Mathew Arnold had composed his famous lines with reference to a particular context. He had the Buddha and similar Hindu sages in mind when he wrote the following famous lines:
The East bowed low before the blast,
In patient deep disdain;
She let the legions thunder past,
And plunged in thought again.
Little did the poet suspect that his tribute to Hindu spirituality would be twisted to embellish an imperialist version of Indian history according to which the ?meek Hindu? had always been preoccupied with sterile speculations, and seldom stood up in defense of his country and culture.
Perverse Version Of Indian History
This version of Indian history was formulated by a few misinformed or motivated British historians. But many Hindus participated in popularizing this version in the mistaken belief that they were thus proving the superiority of India's 'spiritual culture? over the materialistic civilization of the modern West. In due course, this became the standard lore taught in our schools and colleges under the system of education sponsored by Christian missionaries and British bureaucrats. The same system of education has not only continued after independence but has also multiplied manifold. It has spread this version of Indian history to larger and larger segments of succeeding generations. Muslim and Marxist ?historians? have promoted it with an ever increasing zeal. They may not have any use for Hindu spirituality. But they find this version of Indian history very convenient for advancing their imperialist causes.
In the process, India's history has become a history of foreign invaders - Aryans, Iranians, Greeks, Parthians, Scythians, Kushans, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British - rather than a history of the greatest civilization which the world has known, and later on of Hindu heroism which fought and ultimately frustrated all foreign invaders. India itself has become a sub-continent seething with a mass of heterogeneous humanity rather than an ancient and indivisible Hindu homeland. Indian people have become a conglomeration of nationalities, racial groups and religious communities which are finding it difficult to co-exist in peace, rather than a national society which is trying to reform itself and reclaim some of its unfortunate sections alienated from it by successive waves of Islamic, Christian and modern Western imperialism. And Indian culture has become a mechanical mixture of odds and ends, indigenous and imported, rather than a homogeneous whole created by a vast spiritual vision which is finding itself ill at ease with incompatible impositions.
It was this version of India's history which gave a good conscience to the British imperialist while he pulverized Hindu society, plundered Hindu wealth and poured undisguised contempt on Hindu culture. It was this version of India's history which emasculated Hindu society and emboldened the residues of Islamic imperialism to stage street riots and then walk away with precious parts of the Hindu homeland, thus consolidating an aggression which had not succeeded even though mounted again and again for more than a thousand years. It is this version of India's history which is being invoked by the fifth-columns of Islam, Christianity, and Communism, each of which looks forward to a final conquest of this country with the help of foreign finances and, if need be, foreign firearms. And it is this version of India's history which is being promoted by power-hungry politicians who woo the Muslim vote-bank while they divide Hindu society into mutually hostile camps.