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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

Golden Age Hallucinations

Indian civilisation derives from no utopian ideal; it was founded on, and as, a crossroads

Golden Age Hallucinations
Yusuf Arakkal
Golden Age Hallucinations
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Two radically different conceptions of India have informed discussions amongst both academics and normal human beings in the past decade or so, and it is the tension between these two conceptions that I wish to treat here. On the one hand, we have the view that 'India' as we know it was invented in the not-too-distant past, probably by the British, or perhaps by Indians and Britons acting together in the period of colonial rule. This is what we may call the constructivist approach, one that from its academic origins has percolated to other parts of elite Indian society which have willy-nilly absorbed the best and the worst of post-modernist gobbledygook by now. There is of course some truth to the notion that the idea of India altered significantly in the 19th and 20th centuries, but one may legitimately doubt whether the whole thing was made up in recent times as a sheer act of will.

The second view, which is radically opposed to the first, and which today finds more extensive political expression than academic support, is the idea that some very stable and autarchic notion of India has been around for a very long time, indeed from the time when a classical Indian civilisation put down its roots in the Indo-Gangetic plain. This is a view that sees Indian society in terms of three (or two-and-a-half) phases: a formative one, ending at the close of the first millennium of the Christian era; a second phase of confusion and decline that is roughly coterminous with Islamic rule, and then a third—which may yet be incomplete—of resurgence and a return to the roots. We can all identify the crudest versions of the latter view in the writings of the ideologues of the rss or their Neanderthal counterparts elsewhere, including rabble-rousing European journalists in India, but the problem is that this view is far more widely shared than one often...
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