Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar, Jihadi Akbar!

Kalavai Venkat

Jodhaa Akbar is a recent Hindi movie about the supposedly romantic marriage between the Mughal emperor Akbar (born Jalaluddin Muhammad) and the Rajput princess Jodhaa. The Rajput king Bharmal sues for peace with Akbar to avoid the threat of Mughal invasion and offers his daughter Jodhaa in matrimony to Akbar. Jodhaa insists that Akbar allow her to remain a Hindu and that she should be allowed to worship Sri Krishna in his palace as preconditions for marriage. Even though Akbar acquiesces, and marries her according to Hindu rites, Jodhaa resents him as a usurper, and on their nuptial night rebuffs Akbar’s overtures.

The slighted Akbar declares, “Islam gives women equal rights to annul the marriage should you thus desire Jodhaa.” Jodhaa condescendingly retorts, “That is your religion, not mine. My Hinduism says that marriage is a sacred bond that unites the couple for seven births.” Turn of the events brings the couple together in love but the mullahs resent it. Akbar rebuffs the mullahs and builds a temple for Sri Krishna in the Agra palace and also prays in the Hindu style. As the movie draws to a conclusion, Akbar abolishes the unjust taxes levied on the Hindus and sends the divisive mullahs on Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca as a punishment for treachery after lecturing them that “religion is not to be used to divide people.”

If the movie portrays Hinduism and Hindus as magnanimous, it portrays Islam and Muslims as rapine, divisive, vengeful, scheming, and inhuman. It caricatures the Hajj, the pilgrimage Muslims consider the holiest, as a punishment for treason! It is surprising that Hindus are the ones protesting against the movie! Of course, the movie remains historically accurate only insofar as it portrays the Islamic rapine and Hindu laissez faire, and weaves a web of fantasy beyond that.

The movie attempts to distinguish the Mughals from the previous Islamic invaders as those that desired to make India their home. The message is that the Mughals attempted to build what the earlier Muslim invaders had attempted to destroy. Someone should tell the filmmaker that the Lodhis and the Khiljis, who had ruled before the Mughals, too had made India their home. Did it make a difference to their Hindu subjects? Sure, it did, in an ironic way. While the plundering incursions of a Mahmud Ghaznavi gave Hindus a chance to rebuild their society after the raider retreated, the settling down of the Khiljis and Mughals ensured that Hindus lived under debilitating conditions permanently without respite. Strangely, the moviemaker thinks that is something the subjugated Hindus would have welcome!

There is a good reason why the Mughals made India their home instead of retreating to Turkmenistan or Persia with the loot. They had no place to return to. While earlier raiders like Mahmud Ghaznavi had a kingdom intact in Ghazni, Babur, the first Mughal, did not have any such kingdom intact in Central Asia. So, he had no other option than to build a kingdom for himself in India.

According to the movie, Akbar was a magnanimous king that attempted to avoid bloodshed. Akbar’s own letters belie this fanciful portrayal. Akbar attempted to build an empire upon the shaky foundations that Humayun had left. He cleverly realized that the caveat of war and destruction was more effective than actual war. He struck matrimonial relationships with some Rajputs, exploiting the internal rivalries among the Rajput kings, as a political mechanism to build and consolidate an empire where the Rajputs as vassal kings brought in assured revenue to Akbar’s coffers. Akbar also knew how untrustworthy the Turk, Afghani, or Persian Muslim noblemen were and realized the value of counterbalancing them in his court with the honorable, courageous, and scrupulous Rajput noblemen. These factors prompted him to strike alliances with the Rajputs. Yet, on those occasions when the Rajputs courageously defied Akbar’s diktats, Akbar was cruel, vengeful, and vindictive as illustrated by his conquest of Chitor.

Akbar besieged Chitor in March 1568. The Rajputs put up a terrific fight but eventually lost. Akbar issued Fathnama-i-Chitor (Letter of victory from Chitor) upon his victory. He begins his letter with a praise of Allah, and quotes the verses of the Quran repeatedly leaving no doubt that he derived his inspiration from the Quran and that he viewed himself as a jihadi annihilating the infidel Rajputs. He declares that “in conformity with the happy injunction of the Quran (27:40)” he was “busy in subjugating the localities, habitations, forts and towns which are under the possession of the infidels…may God forsake and annihilate all of them, and thus raising the standard of Islam everywhere and removing the darkness of polytheism and violent sins by the use of sword. We destroy the places of worship of idols in those places and other parts of India. The praise be to Allah, who hath guided us to this, and we would not have found the way had it not been that Allah had guided us.”

Akbar committed the greatest travesty upon defeating the Rajputs of Chitor. In his own words, “In accordance with the imperative Command - And kill the idolaters all together (Quran 9:36), those defiant ones who were still offering resistance having formed themselves into knots of two to three hundred persons, were put to death and their women and children taken prisoners.” According to the various contemporary accounts of Abul Fazl, Badauni, etc, there were between 30,000 and 48,000 inhabitants inside the fort as Akbar’s victorious army entered it. Of those, 8,000 were Rajput warriors. The rest were women, children, and the aged. Akbar, according to his own fathnama, butchered the defenseless women and children. These accounts also confirm that many women, attempting to avoid rape by the Muslim marauders, committed jauhar. Akbar confirms what he did with those women and children that did not attempt jauhar: “According to the promise - Allah promised you many acquisitions which you will take (Quran 48:20), immense booty and spoils in cash and kind were acquired.”

History is unaware of any princess named Jodhaa. Akbar never built a temple for Sri Krishna or any Hindu God or Goddess in any of his palaces or forts. He never married any Rajput princess according to Hindu rites. Every time he married a Rajput princess, it was a political marriage, and the princess was first converted to Islam. Not on a single occasion was a Mughal princess from Akbar’s household married off to a Rajput prince thereby demonstrating which way the balance of power tilted.

Despite these facts if Akbar still looks benign it is only because his predecessors and successors were thorough monsters that inflicted relentless suffering upon the Hindus.

Akbar lived most of his life drawing inspiration from the Quran and plundering the Hindus according to the Quranic injunctions. Yet, the constant company of the noble Rajputs seems to have had some impact on him towards the end of his life when he started to abandon Islam to propound his own religion, Din-i-Ilahi – an act according to the Quran that makes him an apostate. Apostasy alone does not qualify Akbar for greatness. The fact that his new religion did not survive beyond his own death and that Islam continued to grow more oppressive after his lifetime confirms that Akbar could not usher in any lasting systemic change like other great Indian emperors such as Ashoka, the Guptas, the Cholas, or Krishnadeva Raya had.

It is quite a sad irony that a filmmaker’s search for a tolerant and compassionate Muslim king could find none better than a jihadi like Akbar who vindictively butchered defenseless civilians and raped the captured women – all because he wholeheartedly believed in the Quranic injunction that the infidel woman is an object of plunder.

It is equally amusing that some Rajput organizations believe that Jodhaa was Akbar’s daughter-in-law and hence protest the portrayal of marriage between the two as improper. It would be improper to lust after or marry one’s daughter-in-law in Hinduism. No such restrictions apply to Muslims. Muhammad, whom Muslims call their Prophet, had an adopted son named Zaid. Zaid’s beautiful wife was Zainab. Once, Muhammad accidentally saw her naked and desired her. Zaid divorced Zainab and Muhammad married her. The Quran (33:37-38) confirms that this is an example that Muhammad set for future Muslims to follow. So, even if the fictional Jodhaa had been Akbar’s daughter-in-law, nothing would have prevented Akbar from marrying her so long as he remained an ardent Muslim.

Are the Rajput organizations holding Akbar to the higher Hindu standards just because the filmmaker created an imaginary portrait of a tolerant Akbar?

Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based practicing, orthodox, agnostic Hindu.

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At 3/30/2008 09:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lies and manipulation of history in media, Film industry, JNU and other educational institutions and other institutions are not accident. There is a pattern in blatant corruption and in an anti national agenda of a long time. There is no concern for about 90 p.c. population of about 1 billion Indians. The degradation of Hindus, lies, manipulation of history all have an anti national agenda. We should not be shy away but must expose the conspiracy.

At 3/30/2008 10:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AT the least the movie should have been declard as "fiction" by which ever government authorities control/sanction movie releases. That much respect Hindus deserve and it would have been minimum servicee to the history of the country......

At 3/31/2008 02:48:00 AM, Blogger said...

Yes, the marriages were political.
Yes, Akber was an iconoclast and destoryed many temples and Hindu kingdoms. However, contemporary records show he was also interested in Hindu philosophy in his later years. There are records of Akber and some of his ministers supporting Hindu sects, temples and institutions in the Mathura / Vrindavan area. Mainly these were the ones that did not oppose him in any way.

There are contemporary records to show that some of his wives and daughter-in-laws were allowed to carry on with their Hindu traditions in the privacy of their own palaces. This was mainly because they were princesses and had the backing of their fathers and brothers who were at court. Without the powerful hand of politics, I doubt they would have allowed to do this.

Indeed, the relative tolerance shown by Akber and Jahangir dies out in the time of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Though they had Hindu blood in their veins, none of the later Mughals cared much for the Hindus and that was their undoing. Once the Rajputs realized that no matter how many daughters they sent to the mughals, they would never be equal to the muslims, they abandoned them. Soon enough, Dehli itself was looted by a succession of people - Iranians, Sikhs, Marathas, Jats and the British.

If only Indians read and understood history, India would be spared the curse of having to repeat it. We still think talking to terrorists and jihadists will help us win them over. We haven't learnt from history that there is only one way to deal with them - to remove them. As a result, we still pamper the communists, moaists, SIIMI, Kashmiri muslims etc.

If only we read history !! we would know this is not the way to deal with them - ever !!!


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