A Nation of Slaves- Roman Pagans to Hindus

“A nation of slaves is always prepared to applaud the clemency of their master, who, in the abuse of absolute power, does not proceed to the last extremes of injustice and oppression.” Edward Gibbon

They said history repeats itself for those who fail to learn from it. What could be more ironical that the day of release of a YouTube theatrical trailer of Padmavati, the epitome of Islamic brutality and viciousness, is accompanied by an apt verdict by the supreme court of India to ban Diwali celebrations in Delhi and NCR.It was on 9th of April 1667 that Aurangzeb ordered for a complete ban of crackers on the occasion of Diwali. Sometime before imposing the ban on atishbazi (fireworks) Aurangzeb had written (22 November 1665) to the Subahdar of Gujarat that “In the city and parganas of Ahmedabad (or Gujarat) the Hindus, following their superstitious customs, light lamps in the night on Diwali… It is ordered that in bazars there should be no illumination on Diwali.” (Mirat, 276).

Roman Empire, which created few of the most magnificent architectural marvels of the world, gave the west a concept of republic, had such a swift death. It is important for us to learn from the same as this was the last of the pagan civilization which had a recorded version of its death, that we avoid the same mistakes which led to their destruction. In his book ‘Decline and Fall of Roman Empire’ Edward Gibbon has brought out a few specific reasons for the decline and fall of Roman Empire. Among the various reasons in his multi volume book, it is in CH 27 – “Final Destruction of Paganism. – Introduction of the Worship of Saints, and Relics among the Christians” is what should be of interest to us. In this particular chapter, Gibbon explores various reasons as to why Paganism died. He said “The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition; and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind.“ As has been rightly pointed out, it is one of the most singular event in the history of world that a civilization came to an end so abruptly.  One can correctly identify the actions of all the three organs of the state, legislature, executive and judiciary that led to such a fall.

Gibbon clearly indicates that the primary reason for downfall of the Roman civilization has its root in the death of paganism. He amplifies the role of law makers in this destruction of Roman Empire.

His comments on the gradual denigration of the Roman priests are a telling comment on our own state of affairs. Hindus took a giant leap of faith when they opted for a system of republic, making the constitution their holy book. Little did they realise that the same book will be the cause of their eventual destruction. In the book “ The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century.

“ By  Dharampal, one can actually see the reason of decline of Hindu education system due to destruction of native education system by the British. The contempt for the natives and their way of life became part of the Indian constitution when, almost the entire Government of India Act, 1935 found its place in the new constitution.

Acceptance of this flawed constitution sowed the seeds of the destruction of the Hindu culture from the very beginning. I would not dwell into reasons leading to acceptance of such a flawed document as this is beyond the scope of this post and will be covered in subsequent posts if time permits. The constitutions in one stroke of pen demonized entire communities as oppressors and corrupt, and took over all the management of all temples under its control. This action of state can be compared with the action of Gratian, a roman emperor. When Gratian ascended the throne, he sternly rejected all pagan symbols ; applied to the service of the state, the revenues of the priests and vestals ; abolished their honours and immunities ; and dissolved the ancient fabric of Roman superstition, which was supported by the opinions, and habits, of eleven hundred years. Paganism was still the constitutional religion of Rome. Here one can clearly see the similarities, Hinduism was considered to be the de facto religion of India when the constitution was adopted.

 

It was during the debates of the adoption of various Hindu Bills, that one could realise the antihindu nature of the constitution. Similar event happened during the roman times as well when Symmachus pleaded with the augur and zeal of a priest, in the court of the emperor for allowing him to continue with his religion.

One can imagine the heart rendering pleas Symmachus when he must have pleaded for the cause of expiring Paganism; and his religious antagonists must have lamented the use of his genius, and the efficacy of his moral virtues. Symmachus  was conscious of the difficulty and danger of the office which he had assumed to plead before emperor Valentian. He cautiously avoided every topic which might have appeared to reflect on the religion of his sovereign; while humbly declaring, that prayers and entreaties were his only arms; and would have artfully drew his arguments from the schools of rhetoric rather than from those of philosophy. Similarities can be drawn during the initial debates while adopting the constitution of India when similar pleas were put forward by the likes of Dr Rajendra Prasad and others, where they like Symmachus tried to seduce the imagination of a young prince Jawahar Lal Nehru, by trying to reason it out with them.

The formation of management committees for Hindu temples is one of the most destructive blow for Hinduism apart from these Hindu code bills. One can only see reason when one reads the account of the way Somnath temple was rebuilt. Symmachus had argued that the confiscation of the revenues, which were consecrated to the service of the gods, was a measure unworthy of the liberal and disinterested character of the emperor; and he maintained, that the Roman sacrifices would be deprived of their force and energy, if they were no longer celebrated at the expense, as well as in the name, of the republic.

Every aspect of Hindu society was forcefully changed with the adoption of Hindu code bills. If we move Symmachus from roman court to the Indian parliament while it adopted the Hindu code bills, it would not have been out of place when he said “Even skepticism is made to supply an apology for superstition. The great and incomprehensible secret of the universe eludes the enquiry of man. Where reason cannot instruct, custom may be permitted to guide; and every nation seems to consult the dictates of prudence by a faithful attachment to those rites, and opinions, which have received the sanction of ages. If those ages have been crowned with glory and prosperity, if the devout people has frequently obtained the blessings which they have solicited at the altars of the gods, it must appear still more advisable to persist in the same salutary practice; and not to risk the unknown perils that may attend any rash innovations.”

The impassioned pleas of Symmachus, as given by Gibbon, “ Most excellent princes, fathers of your country; pity and respect my age, which has hitherto flowed in an uninterrupted course of piety. Since I do not repent, permit me to continue in the practice of my ancient rites. Since I am born free, allow me to enjoy my domestic institutions. This religion has reduced the world under my laws. These rites have repelled Hannibal from the city, and the Gauls from the capitol. Were my gray hairs reserved for such intolerable disgrace? I am ignorant of the new system, that I am required to adopt; but I am well assured, that the correction of old age is always an ungrateful and ignominious office.” Clearly speaks the heart out of every devout Hindu today.

Like Hinduism of today, Paganism of Roman times, was also firmly and repeatedly opposed by the clergy (Hinduism is opposed by NGOs, Secularists, courts and law makers) at every single step. Romans faced the scourge of Christianity while Hindus face the scourge of secular constitution. Clergy of roman times spoke like today’s rationalists. When  Ambrose faced Symmachus and condescend  to speak the language of a philosopher, and to ask, with some contempt, why it should be thought necessary to introduce an imaginary and invisible power, as the cause of those victories, which were sufficiently explained by the valour and discipline of the legions somehow makes us see the rationalists and secularists questioning our culture, our religion. Continuous derision of Hindu culture as primitive and dark shows the deep rooted hatred for paganism in the constitution. Arguments similar to those used by Ambrose are used by today’s judges in the courtroom with more energy and effect, when they ask, about the existence of our gods.

Roman emperor by asking the pagans, in a full meeting of the senate, whether the worship of Jupiter, or that of Christ, should be the religion of the Romans effectively destroyed the hopes of pagans to survive in a secular state. On a regular division of the senate, Jupiter was condemned and degraded by the sense of a very large majority; and it was rather surprising, that any members should have been  found bold enough to declare, by their speeches and votes, that they  were still attached to the interest of an abdicated deity.

It is interesting to note that one of the primary reasons to convert was that the state provided incentives to the neo converted and gradually educated the children and wives. This aspect has a similarity in today’s India. The state has gradually produced generations of brainwashed lots of students trained in secular studies which are completely disconnected from their roots. The state is responsible for the ultimate weakening of the Hindu religion by tacit conversion, by providing incentives in terms of missionary schools, which is in complete consonance with what is written in the constitution. This incentivisation by the state for weakening of connect from the roots Hinduism is the primary reason for the downfall of the religion and has resulted in mass conversion without changing names. I feel it is just a matter of time when the reservations will be allowed in the name of religion as it requires just a constitutional amendment though there are certain Christians and Muslims groups allowed to avail reservation at various levels.

When the PM of the nation says that constitution is the holy book, he forgets that similar proclamation has led to destruction of civilizations in the past. The decrees of the roman senate for making itself a secular nation led to the ultimate demise of entire Roman civilization. These Hindu law makers have somehow not learnt from the causes of death of other civilizations and are hell bent on destruction on the last bastions of the Hindus under the face of relentless attacks.

As Gibbon say, the success of Roman emperor’s first experiments against the Pagans, encouraged the pious emperor to reiterate and enforce his edicts of proscription; the same laws which had been originally published in single provinces, were applied, to the whole extent of the empire ; and every victory of the orthodox  member contributed to towards the same. A similarities can be seen in the manner legislature and judiciary have acted over a period of time. Law makers have time and again shown their incline towards anti Hindu policies, be it the passage of RTE, NAC, NCMEI and various other acts. It can be clearly seen that clauses of the constitution are selectively applied to get these laws passed and promulgated. Judiciary has also been compliant in the same. It has taken the liberty to pass strictures and unwarranted comments. These unwarranted comments pass unchallenged and later on form part of some or the other discussion or debate for law making.  Judiciary and legislature have conveniently attacked the Hindu rituals in the name of superstition.

Gibbon writes “ Converted Roman emperor attacked superstition in her most vital part, by prohibiting the use of sacrifices, which he declared to be criminal as well as infamous; and if the terms of his edicts more strictly condemned the impious curiosity which examined the entrails of the victims, every subsequent explanation tended to involve, in the same guilt, the general practice of immolation, which essentially constituted the religion of the Pagans. As the temples had been erected for the purpose of sacrifice, it was the duty of a benevolent prince to remove from his subjects the dangerous temptation, of offending against the laws which he had enacted.” Similar laws have been passed by the state and courts. Both have banned all forms of Hindu rituals by terming Hinduism as a way of life and not a religion. By claiming Hinduism as a way of life, the courts have essentially divided the entire Hindu religion into various sub sects. As a result individual targeting of Hindu practices has become easier for the legislature and judiciary. They can target a particular group without provoking the entire Hindu community.  States have passed anti superstition laws similar to those passed by the Roman emperor by which anyone who doesn’t fit their version of god is considered to be a fraud. They have passed strictures to close schools, temples similar to the ones passed during roman time. Roman emperor had  passed decree by which they were directed to shut the temples, to seize or destroy the instruments of idolatry, to abolish the privileges, of the priests, and to confiscate the consecrated property for the benefit of the emperor, of the church, or of the army. Here the desolation might have stopped: and the naked edifices which were no longer employed in the service of idolatry, might have been protected from the destructive rage of fanaticism. Many of those temples were the most splendid and beautiful monuments of Grecian architecture: and the emperor himself was interested not to deface the splendor of his own cities, or to diminish the value of his own possessions. Those stately edifices might be suffered to remain, as so many lasting trophies of the victory of Christ. A similar attack can be seen on Hindu temple and monuments, where one can hear chest beating for one Taj but none will battle an eye lid for forced and organized destruction of Hindu temples and monuments by the policies of the state.

There has been a secret hope among all the Hindus that there will be someone who’ll come and save Hinduism from this rampant destruction. It was with this hope that they supported Narendra Modi despite of being forced to undergo the harshest of the economic upheavals. They have endured the difficult times with a hope that this man will do the needful to turn the tide. It now appears that Mr. Modi haven’t read the verdict clearly. It appears that his win after win after demonetization and rhetoric for vikas seems to have misdirected him. Hindus are making him win because they think he can take forceful decision. It shouldn’t be construed as acceptance of his economic policies. The reason most of Hindus support him is for his decisiveness and not for his political acumen. Roman pagans also fondly cherished the secret hope, that an auspicious revolution, a second Julian, might again restore the altars of the gods; and the earnestness with which they addressed their unavailing prayers to the throne,’ increased the zeal of the Christian reformers to extirpate, without mercy, the root of superstition. The laws of the emperor exhibited some symptoms of a milder disposition but their cold and languid efforts were insufficient to stem the torrent of enthusiasm and rapine, which was conducted, or rather impelled, by the spiritual rulers of the church.

During the history of Hindu resistance many leaders rose to fight and turn the tide on our favour. There have been arguments Hinduism survived the onslaught of Islamic invasion for around  a thousand years as Islamic invasion were not relentless they were assimilated in the Indian way of life. I find this argument patently false. Primary reason for the same is, despite of all the Islamic attacks most of the times there were certain Hindu rulers who had forged alliances with these Muslim invaders. These alliances in effect always gave the Hindus a breathing space to continue with their Hindu way of life. Despite the destruction of temples and imposition of countless atrocities there were certain pockets of Hindu resistance that kept the flame of valour burning. This is not the case in present day. With the acceptance of the constitution and nation states the courts and the parliament have become supreme. Therefore any law which is passed by the two do not have any recourse. Before the advent of concept of nation states it was possible for a group to fight for its existence (Shivaji, Rana Pratap etc). Post conversion to  constitutional republic, demography plays a significant role in determination of the character of the constitution. In addition education is one of the most significant aspect of the same.

Consequences of acceptance of secular constitutional system can be equated to what happened during the Roman times. Pagans were made to accept that idolatry is not the state religion and were made apologetic about this. This eventually led to destruction of the temple of Serapis by Theophilus, without any other difficulties

One marvels at the sight of the grandeur of the temples and other architectural wonders of ancient India. The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have irretrievably perished due to its destruction at the hands of Muslim invaders, may not survive the destruction by the state as there can be no resistance to such destruction.

It is also of importance that there has been relentless attacks on every ritual of Hindu culture in the name of superstition. During Roman times, “Theophilus labored to expose the frauds and vices of the ministers of the idols ; their dexterity in the management of the loadstone ; their secret methods of introducing an human actor into a hollow statue ; and their scandalous abuse of the confidence of devout husbands, and unsuspecting females. Charges like these may seem to deserve some degree of credit, as they are not repugnant to the crafty and interested spirit of superstition. But the same spirit is equally prone to the base practice of insulting and calumniating a fallen enemy ; and our belief is naturally checked by the reflection, that it is much less difficult to invent a fictitious story, than to support a practical fraud.” One can see the effort by the known culprits to paint every aspect of Hindu civilization in a negative light. This in effect makes us apologetic and tends to put us into a guilt trip, essentially hastening the disconnect with the own religion.

It is also interesting to note that Romans Catholics used the converted to destroy the pagan temples, similar to the converted Muslims during Islamic invasions. This not only tested the faith of the neoconverted but also hastened the process of decay of the pagan religion. Similar tactics is used where neo converted do not change names and provide credibility to their efforts.

Gibbon writes “The popular modes of religion, that propose any visible and material objects of worship, have the advantage of adapting and familiarizing themselves to the senses of mankind : but this advantage is counterbalanced by the various and inevitable accidents to which the faith of the idolater is exposed. It is scarcely possible, that, in every disposition of mind, he should preserve his implicit reverence for the idols, or the relics, which the naked eye, and the profane hand, are unable to distinguish from the most common productions of art, or nature; and if, in the hour of danger, their secret and miraculous virtue does not operate for their own preservation, he scorns the vain apologies of his priests, and justly derides the object and the folly of his superstitious attachment.” This statement essentially describes the nature of threat to Hinduism. All efforts will be made for destroying his faith in his idols by derision and evoking the feel superstition( similar to the wastage of milk, money to temples, wastage of food etc). This will lead to desertion or destruction of temples similar to those of Roman Empire.

All pagan religions have the inherent ability to modify its rituals according to prevailing circumstances, but continuous modifications in rituals tend to erode the connect. The faith is easier to be shaken. All laws are made to hasten this process of modification of rituals. Paganism is represented by its rituals and connect to the gods, the link to the god is via rituals, and as a result laws are made to weaken this link. A similar effort can be seen in the light of Supreme Court judgement against Diwali ( primary reason for me to write this article).

When the Roman emperor declared “ This prohibitory law is expressed in the most absolute and comprehensive terms. “It is our will and pleasure,” says the emperor, ” that none of our subjects, whether magistrates or private citizens, however exalted or however humble may be their rank and condition, shall presume, in any city, or in any place, to worship an inanimate idol, by the sacrifice of a guiltless victim.” Gibbon further  writes “The act of sacrificing, and the practice of divination by the entrails of the victim, are declared (without any regard to the object of the enquiry) a crime of high treason against the state; which can be expiated only by the death of the guilty. The rites of Pagan superstition, which might seem less bloody and atrocious, are abolished, as highly injurious to the truth and honour of religion; luminaries, garlands, frankincense, and libations of wine, are specially enumerated and condemned ; and the harmless claims of the domestic genius, of the household gods, are included in this rigorous proscription.”  These statements shows the true nature of secularism. It shows that to kill paganism the rule of law is made to ensure extreme punishments for minutest digression to ensure compliance. These may range from fines to confiscation of property and jail terms.

It was also observed that Christianity being a minority was given a free hand for a similar breach of law, a case similar to what we see today when minorities are judged by different yardstick in every aspect, from laws to national resources.

Gibbon further writes “The experience of ages had betrayed the weakness, as well as folly, of Paganism ; the light of reason and of faith had already  exposed, to the greatest part of mankind, the vanity of idols ; and the declining sect, which still adhered to their worship, might have been permitted to enjoy, in peace and obscurity, the religious customs of their ancestors. Had the Pagans been animated by the undaunted zeal, which possessed the minds of the primitive believers, the triumph of the church must have been stained with blood ; and the martyrs of Jupiter and Apollo might have embraced the glorious opportunity of devoting their lives and fortunes at the foot of their altars. But such obstinate zeal was not congenial to the loose and careless temper of polytheism.” As seen what ails Hinduism is its collective awakening of consciousness. It has to see the impending danger to its very existence so as to make necessary amends for its survival. I have always told people around that a society is like a living being, it reacts to its prevailing situation. Once the society realizes that it is under threat it will activate its defensive structures to prevent its collapse. A society which doesn’t realise the same goes to its ultimate doom. Roman Pagans failed to see the same. Their internal structures decayed due to a variety of reason and that led to their ultimate destruction.

One aspect that merits special consideration is mentioned by Gibbon, when he writes “The violent and repeated strokes of the orthodox princes were broken by the soft and yielding substance against which they were directed; and the ready obedience of the Pagans protected them from the pains and penalties of the Theodosian Code. Instead of asserting, that the authority of the gods was superior to that of the emperor, they desisted, with a plaintive murmur, from the use of those sacred rites which their sovereign had condemned. If they were sometimes tempted, by a sally of passion, or by the hopes of concealment, to indulge their favorite superstition; their humble repentance disarmed the severity of the Christian magistrate, and they seldom refused to atone for their rashness, by submitting, with some secret reluctance, to the yoke of the Gospel.”  Hindus like roman pagans are ready to obey all strictures and laws for small mercies to avoid pain and penalties of the secular constitution despite of being aware of its harmful aspects. They are ready to accept all kinds of injustice silently instead of asserting their authority. The root cause of this behavior lies in their acceptance of this constitution and the implicit faith in legislature and judiciary to be the protectors of their civilization. A similar notion was there with the pagans of the roman civilization. They assumed the emperor to be the protector little realizing that the emperor had converted and all efforts were made by him to convert his subjects. We have to avoid such a pitfall for the Hindu civilization.

The curse of secularism is described by Gibbon when he write “If the Pagans wanted patience to suffer, they wanted spirit to resist; and the scattered myriads, who  deplored the ruin of the temples, yielded, without a contest, to the  fortune of their adversaries. The Pagans of the West, without contributing to the elevation of Eugenius, disgraced, by their partial attachment, the cause and character of the usurper. The clergy vehemently exclaimed, that he aggravated the crime of rebellion by the guilt of apostasy; that, by his permission, the altar of Victory was again restored; and that the idolatrous symbols of Jupiter and Hercules were displayed in the field, against the invincible standard of the cross.”

“But the Imperial laws, which prohibited the sacrifices and ceremonies of Paganism, were rigidly executed; and every hour contributed to destroy the influence of a religion, which was supported by custom, rather than by argument. The devotion of the poet, or the philosopher, may be secretly nourished by prayer, meditation, and study ; but the exercise of public worship appears to be the only solid foundation of the religious sentiments of the people, which derive their force from imitation and habit. The interruption of that public exercise may consummate, in the period of a few years, the important work of a national revolution. The memory of theological opinions cannot long be preserved, without the artificial helps of priests, of temples, and of books. The ignorant vulgar, whose minds are still agitated by the blind hopes and terrors of superstition, will be soon persuaded by their superiors, to direct their vows to the reigning deities of the age ; and will insensibly imbibe an ardent zeal for the support and propagation of the new doctrine, which spiritual hunger at first compelled them to accept.” The aforementioned lines by Gibbon clearly tells us what ails the Hindu civilization. The situation that was prevalent 1600 years ago is relevant today. It is important to understand that the primary and foremost thing that requires our immediate attention is Temples and education. Temples will be the rallying point only and only if there is dharmic education which is free from any interference from secular constitution. It is essential to understand in light of relentless attacks on Brahmans, temple priests, temple control and education control as to what is the target of attack. If we fail to correctly identify and take necessary actions we may as well be the Last of the Mohicans, the last of the flag bearers of 6000 years of civilization. If we fail the demise will be rapid and yet very gentle so much so that our vestiges would no longer be visible to the eyes of coming generation and we may also end up being a chapter in the history books like those of the Pagans of Rome.

Author- Ashok. He tweets at