Caution against distorting history

BHOPAL, DEC. 30. ``There is need to guard against attempts by those in politics who are trying to propagate a new pan-Indian ideology of `Hindu-Rashtra' by rewriting Indian history,'' according to the historian, Prof. R. Champakalakshmi. All right-thinking people should be wary of those who are blatantly reconstructing the past to propagate their ideology based on pseudo-nationalism.

Prof. Champakalakshmi, who is here to participate in the ongoing 62nd session of Indian History Congress, told this correspondent that Hinduism was a confluence of many different strands of faith and cult practices and making a deliberate attempt to project it as a monolithic religion revolving principally around the temple and Lord Ram was a dangerous trend.

Tracing the origin of the temple, she said the temple as an institution evolved around `bhakti' as a major ideology under royal patronage. The temple as an agrarian institution led to the expansion of agrarian society and even became the focus of urban development and acted as an agent of the processes of civilisation and other craft-oriented activities. Temples also were integrative forces for socio-economic organisation and symbols of authority.

Prof. Champakalakshmi said the followers of `Vaishnavism' and `Saivism' represent distinct sectarian organisation and created different communities around the worship of such deities. The `Vira Saivism' of the 12th century is one of the most significant challenges to the brahminical religion of `Saivism' and `Vaishnavism' and the `Varna' (caste) order of society. She cited the example of `Saivism' promoted by the Chola rulers and `Vaishnavism' promoted by the Vijayanagar rulers. Orissa, she added, reflected a regional State built around the Jagannath cult. Despite their integrative role, temples did create a ritual ranking within the `Varna' system and kept the untouchables out of the precincts.

In the same context, Prof. Champakalakshmi said the ``untouchables'' were always kept on the outer periphery of the temple and brahminical society continued to dominate the lower castes.

She drew a clear line between the origin of temple as an institution symbolising religious faith and Vedic sacrifices that had no permanent structures. The two do not have any link whatsoever, she asserted saying that it was only through a long process of assimilation of different tribes and people that Vedic religion got subordinated to `Saivism' and `Vaishnavism'.

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