Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.*
~ Ancient Indian saying
A recent UNESCO study on all of the 46 notable civilisations that ever existed since the dawn of known time, reveals that only one survives till this date. That is the Indian civilisation, old and yet thriving.
The terms 'empire' and a 'civilisation' are often used used interchangeably even though there is a vast difference between them. Its necessary to distinguish the difference to understand why India, is the last great surviving civilisation.
An empire is the control and the power exercised by a monarch or a group of people over a large number of states and people.
Empires are founded by violent means and maintained by inducing fear in the people, and subjugation of the masses is achieved by the frequent use of force and highly visible brutality. Empires always cause widespread misery by the extensive exploitation of the vast majority of people to benefit a relatively small group of privileged persons. Empires are top down societies, they impose their will on the people.
A civilisation on the other hand is a society which reaches an advanced state of social organisation and development based on widespread individual liberty and dignity. Where creativity, innovation, science, technology art, literature, music, philosophy, and spirituality blossom. A civilisation delivers benefits of health, safety, education, freedom, liberty, to all the people. In a civilisation education and knowledge evolves continuously to benefit its members. Civilisations are bottom up societies, they reflect the genuine aspirations of the people.
Rising and crashing like waves, empires come and go. Empires face constant mutinies, uprisings and rebellions. History reveals to us the examples of all empires be they Roman, Ottoman, Mughal, Mongol, Spanish, British etc. will eventually perish. Even if it takes hundreds of years, empires die out.
To keep the people in check, rulers of empires have to always use violence and continuously induce fear. But this also plants the seeds of corruption and revolutions, which weaken and finally destroy the empire. Religious fundamentalism and intolerance as part of state policy are key strategies that are used to control and subjugate people. Eventually the people who have nothing more to lose and will pay any price to change the status quo then empires become irreparably toxic and begin to crumble.
Most of the 45 civilisations that perished sought to be empires, and that is probably why they perished. Use of violence has a limited effect unless always applied and constantly increased. This is why empires eventually consume themselves. The Mongols and the Huns, are two brutal empires that immediately come to mind.
Using violence the Roman Catholic Church, converted all the kingdoms and the people of Europe to Christianity in less than 50 years. In a short time all of Latin America too was converted to Christianity as were North Africa, and parts of Central Asia.
Similarly the Islamic Caliphate conquered and converted to Islam in a short time the following great empires Persia (current day Iran) in just 17 years, Egypt in 21 years, Mesopotamia and Babylon (current day Iraq) in 17 years. They also converted Islam large parts of North Africa and Central Asia from Christianity.
Theologists, anthropologists and historians all struggle to understand and explain why 750 years of Muslim rule and 250 years of European Christian rule, India having lost nearly half its population to massacre, famine etc in this period still remains largely Hindu (80%).
India has seen many empires come and go, mostly foreigners, who sought to destroy Indian civilisation. Numerous invasions and holocausts have taken place, yet Indian civilisation survives and now beginning to thrive once again. What are the reasons that made this resilience and strength possible?
What could help explain that the waves of violence and physical power failing to destroy the Indian civilisation? What could help explain the success of the Indian civilisation and it outlasting all others and continue to thrive inspite of a 1000 years of genocide, destruction, depravation, brutalisation under foreign occupation and rule?
How come the original character of India remains mostly unchanged?
The answer lies in India being a open, secular, tolerant, society with respect for women, freedom and liberty for all. A society of seekers, constantly learning and evolving, in all fields of human endeavour. Be it philosophy, agriculture, science, technology, art, music, literature, health, education etc.
In Indian civilisation, violence is viewed with great disdain. Violence was and is treated as the lowest and most basic or animal like trait in a human being.
Secular often erroneously confused to mean tolerance or appeasement actually means the separation of government from religion. Secular rule encompasses liberty, protection and justice for everyone including the weak and those in the minority, but not at the expense of the majority.
The tradition within the Indian civilisation, is based on respect for all people and all things. Each individual is free to pursue happiness, worship, evolve and pursue enlightenment in any way they choose, as long as it does not harm or cause offense or inconvenience to other people, and the environment. A 'live and let live' philosophy. This is why there has been no revolution in India for 5000 years.
Empires are masculine in nature, aggressive and based mainly on the physical and seeks domination. Indian civilisations is feminine in nature, its adjusting and accommodating nature is based based primarily on the spiritual and intellectual and hence seeks to embrace. This digestive capacity of the Indian civilisation is its greatest strength and power.
The land of numerous great Masters, noble Saints, Prophets and Gurus, Indian civilisation has been able to digest all sorts of cultural and religious invasions.
Even those who have converted to other religions and belief systems are able to find harmony and respect in their existence and have a uniquely Indianised Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism.
What has not only lasted for thousands of years but endured and continues to thrive is certainly worthy of respect and admiration. India has always been a good example of tolerance, respect, happiness and learning and a boon not only for Indians but all of humanity, for today and for tomorrow.
The ancient Indian saying was first quoted in 1794 by a prominent scholar of ancient India and languages named Sir William Jones delivered a lecture titled “The Philosophy of the Asiatics”. He credited this concept of forgiveness to a Hindu pandit.
Muslim historian Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah known as 'Firishta' (1560 - 1620), the author of the 'Tarikh-i Firishta' and the 'Gulshan-i Ibrahim', was the first to give an idea to the medieval bloodbath that was India during Muslim rule, when he declared that over 400 million Hindus got slaughtered during Muslim invasion and occupation of India. Survivors got enslaved and castrated. India’s population is said to have been around 600 million at the time of Muslim invasion. By the mid 1500’s the Hindu population was 200 million.