Author: François Gautier

François Gautier

About the Author

François Gautier was born in Paris, France. He was South Asia correspondent for Le Figaro, one of France’s leading newspapers. He also wrote columns for Indian newspapers: the ‘Ferengi’s column’ in the Indian Express, then the “French Connection” column in the Pioneer, as well as regular contributions for Rediff., New Indian Express, Times of India blogs, etc.

François has written several books – amongst the latest : A New History of India (Har Anand, 2008), The Art of Healing (Harper Collins, 2011), Quand l’Inde s’éveille, la France est endormie (Editions du Rocher, 2013), « Apprendre à Souffler (Hachette Marabout, 2016) & « Nouvelle Histoire de l’Inde » (Editions de l’Archipel, 2017), « Les Mots du Dernier Dalaï-lama » (Flammarion, 2018), « In Defense of a Billion Hindus » (Har Anand, 2018) & « Hindu Power in the 21st Century » (Har Anand, 2019)

Francois, who is married for 30 years to Namrita, shuttles between Pune and Delhi. He is building a Museum of (real) Indian History in Pune (factmuseum.com).

The Hijacking Of Shivaji’s Legacy
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The Hijacking Of Shivaji’s Legacy

Marathas should not only be proud that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a Maratha, but they should also acknowledge that he has had a lasting influence on the Marathi psyche, which makes their people more nationalistic and self confident than those of many other Indian states. At the same time, Shivaji should be elevated to the status of a ‘national hero for modern India’, for he embodied all the qualities that are so badly needed in today’s Indian politicians: Shivaji was fearless and his courage was extraordinary. He was devoted to his own country, call it Bharat or Bhavani Bharati, or India. He was truly secular, never harming his enemies’ wives and children and though he was a devoted Hindu, he never destroyed a mosque. He was a great administrator; whatever he conquered, he saw to it that it was justly administered. He was absolutely free of corruption and cared little for his own comfort. He had great vision and wanted to unify India. Because of his sacrifice, India’s culture, spirituality and social fabric is better preserved from Mumbai to Kanyakumari. There are a few who have tried to hijack Shivaji and bind him for their own purposes. One such is Marathi writer and activist Sanjay Sonavani, who wrote a piece in Lokmat on November 19, attacking the Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) for building a shrine and a museum in Pune. First, the article is full of glaring errors: the Foundation has erected a shrine dedicated to Bhavani Bharati, not Shivaji; second, FACT is trying to build a museum of Indian history named after Shivaji and which honours him, but Shivaji’s history will only be a part of the museum. Sonavani attacks FACT on three counts: he says FACT is trying to make a god out of Shivaji; he objects to the fact that Shivaji is associated to Bharat Mata; and he says FACT is trying to link Shivaji to the Vedas. But FACT never said Shivaji was god, we only quoted Aurobindo Ghosh who wrote that he was a Vibhuti. A Vibhuti is not god but an instrument of god. Sri Aurobindo had also written that Napoleon was a Vibhuti and that he was the first one who had a vision of a unified Europe. Nobody ever protested that. Then, as far as Shivaji’s connection, or non-connection with Mother India or Bharat Mata, there are two undisputed facts: that Shivaji was extremely devoted to his own mother, who played an important influence in his life; secondly that he was as devoted to his own country, and that he wanted to rid her of her enemies. If that is not love for Mother India, then what is? That Hindus have, since time immemorial, chosen to associate their country to the feminine element is highly laudable. The Romans had done the same: Patria. I am a Frenchman brought up in the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and to me it is absolutely irrelevant what caste Shivaji belonged to, who his father or guru was. He was an extraordinary being. It matters not either, whether he related himself to the Vedas or any Hindu scriptures. I doubt it: he was a warrior who wanted to preserve his culture and protect his people. What is for sure is that he was a Hindu, as are a billion Hindus today, whether they are Marathas or Tamil. The theory of the Aryan invasion has been proved false by numerous recent discoveries, it has been opposed by every saint, whether Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; yet it is still used today by Christian missionaries, Marxist historians and Muslim scholars to divide India between South and North, Hindi and Dravidian, Brahmins and Shudras. Sanjay Sonavani plays into their hands. Finally, the biggest enemies of Hindus are Hindus, not Muslims or Christians. India could never have been conquered if Hindus had not betrayed Hindus. The last great Hindu empire, Vijaynagar, which was so extraordinary that its history will have pride of place in FACT’s museum, could not have been razed by Muslims if the Lingayats had not betrayed their brothers and sisters. Shivaji’s most dangerous opponent was a Hindu, Jai Singh who served Aurangzeb. It is sad that even today Hindus are so divided, undermining each other and the few supporters of their great history and spirituality. It is also a great shame that in the town of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, one cannot find a single museum worth the name to honour his memory and the spiritual and martial inheritance he left behind him. FACT only wants to remedy to that.   Reprinted with permission of the author  The writer is editor-in-chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde and author of A New History of India. Original Article
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Archive

India & The Dalai Lama’s Birthday

On 6 July 2020, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, turned 85. I scanned the entire Net looking for mention of this extremely important event – but in vain! There was mention of the birthday of actor Ranveer Singh (who?) – but absolutely nothing about the Dalai Lama and Tibet. Does India and the BJP government of Narendra Modi understand the extreme importance of that event? The Dalai Lama may be the last chance for India to regain a friendly border between herself and the Chinese enemy – and time is running out. You do know, I hope, that out of the 40,000 or so kms of border with China, nearly 3300 belong to Tibet! Tibet was always a friendly and peaceful buffer between the two giants of Asia. When Nehru allowed China to take over this tiny nation, he committed one of his biggest blunders – and India is still paying the price for it. The Chinese, who are most ruthless and intelligent, are just waiting for the Dalai Lama to die, to nominate their own puppet Dalai Lama, the way they named a Panchen Lama. Then it will be not only the end of the possibility of free Tibet, but from a geostrategic point of view, India will have to face in the coming decades not only a hostile border with China, without the buffer of Tibet, but also the disadvantage of China swooping down from the heights of Tibet onto India’s valleys as it did in 1962. Did you also know that according to the CIA, China has placed many of its nuclear warheads in Tibetan caves, where they escape the scrutiny of satellites and that many of them are pointed towards Indian cities? We also know that most of South Asia’s great rivers are born in Tibet and that China is building many dams upon them, depriving India and many other countries of this precious water. Thus the importance of a free Tibet has never been so crucial to India – specially at the time of extreme tension with China on many fronts, whether Ladakh, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Kashmir, or even on sea, in the Indian Ocean. But do you think that the higher bureaucrats of the External affairs Ministry of India can understand that? No, not at all. Their minds are frozen in the Nehruvian thinking that one must compromise with China at all costs! It was so in the 50’s, it was in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and it is still true, unfortunately, today. They have not learnt that the Chinese always pretend to negotiate – while preparing for war. Who will then grasp that the 85 year old Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel Peace prize, is India’s most powerful weapon against China? Firstly, his very name makes the Chinese shake with anger and they lose – for once — all common sense; secondly, India should respond tit for tat: China says that Kashmir is a disputed territory; China claims Arunachal Pradesh; China has taken over swathes of Indian territory, whether the Aksai Chin, or bits here and there in Assam, Ladakh, Sikkim or Bhutan. Then why the hell can’t India say that Tibet is a disputed territory? Why cannot the BJP government of Narendra Modi allow, for instance, the Dalai-lama to do a teaching in Ladakh, where he has thousands and thousands of followers – right under the nose of the Chinese? Indeed, India, without knowing it, has in his Holiness, not only a friend, but also a Yogi, the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet, as an important ally – and it is high time that the Prime Minister uses that dharmic weapon against China. We may quote here Sri Aurobindo, India’s great revolutionary, poet, philosopher and avatar who was also a prophet and wrote in 1949: “The significance of Mao’s Tibetan adventure is to advance China’s frontier right down to India and stand poised there to strike at the right moment and with right strategy… We must burn it into our minds that the primary motive of Mao’s attack on Tibet is to threaten India as soon as possible.” Happy Birthday, your Holiness. May God grant you long life! Reprinted by arrangement with the Author François Gautier’s Blog
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Open Letter
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An Open Letter

What was called in the ancient times Sanatan Dharma, which has come down to us today under the name of Hinduism, with its many branches, sects and gurus, is in great danger today, as it is attacked by many forces. The enemies of Hindus are united, even if it is in disunity, even if it is a temporary arrangement based on a common hatred. Christian conversions, the onslaught of Muslim fundamentalism, the abhorrence of communists for Hinduism, the infinite dangers of Globalisation and Americanisation, the disregard of India’s intellectual elite of India for their own culture and spirituality, are slowly but surely making a dent in India’s psyche … There are so many great gurus incarnated in India at the moment. Yet not only are they not united against the common enemy, or for the common good, but they often compete against each other for disciples or territory and even criticize each other. Disunity has always been the curse of Hinduism and India and whichever enemy conquered this country, did it not because of superior strength, but because they were helped by Hindu betrayers. Remember the last great Hindu empire, that of Vijaynagar. The Christians have a Pope, the Muslims the word of the Koran, communists have Der Kapital of Karl Marx, but Hindus are fragmented in a thousand sects, which often bicker with each other. Excerpted from François Gautier’s article posted on July 27, 2018 and reprinted here with permission
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The Genius of Hindu Indian Politics

Another of these great prejudices with which Indians had to battle for centuries, is that whatever the spiritual, cultural, artistic, even social greatness of India, it always was disunited, except under Ashoka and some of the Mughal emperors — just a bunch of barbarian rulers, constantly fighting themselves — and that it was thanks to the Mughals and the British, that India was finally politically united. This is doing again a grave injustice to India. The Vedic sages had devised a monarchical system, whereby the king was at the top, but could be constitutionally challenged. In fact, it even allowed for men’s inclination to war, but made sure that it never went beyond a certain stage, for only professional armies fought and the majority of the population remained untouched. Indeed, at no time in ancient India, were there great fratricidal wars, like those between the British and the French, or even the Protestants and the Catholics within France itself. Moreover, the system allowed for a great federalism: for instance, a long time after the Vedic fathers, the real power lay in the village panchayats. Sri Aurobindo refutes the charge (which Basham levels), that India has always shown an incompetence for any free and sound political organisation and has been constantly a divided nation. “There always was a strong democratic element in pre-Muslim India, which certainly showed a certain similarity with Western parliamentary forms, but these institutions were Indian”. The early Indian system was that of the clan, or tribal system, founded upon the equality of all members of the tribe. In the same way, the village community had its own assembly, the “visah”, with only the king above this democratic body. The priests, who acted as the sacrifice makers and were poets, occultists and yogis, had no other occupation in life and their positions were thus not hereditary but depended on their inner abilities. And it was the same thing with warriors, merchants, or lower class people. “Even when these classes became hereditary”, remarks Sri Aurobindo, “from the king downwards to the Shudra, the predominance, say of the Brahmins, did not result in a theocracy, because the Brahmins in spite of their ever-increasing and finally predominant authority, did not and could not usurp in India the political power”. (Foundations of Indian Culture p. 326). The Rishi had a peculiar place, he was the sage, born from any caste, who was often counsellor to the King, of whom he was also the religious preceptor. Later it seems that it was the Republican form of government which took over many parts of India. In some cases these “Republics” appear to have been governed by a democratic assembly and some came out of a revolution; in other cases, they seem to have had an oligarchic senate. But they enjoyed throughout India a solid reputation for the excellence of their civil administration and the redoubtable efficiency of their armies. It is to be noted that these Indian Republics existed long before the Greek ones, although the world credits the Greeks with having created democracy; but as usual History is recorded through the prism of the Western world and is very selective indeed. One should also add that none of these Indian republics developed an aggressive colonising spirit and that they were content to defend themselves and forge alliances amongst them. But after the invasion of Alexander’s armies, India felt for the first time the need to unify its forces. Thus the monarchical system was raised-up again; but once more, there was no despotism as happened in Europe until the French revolution: the Indian king did enjoy supreme power, but he was first the representative and guardian of Dharma, the sacred law; his power was not personal and there were safeguards against abuses so that he could be removed. Furthermore, although the king was a Hindu, Hinduism was never the state religion, and each cult enjoyed its liberties. Thus could the Jews and the Parsis and the Jains and the Buddhists, and even the early Christians (who abused that freedom), practise their faith in peace. Which religion in the world can boast of such tolerance? As in a human being, a nation has a soul, which is eternal; and if this soul, this idea-force, is strong enough, it will keep evolving new forms to reincarnate itself constantly. “And a people”, maintains Sri Aurobindo, “who learn consciously to think always in terms of Dharma, of the eternal truth behind man, and learn to look beyond transient appearances, such as the people of India, always survives.” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p.334). And in truth, Indians always regarded life as a manifestation of Self and the master idea that governed life, culture and social ideals of India has been the seeking of man for his inner self — everything was organized around this single goal. Thus, Indian politics, although very complex, always allowed a communal freedom for self-determination. In the last stages of the pre-Muslim period, the summit of the political structure was occupied by three governing bodies: the King in his Ministerial Council, the Metropolitan Assembly and the General Assembly of the kingdom. The members of the Ministerial Council were drawn from all castes. Indeed the whole Indian system was founded upon a close participation of all the classes; even the Shudra had his share in the civic life. Thus the Council had a fixed number of Brahmin, Kshatrya, Vaishya and Shudra representatives, with the Vaishya having a greater preponderance. And in turn, each town, each village, had its own Metropolitan Civic Assembly allowing a great amount of autonomy. Even the great Ashoka was defeated in his power tussle with his Council and he had practically to abdicate. It is this system which allowed India to flower in an unprecedented way, to excel perhaps as no other nation had done before her, in all fields, be it literature, architecture, sculpture, or painting and develop great civilizations, one upon the other, each one more sumptuous, more grandiose, more glittering than the previous one. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020)
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The Greatest Hindu Literature?

Mr Basham, author of the “The Wonder that was India”,  feels that “much of Sanskrit literature is dry and monotonous, or can only be appreciated after a considerable effort of the imagination” (Wonder that Was India, page 401), which shows a total misunderstanding of the greatness of the genius of that Mother of all languages. Sri Aurobindo evidently disagrees with him: “The ancient and classical literature of the Sanskrit tongue shows both in quality and in body an abundance of excellence, in their potent originality and force and beauty, in their substance and art and structure, in grandeur and justice and charm of speech, and in the heightened width of the reach of their spirit which stands very evidently in the front rank among the world’s great literatures.” (Foundations of Indian Culture p. 255) Four masterpieces seem to embody India’s genius in literature: the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata. As seen earlier, the Vedas represent “a creation of an early and intuitive and symbolic mentality” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p.260). It was only because the Vedic rishis were careful to clothe their spiritual experiences in symbols, so that only the initiated would grasp them, that their meaning has escaped us, particularly after they got translated in the last two centuries. “The Veda is the WORD discovering truth and clothing in image and symbol, the mystic significance of life”, wrote again Sri Aurobindo. (India’s Rebirth, p.95) As to the Upanishads, asserts the Sage from Pondichery, “they are the supreme work of the Indian mind, that of the highest self-expression of genius, its sublimest poetry, its greatest creation of the thought and word.. a large flood of spiritual revelation…” (Foundations of Indian Culture p.269). The Upanishads are Philosophy, Religion and Poetry blended together. They record high spiritual experiences, are a treaty of intuitive philosophy and show an extraordinary poetic rhythm. It is also a book of ecstasy: an ecstasy of luminous knowledge, of fulfilled experience, “a book to express the wonder and beauty of the rarest spiritual self-vision and the profoundest illumined truth of Self and God and the Universe”, writes Sri Aurobindo (Foundations of Indian Culture, 269). The problem is that the translations do not render the beauty of the original text, because these masterpieces have been misunderstood by foreign translators, who only strive to bring out the intellectual meaning without grasping the soul contents of it and do not perceive the ecstasy of the seer “seeing” his experiences. But without doubt, it is the Mahabarata and the Ramayana, which are dearest to all Indians, even today. Both the Mahabarata and the Ramayana are epical, in the spirit as well as the purpose. The Mahabarata is on a vast scale, maybe unsurpassed even today, the epic of the soul and tells a story of the ethics of India of that time, its social, political and cultural life. It is, notes Sri Aurobindo, “the expression of the mind of a nation, it is the poem of itself written by a whole nation… A vast temple unfolding slowly its immense and complex idea from chamber to chamber” (Foundations of Indian Culture, p 287). More than that even, it is the HISTORY OF DHARMA, of deva against asura, the strife between divine and titanic forces. You find on one side, a civilisation founded on Dharma, and on the other, beings who are embodiments of asuric egoism and misuse of Dharma. It is cast in the mould of tales, legends, anecdotes, telling  stories of philosophical, religious, social, spiritual values: “as in Indian architecture, there is the same power to embrace great spaces in a total view and the same tendency to fill them with an abundance of minute, effective, vivid and significant detail”. (Foundations of Indian Culture, p 288). The Baghavad Gita must be the supreme work of spiritual revelation in the whole history of our human planet, for it is the most comprehensive, the most revealing, the highest in its intuitive reach. No religious book ever succeeded to say nearly everything that needs to be known on the mysteries of human life: why death, why life, why suffering? why fighting, why duty? Dharma, the supreme law, the duty to one’s soul, the adherence to truth, the faithfulness to the one and only divine reality which pertains to all things in matter and spirit. “Such then is the divine Teacher of the Gita, the eternal Avatar, the Divine who has descended into human consciousness, the Lord seated within the heart of all beings, He who guides from behind the veil all our thought and action”. (Sri Aurobindo; Essays on the Gita, page 17) The Ramayana’s inner genius does not differ from the Mahabharata’s, except by a greater simplicity of plan, a finer glow of poetry maybe. It seems to have been written by a single hand, as there is no deviation from story to story. But it is, remarks Sri Aurobindo, “like a vastness of vision, an even more winged-flight of epic in the conception and sustained richness of minute execution in the detail (289). For Indians, the Ramayana embodies the highest and most cherished ideals of manhood, beauty, courage, purity, gentleness. The subject is the same as in the Mahabharata: the struggle between the forces of light and darkness; but the setting is more imaginative, supernatural and there is an intensification of the characters in both their goodness and evil. As in the Mahabharata too, we are shown the ideal man with his virtues of courage, selflessness, virtue and spiritualized mind. The asuric forces have a near cosmic dimension of super-human egoism and near divine violence, as the chased angels of the Bible possessed after them. “The poet makes us conscious of the immense forces that are behind our life and sets his action in a magnificent epic scenery, the great imperial city, the mountains and the ocean, the forest and wilderness, described with such largesse as to make us feel that the whole world were the scene of his poem and its subject the whole divine and titanic possibility of man, imagined in a few great or monstrous figures”. (Foundations of Indian Culture page 290) Does India’s literary genius end with the Ramayana? Not at all. It would take too long here  to jot down all the great figures of Indian literature and this is not a literary treatise. But we may mention Kalidasa, whose poetry was imitated by all succeeding generations of poets, who tried to copy the perfect and harmoniously designed model of his poetry. The Puranas and the Tantras, “which contain in themselves”, writes Sri Aurobindo, “the highest spiritual and philosophical truths, while embodying them in forms that are able to carry something of them to the popular imagination and feeling by way of legend, tale, symbols, miracles and parables.” (Foundations of Indian Culture P.312).   The Vaishnava poetry, which sings the cry of the soul for God, as incarnated by the love stories of Radha and Krishna, which have struck forever Indian popular imagination, because they symbolize the nature in man seeking for the Divine soul through love. Valmiki, also moulded the Indian mind with his depiction of Rama and Sita, another classic of India’s love couples and one that has survived through the myth of enduring worship, in the folklore of this country, along with the popular figures of Hanuman and Laksman. “His diction”, remarks Sri Aurobindo, “is shaped in the manner of the direct intuitive mind as earlier expressed in the Upanishads”. But Indian literature is not limited to Sanskrit or Pali. In Tamil, Tiruvalluvar, wrote  the highest ever gnomic poetry, perfect in its geometry, plan and force of execution. In Hindi, Tulsidas, is a master of lyric intensity and the sublimity of epic imagination. In Marathi,  Ramdas, poet, thinker, yogi, deals with the birth and awakening of a whole nation, with all the charm and the strength of a true bhakti. In Bengal, there is Kashiram, who retold in simple manner the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, accompanied by Tulsidas who did the same thing in Hindi and who managed to combine lyrical intensity, romantic flight of imagination, while retaining the original sublimity of the story. One cannot end this short retrospective without mentioning Chaitanya, Nanak, Kabir, Mirabai…All these remarkable writers have often baffled the Western mind, which could never understand the greatness of Indian literature, forgetting that in India everything was centred around the spiritual. Printed with permission of the author (April 2020)
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