motivated, these treasures left by our ancestors will fade into history.

There is need for Indian scholars to undertake research to trace out and reclaim our intellectual heritage. Many of our artifacts and ancient manuscripts are still lying un-ciphered in museums of the world. Only patriotic Indian scholars with deep knowledge of Sanskrit can undertake this work with financial backing from government or some patriotic foundations. For this mammoth task we have to pick leads from Sanskrit language.

Chand K Sharma

(Next: Splashes – 57/72 – Sun set in East – Sun rise from West)

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