Book on Girmit pitches well in Melbourne

Staff Reporter

A cross-section of the Melbourne community was present at the launch of the Book, ‘Aryan Avatars: From prehistoric darkness to settlers in the Pacific,’ held at the Down Under Restaurant of Northcote on March 21, 2015.

It was a moment of justifiable pride for author Mahendra Sukhdeo, an Elphinstonian from the University of Mumbai, and a former Fiji academic, trade unionist and politician.

Ram Krishna, former Fiji Director of Meteorology was the Master of Ceremonies at the event, which included reading of excerpts by Sujata Maharaj, Anuja Baker and Gitanjali Jogia.

Changing fortunes

The book charts the course of Indian inheritance cascading from the unique sophistry of Indus Valley Civilisation and the philosophical thrust of the Vedic era to the tortuous span of colonialism under the heels of Islamists and Christian masters.

Between 200 to 300 years before the Second millennium, the Mauryans laid the foundation for a united, pluralistic and a secular India.

It was one of the largest and most populous empires of its time.

According to Mr Sukhdeo, the Mauryans left behind two contra legacies that still afflict Indians. One was that of unbridled militant expansionism as championed by Chanakya and the other being pacifism as typified in Ashoka’s withdrawal on winning the Kalanga War.

Members of the Melbourne Book Club         Picture by John Kumar
Members of the Melbourne Book Club
Picture by John Kumar

The pacifist and militant thrust has evolved into a split personality amongst Indians.

The Hindu debate

With reference to the current debate on whether Hinduism is a religion and if all Indians should be called Hindus in India, Mr Sukhdeo said the word gained currency only in the Eighth Century as the Arabs linked India to the ‘Land of Seven Rivers’ or ‘Sapta Sindhu’ of the Indus Valley network.

“However, its origins are traceable to the Indus Valley Civilisation and the Harappa era. The value system since then has undergone dramatic changes. All Indians of the Subcontinent were Hindus prior to the invasion of Muslims and the Mughals starting in the 11th Century,” he said.

Mr Sukhdeo said that with the rise of petty Hindu kingdoms from the 7th to the 9th Century, the Brahmins manoeuvred to dislodge the Buddhist monks from obtaining royal patronage. Buddhism declined in the land of its birth but its growth was phenomenal in the East and South East Asia.

Aryan heritage

Prior to the rise of Hindu Kingdoms, the people of the Subcontinent were essentially Aryans with their geographical canvass reaching Persia on the west and Bengal in the East. Mughals followed these Hindu kingdoms and left behind the legacy of dynastic influence that smeared Indian polity until recently. He further asserts that it is wrong to say that the Mughals created a climate for cultural fusion. It was in fact a case of enforced infusion.

British Rule

The European colonisation followed immediately after the European led voyages to the Americas, Indian subcontinent and Australasia in late 1400.  The genocide of defenceless indigenous people is an unpardonable commentary on the European atrocities in these areas. Overpopulation of Asia curtailed the full thrust of European colonisation and Christian evangelism.

On British rule in India, Mr Sukhdeo said that it was aimed at harnessing the raw resources, with the exploits from other colonies laid the foundation for industrial revolution in the West.

Mahendra Sukhdeo was born in Nadi and is a third generation Fiji Indian whose grandparents migrated as contracted labourers from a remote village near the India-Nepal border in early 1900. Migrating to New Zealand in 1999, he worked in Auckland at Adult Education Centre (Manager) and Sky City Group (Administrator) before relocating to Australia. He is married and has four children.

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