Debunking Lord Macaulay’s Infamous Quote – Koenraad Elst

Thomas Babington MacaulayMacaulay's infamous minute is a forgery

AdvaniBJP leader L.K. Advani has in a recent blog post repeated the spurious statement (above) allegedly made by Lord Macaulay on 2nd February 1835 to the British Parliment. Advani knows Dr. Elst’s work very well and knows that the infamous quote was exposed as a forgery by Elst eight years ago. Still he repeats it like a good Indian politician should, without scruples, with the hope of squeezing a little more blood out of it. Lord Macaulay is the favorite whipping boy of Hindu nationalists. Certainly he may be questioned and criticised for his education policies contained in the Minute on Indian Education which formed the basis of the English Education Act of 1835. But the cynical statement–“unless we break the very backbone of this nation”–repeated ad infinitum by Hindu intellectuals, is not his. It is a base forgery that began to appear in the media sometime after 1947. – Editor

Dr. Koenraad Elst1. Macaulay the terminator

In Hindu nationalist circles, the name Macaulay is synonymous with cultural estrangement of Hindus from Hindu civilization, starting with their linguistic assimilation into the global Anglophone community. “Macaulayites“, anglicized Hindus, are named together with Muslims, Missionaries and Marxists as the irreconcilable enemies of Hindu Dharma, the “4M”. The rot allegedly started with Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859), member of the governing council of the East India Company from 1834 to 1838, who successfully advocated the replacement of the native languages with English as the medium of education. He formulated his policy proposal in his Minute on Indian Education, delivered in Kolkata on 2 February 1835. The Governor-General of India, William Bentinck, approved the proposal on 7 March 1835, so that it became the cornerstone of British-Indian educational policy until Independence (and remained largely in force after that as well). To impress upon us the magnitude of the disaster Macaulay allegedly wrought, his critics like to quote this appreciation by his biographer G.D. Trevelyan: “A new India was born in 1835. The very foundations of her ancient civilization began to rock and sway. Pillar after pillar in the edifice came crashing down.”

1.1. A terrible quote

Along with the Minute, other statements by Macaulay have been culled from his speeches and letters in order to prove the evil colonialist designs behind his education policy. Not only Hindu nationalists, but generally Hindu and generally nationalist sources frequently quote the following musings supposedly uttered by Lord Macaulay in Parliament:

“I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”

The quote is usually referenced as “Macaulay, British Parliament, 1835”. In that year, Macaulay was actually in India, though other oft-quoted speeches by him on the same subject had indeed been delivered in Parliament, but in 1833. However, I discovered this anomaly only later in the course of the debate. What first made me suspect the spuriousness of the quotation, was not any external information but a close reading of its utterly cynical contents, quite imaginable in the private scheming of hard-nosed colonialists but rather out of style in the setting of a parliamentary debate. Politicians who try to sell a policy will normally present it as beneficial. This was especially true for that particular stage of colonial expansion, when the “imparting of civilization” and the “abolition of slavery” had become commonplace justifications for the colonial enterprise. British imperialists liked to think of themselves as bringers of light in the darkness of the primitive societies which they were about to rule and transform. Yet, here we get to hear Macaulay brutally calling for the wilful destruction of a civilization which he praises to the skies and acknowledges as superior to that of Britain itself.

So, I challenged my Hindu correspondents to give a reliable reference for this strange quotation. In the age of the internet, they had no problem coming up with a great many seemingly authoritative sources for Macaulay’s damning statement. Among the highly varied instances of its use, we may mention numerous Hindu websites including the Aryasamaj site (in a review by B.D. Ukhul of the “Macaulayite” book The Myth of the Holy Cow by Prof. D.N. Jha), the Vedic Knowledge Online site, and many more; but also a document by the Planning Commission of the Government of India; and even a speech by the President of India, as reported:

“While seated as the chief guest on the dais of the Jamia Millia Islamia‘s auditorium and about to deliver his convocation address President A.P.J. Kalam fiddled for a moment with the keyboard and mouse of his laptop. (*) The President quoted Macaulay’s 1835 speech in British Parliament, ‘I do not think we would ever conquer this country (India), unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.'” Quoted by S. Zafar Mahmood in “Learning from the President”, The Hindu, 2 September 2004.

The President of India, a good man and a top-ranking scientist, may seem to be a very authoritative source, but to a historian, even he isn’t good enough. Nobody so far has been able to trace this quotation to an original publication of Macaulay’s speeches, though such published collections exist (e.g. Macaulay, Prose and Poetry, selected by G. M. Young, 1957; Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy, 1750-1921, edited by A. Berriedale Keith, 1922; Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by George Otto Trevelyan, 1876). It is unlikely that they ever will, and they could have realized as much by carefully rereading the one source to which all the extant instances of this quotation can apparently be traced.

1.2. But is it genuine?

Consider the same quotation as it appeared in the Arsha Vidya magazine, September 2004: “His words were to this effect: I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. (etc.)”

Now things are becoming clearer. The “quotation” is introduced with the qualifier: “His words were to this effect.” So there you have it: Macaulay never said this. The alleged quotation came into being as a mere paraphrase, and as we shall see, not even a very faithful one. It is given in that form in Niti (April 2002, p.10), a periodic publication of the Hindu nationalist association Bharat Vikas Parishad, Delhi, whence most of the Indian quoters have borrowed it. And this in turn has it from what appears to be the oldest traceable source of all these quotings: The Awakening Ray, vol. 4, no. 5, published by The Gnostic Center (USA).

This Gnostic Center had most likely acquired its knowledge of Macaulay from its Indian contacts, but unfortunately we have no information on that. At any rate, the quotation’s publication in an American medium certainly added to its credibility among Indian readers, for that happens to be Macaulayism in action: accepting Western sources as a priori more reliable than Indian ones. From its subsequent transposition to an Indian forum onwards, all those gullible Hindus and Congress secularists and India’s Muslim president have sheepishly swallowed it and relayed it to the next gullible audience.

The whole point about the Macaulay phenomenon is that for all the limitations of his Eurocentric perspective, he was quite well-meaning. He thought he was doing Indians a favour by relieving them of their superstitious native culture and introducing them to a more advanced culture. In this quotation, by contrast, he is falsely made to sound deliberately destructive and cynical. Those who are used to denouncing Lord Macaulay may get a kick from blackening him, and I’ve noticed how some internet polemicists dismissed all evidence of the quotation’s spuriousness as irrelevant, for “true or false, it correctly brings out the destructiveness of Macaulayism”. They are herewith advised to sober up, to discard this nonsense, and to spread the true story to the very people from whom they learned this false quotation. Using spurious evidence, even in the service of a good cause, is bound in the end to do more harm than good.

1.3. Macaulay the liberator

The spurious quotation has mostly been used as an instrument of expressing nationalist hatred for a character deemed to have gravely damaged the integrity of India’s native civilization. It may come as a surprise, then, that some Indians are enthusiastic about Macaulay’s historic mission. We don’t even mean those who are the embodiments of Macaulay’s transforming impact on India, the “Macaulayite” secularist bourgeoisie, for they rarely discuss Macaulay and in certain contexts may even make the appropriate nationalist noises critical of the education reformer. The most explicit approbation for the English colonial impact on India emanates from the so-called Dalit (low caste) movement. They don’t think very highly of the virtues of Hindu civilization and so they applaud Macaulay’s bold bid to uproot it.

On 23 October 2004, I received this invitation circulated by a Dalit weblist:

Join us to Celebrate Macaulay

Dear Friend,

(*) To begin with, toss the ros-gullas [a Bengali sweetmeat] in the Bay of that Bengal. Let seeds of renaissance sprout. Let us clear all the hurdles. Let us battle with the self, and win over as well. Let us unlearn all we were taught so far. Let us break free from the falsehood we are condemned in trust. Let us take a chance, and relish truthfulness. Let refreshing winds of reason excavate our degenerated, malodorous existence. We are born as false people, with false indices of reasoning, with false languages, false spirituality, with false histories. Our consciousness too, therefore, is false. We are victims of civilisational faults, as we missed, by civilisational disgrace, any standard of ethics, morality, and hence, we are historically programmed in living with falsehood. Worse still, we, as a civilization, find it almost pathologically, constrained to live as honest people. Our intellectual insolvency, therefore, is civilisational.

The fundamental challenge before all of us, therefore, is as how to create conditions where we can turn intellectually honest, and still exist. This one challenge once clinched, it can unleash a renaissance in India where ethics, morality, and reason can gain a germinating ground. (*) our ‘self’ ought to be given a jerk. And the jerk can be caused, like sex the first time in life, by speaking the most fundamental truth hitherto unpronounced.

This October 25 provides us that historic opportunity, where we can in a reasonably discreet manner, turn honest for a few hours. The sure blissfulness in those few hours may reprogram our ‘Self’ wherein intellectual honesty can be a welcome interlude, deleting the space the falsehood has occupied for ages.

(*) India, on its own, never had, in at least our known history, the notion of the ‘Independence from foreign Rule’, ‘Rule of Law’, or ‘Every one Equal before Law’. The India’s indigenous system of education never dealt with sciences, the sciences that we possess today. It would probably never have been possible to understand modern sciences in Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian.

Who conceived the first sperm of India’s independence? Consider the following: “It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well-governed and independent of us, than ill-governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilized men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it a useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.” July 10, 1833 (25 years before India officially became a British Colony)

Further: “The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.” (July 10, 1833)

On the question of ‘Equality before Law’, on July 10, 1833: “The power of arbitrary deportation is withdrawn. Unless, therefore, we mean to leave the natives exposed to the tyranny and insolence of every profligate adventurer who may visit the East, we must place the European under the same power which legislates for the Hindoo. No man loves political freedom more than I. But a privilege enjoyed by a few individuals, in the midst of a vast population who do not enjoy it, ought not to be called freedom. It is tyranny. In the West Indies I have not the least doubt that the existence of the Trial by Jury and of Legislative Assemblies has tended to make the condition of the slaves worse than it would otherwise have been.

“Or, to go to India itself for an instance, though I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while there was a severe code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered. God forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we should send her a new breed of Brahmins, authorised to treat all the native population as Pariahs.”

Should native Indians hold high offices? July 10, 1833: “We are told that the time can never come when the natives of India can be admitted to high civil and military office. We are told that this is the condition on which we hold our power. We are told that we are bound to confer on our subjects every benefit — which they are capable of enjoying? No; –which it is in our power to confer on them? No; — but which we can confer on them without hazard to the perpetuity of our own domination. Against that proposition I solemnly protest as inconsistent alike with sound policy and sound morality. (*) I allude to that wise, that benevolent, that noble clause which enacts that no native of our Indian empire shall, by reason of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of holding office.”

The above quotes are from Lord Macaulay’s Speech in the British House of Commons. The House was debating the Bill, which was enacted as The Charter Act 1833, or, The Government of India Act 1833, which sought for the establishment of a Law Commission for consolidation and codification of Indian Laws. Lord Macaulay eventually became President of India’s First Law Commission, and drafted the IPC [Indian Penal Code]. While submitting the draft of the IPC, Lord Macaulay maintains in his covering letter: “It is an evil that any man should be above the law, it is still a greater evil that the public mind should be taught to regard as a high and venerable distinction the privilege of being above the law.”

[Some further quotes used polemically will be brought up and discussed below.]

Was Lord Macaulay wrong when he argued the following in his Minute: “I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books, I would abolish the Madrassa and the Sanscrit college at Calcutta.” What would have been India’s fate, had Lord Macaulay been defeated?

In 1813, the British Parliament made it mandatory that the East India Company spend at least Rs. one lakh annually on the education of native Indians. The British officials were divided in two camps: one the powerful Orientalists, who wanted the indigenous system of education to continue, with Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as media of instruction. The Anglicist camp, led by Lord Macaulay, argued for the European kind of modern education, with focus on modern sciences. Macaulay won, and the British-type of modern educational system was introduced in India.

What if the indigenous education continued, with Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as media of instruction? Well, to most Indians, it may be a matter of conjecture. To some of us, India would have been most probably like Afghanistan, or at best, the present day Nepal (*).

Come on my scholar friends, wake up and arise. (*) Lord Macaulay was India’s earliest Gandhi, if Gandhiji epitomized freedom movement, as it was he who conceived independent India when Gandhi was not even born. (*)

Thomas Babington Macaulay was born on October 25, 1800. We must be enlightened enough to take his anti-Hindu, anti-Caste views in the correct spirit. Let us celebrate the birth anniversary of one of the greatest philosophers this planet has produced (*) Unveiling of Macaulay portrait: 07:57 p.m. sharp. Drinks and food to follow. At my (*) residence.

Sincerely, (*)


2. Benign intentions behind controversial statements

2.1. Macaulay the anglicizer

Against my protestations about Macaulay’s good intentions, a leading Hindutva polemicist proposed the following certified quotations, exposing Macaulay’s “mean-spirited” and “diabolical” designs, and “which are clear in their purport: Macaulay wanted to use English as the means of dominating India”.

The first one of these statements is, however, not the best choice to prove Macaulay’s maliciousness, though it is the one genuine quotation most used for that very purpose. Here goes, from Thomas Babington Macaulay, Minute on Indian Education, 2 Feb. 1935: “In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.”

The problem is that this paragraph is mostly given in an incomplete version, up to the word “*intellect”. The sentence which follows changes the intention expressed considerably. In this case, this sentence is faithfully given, but the quoter is so accustomed to thinking the worst of Macaulay that he doesn’t notice its qualifying impact. Our Dalit host of the Macaulay anniversary celebration has correctly observed how it makes all the difference:

“Our lies about Macaulay. Was Macaulay attempting to create ‘intellectual slaves’ for the British Empire? Yes, if we just read the following: ‘We must at present do our best to form a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.’ We, in a most mischievous manner, present the above quote, twisted, taken out of context, and thus, present Lord Macaulay as a villain. No, if we read the full paragraph as originally available in his February 1835 Minute on Indian Education: ‘It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.'”

So far, I had thought that Macaulay was well-intentioned but that he undeniably had wanted to Anglicize India at least in language. But even this turns out to be unfair to him. In fact, he envisioned a modernization of the native languages, making them as fit as English for the conduct of modern affairs, thanks to the good offices of the “interpreter” class which he set out to create. Even on language he wasn’t all that imperialistic, wanting to enrich and modernize rather than replace the native languages, assuring them a new lease of life in an age of science. As for replacing Indian taste/opinions/morals/intellect with their English counterparts, he considered this a great boon to the Indians.

2.2. Macaulay the prophet of free exchange and mutual benefit

Our Dalit friend continues: “Our Caste-Hindu racism at work. We practise our Caste-Hindu racism against Macaulay by using his following quote taken from his Minute: ‘A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England.'”

If this seems arrogant on Macaulay’s part, we must consider that he merely wanted to give India the shock treatment of exposure to more advanced foreign influences which England itself had received to its own benefit a few centuries earlier. For, as the Dalit Macaulayite continues:

“Consider Macaulay’s rationalism! This is what he says about England in the same Minute: ‘The first instance to which I refer, is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but Chronicles in Anglo-Saxon, and Romances in Norman-French, would England have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More [Thomas –, 1478-1535] and Ascham [Roger –, 1515-68], our tongue is to the people of India.’ Macaulay held similar views about India and England. He wanted change and modernity.”

Further quotations are adduced which show how Macaulay, in the typical classical liberalism of his day, strongly believed in mutual benefit as a result of free exchange, in this case a free exchange of ideas unhampered by Brahminical-cum-Orientalist cultural protectionism: “From his Speech in Parliament on the Government of India Bill, 10 July 1833: ‘It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well-governed and independent of us, than ill-governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it a useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.'”

So, to convince his British colonialist audience, and no doubt also out of sincere conviction, Macaulay argued that British interests would be well served by the policies he proposed,– but precisely because these policies would first of all benefit the natives. The more advanced (and Europeanized) the Indians became, the more profitable it would be for Britain to trade with them.

2.3. Macaulay the superficial India expert

My Hindutvavadi friend also quoted from the Minute to prove that Macaulay didn’t know anything about the native civilization which he set out to transform: “He did not know either Sanskrit or Arabic about which he made derisive and contemptuous comments. His objective was to exclude everything of Hindu civilization heritage from the Bharatiya education system. He had nothing but contempt for Hindu culture and heritage: “I have no knowledge of either Sanskrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanskrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valuation of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.”

One cannot be an expert at everything. What sensible men do in the knowledge of their limitations, is to rely on better-informed people. And on a direct personal reading of the next best thing to the original writings, viz. the translations. That’s not bad at all. So, Lord Macaulay was reasonably well-informed even though he was not an expert, or “Orientalist” as such Asiatic Studies adepts were called then (and in some languages still are, in spite of Edward Said‘s attempt to blacken the term and twist its meaning; my own business card quite wilfully describes me as an Orientalist). He had concluded that most of it was irrelevant to a modern society. If some Western philosopher could be cited as testifying to the deep insights of the Indian classics, that would make them fit as a topic for specialized study, and Macaulay never prevented an Indian from studying his traditional language and lore. But in devising a curriculum for the general public, and especially for the prospective elite class of native handmaidens to the Empire, preferential attention should be given to more practical and modern subjects.

It could be argued, and I would in fact concur, that Macaulay’s knowledge of India was superficial and that he did injustice to the unique merits of Hindu civilization as preserved in its literate traditions. Which would redefine the problem which Macaulay and his orientalizing opponents faced as one of “reconciling tradition with modernity”, an issue continuously discussed since then not just in India but also in other civilizational areas eclipsed by Western dominance. I don’t believe many of his contemporaries would have been competent to do justice to both concerns, to respect for tradition as well as the requirements of modernity, in devising a curriculum; but then we will never know, for Macaulay’s impact was such that no more serious efforts were made in that direction. Japan achieved modernization through Japanese-medium education, there is no reason why Indians couldn’t have done the same thing. It is only in recent years that Hindu organizations, now drawing upon the competences of the numerous Hindus who made it in Western societies as experts in Western-originated fields like computer science, have set up schools where quality training in modern disciplines is combined with a reasonably thorough education in traditional subjects.

That Western culture was deemed superior even by the advocates of Sanskrit-medium education in the Governor-General’s council, is a mere statement of fact, a description of the actually existing opinion among Macaulay’s colleagues. And from the viewpoint of 19th-century Europe, enthusiastic about the liberating perspectives created by the scientific outlook, it was in fact defensible. For just one example, heliocentrism was indeed superior to the geocentrism professed in most of the relevant literature from India and Arabia. (Yes, I know that Aryabhatta toyed with heliocentrism in the 6th century, but he wasn’t followed and geocentrism remained the dominant paradigm in India.) To be sure, there were instances where this belief in Western superiority was partly or wholly wrong by objective standards, e.g. Western medicine at the time was not always superior, as measured in its success rate, to Ayurveda, which the British nonetheless tried to suppress, even resorting to a book-burning campaign. Still, there seemed to be enough reasons to believe that the new scientific method was superior, and that nothing very important would be lost by discontinuing the native traditions and opting for the assimilation of India into the modern West. As for the occasional beneficial insights or practices from ancient cultures, these would either be equalled by or independently rediscovered by or incorporated into the scientific world view.

2.4. Macaulay the Christian agent

What about the Christian as distinct from the secular-modernist angle? Macaulay gave assurances that his policies would help to dehinduize the Hindus, so that Christians as well as religious sceptics could hope for the Hindus to join their own ranks: “His letter to his evangelist father is proof that he was wrecking the education system as a means of advancing proselytization: ‘No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy; but many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise; without the smallest interference with religious liberty; merely by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospect.'”

Well, isn’t that wonderful? Changing people’s outlook simply by spreading knowledge. Quite a few Hindus have recently come to the conclusion that that very procedure is the only way to solve their Islam problem: immersing Muslims in the scientific temper and helping them to see through the irrational basis of their beliefs in Mohammed’s deluded voice-hearing (a.k.a. the Quranic revelation). Instil the scientific outlook and the darkness of superstition will recede like snow under the sun.

Whether Hinduism amounts to superstition and Christianity to rational religion is a different question; that’s where Macaulay’s limitations as a child of his time and his culture come in. Atheists in his country wanted Christianity to go down along with Hinduism, Islam and all other religions. But the dominant tendency was for the Churches to repackage their faith by incorporating some elements of the modern outlook and then ride the wave of triumphant colonization to propagate their message as the natural religion of victorious modernity. At any rate, in Macaulay’s view as in that of most contemporaneous Christians, the Hindoo would be all the better off for having been relieved of the deadwood of his religion. He really wanted the best for them.

2.5. Macaulay the racist

For another argument, Macaulay has also been exposed as a racist. A recent addition to the Macaulay quotations doing the rounds of the internet discussion lists is the following one, purportedly taken from G.O. Trevelyan‘s Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, p. 258-259. The text is titled “The Races of Man” and is quoted to show how Macaulay saw European conquest and Christianization as the twin vectors of a natural and beneficial process:

“In whatever direction, then, we turn our eyes, in all the departments of human civilization, have the White Races of Europe maintained their superiority over the Brown Races of Asia. I come now to unfold the great law of historical development, and I hold that there has been something like a regular succession — may I not say a progression –, in the order in which the different Races — the Black, the Brown and the White — have appeared to perform the part assigned them in the great drama of human progress. (*) The great historic drama first opens in the valley of the Nile. Thence it was transferred to Asia, when the great Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires succeeded the old Empires of the Pharaohs; and at length to Europe, when the Macedonian and Roman came to succeed the Asiatic.

“And since that time the destinies of the world, the destinies of civilization have been in the hands of the White Races. From that period the history of the World has been, to a remarkable degree, an account of their development, progress and extension. The Black and the Brown sink into the shade, and the White Races fill the foreground of the picture. And nothing in the future seems more certain than that every foot of our globe, where climate does not present an insuperable barrier, is destined to be conquered by them, and wherever they go they carry the Christian religion, and that high culture based upon it. (*)

“The Divine founder of the Christian religion, was, humanly speaking, of Asiatic birth and lineage — but was he not rejected by his own people, spurned, reviled and scoffed at — nailed to the accursed tree? His religion banished from Asia took root in an alien, but more congenial soil, amidst a nobler and more progressive race, and has become the basis of a civilization, the like of which the world has never before seen.

“And since that time the religion of Christ, and that high culture which has been reared upon it, have been the sacred and, almost, exclusive deposit of the White Races. And their mission on earth, the highest ever entrusted to human agents, seems to be to preserve and propagate them both. On this point, I do not wish to be misunderstood, I am particularly anxious that I should not be. I believe that the Christian religion was designed for all men. I believe that the time will come when all nations of every tongue, and of every hue, will be regathered into the Christian fold. I believe that the work of redemption is co-extensive with the work of Creation. I believe that ‘as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive’. All this I believe. But, it must be remembered, that God accomplishes His ends by human means — and the means by which, in my judgment, the Asiatic, the African and the Indian will be brought into the Christian fold, will be by the propagation and extension of the White Races, carrying with them the Christian religion and European culture, with the untold blessings which follow in their train.

“The Greeks, in ancient times, propagated themselves by colonization — the Romans by conquest. From these two sources have originated all the great impulses which have been given to the civilization of the World. In one or the other of these ways have the blood and culture of the superior been diffused among the inferior races. In one or the other of these ways, at the present time, are the Russians spreading themselves over Central Asia, the Celts [i.e. the French] over Northern Africa, and the Saxons over this Continent and India. (*) And as the White Races advance the Dark recede — witness the Hindoos, and Mongols in Asia, the Moors in Africa — the Indians in America.

“The mission of the White Races upon the earth, seems to have been, as I have said, to civilize and Christianize it. For this the Creator has specially endowed them. He has given them powerful intellects; frames and constitutions wonderfully adapted to the vicissitudes of climate, the extremes of heat and cold. He has made them ambitious, discerning and reckless of danger. Above all, he seems to have implanted in their bosoms an instinct which, in spite of themselves, drives them forward to the fulfilment of their lofty mission. That they are destined to occupy every land, where climate does not erect a barrier, there can be no doubt. It is not reason — it is destiny, and no philanthropy, no legislation, no missionary zeal can prevent it. The fate of the aborigines of our own Continent is manifest; and if we look to Asia we find a repetition of the same melancholy tragedy upon a larger scale, and in respect to, perhaps, a nobler people. Where is now the great Mongolian race of Central Asia — once the most powerful and warlike of the earth-whose reign was for centuries the reign of terror, and desolation for the rest of mankind? (*) Their glory is gone, their sceptre is broken, their race is run, their mission ended. (*)

“In conclusion, permit me to ask you, whether you do not recognise a certain law, a certain order, a certain progression in the succession in which the Races of Men have appeared to perform the part assigned them? From that distant epoch, when human history first unfolds itself to view on the time-worn monuments of the Nile to our own day and generation, do we not discover, from century to century, from Continent to Continent, a gradual, but a certain onward and upward movement? Has not the great tide of human civilization risen on the whole?”

Doesn’t that clinch the issue, proving what a racist Macaulay was, and in passing also how the Christian mission was intimately interwoven with racism? This quote may yet have a great future as a classic in Indian nationalist polemic. Unfortunately, as so often with such tidily useful quotes, it’s just too good to be true. In fact, the Trevelyan page referred to carries a letter by Macaulay detailing his study of Greek and Roman authors (admittedly a sign of Eurocentrism when this is what occupied the attention of an administrator in Calcutta), not this text. However, the text is a genuine one, only it was not written by Macaulay but by one Henry A. Washington, an American, in the April 1860 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger. The connection with Macaulay is that his obituary was carried in the same issue. At most, the text illustrates just how Macaulay’s civilizing mission would have been interpreted in the race-obsessed American South.

But Macaulay’s own outlook was slightly different. He believed that the equality of Asians and Europeans was not a natural given, or was at any rate not the then state of affairs, but that it was just around the corner if only his own educational proposals were implemented. Our Dalit source gladly quotes from Macaulay’s speech in the House of Commons on 10 July 1833 to show us how he already envisioned India’s independence:

“The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a state which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own. The sceptre may pass away from us. Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound schemes of policy. Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are triumphs which are followed by no reverses. There is an empire exempt from all natural causes of decay. Those triumphs are the pacific triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the imperishable empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws.”

Look at that: more than a whole century before independence, Macaulay was ready to concede independence to India, on condition that it changed its culture from (what he considered to be) backward to civilized. He didn’t see their race as a lasting impediment. And he tried to convince even the avowedly selfish promoters of colonialism that an enlightened self-interest would see the benefits of a civilized and free India over a backward and dependent India.

3. Conclusion

3.1. Not malice but limited competence

The above list of quotations only confirms my suspicions against the one incriminating “quotation” so popular among Indian nationalists. On the one hand, we had non-primary sources for the quotation which I allege to be spurious. They may be the President of India and the Planning Commission, but they are not primary sources. On the other, we now get a great many certified original quotations, but the one which I had alleged to be spurious, is not among them. And they all allow me to stand by my position that Macaulay, for all his limitations, was well-intentioned: he had contempt for Indian culture but wanted the best for the Indian people, viz. to lift them up from what he considered to be their backward traditions.

The whole corpus of quotations which we’ve seen in this discussion confirms entirely that Macaulay was but a child of his time; that he was among the more progressive and generous and benign among the colonizers; and that he wanted to benefit the Indians by helping them out of their inherited and into the modern world-view  None of it confirms that he was “mean-spirited” or “diabolical”. The quotations also confirm that unlike contemporaneous racists, he believed that Indians had the capacity to become modern and self-governing.

Macaulay’s known record does not contain any praise for India’s “culture” (a term then not normally used in its modern sense) which he then mischievously consigned to destruction. He did not say anything “to that effect”, as claimed by the “quoter”. On the contrary, he repeatedly said that to the best of his knowledge, Indian culture was backward and inhumane and that it would be a big favour to the natives if they dropped it in favour of English culture. He generously wanted to share with the Indians the benefits of science and justice. It is a different matter that in his ignorance, he failed to acknowledge the merits of Hindu civilization. But ignorance is known to exist even in fair-minded people.

As Napoleon said: never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence. Macaulay’s enthusiasm for science didn’t include any familiarity with ancient India’s pioneering role in sciences such as mathematics and astronomy (though Hindus themselves should admit that this was bygone glory and that the India of 1835 had fallen far behind in scientific knowledge let alone scientific creativity). Macaulay didn’t know about the merits of Hindu civilization, and the rest follows from that ignorance, not from any destructive intent. Too many Hindutva polemicists enjoy indulging in fairy-tale scenarios of history, viz. as a struggle of evil-intentioned monsters versus, well, us. With such silly schemes one will never understand real human history.

For example, what Moghul emperor Aurangzeb did to the Hindus may have been monstrous, but he sincerely thought he was doing good. Religion in particular can twist man’s subjective good intentions into motives for objectively evil behaviour. As 1979 Physics Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg has said: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” (Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries, Harvard University Press 2001, p. 242) With better education about the irrationality of his belief system, Aurangzeb might have given up his Islamic zeal and become a benign ruler. This seems to confirm Socrates‘ view that ignorance is the cause of evil. In the 19th century, enthusiasm for modernization took the place of religion as the road to salvation for many Europeans, often with the same tendency of blindness towards the limitations of one’s own worldview and the merits of others. Transposed to India, this became Macaulayism.

So, we have two views of the evils in history: one, foaming at the mouth, sees evil-intentioned monsters as the ultimate actors; while the other sees the moral and intellectual limitations of man as an overriding factor in effecting evil (or more often, partly evil) results. Do look at the practical implications. What can you do against monsters except slaughter them? By contrast, against ignorance you can try education.

3.2. Macaulay not a Dalit messiah

If anything can be said in reply to the new Dalit enthusiasm for Macaulay, it would have to be along the following lines. Firstly, Macaulay was a paternalistic-liberal member of a very class-conscious British establishment, and by no means on the radical-egalitarian wavelength of the Dalit activists. He believed in the principle of equal opportunity and trusted that this would loosen caste discrimination in the long run, but there is no indication that he supported active governmental intervention in native Indian society. Any revolutionary upheaval, even if organized from above, would disturb the colonial project of profitably incorporating India in the British Empire’s globalizing economy. The modernization of Indian social relations was a worthy goal, but one which required an evolution in the Indian mentality if it was to come about peacefully. That, of course, is why education was so important: it was the only way of freeing India’s upcoming generations from the mentality which kept pre-modern institutions including caste alive.

If Macaulay is considered as the representative of the whole modernization process, including democracy and the rule of law with equality before the law, it is understandable that Dalits who have been taught to equate Sanskrit with “Manuwadi” caste oppression, posthumously welcome the anglicizer Macaulay as a great benefactor. However, they should not forget that initially, i.e. for about two centuries, the lower castes have been affected more adversely than the upper castes by other dimensions of modernization, particularly its economic impact. With their cultural and entrepreneurial skills, the Brahmins and Banias quickly found new roles for themselves in the British-controlled new establishment. By contrast, the artisan castes saw their livelihood destroyed by British industries. And due to exploitative agricultural policies and land-ownership reforms, the peasants became victims of a number of devastating famines, less well-known tragedies killing millions.

Even on the educational front, the impact of British reforms was not altogether beneficial. Early British reports on native education, prepared in anticipation of the Macaulayite policy (vide Dharampal: The Beautiful Tree, Biblia Impex, Delhi 1983), showed that it had been far more accessible for low-caste pupils than is generally thought. In fact, they served to a larger proportion of India’s lower classes than the percentage of the British proletariat reached by British schools at the time. And of course, they taught many more low-caste children than the elitist and expensive English schools would ever do. For all we know, low-caste participation in education actually declined when the native education system was phased out.

3.3. My own experience with spurious quotations

Lord Macaulay claimed and no doubt sincerely believed that he was helping Indians forward by foisting English education upon them in replacement of what he considered a moribund and backward culture. To make him speak out otherwise, a cynical quotation has had to be invented and put into his mouth. An uncharitable interpretation of the creation of this false quotation is that some Hindu projected his own mean-spiritedness onto Macaulay, replacing the latter’s generously intended plan of making the natives the equals of the Europeans with an expression of cynical destructiveness. More charitable is the hypothesis that some Hindu had heard and swallowed the common stories describing Macaulay as mean-spirited and then filled in the blanks by creating an appropriate quotation, somewhat like ancient historians put their own analysis of the reasons for a certain war into the mouth of a general in a made-up speech given before the decisive battle. In any case, the real Macaulay is the one who speaks to us through his authentic speeches: an enlightened colonialist who wanted India to share in the benefits of modernity.

Beware of spurious quotations, which are all too common in Hindutva and anti-Hindutva writings. We know the case of the BJP’s (viz. K.L. Sharma’s) invoking an advice by Mahatma Gandhi in 1937 that the Muslims should hand contentious religious sites like the Ram Janmabhoomi back to the Hindus, where the available evidence showed this eagerly quoted advice to be spurious. For another instance, as late as 1990, Hindutva pamphlets warned that “according to the World Health Organization” Muslims would become a majority in India by AD 2000, an obviously false claim in itself and one which no WHO source would be foolish enough to put forward.

Nobody is safe from being quoted wrongly, it seems. I just received a request from an editor of a book who wanted me to give the reference to the places where I had written the following statements, “quoted” by one of the contributing authors as mine, though without exact reference:

“Koenraad Elst also remarks ‘that many early Christian saints, such as Hippolytus of Rome, possessed an intimate knowledge of Brahmanism’. Elst also quotes Saint Augustine who wrote: ‘We never cease to look towards India, where many things are proposed to our admiration.'”

These sentences attributed to me seem to be spurious. I doubt that I could have written them, and I certainly don’t recall it, because they simply don’t reflect my considered opinion. I believe the one on Hippolytus is wrong and the one on Augustine, if true at all, is irrelevant. I certainly don’t believe that “many” early Christians had an “intimate” knowledge of Brahmanism. I vaguely know of condemnations of Brahmanism by the Church fathers Gregory and Clement, but I don’t think their knowledge of it was very intimate. As for Church father Augustine, possibly he still shared the general Greco-Roman admiration for distant India, but certainly not in the sense that he advised people to take inspiration from Hindu Paganism.

I am quite aware of the theories that find plenty of Buddhist influence in the Gospel, when there was no separate religion of Christianity yet. In broad outline, I agree with them. Hindus would do well to acquaint themselves with this scholarly development, because it deconstructs the identity of Christian doctrine, exposing it as an amalgam of Jewish, Buddhist and Hellenistic influences rather than a coherent message from God. However, by the time of the Church Fathers, Christianity was very identity-conscious and very hostile to Pagan religions including Buddhism and Hinduism.

The quotations attributed to me are apparently part of an attempt to promote either the “essential unity of all religions” pipe-dream or the “Hinduism as wellspring of anything and everything” vanity. A similar case was the quote attributed to Mohammed addressing his defeated enemy Hind, first lady of idolatrous Mecca: “Hind, Allah has blessed the country after which you were named”; meaning India. It was propagated (though certainly not invented) by the late BJP thinker K.R. Malkani, a wonderful gentleman but alas too Hindu to mistrust such “quotations” which should have struck him as just too good to be true. Like so many Hindus, he clutched at every straw that supported some kind of basic Hindu-Muslim unity. It’s very akin to the nonsensical Hindutva-Gandhian-secularist common belief that the “real” Islam is anti-Partition, anti-riot, pro-feminist, anti-slavery, anti-terrorism etc., that Jesus would have been against the missionary zeal of his followers, etc. False quotations typically serve deluded beliefs.

Someone at some point must have invented and launched these false attributions of statements and viewpoints. The psychology behind this act of deceit deserves closer scrutiny. I suppose in many cases there is no deliberate will to concoct and propagate a lie. Many people just don’t distinguish properly between what is and what they wish for. If they want to win the political or intellectual battles in which they participate with such zeal, they had better exercise their power of discrimination. If any worn-out quotation deserves to be repeated to them, it is India’s ever-fresh national motto: Satyameva jayate — “truth shall prevail”. – The Koenraad Elst Site, 2004

From  the Lays of Ancient Rome

by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?”


23 Responses

  1. From The Argumentative Hindu by Koenraad Elst:

    Chapter 5 / Internet Discussions / Page 144

    5.2.5. Do lies provide victory?

    On 2 March 2006, I wrote on IndianCivilization yahoo list in an open letter to Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, advisor of the RSS-related Hindu Education Foundation, referring to the Hindu debacle in the California textbook controversy:

    “Dr. K. and a few others (on the Bharatiya Experts Forum
    list and to a lesser extent here too) defended their right to use false information, such as false quotes attributed to Lord Macaulay and to the Jesuit Order, to mobilize ‘non-intellectuals’. As if the truth were only good for intellectuals while lesser mortals can be satisfied with pulp. And as if feeding lies to your own infantry is going to fool the enemy and achieve victory.

    “Congratulations, Dr. K., for the glorious victory in the textbook affair. Your clever tactic of muddying the waters with obviously false allegations such as about Steve Farmer being a ‘Creationist’, and the bright little idea of one of your friends to launch a conspicuously spurious Dalit website, have swayed public opinion in the decision-making circles mightily in favour of the Hindu position. I apologize for having misjudged the opinion climate and thinking that transparent dishonesty and ostentatious hot-headedness would antagonize people and taint an otherwise perfectly just cause.

    “If I try to lie, I know I’ll be found out, so I try to avoid it. But then some Hindutva activists are far more clever. They set up these brilliant schemes of strategic misdirection and deception, like diverting the CA decision-makers from the textbook issue by launching allegations against individuals such as Madhav Deshpande and Steve Farmer, false allegations at that. And then they have the last laugh when everyone falls for the trick, starts hating those bogeymen and admiring the Hindutva schemers, rejecting the former’s position and embracing the latter’s, so that eventually the enemy bites the dust…”

    Or is that not entirely what happened?


  2. You are right that the article should have been cut down drastically and focused on the fabricated quotation. My mistake.

    I am disappointed that my interlocutors have avoided the main issue and taken diversions. To my mind they lack integrity.

    Dr. Rajiva writes good articles. But Dr. Elst draws out her negative side as he seems to do with others too (so I am learning).

    I don’t mind if I get pats or slaps. I have achieved the objective of getting this issue into the public domain. That is what I wanted. If it leads to controversy, that is just fine by me! Negative publicity is good publicity in this kind of work! The readers will always decide for themselves.

    Thank you for your support. Have a good Pongal!


  3. Swami you are right to stand up for Elst. He has done lot of good work for Hindus. Though this is really not a well wriiten article. It should have been edited. Your interlocutors are only trying to divert attention from Advani. They are doing politics. Never mind them. Rajiva is trying to set herself up as a mediator of Hindu opinion. Nobody pays any attention. Keep up the good work. You have many more friends that you know.


  4. On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM, Rama Iyer wrote:

    These are the articles and writers one must contest.

    Madhava Doss.

    Then this one by Sanjay Shrivastva

    “A great deal of neglect of masculinity as an object of study lies in the celebratory ways in which we have tended to understand Indian nationalism which — in its reactions to colonial rule — produced a deeply masculine culture of modernity. So, if colonists sought to justify colonial rule by suggesting that Indians were not “manly enough” for either self-rule or rational thinking, nationalists simply inverted argument through providing “evidence” of Indian masculinity as well as “reforming” a number of social institutions to more closely reflect European ideas about “proper” families, intimacies, etc. Colonialism did not, of course, invent Indian masculinities, but it did help to cement and highlight certain regressive tendencies within it. Swami Vivekananda’s masculine photographic-pose was only one aspect of the cult of masculinity encouraged and tolerated by nationalism”

    There are eighty two comments on this. There was comment written by me that of the great pose of Vivekananda was masculinity what was the Goa inquisition and the great lies by the padres as pointed by IS, manipulative musculinity. The comment was not accepted. Such a low level discriminatory intellect by Sanjay Srivastva of just commenting that the pose of Swamji is masculine and this is aggression and must be taken out is outright stupidity. The point is Swamiji never even threw a stone when he went overseas and the amount of killing and maiming which took place in Goa is forgotten by the likes Shrivastva. This Shrivastav guy wrote this article in the context of rape incident. What a bloody perverted mind!!!

    There was howl of protests to “ The Hindu “ . and the new editor reported this in muted defence.

    Well , the editor has to go thru the article before being published and he gives this response. Shame!!

    A note to readers.

    Over the past few days, we have received emails, representations and letters objecting to the reference to Swami Vivekananda and the use of his photograph in the article ‘Taking the aggression out of masculinity’ (January 3, 2013). We have published several of these. We wish to reiterate that the views in the article are those of the author and not of The Hindu. The photograph was used only to illustrate a specific reference made in the article. Any offence caused to readers was inadvertent and is regretted.

    Siddharth Varadarajan

    Then you have Prof Jyotirmouy Sharma who is in the University of Hyderabad. He has published a book on Swamiji and written all nonsense. He has dragged Narendra Modi into this, because he celebrated Vivekananda.

    The point I want to make his that there are many backyard pseudosecularists in India itself who are funded and paid very well to write all this nonsense, whereas Elst I feel is using his own money to write, There are Indian origin Prof like Sanjay Subramanian ( Infosys has awarded him also) who write against Elst , that because he is against Islam , he is writing for Hinduism. No Elst has been critical of the church also.

    Extract from the above.

    “To conclude, I must say that I find it sad to see something dying, especially when the dying entity is the religion in which I grew up. Yet, it is mathematically certain that this will happen. Just as the belief in a flat earth cannot survive mankind’s inquisitive interest in the fact of nature, the beliefs underlying Christianity will not survive the advancement in knowledge. It is painful to lose your faith, to find your beliefs untenable or disproven, to feel like you have been fooled for all those years, often in good faith by your beloved parents. But then, losing an illusion is also liberating. And to avoid being trapped in that illusion is even better. The Indian tribals can save themselves the trouble of outgrowing Christianity by not becoming Christians in the first place. Therefore, all peaceful and legal efforts to stop Christian conversion work in India’s tribal regions deserve our support”

    Then as Sandeepweb rightly wrote

    is very apt. One feels , we must encourage Elst, Frawley, IS and Gautier and Dannino ( who are in India and doing excellent work) to take the paid media and funded academics left right and centre in the “Kshatriyatic” writing approach as Gautier wrote a piece “ Arise Arjuna “. Well then why not by the pen. Keep it up IS.


  5. @Anonymous, I agree with what you say. Even if Macaulay did not say the exact words his intentions were the same. Anyone reading his 1835 Minute or his other works will realise that he despised India and Hinduism and could make no sense of it. His mission was twofold : to destroy our traditions and strengthen British rule. The good intentions that Dr. Elst attributes to him are a misreading.

    IS is unfair in saying that I have witch hunted Elst. I have been consistent in saying that his early contributions are valuable but that he does not fully understand the Hindu ethos and therefore cannot speak as an insider. He is at his best when dealing with the Hindu Muslim problem (Ayodhya is a classic case). There is nothing wrong with my saying that. A good example is Elst saying that the Rig Veda is not apaurusheya. I and most contemporary Hindus believe that the Rishis sighted the divine presences, the Devas and Devatas that inhabit the subcontinent. Hence, their work is not simply poetical fantasy. Interestingly, the Western scholars also think of the Rig Veda as great poetry !

    If you read Dr. Rajaram’s review of his latest book The Argumentative Hindu (in Sookta sumana blogspot) you will realise that Elst has made some serious mistakes there.

    IS has, on the basis of that, made a serious charge against Dr. Kalyanraman that he fabricated and circulated that misquote. I have read Dr. K’s work, his books and articles and believe that both his impeccable scholarship and his personal integrity would not have allowed him to do such a silly thing !

    I wrote to him directly and he has confirmed that he has no association with the Macualay misquote, none whatsover. These are the numerous Indic scholars that have contributed to the Hindu Renaissance and knocking them without any proper evidence is discouraging. Not that Hindus are perfect or that they are not sometimes sloppy, but in this instance there has been no lapse. I was happy to hear that ! And as you point out, correctly, if Elst had some doubts he should have circulated his criticism privately.

    At a time of the immense crisis that Bharat is going through it is extremely important that all of us stay the course and not confuse each other. I had looked up to Dr. Elst because of his earlier work, which is invaluable, and was dismayed to see his recent articles which are ERRATIC. One exception is the article on Dalrymple (on this site). But again that speaks to his intimate knowledge of the Muslim psyche and history.

    BTW in his review Dr. Rajaram has pointed out that the Talageri-Elst thesis that Indo Aryan civilisation went out of India from the Gangetic plain (Out of India theory) needs to be confirmed on the basis of science. Dr. R’s own work on the topic of Indo Europeans is on this site, and is based on scientific investigation.


  6. She was 65 yrs old when she came to India.


  7. Elst and Gautier and many other like them are rebels and they believe in the path of negation ( not this , not this). They like to question But many of them have a great handicap. Their knowledge of Sanskrit is not through. For example just see this article on Swami Vivekananda which appeared in Hindu.

    “Men like Mr. Justice Subramania Iyer, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, Justice Mr. Ramchandra Iyer, and a host of others who have labored hard in translating Sanskrit religious works, and who have studied with devotion Brahma Sutras, Upanishads, and Gita with commentaries by Sankara and Ramanuja, have acknowledged her capability as a great teacher on Hindu religion.”

    The ” her” here is Annie Besant. Annie Besant is great in her own way.
    if you read her wiki.

    “As part of her Theosophy-related work, she travelled to India where in 1898 she helped establish the Central Hindu College, and in 1902 she established the first overseas Lodge of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain in England. Over the next few years she established lodges in many parts of the British Empire. In 1907 she became President of the Theosophical Society.”

    Now she came to India in 1898. She was born in 1833 She was 55 when she came to India.

    Then the Hindu article goes on

    “And if their words mean anything, surely Vivekananda’s estimate of her knowledge is grossly absurd. This does not speak well of the Swami’s fairness of judgement or of his humility. As to his belief in Mahatma, etc., he would have done well if he had refrained from hazarding an opinion instead of venturing to discredit a ‘most sincere’ woman as he calls Mrs. Besant, as well as those of her respectable and intelligent following who have pledged their beliefs in the Mahatmas. The Swami believes in the greatness of his Guru, Yoga, Samadhi, Initiation, Meditation, and all that. What does that lead to but to Occultism and Mysticism? If he thinks they do not, then it is not Hinduism of our sages he preaches.” I have not posted the entire article . But the writer of the Hindu article should know that the three Iyer labored hard in Sanskrit and not Annie Besant . Please do not jump into conclusions that Annie Besant is wrong or she is bad. She is very fine woman. The whole point of the article in Hindu was to take on Swami Vivekananda. The point is how much Sanskrit did Annie Besant know? Surely Swamiji knew Sankrit better than Annie Besant. Then the writer of the article chooses the word Occultism and Mysticism together and blames Swamiji for this. These are the writers and another one ( SShrivastava) who wrote that Swamiji was macho in The Hindu which deserves a reaction rather than Elst , Gautier and others who are commentators and many times they write well in their limited capacity.


  8. IS – I’m still not completely convinced with your and the author’s viewpoint. You people are getting too granular in this matter and missing the larger truth. I’m neither trying to advocate for Advani’s speech nor am I ignoring credibility in general, but at the same time we should look at the current mindset of the Hindus of India in general. Even today I see a hell a lot of Hindus (including some in my own family) who are in constant praise for the British for the kind of modernization that they did to India. People have been completely brainwashed to forget all the damages that they have done to our society in the past two hundred years that they ruled over us. They did far more damage in just 200 years, what the muslims could not in their 800 year regime. We’ve gone to such an extent that we’ve even started to celebrate them for providing us roads, rails, bridges, dams etc, completely forgetting the grave social damage that was done to us. Some morons like EVR became even crazier by pleading the Brits not to leave India after independence. Most of the DK folks even today celebrate the Brits for providing (so called) equal education for all. Such is the extent of mind harvesting that has gone into us. If such things continue, one day we may totally forget all the grave damages that the Brits did to us and will start worshiping them. This is exactly what the DK folks are teaching to their next generation. Even in the worst case if you want to project Macualay as Karna (a person with good intentions in the wrong team), he should still be condemned and cursed as he was still loyal to his colonial masters. Our rules of war has to change, since our enemies have changed. We still cannot follow the same rules that was followed during the Mahabharatha period. Back then, Kauravas though bad, at least showed some signs of ethics during war, but our modern enemies don’t.

    I object to your viewpoint about Gurumurthy. First of all you should understand that Mr.Gurumurthy is not the watchdog of Advani. You can’t expect him to condemn Advani for every act that he does. IMO there is nothing wrong in lying in order to protect a larger truth. Didn’t Krishna advice Arjuna to fight against his own guru and blood relatives in order to safeguard the dharma?

    I don’t know much about the disputes between Dr Rajiva and Dr Elst. I’ve read the works of both and I have high respect for each one of them. But in this article especially I could feel the overall good intentions of Dr Rajiva’s comments, which is why I support her.

    Finally I want to make one strong comment. In the name of ridiculing Advani, we should never create a space for praising the likes of Macualay. No matter what good a person he might have been, the so called reforms that he did in the name of education system was far worse than even an atom bomb. It took Japan only about 50 years to come out of the impact of the dreadful Hiroshima & Nagasaki disaster. But Indians, even after 200 years are not able to come out of the impact of the Brits. I’m not sure if we’ll ever come out of it even in the near future. Such is the power of mind harvesting. This strong message about mind harvest by the Brits has to be passed on to the next generation, so that they don’t commit the same mistakes that our previous generation did. I’m glad people like Gurumurthy are already working in that direction (laid by masters like Dharampal) and that’s the way to go. Articles like these will only give undue publicity to the likes of Macualay who are supposed to be cursed & forgotten.


  9. Dr. Vijaya Rajiva said:

    “I do not know why you endorse my criticisms of Guha, Praveen Swami, Rajdeep Desai etc. but when it comes to Elst you are unduly on the defensive. He has done good work in the past, but that does not mean that everything he says or does is to be accepted as gospel truth !”

    “The most charitable thing one can say about the present article is that he has attempted to sort out what Macaulay did not”.

    “Yes, Advani misquoted, but to make a long rigmarole about it in order to uphold Macaulay as a model of colonial good intentions is simply ludicrous, to say the least !”

    IS- VR is right with respect to the above points which we have to agree.


  10. This is where I disagree with you and Dr. Rajiva. It is wrong and unethical to attribute a false quote even to the enemy. IT UNDERMINES OUR OWN CREDIBILITY. And we badly need credibility. Your stance is also not the traditional Hindu stance where the enemy is to be judged and treated on what he actually did not on what it is imagined he did.

    I have already said we do not excuse Macaulay. I have acknowledged the great harm Macaulayism has done to Hindu culture and Hindu society.

    But all of this is redundant. Indians have voluntarily embraced Macaulayism in its totality of their own free will. Or are you saying Indians have no free will, are eternal victims who never grow up?

    SRG insisted that we tell the truth even about ourselves. He was demonised because he told the truth about Nehru and the RSS.

    Hindus cannot tolerated hearing the truth about themselves. Hindus–that is us, you and me–cannot tolerate criticism even from the most well-meaning friends. We have lost the culture of self-criticism and self-analysis. Yet our scriptures strongly advocate both. We will say yes yes to the scriptures and then ignore their instruction! We are all hypocrites–isn’t it true?

    About Dr. Elst I know little except that he has suffered grievously for the Hindu cause on both personal and professional levels. His work for Hindus has made him a pauper. He has lost his family and he is ostracised in academic forums because of his advocacy for Hindus and his critique of Islam. This resonates with me. We have very few scholars who are sincerely dedicated to our interests or have sacrificed themselves for us. Elst has done both. I do not agree with all his views. But like any scholar, some things he says can be appreciated and others just ignored. I agree this article is not his best showing (it is dated 2004 I think). I must emphasize that it was published to make a specific point: that the quote attributed to Macaulay is false. There is no excuse for Hindus to repeat this dubious attribution to Macauly when we know it is false.

    Dr. Rajiva has a history of witch-hunting Dr. Elst. Her motives are suspect. She has toned down her critique here and some of it is quite valid. That too is appreciated.

    We are all Hindutvavadins. Do not doubt it. But we do not follow a party line and are not anybody’s camp follower. We retain an independent mind and independent thinking. Hindu intellectuals often act like Maoist ideological enforcers, like officially authorised censors. We reject them and their agenda completely.


  11. IS – What’s the ultimate message do we get from this article? Even if what Advani did was a mistake, what’s so earth shattering about it? Shouldn’t we condemn the bastards who colonized us? Isn’t Macualay a personality who deserves to be cursed? What’s so outrageous about Advaniji’s comment against Macualay even if it’s wrong? Even if Macualay did not directly make those infamous quotes, do you really think that wasn’t his intention? Did the likes of Macualay come to India to serve us? IMO things like what Dr Elst has written is meant to be made as pass-on comments with friends and definitely doesn’t deserve an entire article. I agree with Dr Rajiva. In the name of proving Advani false one should not undermine damages the British did to us. They should always be remembered as one of our worst enemies ever.


  12. @anonymous

    I went to the elst blogspot and read the comments. They are quite shocking and I am surprised that Elst even bothered to print them.

    The only lone sensible voice there was a yrao.

    He basically said the same thing I have been saying for some time. Elst has done a lot of good work in some sectors, but does not understand Hinduism because he is not a practitioner.

    BTW I endorsed Elst’s article on Dalrymple and Vijaynagar and said so on this very site (Bharata Bharati). And regarding Vedic astrology people like Subash Kak have a better grasp of it than Elst.

    The comment by someone, a lengthy one, endorses Elst’s own position that the Vedas are not apaurusheya, but are simply compositions by the Rishis and must be so interpreted. But that is a chapter for another day and I dare not say anything now, or else IS will come down heavily on me for demonising Elst !

    One Capt. did however say something which one can agree with: the Kaaba may have been a shivalingam. The Muslims hated it and to this day they throw stones at it during the Haj.


  13. IS I respect you too highly to make any personal comments about you, even though you are freely attacking me ! BTW a lot of people have written to me about my various articles and commended me for keeping up with the problems, the latest of which is the question about the Manusmriti (I recall that you and I have had some fruitful discussions on the topic).

    So, let us not get distracted. Re: your personal fights with Dr. K. I am not familiar with them. In any case the Nityananda issue is settled now. He seems to have been a scoundrel. I am sorry if in the heat of the argument people said wild things.

    My high regard for Dr. Kalyanraman’s work remains.

    I do not know why you endorse my criticisms of Guha, Praveen Swami, Rajdeep Desai etc. but when it comes to Elst you are unduly on the defensive. He has done good work in the past, but that does not mean that everything he says or does is to be accepted as gospel truth !

    Be that as it may : my point is simple. Elst understands very well the Muslim-Hindu dynamic and so the Ayodhya studies are well argued and well presented. However, he does not understand the Hindu dynamic per se, which means he does not relate to the Hindu tradition, Hindutva etc. He once said that the RSS is the last of the Gandhians. I disagreed with that negative reading and I consider it a compliment. There are other friends who might agree with him and so on. He is right in saying that Advani should have been more careful in his quotes on Macaulay, but this long rambling article appears to any objective reader to be an apology for Macaulay.

    Re: the question of how seriously you are to take me, that is entirely up to you. It would be a pity if you didn’t. Neverthless, I am at my post.

    And yes, I am a Hindutvadin. That is not exactly a crime is it ?

    I conclude and I hope we can end this with my previous observation.This article is worth only a first read. If one is looking for a consistently argued piece or some fresh insights, then it is best to throw it away !

    This article is not Elst at his best.


  14. Dr. Rajiva, you are dragging in extraneous issues because you want to discredit Elst. You are not very credible.

    Gurumurthy is not the issue here. Why are you pontificating about him? Elst has said nothing at all about Gurumurthy!

    You can respect Kalyanaraman all you like. Who cares! You don’t know the issues involved so you can’t comment. Read the book then tell me your story.

    Kalyanaraman has abused me racially and also offered threats. “Stay away from Hindus!” is what the little man said. He was defending the Sex Swami Nithyananda at that time and was furious that I would not do so. There is more to the dirty story but I will stop here.

    I repeat the issue is only that the Macaulay quotation is false. You have built a mountain out of a molehill. Advani is no fool and he repeated the lie for a reason, with calculation. He has been exposed. He is a traitor to the Hindu cause and should be retired back to his Pakistani village.

    You don’t know when to stop, Dr. Rajiva. It is too bad. You chatter on about issues you know nothing about. Always got an opinion–never mind if the details true or not.

    How are we to take you seriously?


  15. . Just see comments 86 of them under Vijayanagar negationism and see the level of arguements via comments. I was first surprised as why Konard elst has kept them for public reading. May be he is keeping it for ” Degenerated Arguements” The level of comments has reached lower than street level kitch. You are right they have embraced the worst aspects of western culture.


  16. IS specifically to you. I have the highest regard for the tremendous work that Dr. Kalyanraman has done. Not just the work on the Sarasvati Sindhu civilisation but also his work on the Indus script (Indus Script Cipher ) and Rashtram . There is also a very recent work published in 2012, which I have not yet read.

    He continues to encourage Indic scholars in every field. His Sarasvati Research Center is active.

    I am afraid this recent effort of Dr. Elst’s simply does not compare, is not in the same league. His earlier work can be compared. The most charitable thing one can say about the present article is that he has attempted to sort out what Macaulay did not.

    The same applies to the important work that S. Gurumurthy is doing. His area, ofcourse, is politcal economy of which Dr. Elst is probably not well informed and not interested either. S. Gurumurthy is outstanding in his contributions to Swadeshi economics. His 1993 work on Gatt remains foundational. His ongoing contributions to swadeshi economics are important.

    I will not be talking further about these matters or about the above dismal article. Yes, Advani misquoted, but to make a long rigmarole about it in order to uphold Macaulay as a model of colonial good intentions is simply ludicrous, to say the least !


  17. There are many problems with the Elst article.

    1. He has missed the bus where Hindu intellectuals are concerned. He cherry picks. Indic scholars in the last few decades have done immensely hard work, whether it is about the AIT or the Sarasvati Sindhu civilisation or Hindu astronomy, or any other topic . He picks on the failures. Does not mention the tremendous successes.

    2. Advani can hardly be called an “intellectual” ! He is a senior politician and like any politician can indulge in rhetoric, par for the course. To use his misquote as a stick with which to beat Hindu intellectuals is not nice, not accurate. Elst has wandered far beyond his stated purpose.

    3. The jury is NOT out on Macaulay. Dr. Elst wants to be an apologist for him. Macaulay’s high intentions are not the issue. The consequences are important.

    4. Dr. Elst is good when he deals with problems that he is familiar with : Muslim perfidy. His recent article on Dalrymple is a good example. His work on Ayodhya is another excellent example. But he simply does not/cannot tune into the Hindu achievement, whether ancient or contemporary.

    All in all, this article is worth reading once and if one is looking for new insights or a consistently worked out argument then it is best to throw it away !


  18. Thank you very much for this.

    My objection to Dr. Vijaya’s comment is that she sets out to demonise Dr. Elst because she doesn’t agree with his point of view. When he says something that she agrees with, he is a great scholar. When he says something she perceives to be against the Hindutva party line–she is a camp follower after all–she begins to concoct a witch’s brew to discredit him one way or another. I am not an academic or scholar, but I see this as grossly unfair to Elst and very unscholarly too. It is just crude propaganda against a scholar she dislikes for a variety of reasons.

    The only straw man on this page is the one she has created to represent Elst.

    I needed an article to refute Advani’s quotation, and there is not one except Dr. Elst’s. Hindu intellectuals do not bother to find out whether something they quote is true or not. They just repeat any bit of nonsense if it serves their purpose. This is my experience and apparently Dr. Elst’s too.

    We all agree that the British did immense psychological damage to Hindu India. In fact the damage done can be said to be greater than the physical violence of the Muslim invaders. But that is not the issue of this post. The issue here is whether the quote attributed to Macaulay is true or not. It is not true and a senior political leader like Advani should not have resorted to it to score a few cheap points or make excuses for India’s sorry state of affairs today.

    I belong to a generation of Westerners that rejected Western materialism and the endless imperial wars of the Americans. But I regret to say that I seem to have gone from the frying pan into the fire. The base greed and materialism, the gargantuan corruption of national leaders in India today cannot even be matched by the West. Certainly not by Europe which still has some culture of restraint inherited from the Greeks. It makes me very sad. Indians have not only embraced Macaulayism to the fullest, they have embraced the very worst aspects of Western culture too.

    I met Dharmapal at SRG’s house in 1992. He sat totally silent through all our evening discussions. I would not have known he was there except that SRG introduced him to me.


  19. The whole Maclauyite debate misses the core point on the impact of British colonialism on producing sub cultures in India. One example of Tamil Nadu is enough. This can extended to all regions in India.

    Here it is. Tamil Nadu can be divided into 2 regions, one above Madurai and one below Madurai. The above Madurai region encompasses Thanjavur and Tiruchi and below comes the region of Tirunelvelli and others. When the British tried to impose their rule and annex regions of TN from 1756, the regions above Madurai as listed above were very vulnerable in the sense many from the upper castes and even from lower class (the use of class not caste) were Dubashis, the Tamil equivalent of Babus to the British. In fact there was a Dubash Agraharam in Thanjavur in which Brahmins who worked as assistants to British lived. This happened in Bengal before it happened in TN, with the Babus rising to the top in British bureaucracy in Kolkata ( Calcutta then) English education came early to Trichy and Thanjavur. Thanjavur was annexed in 1856 by the British.

    The same cannot be said of below Madurai region. Most of them from Puli Thevar, Kattabomman, Bharathi (later) and many from the Thevar community with few Brahmins were at loggerheads with the British. Many Thevars joined Subhash Boses army. They were rebellious. This is the reason Bishop Caldwell was brought to Tirunelvelli in the 1846s who cleverly marginalizsed the Thevars and a few Brahmins by converting the Shanars (Nadars) to Christianity. It is interesting to note how the these two regions were influenced in different ways by British. One by religion and other by babugiri. Just saying Maculayite is not right. One has to consider the entire British legacy. The best writer on colonial impact on India according to me is Dharampal, who has done outstanding work, true and authentic. His “Beautiful Tree “ is a masterpiece. They are available in the web site below. On this point of Dharampal I agree with Vijaya Rajiva. Dharampal hits all JNU historians for sixer after sixer outside the domain of false historicity as the authenticity of this great man’s work is too good.


  20. Dr. Rajiva, you have not paid close attention to my comment or the details in Dr. Elst’s article.

    Advani’s ‘misquote’–it is quite calculated in fact–is the whole issue of this article, not anything else.

    I am the one who has dragged in Gurumurthy, not Dr. Elst. I have done this because I know that Gurumurthy tells the truth and is close to Advani. Both Gurumurthy and Advani know that the reference to Macaulay is concocted and false. So why does Advani repeat it? There is absolutely no justification for this false historical quote to be promoted by a Hindu intellectual and important senior political leader.

    In his latest book “The Argumentative Hindu”, Elst has gone into this Macaulay issue in some detail. He has also exposed Kalyanaraman as a main promoter of the false Macaulay quote. In fact Kalyanaraman may be identified as an intellectual criminal as he also allegedly forged documents and then tried to justify the forgeries. Read the book and find out for yourself what so-called Hindu intellectuals are all about.

    Dr. Elst’s article is long and convoluted. But that really is not the point. The point is that the infamous Macaulay quote is motivated and false and should not be repeated by Hindu leaders especially when they know the truth of it. Hindus are a laughing stock in the academic and intellectual community when they depend on these silly tales to make there point.

    Nobody is defending Macaulay. But misquoting Macaulay to score cheap points among misinformed Hindus is hardly ethical or even an intelligent way to approach the problems of India today.

    Tomorrow I will publish SRG’s counterpoint article “The Problem of Macaulayism”.

    The plain truth is that most Hindus are ill-informed about their religion and their history and are too lazy to get informed. They prefer bits and pieces of dubious opinion that catch their fancy and then can be repeated as Gods’ word to their friends and neighbours and anybody else on the internet.

    Really it is time for Hindu intellectuals to grow up and stop acting like juvenile school boys who think it is clever to cheat in an exam. India has had 70 years of independence. When are these Hindu intellectuals going to give up their attachment to pre-independence British India and take a hard look at the very sorry condition India is in today? When are they going to assume some responsibility and stop blaming others? It is Indians who have made India as it is today, not the British.

    Macaulay’s quote aside, modern India has embraced Macaulayism in its totality. That is the truth. Even the Hindu nationalists are Macaulayists in that their nationalist ideology is a European import. They are not able till today to develop an indigenous political ideology that truly reflects Hindu values.

    What a shame! What a crying shame!


  21. IS I agree that Hindu intellectuals should do their homework. But I am afraid Dr. Elst seems to encounter only those who don’t ! In that sense he is setting up a straw man and attacking him.

    Never mind Advani’s misquote, S. Gurumurthy is a brilliant and conscientious man in his writings. Elst is also mistaken in thinking that Gurumurthy is an acolyte ot Advani’s. He is factually mistaken in this regard.

    The problem with Dr. Elst is also that he comes to life when he writes about the Muslim encounter with Hindu India, but he does not seriously understand our Vedic culture (apart from the general nod towards ancient India’s scientific achievements, which even an illiterate like David Duke does !) One wonders whether he entered the fray with any preparedness. He does quote from Dharampal’s accurate The Beautiful Tree to show that the Dalit belief in the modernisation aspect of British education was misplaced. Likewise their degradation in the loss of artisanship and village industry.

    The article lacks a certain gravitas and seems motivated by Dr. Elst’s long standing dislike of the Sangh Parivar organisations and Hindutva.

    I read this long rigmarole of his out of consideration for his other sincere work. This article, as it stands, is not carefully argued or prepared for. I expect better quality work from him!

    And with due respect, he does sound very much like a schoolmaster chastising his pupils for not following in his footsteps!


  22. Hindu politicians and intellectuals do not further the Hindu cause by using discredited references to support their arguments.

    Certainly Advani should know better than to drag out this old rag of an alleged Macaulay quote to fill the empty spaces of his blog. If this is the extent of his learning and intelligence, than the Gods have indeed spared us from his primeministership!

    And where is his acolyte Gurumurthy who is such a stickler for facts and figures? He could have warned him to desist from telling lies to the public. Or do both of them have the same contempt for our intelligence as the current Dilli rulers do?

    Macaulay can be easily criticised for what he actually said and not for what he is said to have said. Do Hindu intellectuals ever do their homework? Have they ever read Macaulay’s Minute? If not they can start right here and get themselves a real education.


  23. Cannot make head nor tail out of this article!


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