Rama in Iraq? This P. N. Oak-style history obsession must stop! – Aravindan Neelakandan

Stone relief in Iraq

Is it Rama and Hanuman on a rock wall in Iraq?

Aravindan NeelakandanThe approach through pseudo-historical claims of a Vedic world civilization for uniting the natural spiritual traditions of the world is bound to fail. … Ram Swarup, rather than claiming a common historical origin—with India being that origin—anticipated a grand spiritual validation of the theo-diversity of the human species. – Aravindan Neelakandan

Recently there has been a lot of sensation in the media over the speculation made by a team from an organization called Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan linking a sculpted [image] in a rock cliff in Iraq to the Ramayana. The expedition was accompanied by among others, Indian ambassador to Iraq, Pradeep Singh Rajpurohit. Naturally the media reported this news and many Hindutvaites have been happy to see an old fantasy of a world Vedic empire getting vindicated—a fantasy of the P.N. Oak type.

This fantasy of a world-wide Vedic empire is a consistent weakness in the worldview of certain Hindutvaites. P.N. Oak—an ex-INA freedom fighter turned “historian”—had a life-long obsession to prove that Vedic Dharma once existed throughout the world. Soon many claims were made, many of them laughable but not for those who considered them to be true. Thus Jerusalem was Yadhusailam, Canterbury was Skandapuri, Vatican was Vadika—a city of gardens, Incas were Ishvaku, Aztecs were Aastikas and California was Kapila-Aaranya.

Shiva & Ganesha in Essays on History of Pre-Columbian America

Artist’s depiction of a stone relief from Gautemala in the book by Sharad Hebalkar.

The publication I have before me—Dr. Sharad Hebalkar’s Essays on History of Pre-Columbian America—claims that this is actually a depiction of Ganesha—notice the trunk on the face—and Shiva, His father in the sky. However, if one looks at these particular types of steles, which are quite abundant in the pre-Colombian sculptures of South America, one can see that it is not so.
Shiva & Ganesh in Peruvian stone reliefs

Variations in Peruvian stone reliefs. The artist’s depiction is an example of the ‘seeing what one wants to see’ fallacy.

Still if one wants, s/he can claim that the stele actually shows Bhagiratha and the Ganga with Shiva getting it to the earth through His matted hair. Or one—deluded to the brim of his cranium with the “Ancient Aliens” serial—can also claim that it actually shows extra-terrestrial origins of our civilizations. All these are actually nothing but archaeological Rorschach figures. Taken out of their archaeological, historical and cultural contexts, these artifacts get interpreted from the historical and cultural contexts of the interpreter.

Akkadian warrior trampling a defeated Hurrian in Iraq

@TrueIndology tweet referring to the so-called Rama-Hanuman rock carving in Iraq.

In the case of the “Rama and Hanuman” [stone relief], the same fallacy has happened. It is at best a sculptural Rorschach. In this context, let it be said that it was a person using the Twitter handle of @TrueIndology—whose account has yet again been suspended by Twitter—who publicized and punctured the so-called Rama connection by pointing out that it was actually an “Akkadian warrior tramping a defeated Hurrian while another Hurrian begs”.

By building elaborate ancient world histories based on such illusions, we are undermining a more important, serious cause that Hindutva should serve.

In a way, the Hindu civilization is the last standing civilization that has a natural religion. Everywhere in the world the aboriginal natural religions along with the Pagan religions of the West have been destroyed or are undergoing destruction. From the Yazidis to the Australian aborigines to the native American tribes, the destruction effected has been colossal.

However, these cultures need not have been derived from the Vedic culture to be protected. They have to be protected because they represent human diversity and validate the spiritual unity of humanity through theo-diversity. In fact “unity in diversity” is the basis of Hindutva.

And obstructed spiritual communities have looked at India—naturally and spontaneously for their protection—for validating them. Let us consider, for example, Umbanda, an African religion from Brazil. The communities practicing this spiritual tradition claim that their tradition can be traced back to the sacred Aum of Hindu Dharma. Here, what is at play is not as much a historical fact, as a realization of spiritual kinship with the natural religion of India. Thus, India becomes the protectress of the world’s natural and aboriginal spirituality.

Incidentally, the Sangh realizes this. It has been conducting conferences of World Elders belonging to various indigenous traditions. Dr. Koenraad Elst traces the spiritual inspiration for this series of events to the deep thinker and magnificent Hindutva intellectual, Ram Swarup (1920-1998). Yashwant Pathak, the co-founder of the International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS)—along with Prof. S.W. Bakhle—acknowledges that Ram Swarup was one of the inspirations. Ram Swarup, rather than claiming a common historical origin—with India being that origin—anticipated a grand spiritual validation of the theo-diversity of the human species. He embraced both monotheism and polytheism with his roots in the Vedic dictum of “unity without sacrificing the diversity”.

As against this, the approach through [pseudo-historical] claims of a Vedic world civilization for uniting the natural spiritual traditions of the world is bound to fail. What is more important in Iraq today is to network with the Yazidis and provide them the comfort that there is a cousin spiritual tradition and people supporting them rather than inventing the footprints of Rama in Iraq. – Swarajya, 29 June 2021

Aravindan Neelakandan is an author and cultural commentator with a master’s degree in psychology and economics. He is co-author of the bestselling book Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines.

The Elders’ Conferences conducted to preserve global theo-diversity and natural spiritual traditions by the Sangh has its roots in the vision and wisdom of Ram Swarup.

 Amerindian chief and Mohan Bhagwat at Elders’ Conference conducted by the RSS to preserve global theo-diversity and natural spiritual traditions.

Editor’s Note: Historian Sita Ram Goel had an abiding contempt for P.N. Oak and his acolytes. He said they did great harm to serious Hindu scholarship and made a laughing-stock of Indian history. He often referred to their claim that the Taj Mahal had originally been a Shiva temple. The history of the Taj Mahal has been recorded by the ASI, but it is now down-played, even denied and hidden, as it is not politically correct to tell the truth about how Shah Jahan aquired the palace building that has been made world famous by an Englishman’s romantic poem. – IS