Indian History Carnival–70: Atheism,Islamic Jihad, Zero, Tulsi Das, Genizah collection, Syud Hossain

  1. Koenraad Elst has a paper on Atheism in Indian philosophy. He explains that Hinduism had a powerful premodern tradition of atheism, but it was superseded by theism

    Few people realize (and many Hindus will be startled if not angry to hear us assert it) that the karma doctrine is inherently linked with atheism, even in its vulgar moralistic version. Because the world is deemed inherently just, with a certain type of deeds automatically leading to a certain type of experiences, there is no need for a Father in heaven to dispense justice. In history, the most atheistic schools, especially Jainism, have had the most radical and uncompromising conception of karma. You are deemed stuck with your own karmic record, you have to work it off yourself and bear all the consequences yourself for any karma you incur further. No other being, whether human or divine, can relieve you of even the smallest quantity of karma. By contrast, in theistic Hinduism, lip-service is paid to the notion of karma, but in fact it is very watered down. People pray to a divine being for the diminution of karma, somewhat like Catholics can buy indulgences to be freed from so many years of purgatory.

  2. Secular African has a blog post about India before the coming of Islam. The post has an excerpt from M. A. Khan’s Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.

    Further evidence of the contrast between the Hindu and Muslim codes of war comes from Ferishtah’s narration of Deccan Sultan Muhammad Shah’s attack against King Krishna Ray of Vijaynagar kingdom in 1366. Muhammad Shah had vowed to slaughter 100,000 infidels in the attack and ‘the massacre of the unbelievers was renewed in so relentless a manner that pregnant women and children at the breast even did not escape the sword,’ records Ferishtah.485 The Muslim army in a treacherous surprise-attack put Krishna Ray on the flight and 10,000 of his soldiers were slain. Muhammad Shah’s ‘thirst for vengeance being still unsatisfied, he commanded the inhabitants of every place around Vijaynagar to be massacred,’ records Ferishtah.

  3. Why did Indians invent the number zero and not the Chinese or Babylonians? Alex Bellos visited Gwalior to find out.

    For George Gheverghese Joseph, a maths historian at the University of Manchester, the invention of zero happened when an unknown Indian mathematician about two thousand years realized that “this philosophical and cultural concept would also be useful in a mathematical sense.” Renu Jain, professor of mathematics at Jiwaji University in Gwalior, was my guide at the temple. She agreed that Indian ideas of spiritual nothingness led to mathematical zero. “Zero denotes nothing. But in India it was derived from the concept of shunya. Shunya means a sort of salvation,” she said. “When all our desires are nullified, then we go to nirvana or shunya or total salvation.” In the modern world it is common to see religion and science as always in conflict. Yet in ancient India, one cannot untangle mathematics and mysticism.

  4. Sunil Deepak has a review of Manas ka Hans, a bio-fiction about Tulsi Das written by Amrit Lal Nagar.

    [While Tulsi was writing Ram Charit Manas] Ever since the platform for worshiping Rama was built in the mosque and people could visit it, the people of Ayodhaya were happier. The soldiers of the mosque behaved less harshly. The anger between Hindus and Muslims had reduced. Even though some conservative Muslims were against this decision of Akbar, but they did not have any power. Tulsidas, every day, before starting writing, used to visit the Rama’s statue on the platform inside the mosque. (p. 301) Thus, Tulsi’s views about Babri mosque in Nagar’s book ask for the possibility of praying to Ram but they are also about living in harmony and friendship with Muslims and respecting the mosque. Nagar’s Tulsi is happy to worship Rama in the courtyard of the mosque and looks at it as a place of the worship to the “infinite formless God”.

  5. In 1896, Cambridge bought a huge archive of documents from a synagogue in Cairo. There is one fragment in that which is written in Devanagari script, but no one seems to be able to figure out what it says. Here is the blog post which mentions and here are some additional images.
  6. Maddy writes about Syud Hossain, the man who fought for Indian independence from United States

    Hossain continued to thunder in the lecture halls – he said in one meeting “Indians are not trusted with arms and yet hundreds of thousands of Indians are systematically taken across the seas to various parts of the world to fight nationalists not yet brought to the same state of servitude as themselves and to help to reduce them to that state. And he pushed even harder for independence “India is changing and changing very rapidly. The spirit of self-assertion and self-confidence manifested either in platform or in silent plans of works no doubt reveals the dawn of a new era in India”.

Thanks to all the contributors for the links. The next carnival will be up on Nov 15th. Please leave a links as comments to this post.

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