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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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The Prime Minister started his New Year with a healthy break off politics for a much needed consensus building with the opposition BJP inviting Vajpayee and Advani over for Lunch. Offstumped is also taking a detour from the politics of the day to focus a news item that was a mere blip in the mainstream media. An ancient Vishnu idol has been found during excavation  in an old village in Russia’s Volga Region.  Staraya Maina village in Ulyanovsk region was a highly populated city 1700 years ago, much older than Kiev, so far believed to be the mother of all Russian cities. The find has triggered speculation in Russia on whether the prevalent view of the origin of ancient Russsia still holds. But that is not what got Offstumped interested in the story. The interesting aspect of the story is in the dating of the find. The idol found in Staraya Maina village dates back to VII-X century AD.

So what is interesting about the period from 7th to 10th century AD. According to the prevalent view of Ancient Russian History, it was really in the late 800s that the contours of the Russian civilization the way we know it started to first take shape. In fact it was not until 988 AD that Russia embraced Christianity under the reign of Prince Vladimir in Kiev. So if the dating of the Vishnu Idol is accurate this means that the idol had some significance, we dont know what, in pre-christian Russia. It is generally assumed that everything pre-christian in Europe is swept under a sweeping blanket of Paganism. Perhaps it was convenient for the Church for political reasons to blaspheme all pre-christian influences and the blanket description of the everything pre-christian as Pagan served that purpose quite well. Perhaps this find should be a good reason for a more reasoned revision of Pre-Christian History of Europe to more accurately record the history of the region and specifically the Indo-Iranian Vedic/Avestan influences on Europe.

What would be more important to present day India is the origin of the Idol and if it can be traced to a specific period or region in India. The period of 7th to 10th century AD in Indian History maps to the period when the Gupta reign had ended and the Pala Empire was in control of most of present day Bengal and Bihar, the Pala empire interestingly had its roots in a democratic election of its first ruler. A lesser known anecdote of Indian History. The more interesting aspect of the Palas is their origins in trade, a kshatriya community that engaged in shipping and trade. Down south you had the Cholas in power around the same time who’s reign extended all the way to Maldives, Lanka and Malaya.

But more than their naval prowess it is their International Trade that held the Cholas in distinction. The Cholas excelled in foreign trade and maritime activity, extending their influence overseas to China and Southeast Asia. Unlike the other religions the spread of Hinduism to Southeast Asia was not on account of missionaries or proselytization but on account of the trade. Many of the surviving examples of the Hindu Cultural influence  found today throughout the Southeast Asia owe much to the legacy of the Cholas. The 12th century Angkor Wat Vishnu Temple in Cambodia was modelled and architected based on that of the Cholas, especially after Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Cholan.

Recent debates in India against globalization and the spread of economic freedom, open markets have been marked by ignorance of Indian History and Indian Culture. What you have here by the Cholas and the Palas is global trade spreading culture, not by force not by deciet, but by the free movement of people and ideas that comes with global trade. One can see a resurgent China today doing exactly this with Chinese CCTV beaming free content in multiple international languages on satellite networks across the world.

Offstumped Bottomline: Borrowed ideas of social justice and empowerment have blinded Indians to the global free traders our ancestors were and how they spread ideas and culture with their economic freedom. The discovery of the 7th century Vishnu Idol in Russia should be a timely reminder of how spread of ideas and culture in a Globalized World is a 2 way street. Rather than hunker down with defensive responses to globalization, Indians would do well to sieze the opportunity and view the world without boundaries to secure and further Indian Strategic Interests and Values.

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