Mistaken historical pride – some examples

British writers I have read wrote thus. Indians pray to hundreds of gods, as well as to stones and trees. (Each Indian will pray to a few well-chosen manifestations of the one and only God of the universe.) Indians are afraid of the sea. (How is it that they were one of the great seafaring peoples of the world?) Alexander conquered India (without crossing the River Indus?) Hinduism is not more than 1,500 years old. Evidence? (How old are the so-called ‘desert’ religions of the Middle East?)

In examining the relative ages of our cultures, one needs to realise that, in the 19th century, racism-cum-colonialism led to futile attempted revisions of the previously-accepted historical record, to assert the superiority of the ‘Aryan’ people of Europe, and the primacy of their chosen cultural ancestor. Further, did not the culture of the non-Semitic Sumerians precede those of the Semitic people of the Middle East by a few thousand years? The culture of Mohenjo-Daro/Harappa seems quite old. And Indian maths (remember who discovered the zero?) seems to have a long history.

All this reflects false pride in the relative superiority of the European ‘Aryan.’ But then, the Chinese were believed to be the most advanced people technologically up to about 1,500 AD. The Persians were said to have had a 1,000 history of excellence in the arts. Muslim architecture in Central Asia – has it been bettered? There also seem to be many small cultures which had advanced philosophies – for example, the Mayan culture.

The reality is that all asserted superiority can only be temporary. Look at what happened to the great empires of history. Perhaps mankind cannot overcome the influences of our planets, since both planets and people are made of the same substance, stardust, and are thereby closely and inescapably linked in our respective trajectories!