Blavatsky’s Russian Travel Writings on Racism and Colonialism in India, 3 of 3
FROM THE DURBAR IN LAHORE, CHAPTER III
Having described the English and the characteristics they have developed here, let us look at the natives and see how far they have deserved their harsh fate. Let me here express a thought which may seem paradoxical, though it is supported by irrefutable facts. The Hindus lack and are incapable of having that sentiment which we Europeans qualify as patriotism, namely, love for one’s country in the abstract sense of the word. They have no warm attachment for the established institutions of their native country, such as an all-inclusive sentiment, which sometimes electrifies a whole nation and makes it rise as one man to the glorification or the defence of country. They have no responsiveness to its joys and sorrows, its renown or its dishonor…. The reason they lack this sentiment is quite understandably simple, and indeed an obvious and generally well-known fact. Except for the parental house or hut where he first chanced to see the light of day, the Hindu, generally speaking, has no other home. There is more to this than that: the native, as a result of the sacred laws prescribed to him by his religion, often considers his closest neighbors, across the fence of his parents’ garden, not as compatriots but as foreigners of an entirely different race, if these neighbors belong to some other caste than his own. This is readily confirmed by the fact that, for instance, in speaking of a Hindu living, let us say, on the opposite side of the field, the first Hindu will refer to him as a bellati (foreigner) – a term of contempt not limited to Europeans only. Thus the native, unfamiliar with the sentiment of patriotism, in case of invasion or civil dissension, apart from the personal courage which drives him to defend his hearth and family to the last drop of his blood, showed and still shows little interest either in the fate of India in an integral sense, or for that of his neighbor, if the latter is of some other caste than his own, or even some other special division or sub-division of the caste to which he himself belongs.
Geographically the country is divided into hundreds of tribes and nationalities; nominally into two races, Aryans and Semites or Hindus and Moguls, in other words the two main religions, the Mohammedan and the Brahmanical. These sects are involved in an age-old irreconcilable feud and only the presence of the British troops restrains the fanaticism of the two races who would otherwise cut each other’s throats at any one of their respective religious festivals and of such festivals there are several dozen a year both for the Moguls and for the Hindus, especially the latter. Moreover, even the Mohammedans in India are divided into a large number of mutually antagonistic sects that are unknown to the orthodox believer in Turkey and Europe. As for the Hindus, it is useless even to speak about them: nominally they are (some two hundred million) of the “Brahmanical faith” and worship according to the sacred Laws of Manu and the Vedas. But for that matter even fishes who prey upon each other live in the same water. Look at the night sky with its thousands of stars when there is no moon, if you would have a conception of the castes, sub-castes, the divisions and sub-divisions of the Brahmanical faith. They themselves say that their sacred “Vedas are the universal, shoreless ocean from the bitter-salt waters of which flow forth thousands of fountain-heads of the purest water.” Think of it in this way: the waters of the Veda-ocean are too salty for the average stomach; thus, in order to make them palatable, cunning hydrologists appeared in the guise of Brahmanas and busied themselves in filtering these waters, each one interpreting the ancient scriptures in his own way. After some centuries the result was as follows: The Hindus nominally divide their race into four castes: (1) Brahmanas, or sons of the god Brahma; (2) Kshattriyas or warriors; (3) Vaisyas or merchants, and (4) Sudras or artisans, the lowest class. But each of these castes is divided into sub-castes (ranging from five to thirteen) which, in their turn, split up into innumerable fragments. In other words, each caste is a scale of notes descending from the highest to the lowest, but instead of seven, it contains “seventy times seven” notes. Thus, for example, in the two main divisions into which fall the Brahmanas of the highest aristocracy, the “panchadravidas” and the “pancha-gaudas” (the former being the Southern and the latter the Northern inhabitants of India), we observe that the two sub-castes may neither intermarry nor eat together, if there be even one drop of water in the food; but both these sub-castes are Brahmanas and they may eat any other kind of food in each other’s company. A Gujarati Brahmana will accept water from the hands or from the house of a Maratha Brahmana, but will not touch the rice prepared by the latter. A Desastha Brahmana is permitted to speak to a Karhade Brahmana from a distance, but if accidentally he should cross the latter’s shadow or touch him, he will become heavily polluted!
The question is: with such a system, can India not only be a nursery for patriotism, as some writers imagine her, but in addition bring forth her own patriots in time? There are about 200 million Hindus professing the same faith, but since Christianity does not prevent a similar and even greater number of Europeans from fighting and hating each other, so likewise is it in India. The country has Maratha Hindus and Panjab Hindus, Bengalis and Dravidians, Gujaratis and Rajputs, Kashmiris and Nepalis, etc.; yet they are all Hindus. Nevertheless to assume from this that the Rajput considers Dekkan and Bengal part of his country, and that should occasion arise he would undertake their defence, is as foolish a hope as that an inhabitant of Moscow should burn with the desire to avenge the English who may have been beaten by the Zulus, or that he would look upon Spain as a part of his country just because it lies in Europe!….The English allow the world to believe that they, with a comparatively small army, curbed the rebels in 1857, conquered and reduced to ashes the Mogul dynasty in Delhi, and at long last, chained the Indian rajas to the heels of Great Britain, as prisoner-kings were chained to the chariots of their conquerors in ancient times….But do they not boast of these great deeds simply because the story of the Mutiny has never been told by anyone except themselves? Since they cannot erase this bloody page from the annals of the conquest of India they elaborate it in their own way. Were the facts to be presented in their true colors, however, it would become evident that they would never have subdued the rebels if the Panjabis, and especially the Sikhs, had not helped them. No one would be foolish enough to doubt either their individual courage or the superiority of their martial genius, their weapons and all else, over those of the Asiatic peoples; but “force breaks a straw” [Russian proverb. – Translator.] and even if during the Mutiny they threw heart and soul into the military contest, the Panjabis, on the other hand, together with some other tribes who remained faithful to England, were the powerful hand which crushed, one by one, the heads of this manyheaded hydra which was preparing to make a meal of the absent-minded Britons. And without exception they would have been swallowed up in the Mutiny but for “our faithful Panjabis,” as the English express it in their rare moments of fair-mindedness towards the natives. And yet, Hindu rose against Hindu, brother against brother, not because of devotion to, or special love for the English, but in the first place, simply to satisfy the Sikhs’ personal vengeance against the Hindus of Central India whose armies and many tribes helped their common enemy to conquer Lahore and Panjab in 1845-1849; and also because of their age-old hatred for the Moguls.
Those who assume the English conquered India are mistaken. They merely came and took it, little by little, appropriating province after province, territory after territory…. They met with opposition from the rajas and fought the independent rulers; but the people always remained unconcerned and indifferent spectators of the fighting. Apart from the above-mentioned complete lack of patriotism in the Hindus, this indifference can also be explained by the following, little-known fact: with the exception of the Mogul and some essentially Indian dynasties, the now existing Pleiades of Maharajas and rajas were not, in past times, either kings or even independent rulers of their territories. Being without exception members of the Kshattriya (warrior) caste, they were merely the armed protectors of the people who lived within a certain area in this or that Indian territory, and as they received by common consent a certain tribute in the form of produce and money, they agreed to defend the area in case of aggression by its neighbors, and generally to safeguard its interests while ruling it, and settling its grievances according to the Laws of Manu. These laws were known throughout India and were, as they still are, held sacred and consequently immutable. The whole of Hindostan therefore, in spite of its variety of castes and religious sects, including its hundreds of individual rajs, (The title “raja” is derived from the word raj – a kingdom or state. Some of the latter consist of only a few hundred acres) followed the same laws, the sacred text of which forms an insurmountable obstacle to any kind of reform.
With the passing of the ages the code of the Laws of Manu became a dead letter; the country was covered with slime, like a pool of stagnant water, and was overcome by a senile sleep, awakening only spasmodically here and there, whenever occurred some momentary trouble, occasioned by one of its enemies. But not once, from the first to the present page of her history did India rise as a whole and shake off its centuries-old mustiness; not once did any of her sons voice their pain when the invading enemy crippled some other son….The English came and offered to substitute their protection for that of the rajas. Among the nations of Hindostan, one thought it over, another pondered upon it, and each in turn, seeing that the newcomers were besting their former protectors and were thus the stronger of the two, seeing that the English offered them a similar or an even more reliable protection, and realizing, that the tribute demanded did not at first seem too high, began to yield without opposition, one after another….They were not asked to give up either the Laws of Manuor the beliefs of their forefathers, and so without any loss to themselves, as they believed, they obtained conditions that were far more favorable. Why should they be concerned individually about what happened to the other collectively? Who among the Hindus, apart from the Brahmanas, cares whether the country be under the rule of one bellati or another!…. ”