Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Most Important Question of Indian History Is How Incarnations of Vishnu

The most important question of Indian history has never been asked! So it has never been answered as well!

Indian religion is made up of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Brahma is the creator of this universe, Vishnu is the preserver and maintainer, and Siva is the destroyer. Since Brahma’s job was done as soon as he created this universe, he no longer has any importance in the scheme of things - he is, therefore, not worshipped; worship is offered only to either Vishnu or Siva. So, Hinduism is made up of primarily two sects – Vaishnavites who worship Vishnu, and Saivites who worship Siva. Vishnu, in his role as preserver, keeps descending to earth every now and then to restore and preserve righteousness. Four supposedly historical figures got associated with him as his incarnations – Parasuram, Ram, Krishna, and Buddha. Vishnu is primarily worshipped in the form of Ram or Krishna. After linguistic and cultural studies were done on Indian history about two and half centuries ago, western historians have pointed out that India is primarily made of two ethnic groups – Indo-Europeans, termed as Aryans, who belong to the Vedic religion and Vaishnavite school of thought; and Dravidians, who belonged to the Saivite school of thought. After some further study, they propounded that Dravidians and Saivism are native to India, while Indo-Europeans, Vedic religion, and Vaishnavism came from outside India, when these Aryans invaded or migrated into India around 1500 BC. Even though there is much controversy over this theory, this has become the mainstream argument of the Indo-European history; and it has generally been agreed by one and all that Saivism, supposedly the religion of the native Dravidians, is much older than Vaishnavism, and is dated to at least five thousand years ago, if not more.

Now to the most important question of Indian - a question that can have impact on the historical studies of nearly three billion Indo-Europeans, spread across the world. Why have Parasuram, Ram, Krishna, and Buddha been associated with Indo-European God Vishnu as his incarnations? Why have they not been associated with Dravidian God Siva? The question is extremely important; yet it has never been asked!

As per the tradition of India, Vishnu is the preserver; so only he descends to earth and incarnates in order to restore righteousness in this world. Since Siva is the destroyer of the religion, he never incarnates. This answer, steeped in religious beliefs, has been accepted by one and all, including the rational and erudite historians who are not supposed to be easily carried away by religious beliefs.

Is this explanation for Vishnu’s incarnations admissible? Even though Siva does not have popularly known incarnations, a deeper look into the scriptures tells us that Saivite religion, or Saivism, is not averse to incarnations. Saivite scholar Sankara has been declared to be an incarnation of Siva, even though worship is not offered to him. Linga Purana, a Saivite scripture, talks about 28 incarnations of Siva, four more than any Vishnu incarnations ever listed in any scripture! As per scriptures, Siva has more number of incarnations than Vishnu! So, how can we say that Siva does not incarnate because he is the destroyer? We cannot. So, given that Saivism is not averse to incarnations, why did these godly figures of Ram, Krishna, and Buddha get associated with Vishnu and not with Siva? All the more astonishing is that fact that Ram, Krishna, and Vishnu are always described to be of pitch dark color, an attribute more of Dravidians than Aryans. So why have these godly figures not been declared as Siva’s incarnations?

Take the case of Sai Baba in India. After Krishna and Buddha, probably no other Godly figure has ever had such an in influence on the religious ethos of India. Sai Baba, a nineteenth century Saint from the Maharashtra region of India, is being revered as God’s incarnation by many – he has thousands and thousands of temples all over India today, with his worship even overtaking the worship other Hindu Gods at some places. Is he associated with Vishnu? No. Is he associated with Siva? No. He is associated neither with Vishnu nor with Siva; yet he is considered to be a Hindu God. So why has he not automatically been associated with Vishnu like the other historical figures before him? Why has he not been molded into the Vaishnavite concept of incarnations?

The reason is because, when there are two strongly competing sects, it is not possible to associate a godly figure with any one sect as each sect will claim the godly figure to be the incarnation of their own God. When north Indian saint Kabir died, both Hindus and Muslims fought for his dead body, with each sect claiming Kabir to be affiliated with their own faith. Similarly, if Saivism and Vashnavism were both extant during the time of Ram, Krishna, or Buddha, both the sects would have claimed them to be the incarnations of their own God. There would probably have been a bitter fight as well between the two sects, with each sect trying to appropriate the legacy of the godly figure. So why did these figures get associated with Vishnu alone?

One explanation for this question can be the supposedly strong affiliation of the godly figure. Despite the presence of two sects, a figure can get associated with one of these sects if he has shown overwhelming inclination towards one particular sect. In some parts of India, some historical figures got associated as incarnations of Vishnu, even though popular and traditional scriptures do not support this thought. Chaitanya, the sixteenth century saint of Bengal, has been accepted as an incarnation of Krishna/Vishnu because he was a staunch devotee of Krishna. He showed a clear and complete Vaishnavite inclination – so he was associated with Vaishnavism. Similarly, eighteenth century Saint Swaminarayan has been accepted as an incarnation of Vishnu in Gujarat because he preached towards devotion towards Vishnu throughout his life. So, taking such an explanation into account, did Parasuram, Ram, Krishna, or Buddha show such a clear inclination towards Vishnu in being staunch devotees of Vishnu?

If we go into the answers for this question, we are in for some surprises. Parasuram is portrayed in scriptures as a staunch devotee of Siva! Ram never talked of himself to be God. He was never associated with any miracles. His claim to fame is because he delivered people from a certain oppression and then taught people about morality and righteousness though his example. And he is claimed to be a strong devotee of Siva with a large number of temples all over India claiming to have Siva Lingas that were worshipped by Ram during his lifetime. As per some legends of the Indian epic Mahabharat, Krishna is supposed to have acquired his lethal weapons by worshipping and propitiating Siva. He is supposed to have got his wives and sons by worshipping Siva’s consort (wife) Parvati. Added to this, in Indian holy scripture Gita, Krishna does not talk of himself as an incarnation of Vishnu. He just talks of himself as the Supreme God who is not associated with any sect of Vaishnavism or Saivism. So, going by all of this, I would have expected these godly figures to be associated with Siva. There was an overwhelming possibility for these figures to have got declared as incarnations of Siva! It makes absolutely no sense to me to have them declared as incarnations of Vishnu. In case of Buddha, Buddha was not even a follower of Vedic religion; he propounded his own religion of Buddhism; yet he got associated as an incarnation of Vishnu! Given the personality affinity between Siva and Buddha, with both of them always shown in meditative postures, one would have expected Buddha to have been declared as an incarnation of Siva; yet, he is declared as an incarnation of Vishnu! It makes no sense that he is declared as an incarnation of Vishnu. Why have these godly figures got associated with Vishnu and not with Siva? The question is quite intriguing, as much as it is extremely important; yet, no historian ever asked himself of the question.

Did these godly figures get associated with Vishnu and not with Siva because Vishnu was the only God of the civilization at their time, with no competing sect of Saivism existing alongside Vaishnavism? Since Vishnu was the only God, each glorious presence on earth automatically got associated with him, not because he is the preserver? Was there a time when India was occupied only by Indo-Europeans with no or neglgible Dravidian population? This would then mean that the roots of Indo-European history would lie in India, and not around the Mediterranean as claimed by mainstream historians. This would completely reverse the historical calculations of three billion Indo-Europeans!


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