“Why be proud of being an Indian?” asked Michel Danino to the assembled students and faculty members at the Amritapuri campus.
Although French-born, Michel Danino has lived in India since 1977. As a long-time student of India’s ancient history, he listed India’s major achievements as a civilization, as he provided an answer to his own rhetorical question.
“The spread of the Indian civilization and culture never destroyed any other religion or culture,” he emphasized. “Folk traditions, village cultures and tribal mores all flourished, bringing about a unique cultural integration in the land.”
Contrasting this with the spread of Christianity and Islamic traditions in Europe, Asia and Africa, he noted, “These were exclusive traditions. Wherever they spread, they erased previous traditions and cultures. It is impossible to find a single pre-Christian culture in Europe today.”
Highlighting the democratic system prevalent in ancient India, Danino explained that economic prosperity of the society was apparent and rulers were not unnecessarily glorified.
“There was water harvesting and adequate provision for sanitation,” he pointed out.
Technological and scientific advancements facilitated by the works of Aryabhatta, Panini, Varahamihira and Bhaskara were explained. Ancient Indian advances in Jyotishastra, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and medicine were elaborated upon.
The scholar of history showcased Indian’s ancient temples and sculptures.
“When we consider architecture in the ancient times, we can see that more emphasis was placed on building temples and spiritual sculptures,” he said. “We can’t really see any other models of buildings having architectural styles of today.”
Archeological evidence of ancient sculptures was presented that showed the prevalence of hatha yoga in ancient times.
“The Indian civilization was never wiped out, as were other ancient civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc.” finally stated Danino. Conceding that China’s ancient civilization also survived to some extent, he noted however, the damage caused by the communist rule.
Explaining the spiritual freedom and pluralism that India’s ancient culture offered, he said, “Everyone not only had access to the truth, but also had the right to find his or her own path to it, or to even create a new path to walk upon.”
Danino did not forget to contrast the glory of the ancient days with the stark reality of today.
“Over the past decade, 50 farmers have committed suicide every single day. A staggering amount of Rs. 7280000 crores in black money has been deposited in foreign banks by Indians.”
The acclaimed author of Indian Culture and India’s Future (DK Print World, 2011) and The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin India, 2010) was in the Amritapuri campus to talk to students (and faculty members) as part of the Cultural Education classes.
November 18, 2011