Varna, Jati, Caste: A Primer on Indian Social Structures
A Primer on Indian Social Structures Caste is being used as a major weapon to shame Hindus. This crisp and easy primer presents a powerful counter to Western Universalism’s harsh attacks on caste. It is a long over-due toolkit to help all open-minded people gain an understanding of the subtleties of Hinduism’s complex social order. This social structure has, after all, produced a civilization with unparalleled diversity. The Vedic world view along with the historical journey of Varna and Jati demolishes the prevailing myths about caste.
Evocatively titled, Of Newtons and Apples: Insights into 50 Great Minds in Human History does exactly what it promises. It gives us a glimpse into the professional and personal lives of 50 great personalities whose names, in some cases, are a part of everyday conversation, while in others, they are familiar names about whom we know little.
Just the way the falling of an apple led to major discoveries by Newton, this work tries to identify sources of the genius of the personalities across human history. These men and women were either creators or those who redefined the course of history in their field of work. Interestingly, each article focuses on a major achievement and one aspect of their personal lives. Such sharpness makes the articles short, engaging and, in many cases, poetic.
The classification of personalities into Building, Doing and Thinking gives us new eyes to look at them once again and debate within ourselves, the fuzzy boundaries that exist between these three primary human activities.
When Qutub-ud-din Aibak died in a polo game 1210, he had left behind a rickety, fledgling Muslim kingdom in Delhi. For the next eighty-odd years, its fortunes swayed wildly, witnessing a record twelve kings. It was a period of incessant palace coups and serial political murders. The death of Balban extinguishes the so-called Muslim Slave dynasty and with it ends the shortlived Turkic Muslim imperialism. It also heralds the ascent of the Afghanistan-based Khaljis, classed as “low-born.” A straight line connects the origin of the Khaljis with the military airport built by the US in Zabul in 2006. By this time, Hindu political power in northern India is in total disarray with no unifying leader who has the vision to combat and expel the alien oppressor lodged in Delhi. No Hindu ruler exploits the repeated openings and vulnerabilities provided by internecine Sultanate warfare. Book 2 of Invaders and Infidels traces the unlikely rise of Jalal-ud-din Khalji as an illsuited monarch and ends with the maiden Islamic raid of Devagiri, the gateway to southern India. The incident will have far-reaching consequences for the history of India for the next six hundred years. It is a heady tale of a period rife with bloody intrigues, aggressive campaigns of Islamic expansionism, heroic wars of Hindu resistance and squandered chances for civilizational reclamation. The narrative in this book is marked by a flair of vivid historical storytelling, juxtaposing the oscillating fortunes of both Islamic conquests and the ensuing Hindu responses. It unearths a slew of eye-opening and forgotten details about the socio-political and economic life of the era whose impact is visible even today. Written in a fast-paced and engaging style, Book 2 of Invaders and Infidels is a riveting read of a critical juncture in the history of early Muslim rule of India.
India became politically independent in 1947, but for economic freedom it had to wait for another four decades until P.V. Narasimha Rao, in tandem with Dr Manmohan Singh, chaperoned the country’s liberalization process in the summer of 1991. In 2014, another seismic revolution unravelled, the contours of which are still being drawn. For the first time, a ‘new India’ had not just seen an alternative model of governance that is truly divorced from the Nehruvian ethos but also initiated a process of democratization and decolonization of the largely ‘elitist, insular and compromised’ Lutyens’ world.
Argumentative and deeply researched, Bharat Rising combines the narrative style of journalism and the rigour and discipline of academia. It is as much about the resetting of Lutyens’ world as it is about a new India shedding its traditional distrust, if not distaste, for the country’s civilizational and cultural past.
Few places in the world carry the heavy burden of history as effortlessly as Kashi, or Varanasi, has. The holy city embodies the very soul of our civilization and personifies the resilience that we have displayed over centuries in the face of numerous adversities and fatal attacks.
Waiting for Shiva: Unearthing the Truth of Kashi’s Gyan Vapi recreates the history, antiquity and sanctity of Kashi as the abode of Bhagwan Shiva in the form of Vishweshwara, or Vishwanath. Shiva himself assured his devotees of salvation if they leave their mortal coils in the city. The book delves into the history of this self-manifested swayambhu jyotirlinga shrine of Vishweshwara, which for centuries has been both a refuge for the devout and a target of the bloodiest waves of iconoclasm. However, each time an attempt was made to obliterate the temple by demolishing it, it managed to rise and prosper. Every iconoclastic storm was followed by an episode of persistence, tenacity and stubborn resolve. Shrines fell and shrines rose, but the Hindus of Kashi never gave up—not even once.
Waiting for Shiva documents these cataclysmic events in the temple’s history. The final death blow was dealt in 1669 by the Mughal despot Aurangzeb, who demolished the temple and erected few domes on the partially destroyed western wall to call it a mosque. The temple complex was desecrated and left strewn with ruins as a grim reminder of the humiliation and insult that Hindus had to face as a consequence of their holiest shrine being torn down to smithereens. The area that is now called the Gyan Vapi mosque and the surrounding land that lies adjacent to the new temple of Vishwanath, which came up towards the end of the 18th Century, has always been one of intense contestation. Bloody riots overran Varanasi over this issue multiple times in the past. During the colonial era, the doors of the British courts were knocked at to settle the occupancy issue, and they adjudicated the matter several times. Post-Independence, too, the desire to ‘liberate’ the complex has been seething in the Hindu imagination. A new suit filed in 2021 before the Varanasi civil court reopened a long-festering historical wound. Despite several appeals right up to the Supreme Court to dismiss the plaint, a survey by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was ordered, which would lay bare the truth in its findings by the end of 2023.
Vikram Sampath’s latest offering retraces the long history of this bitterly disputed site and the dramatic twists and turns in the checkered past of this hoary shrine. Piecing together numerous documents and accounts—Vedic and Puranic texts, Sanskrit literary sources, Agama shastras, Jataka tales, Persian accounts, travelogues of foreigners, archival records and copious legal documents detailing the contestation from the British era to modern Indian courts—the book recreates, for the first time with facts and cogent arguments, this stormy history right up to the present times. The long-suppressed secrets that lay hidden in Gyan Vapi finally finds a voice through this book.
Veda Made Simple is an important book. In a strikingly clear, lucid and straightforward manner, the author reveals the rich and complex philosophy and symbolism of the Veda for anyone who is open in mind and heart to receive the wisdom of humanity’s oldest spiritual scripture. That the author does this in the light of Sri Aurobindo—inarguably among the very few who realized and lived the deepest and highest Vedic truths in their beings—makes it even more significant. This book comes at the right time too, as Indians globally begin to reawaken to their timeless Vedic and Sanatan heritage.
A civilization that forgets its struggles is condemned to repeat its mistakes and spiral into a self-destructive cycle. The battles for freedom and the resistance against occupation and atrocities all too often recede from collective memory, overshadowed by the weight of oppression and systematically orchestrated efforts, to erase the Hindu identity through manipulated narratives. The sacred geography of Bharat, the cradle of Hindu dharma and the ancestral home of the Hindu people, has borne witness to relentless invasions, leaving scars on the collective psyche.
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement stands as a poignant testament to the devastation inflicted upon the roots of Hindu civilization and the arduous battle to reclaim it. In an era dominated by weaponized narratives, where the perpetrators of atrocities are romanticized as victims and the victims are crowned as oppressors, this book reminds of the facts and the inconvenient truths—of the blood, sweat and tears that many Hindus shed in fighting the good fight. It is a call to ensure that every Hindu born in an age, removed from those trials and tribulations, never forgets the sacrifices made by those who went before them. For if we forget, we are complicit in normalizing the obliteration of our great civilization.