February 21, 2012

The museums of Europe – fortified havens for plunder from India

Posted at 2:10 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

India (like many countries) has various artefacts in museums abroad, that it would like to be returned. The tone of the article is a little extremist – undoubtedly, there are benefits to be gained from publicising a country’s culture by having it in museums around the world – but at the same time, this should never outweigh a country’s own requirements for access to their culture.


European, American Museums: Fortified Havens For Plunder From India
By Radha Rajan

SHOULD the people of India, Greece, Egypt and Africa, and Native American peoples succeed in getting American and European museums and libraries to return all objects which constitute the tangible roots of ancient civilisations, and thousands of years of history pre-dating the cults of Jesus and Mohammed, then the Louvre, British Museum, Smithsonian, Vatican and the Kunsthistoriches Museum to mention just five, would be emptied of all their prized possessions.

European and American museums and libraries are no more than fortified thieves’ dens and state-sponsored and supported safe havens for Abrahamic plunder; they house the spoils of Christian war and genocide against African peoples, against the nations of now extinct and almost extinct Native American peoples, colonial loot from Asia, and from archaeological and anthropological pseudo-science expeditions, which European marauders undertook across continents.

To the list of permanent exhibits and possessions officially declared by these museums and libraries must be added—objects which are never exhibited for public viewing, objects which are now in private collections of the rich and infamous, and objects which even people in the countries of their origin may not know about in some private collection and in the dark interiors of museums and libraries

The only history to be spared the depredations of Christian vandals, which they could not uproot and cart away to Europe and America, and those which successive jihadi hordes could not destroy and reduce to rubble are the petroglyphs and pictograms in the caves of India.

India should demand that all such objects including the priceless Saraswati-Indus seals, temple pediments and colonnades and every murti of our gods and goddesses once worshipped in our temples and homes be returned to India where they belong.

In the British Museum alone the writer saw objects inscribed with Saraswati-Indus script. There are currently around 4200 such inscribed objects of which over 2500 are seals and sealings. According to Dr Subhash Kak, most of the sites of what is called the Indus civilisation are in the Saraswati valleys and some of the biggest sites in vivisected India are yet to be excavated.

Several among the 4200 objects are scattered across major museums of the world and libraries. According to Dr Kak besides the 14 in the British Museum, there is one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and one in the Berkeley Museum, University of California.

The Saraswati-Indus script has not been deciphered conclusively and all work including that of some Hindu scholars and amateurs continues to remain at best in the domain of conjecture. All objects bearing the Saraswati-Indus script, currently located in foreign museums and libraries must therefore come back to India to enable future scholars to access them at one place without having to travel around the world; what belongs to the Indian people must be returned to India.

Besides the 14 objects with the Saraswati-Indus script, the writer saw in the collection of colonial loot, a portion of the Mathura Lion Capital, the base of an exquisitely carved temple column from Dwarka, breathtakingly beautiful murtis from every corner of our country—of Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Parvati, Rukmani, Vaishnavi, Kartikeya and Narthana (Dancing) Ganesha.

The defilement of temples and sacred places was not confined to India. A magnificent wall torn down from the Memorial Temple of Rameses II in Abydos, Egypt, built of limestone and sandstone around 1250 BC, bearing precious hieroglyphs giving a detailed list of names of the kings and gods of Egypt in exquisitely carved cartouches also stands in the British Museum.

The memorial temple to Rameses II also had seven shrines dedicated to seven gods including Osiris, God of Death and the netherworld. Auguste Mariette was to Abydos what Lord Elgin was to the Acropolis. If Elgin vandalised the sacred Acropolis and brought home the plunder for the British Museum, Mariette vandalised the sacred city of Abydos and brought home the loot for the Egyptian Museum in the Louvre.

Temples which were plundered and destroyed by pre-Christian and pre-Islam kings and soldiers were always re-built and the gods were re-installed and worshipped again. Oftentimes some future king from the victor country would re-build the temple which had been destroyed earlier by his predecessor; but that which was destroyed by Christian crusaders, colonisers and archaeologists and Muslim jihadi armies remain to this day only as ruins.

White Christian countries built museums as truimphant monuments of this destruction and vandalism. Pre-Christian and pre-Islam kings destroyed temples as an asuric act of victory but even they did not vandalise graves and tombs. Vandalising tombs and pyramids, digging up graves and mutilating the bodies of the dead is an Abrahamic trait and Native Americans are still fighting to get back the mortal remains of their forefathers displayed in American museums so that they can be respectfully laid back to rest.

If India, Greece and Egypt bore the brunt of western archaeologists, Native Americans suffered anthropologists.

While their historical precedent is uncertain, anthropologists can be readily identified on the Reservations. Go into any crowd of people. Pick out a tall gaunt white man wearing Bermuda shorts, a World war II Army Air Force flying jacket, an Australian bush hat, tennis shoes, and packing a large knapsack incorrectly strapped on his back. He will invariably have a thin wife with stringy hair, an IQ of 191, and a vocabulary in which even the prepositions have eleven syllables. This creature is an anthropologist. (Vine Deloria, JR., Custer Died For Your Sins, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1988, page 79)

While native American writer Vine Deloria’s biting satire may have reduced the anthropologist and Christian missionary to caricatures, the destruction wreaked on ancient civilisations and peoples is real; very real. The extent of destruction, vandalism, brazen appropriation of the wealth of other nations which these museums and libraries continue to hold on to and exhibit with scant regard for morality and justice, and the sensibilities of the nations to which this wealth belongs, has to be seen to be really understood.

A museum, as conceived by what goes in the name of western civilisation is primarily a victory monument displaying the remains of dead and extinct or once conquered and elslaved civilisations; and they are dead because of the rise and expansion of the Abrahamic religions. One such museum was the Baghdad museum which housed the remains of the Mesopotamian civilisation. In an act of Abrahamic atavism, the Baghdad museum was made a precision target during the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

American tanks fired at the Baghdad museum leaving a gaping hole on the forehead; the attack on Baghdad museum facilitated the pre-planned vandalism and plunder of the magnificent wealth of the Mesopotamian civilisation. The world will never know how much was destroyed, how much was looted and where these precious objects are now.

By ordering the vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple to be opened, the judges of the Supreme Court have only facilitated the possible destruction and loot of Hindu temple wealth which is the priceless wealth of the Hindu civilisation. Christian fundamentalism vandalised the Acropolis, Abydos and now the Baghdad museum; while Islamic jihadi fundamentalism vandalised Belur, Halebid and now the Bamiyan Buddhas.

India’s Hindus must begin to think long and hard about how best to preserve and protect our history besides resisting all efforts to display parts of our living temples, including the wealth of our gods in museums. In the meanwhile we must begin to make serious and unrelenting efforts to bring back the civilisational wealth now flaunted in American and European museums and libraries.

This is the invaluable and priceless wealth, our history and heritage, objects which define national self-identity, which we must bring back. This is wealth which cannot be replicated, regenerated or renewed; black money, however big in monetary terms, is only a very small and negligible aspect of our national wealth.

India has to take the lead in this direction as only India can because India’s Hindu civilisation is still alive and vibrant. More importantly, India has the moral authority as a non-aggressive and non-acquisitive civilisation to make the demand for the return of all objects of history and national self-identity to the nations of their origin.

(The writer is editor of Vigilonline and author of Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and His Freedom Struggle)

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