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The fall of India


(This article is not about some war India lost but its fall from the pinnacle it had achieved thousands of years ago. This article is about how the Indian values got eroded, how the treasures of knowledge it had were lost, how its philosophy, way of life, lost their acceptance.)


It is not only the human beings who are governed by their destinies or fates. A society and a piece of land too have their own fates. Human history is full of stories of rise and fall of individuals as well as societies and countries. We know of many lands that existed once, but now are lost - some submerged under the great oceans on earth and some entered the womb of earth. India, or Bharatvarsha as it was known in the ancient times, too has seen its glorious past and is presently seeing its fallen status. Once it was known as "Golden Bird" and today it is among the poorest of the nations. It was also called "Jagadguru" (Guru of the world) and today its status is for everyone to see.


It was India that discovered zero, without which mathematics would not have been possible. It was India, whose system of medicine "Ayurveda" was followed by whole world. It was in India that the whole system of Yoga, for physical, psychological and spiritual well being, was developed. "Dhyana", which became Zen in Japan is India's contribution to the world. The concept of "moksha" or liberation or enlightenment originated in this country only. Astronomers who accurately measured heavenly distances like that between Sun and the Earth belonged to India. It was here that the game of chess was invented. It was here that the concept of atom was first conceived. It was here that the law of inertia, which was rediscovered by the greatest scientist Sir Isaac Newton and is known as First Law of Motion, was first propounded. It was here that Architecture was developed into a system. The measurement-system of time was developed here. Much before Aristotle, who is called father of modern logic, was born, a whole system of logic called "Nyaya-Darshan" was developed here.


The list is endless. In short, it can be said that almost all that was known to the ancient world was discovered, developed or invented in India.


Why then, Bharatvarsha, lost the status it enjoyed in the world? How this fall came about? The questions are not very easy to answer. It will take volumes to satisfactorily answer these questions. In this article, one of the aspects is presented.


The first world war, that this earth has endured, was not fought in the twentieth century. What we refer to as the first world war was, in fact, the second one. The first world war was fought in India, more than five thousand years ago. It is known as The Mahabharata war. This war changed the course of Indian History. It was a catastrophic war not only for India but the whole world. The story of Mahabharata war has been described, in a great book of the same name, by Maharshi Ved Vyasa. Due to the space constraint, let us not talk about the war itself but only about its ramifications.


In ancient India, the society was classified into four distinct classes. The most respected class was that of Brahmins. The people belonging to this class were engaged in studies, teaching, and research work. The next class was that of Kshatriyas. These were the warrior people. Most of the kings of that era belonged to this class. Next, in the social order were Vaishyas or the businessmen. And the last category of people were Shudras, who did all the lowly and menial jobs of the society.


(Note:This division of the society has been much maligned in the present times. It is one of the main themes around which the modern politics of India revolves. However, in spite of the distortion this system acquired after Mahabharata war, it is not very difficult to see that originally this system was a very scientific one. In fact,  these divisions exist even in modern times. Professors, teachers, scientists, research scholars, reformers, thinkers, philosophers, psychologists etc can be called Modern Brahmins. The policemen and the soldiers can be said to be the Kshatriyas. The next two classes are not very difficult to identify.)


The most important aspect of this system was the working relationship between Brahmins and Kshatriyas. Brahmins did not do any job or business for their living. They lived very frugally. The sources of their livelihood were two. First, almost all of them used to teach. There were no fixed tuition fees for teaching. Each student paid as per his own means. There used to be no demand from the teachers for teaching. The students paid, what was called "Guru-Dakshina", only after their studies were complete. For day to day expenses of the school (called Ashram), which were meager in any case, the students, including princes and the progenies of rich people, used to beg. Begging was not considered unrespectable in those days since even the sages and saints (Buddha and Mahavira also used to beg for their living) used to beg for their living. Begging was not the refuge of those who were the lowliest of the society. For them there were the menial jobs. The students were asked to beg mainly to teach them humility. Arrogance and egoistic behavior were considered the nature of uncivilized and anti-social people. Scholars or Brahmins begged because they did not take up any jobs or business. Their time was spent in contemplation, Sadhana and studies. Other people, considered it a virtue to give alms to these people.


The second source of their livelihood was the grants given by the king. It was the duty of the king to provide for the Brahmins. The king could not shirk his responsibility towards the Brahmins of his kingdom. Though the power to rule was vested with the king, he used to rule in accordance with the directives given by the Brahmins. Those directives were binding upon the king. In case of any confusion regarding his duties, the king used to take guidance from those scholars. In matters of Dharma too, Brahmins used to guide the king. Since the king had no choice in providing for those wise men, and also because they did not depend on the king for their livelihood, the king could not influence those learned men. As Brahmins had no vested interests in the affairs of the kingdom and as they had no greed or ambitions for themselves, they used to guide the king selflessly. They were so respected by the people that if any king dared to stray from the path of Dharma, these Brahmins successfully led the people against the king to overthrow him. So, the king knew that the real power lied with them. As long as he ruled according to the laid down rules, Brahmins never interfered with the affairs of the state. In this way, the society was governed as per the rules laid down by selfless people, who were great scholars. The king could never become a tyrant.


During the Mahabharata war most of the kings were killed. The soldiers, who returned home alive, established their rein over small areas they could control. The whole social system got disturbed. While earlier kings used to take care of the Brahmins, the soldiers, who became kings by virtue of their martial skills only and had no formal training in Raj-Dharma (Code of the Rulers), stopped the state patronage of Brahmins. People started finding it difficult to make both ends meet due to the collapse of the system of properly ruled states. They stopped sending their wards to ashrams for studies. Instead they preferred to train their kids in their own profession themselves. Due to the greatly reduced levels of income, people became reluctant to give alms. This situation created a sort of crisis for Brahmins. They could not take up any jobs, nor could they set up any business. For their survival they started inventing numerous rituals. They started charging for imparting education and misinterpreted Shastras (the sacred texts) to their own benefit. General public saw these developments and thought that Brahmins were becoming greedy. The respect for Brahmins started diminishing. This created a sort of vicious circle.


Earlier the caste system was based on profession. A Kshatriyas child, if inclined to wards intellectual pursuits, could become a Brahman. Similarly, if a Brahmin's son wanted to become a businessman, he was free to do so. The caste system was fluid. People chose their professions as per their interests, talents and temperaments. Since people took up labor of love they excelled in their profession. The society was prosperous and peaceful. After Mahabharata war, things began to change. Education system started to change for the worse. The process of its commercialization started taking root. While earlier every one interested in studies could simply go to an ashram and study there for free, now the question of affordability could not be ignored. Naturally, it became much more prudent for parents to train their children in their own vocation. From here, parentage based caste system took root which hastened the fall of India.


The most affected people, by this loss of royalty due to the war, were Brahmins. As mentioned earlier, since they had no other means left for their livelihood, they started distorting the meanings of Shastras in such a way that it suited them. They tightened their grip on the sacred texts making them unavailable for general populace. Since it became difficult for people to change their profession, the intellectual class started losing talent pool from other classes. As it is not necessary that a son will inherit all of his father's talents, the Brahmins' intellect, as a class, started losing its sheen. Many people, who were not interested in their family profession, were forced to remain in the same profession wasting their talents. A businessman's son, who could have become a great warrior, became a businessman. A Kshatriya's son, in spite of having intellect of a great scholar, was forced to train in martial arts making a poor warrior. In this way, the rot slowly set in. With so much of talent being wasted all around it was only a matter of time before Indian society lost its strength, knowledge and heritage.


(The reasons presented above are certainly not the only reasons for this fall of the great Indian society and its values. What is indisputable is that the rot set in only after Mahabharata War. Any war, of such magnitude, brings about such an all round destruction that it becomes extremely difficult to pin point a single reason or two for the  resultant changes in the affected society. All the aspects are so inextricably interlinked that it is well nigh impossible to isolate a particular factor. So, the matter presented here is only one aspect of the whole story.)

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