Sunday, February 22, 2015

Silk Road is A Bad Idea for China and India!

The Silk Road project is praised as a path to revive of trade between China and Europe as it once existed in almost 2000 years ago. However, the geographical landscape of the region has changed completely from what it was about 100 C.E to 300 C.E. During that time in history most of Middle East and Europe is united under the Roman Empire in what was termed Pax Romana by historians. Similarly China is united under the Han empire, one of the the largest empires of premodern China. Today China is united under one political state, but the case of Europe and middle east is different.
The case of Europe is changing since the foundation of EU (European Union).

From the sixth century onwards the historical silk road between China and Europe benefited Northern Eurasia more than it benefited India, China, or Europe. After the sixth century silk road trade declined between China and Europe due the decline of Roman empire in the Middle East, and Northern Eurasia began emerging as a powerful zone of power. Middle East and Northern Eurasia developed and Islam spread across this region between 7-10th centuries. The Mongol Empire of 12 century emerged out of this power vacuum, and China knows the results of such development more than any other nation in this world. As a result of the Mongol empire China went from being the largest and most prosperous state to a poor state in the 1300s. Similarly, large parts of India became part of the Islamic empire ruled by the Delhi Sultanate. 

Unless China wants to repeat this history it is advisable to leave Silk-road to the forgotten past. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hindutva and History: Colonial Constructions

Colonial Vestiges of Race, Religion, and Land: Aryans, Horse, and Script: A Look at Romila Thapar’s Article (“Hindutva and History” Frontline Oct 13, 2000, reprint Jan 2015)

1. First of All Stop Calling Them Aryans!

I think abstaining from using the word Aryans as a designation for people of the Vedas would solve most of the issues associated with early history of India. Besides the people of the Vedas called themselves the Aryas, a designation reserved for civilized and cultured folk, and it does not denote a race. Using it as a racial term is taking it out of context from the normal Vedic usage.

It is an undeniable historical fact that colonialism always benefited from invented historical categories, especially invasion theories, most importantly those that present invaders as bringers of knowledge and civilization. This angle of presentation of history is beneficial for colonial government formed by invaders, who are considered alien rulers by the natives. Thus the Aryas of the Vedas are equated with Aryans of somewhere (or anywhere and nowhere). The Aryan invasion theory current until the turn of the second millennium construed that an alien group of people referred to as Aryans in Indian history during the Neolithic phase, who are said to have arrived with the Neolithic package (agriculture, metals, chariot), influencing the indigenous culture of India in a major way. This is not only presented as a theory, but as a fact legitimizing alien rule in India as a beneficiary historical event. This did not only happen in India, but in numerous countries across the world, wherever colonial empires were established.

Colonial states brought with them the theoretical identity shift, which helped colonial governance, by making them amenable to a group of the general population of the governed, generally a minority, already threatened by the majority. They cling on to this new found superior identity offered by the colonial rulers, and become part of the exploiters separated from the governed public, by the new theories of identity being popularized by the colonial government. Some of the postcolonial states wrestle with this pseudo identity for many years, which becomes an irreversible obstacle in their state formation and nationhood. African states such as Yemen, Rwanda, and Sudan, still wrestle with this issue, although India has found some peace, this issue still continues to plague the identity politics in India, conveniently grabbed by two opposing political sections of society- the lower classes presented as the oppressed (Dalits) and the higher classes presented as oppressors and invaders. Two race theory always involves an indigenous group, and a invader group; although the origins invaders are mired in mystery, this theory has worked in a number of colonial states, sometimes leading to ravaging results in some post colonial states such as Rwanda (Forges 1995). The invaders are always pale skinned, and come from north, while the indigenous are always the dark skinned and came from the south in general. Buying into this theory of two-race divide of Indian population, Indian epics such as the Mahabharata, and especially the Ramayana are reinterpreted as representing the struggle between the invaders and the indigenous tribes. The story of Ramayana is interpreted to show that Ravana is the leader of the indigenous tribes, while Rama is shown as the repressing invader. Contradictory evidence of appearances or story is ignored (while Rama is dark skinned, his wife Sita is of dark tan color (the color of the indigenous people), while Ravana is fair skinned; is also noted as Brahmana).

There are no races in India as they were portrayed in the early 20th century. The Aryans is an invented race, and the Aryas of the Vedas is not a racial designation.

This theory of Aryan invasion has recently been revised to Aryan migration due to mounting historical evidence showing no evidence of large movements of people into India. Following this revision old time historians like Romila Thapar have also accepted that Aryan invasions/migrations is untenable in view of the current researches. My research (Vemsani 2014) utilizing genetic evidence clearly shows that no large migrations of alien human groups had ever occurred in India.

It is appalling that Romila Thapar quotes Jyotiba Phule, and Savarkar to construct her contention on Hindutva. Both Phule and Savarkar had written their work during the colonial regime in early twentieth century when the Aryan invasion theories were current, and did not have an opportunity to revise their views in the light of the new research. Further it has to be noted that Thapar herself had held similar views. She convenietly forgets her own work written during the late twentieth century asserting the same theories on Aryan invasion and Aryanization of Indian culture (Thapar 1966: 29). It is a false parallelism to equate early twentieth century notions of Aryans with current research on Aryans and Indus valley to label it as Hindutva. If Thapar wanted to argue against the current debates on Aryans she should have consulted current research on Ancient India, and its archaeology. Based on this false equivalency she argues that “A Hindu therefore could not be descended from alien invaders,” and goes on to propose that “since Hindus sought a lineal descent from Aryans, and a cultural heritage, the Aryans had to be indigenous.” In fact, the Aryas of the Vedas are indigenous to India. Romila Thapar is forgetting here that India did not exist in this modern geographical form at the time of the Vedas during its early historical phase. The Hindu land (country of Hindus) referred to the land of the Indian subcontinent all the way from Afghanisthan to the Indian Ocean. This is what the Jambudvipa referred to in the classical Hindu texts. The earliest references made by Persians, and Greeks have also referred to the Indian subcontinent as a whole as Hindu country. Then is’nt it true that the Vedic people who lived in the Saptasindhu region are indigenous to India. Mobility and cultural contacts, and multiplicity of life styles existed in the region called Saptasindhu, and Aryas were no aliens to that region.

2. Neolithic package (horse, iron, and chariots) Import Lacks Evidence
Cities, unicorns, and Script

Existence or nonexistence of horses, elephants or any other animals is not central to the question of whether the Indus valley people and the Rigvedic people lived in the same region, since introduction of Neolithic package (horses, iron, agriculture) by way of Aryan invasion or migration has already been disproved, and Romila Thapar agrees with this. Then it does not matter if horses existed in Indus valley or India. When there were no invasions and migrations into India, it is out of question if any animals were brought into India or not. Indus valley seals depicted a number of animals, and it is safe to assume that the people of Indus region including the Aryas are familiar with these animals. Kenoyer asserts that many different animals were depicted on the Indus seals including the unicorn, humped bull, elephant, rhinoceros, water buffalo, short-horned humpless bull, goat, antelope, crocodile, and hare (Kenoyer, 2012). It is hard to know what animal the unicorn might have represented. If the representation is just that of a bull, other seals of humped bull, humpless bull exist, and it differs significantly form these other bull seals. It bears features of a stylized image of a horse (or something similar to a horse) with sylized bovine horn (single horn unlike the two horns noted in the seals representing bulls). Unicorn depiction only shows that a stylized representation of an animal is in vogue, and that they were differentiating it from other known animals such as the bull. If the unicorn seals just represent a bovine bull, I don’t understand why they were stylizing it to look different from the other images of bovine bulls found on Indus seals. It must bear some significance to be depicted so differently and frequently across the Indus valley. It can be said that simply considering the unicorn seals as another representation of bull is missing its significance. Numerous seals of unicorn are found, which indicates its popularity in the region. Kenoyer further notes that the mythical unicorn was the most common symbol on seals, and moulded tablets as well as on a unique carved medallion or pendant. Kenoyer also found terracotta figurines of unicorns from Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Chanhudaro, and Ganeriwala. Does Romila Thapar then accuse Kenoyer of lying when she says ‘the unicorn image is computer enhanced and fabricated’ in her Frontline article? May be one image could have been fabricated, but what about all these other unicorn seals? What could they be representing? How could so many Indus valley seals depict a unicorn (a mix of bull, horse or deer), if the horse did not fascinate the Indus valley people? And how can the horses fascinate them, if they did not have horses? They did not also depict cow on the seals. Does that mean cow is somehow cow is not important to the Indus people or that only bulls existed in the Indus valley culture?

Importation of Neolithic package (horses, script, iron) by way of Aryans is only a colonial construction. Research on early India should progress beyond these colonial constructions.

Decipherment of Indus Valley script is not important to understanding where the Rigvedic people lived. It is common in this world to write several languages in the same script. A number of languages may have been spoken in the extensive Indus valley region spreading between Baluchitan to Kutch. Efforts to decipher any single language from these scant symbols on the seals are not helpful to understand the early history of India. Besides, the Aryas have described where they lived in the Rigveda.

3. Aryas Claimed their Home was Saptasindhu

Thapar rightly argues that the Aryan invasion theory is untenable, but continues with her assumptions that they must have lived somewhere other than the Indus Valley. She argues that “the village-based, pastoral society of the Rigveda could not be identical to the complex urban society of the Indus.” Can she tell us where the Aryas may have lived?

Assuming that Indus valley civilization is uniform throughout, and completely urban is a fantasy.  Based on this false assumption Thapar argued that “If the two societies were identical, the two systems would at least have to be similar.” She urgently needs to consult Dr. Kenoyer’s research on Indus valley civilization (Kenoyer 1998; Rao 2014; Archaeologists have proposed that Indus valley is not just a civilization of cities, but each city is also flanked by a number of villages, and pastoral settlements. Kenoyer has proposed, after a number of years of tedious research in the Indus valley, that Indus valley civilization is complex and not uniform throughout. Indus valley civilization was thought of as urban when only the first two cities were excavated, and not much is known about other settlements in the area. However, recent researches have expanded the geographical extent of Indus valley civilization from Baluchistan to Kutch in Gujarat. Some later Indus valley evidence is found in Inamgaon in Maharashtra, and some Megalithic pottery fragments excavated in South India contains Indus valley script. 

Whether Indus valley civilization is Aryan or not is a different question. But one thing is for certain; Indus valley is an indigenous civilization, and people of Indus valley had migrated into India beginning with 2nd millennium B.C.E. Those people may have certainly belonged to a number of cultural settlements such as pastoral, rural and urban. This is proven by archeology. At the same time the Aryas of the Rigveda also mention that they lived in the Saptasindhu region (exactly the same geographical location as the Indus valley civilization) and they also mention in the later Vedic texts that they migrated from there to the Ganga-Yamuna region. Why not trust the Aryas when they say their homeland is Saptasindhu region?

Romila Thapar selectively chooses her evidence from the Rigveda when it suits her. Romila Thapar insists that people of the Rigveda may not have lived in the Indus valley region because the Rigveda does not contain any description of cities, drainage etc, but describes only pastoral life style. The Rigveda also describes the area where the people of the Rigveda lived- the Rigveda includes a hymn on Indus river, and other geographical landmarks where they lived. Why not trust the Rigveda when it describes where the people of the Vedas roamed? Why trust them only on pastoral life style and not on their geographical information?

In conclusion it could be said that Romila Thapar rules out the Vedic evidence on geographical location of the Aryas, archaeological evidence on unicorn by scholars without offering any alternative evidence or explanation of her own.

Thapar should note that efforts to understand the true history of India, while rescuing it from the colonial projections is not Hindutva. Looking through the Marxist lens may make it seem so. Every Indian has the right to know the extent and features of Indus valley civilization as well as the true background and geographical extent of the early Vedic civilization. Multiplicity of views and debates are always a feature of Indian culture. Suppressing a viewpoint through name calling or branding it as ‘Hindutva,’ is not conducive to productive thought. Thapar’s comment that “history as projected by Hindutva ideologues, which is being introduced to children through text books,” is a short sighted observation. The points raised by Thapar in her Frontline article about Aryan invasion, horses, geographical extent, and cultural nature of Indus valley are complex, and undergone several updates since its first discovery during the 1920s. These issues deserve the attention of each and every scholar interested in understanding early India. Name calling and accusing opposing analyses as fabrications is not conducive to production of knowledge and do not contribute to understanding the truth about early origins of Indian culture.


Forges, Alison Des. 1995. “Ideology of Genocide,” Issue: A Journal of Opinion. 116-125.
Kenoyer, Jonathan. 1998. Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
Kenoyer, Jonathan. 2012. “Iconography of the Indus Unicorn: Origin and Legacy,” in Connections and Complexity: New Approaches to the Archaeology of South Asia. Ed. S. Abraham, P. Gullipoli, T. Raczek, and U, Rizvi. PP. 107-25. Walnut Creek: Left Creek Press.
Thapar, Romila. 1966. Early India. New Delhi: Penguin.
Vemsani, Lavanya. 2014. “Genetic Evidence of Early Human Migrations in the Indian Ocean Region Disproves Aryan Migration/Invasion Theories: An Examination of Small-statured Human Groups of the Indian Ocean Region,” Ed. Rao, N. Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization: New Perspectives. New Delhi: DK Printworld, and Nalanda International, Los Angeles. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Confusion of Names Spawns a New Field of Hindu Studies in the West

 Hinduism: Religion or Not?

“What‟s in a name?” asks an old saying, but the notion that a name is not necessarily synonymous with an identity has not stopped the western scholars of India initially from engaging in lengthy debates regarding the names given to particular peoples or religious practices. While naming “races”  of peoples of India, and  connecting the races to languages of India, occupied much of the early discourse on Indian ethnic identity, the current academic discourse centers on the use of the term Hindu,” an umbrella term meant to identify and group the peoples associated with the indigenous religious and cultural systems of India. The conversation about the use of this term and what the term represents takes up more space in post- colonial studies than any other issue related to India or Indian history, culture, and identity.

The debate about how to classify the religion(s) of India is currently discussed without much agreement among scholars, leading to a rift; there are those who argue that Hinduism” appropriately identifies an indigenous Indian socio-religious and cultural sphere, and there are those who argue that the purported Hindu” identity is nothing more than a construct, existing only in the imagination of the West, conveniently but erroneously grouping a wide diversity of beliefs, practices, and traditions into a single, supposed entity. The subject of whether or not the term Hinduism legitimately refers to a religion has raged in Western academia for the last decade and continues to inspire publications. 

Several scholars had demonstrated the use of the term Hinduism historically in India to denote religion of India, as well as contradicted superfluous arguments by several scholars of Hinduism, who argue Hinduism is a colonial construct. Scholars argue that Hinduism was known by that name as early as fifth century, which was used consistently to refer to the religious practice consistently until twelfth century. Then it is not hard to imagine what may have happened since twelfth century, and how regional traditions of Hindu religious practice become the norm, although distinct, but not different from Hinduism of earlier centuries. The next five hundred years is a period of religious discrimination and persecution in India. Temples were destroyed, festivals were banned, large gatherings such as Kumbhmela, and pilgrimages were also banned. So the practice of pan Indian Hinduism gives way to local and regional practices, due to lack of facility to connect widely. It was no surprise that by the time British arrived in India in the seventeenth century, Hinduism, might have looked like Hinduisms, with distinct practices in each region of India. It was no wonder the colonial views of Hinduism attempted understanding the many practices distinct in some aspects and similar in other aspects, and also the textual background of Hinduism.

Ancient sources of India, especially classical texts refer to religion as Dharma, and Hinduism as Sanatana Dharma, which means eternal faith. However, Hinduism is consistently referred by the name 'Hinduism,' since the early fourth century. However that did not stop scholars from suggesting that Sanatana Dharma was different from Hinduism without any substantial evidence, and recently a new field of study evolved in the western academia based on the argument that Hinduism is not a religion, but a colonial construct. All this because Hinduism is not referred in the classical texts by that name, but only as Sanatana Dharma. Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, name is only secondary matter in India. The religion is eternal and its practice is established. 

Indeed, the issue of name does not seem to be a central issue in India. Some children are not given a name until they are admitted into school, and even after that, they are referred to by numerous names. The child is then called by his or her given name in school and in other official settings but continues to be called by his/her various nicknames in familiar and informal environments. This does in fact cause some confusion but does not do great damage to either the child or those that refer to the child by these many names. In fact, the more popular one is the more names one acquires, which is also true of gods, goddesses, and religions in India. To be referred by only one name commonly in perpetuity is a western notion. Names multiply in India with increasing popularity. The exercise of questioning the existence of Hinduism as a religion seems to me to be one such confusion of names rather than any major issue with regard to Hinduism and its practice in India. 

India's own indifference to its historical tradition is partly to blame for this state of things.  Academic study of Hinduism in India is limited to a handful of universities which is also cited as one of the reasons by the Hinduism deniers as evidence of its non-existence as a religion in India. Under the garb of secularism successive governments in India since 1947 ignored Hinduism, while supporting traditions labeled as minority faiths such as Islam, and others with funds as well as permitting academic study in the universities. It might seem strange that universities in India would offer academic study of several faiths, but not Hinduism. It could only be hoped that academic study of Hinduism would be offered in the Universities in India soon. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Footnote Oh Footnote: The Oasis of Academic Life

Academic Life as a Series of Footnotes

I spent my graduate school years learning to footnote scholarly works in my research papers. Footnotes determined how thoroughly researched, and well written my paper was. I have practiced footnoting so much that it almost became impossible to write without footnotes. Any regular writing without using footnotes was not seen as deserving attention during this stage of my academic evolution. The only writing that counted as writing was academic writing with authoritative use of footnotes. As graduate students we reveled in reading each other papers. My friends and I compared and read each other's papers with admiration for use of footnotes. See Dr. Parakala's notes on footnotes for an examination of academic's passion for footnotes (

Little did I know this is the beginning of academic life which is recorded in a series of footnotes. As noted by one of my fellow historians footnotes is central to academic life ( Citing and adding footnotes to research papers is only the beginning, the career progresses with accumulating more and more footnotes for oneself. The more footnotes one acquires the more well known a scholar one becomes. 

Digital history is the new academic frontier. Digital humanities projects are encouraging historians to adopt to the digital platform, and offer classes with digital content. Almost all the historians I know, including me, have blogs, digital classrooms, and are in the process of developing Apps for history projects. Social media, especially twitter presence is also common. Is digital media evolving as the new footnotes tradition. I don't know.

Lets wait and see how academic presence will evolve in the new millennium.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Five Priorities for India to Become A Great Nation

India should consider its priorities in the new year while planning for its future. India is entering an important phase in this new year. India is also under new leadership. This is the right time to consider its priorities and decide its path for a bright future.

National Integration and Countering Regionalism

India has twenty nine states and each state has its border taxes and border checkpoints. When all the states are part of the national system, each state having its individual border taxes and tax outposts seems redundant. In developed countries border checkposts are only at the borders of the country, not each state or province. Movement of people and goods across states is seamless and convenient. Territorial integrity is important to achieve unified nationality. Integrated road system is essential for free transportation of people and goods for the country to develop economically and prosper. Prosperity of India before 1500s was due to this free travel. Nikitin, a Russian visitor to the Vijayanagara court of Krishnadevaraya remarked how convenient it was to travel within India, and how he was allowed to pass through different states (regional kingdoms in those days), finally reaching South India. In fact, the world famous Indian ocean trade system flourished on this free movement of peoples and goods. Modern state governments in India are fiercely protective of their regionalism, often reserving jobs, and educational opportunities for locals. Taxing goods at the border checkpoints is one of the major income sources for the states. India should develop a system of collecting state taxes at the point of final sale and remove the border checkpoints from all the internal state borders.

Introduce Uniform Civil Code

India has a civil code which is not uniform and changes from one social group to the other. For any country to progress on the path of development a uniform civil code is essential. A uniform civil code regardless of religion, caste, or geographical location are important for citizens to have equal opportunities, and be successful contributors to the economic, political and social development of the country. Countering inequality through universal civil code is essential to development. Developed western and Asian countries succeeded by having a uniform civil code. 

Counter Internal and External Terror Threats

Lack of Mechanism to handle terrorism and terror related crimes is an issue in India. Terror attacks, both internal and external are threats to sovereignty of a nation and should be treated as acts of war rather than simple crimes. Ordinary criminal courts are not suited to handle such terror threats. India should institute a mechanism to investigate and punish terror crimes under separate terror courts, and develop a legal system to handle terror attacks.

Commitment to Women's Development and Security

Equal representation of women in all walks of life is very important for India to become a developed nation. China's rapid progress is due to equal rights, and the equal opportunities afforded to women in all fields of work. Educational opportunities available to women are essential part of the development of a country. If India can bridge the gap for women it should have achieved a major part of its developmental goals. Missing women is one of the common points about India frequently noted by visiting Chinese executives. Protecting women from unwanted sexual and other assaults is important. A new women's legal code should be enacted to counter assaults on women in public places.

Infrastructure and Basic Sanitation Facilities

Infrastructure development is very uneven across India. Some regions of India have world class roads and communications while other regions do not have even basic road connectivity. Basic facilities such as electricity, water supply and sewage services are equally dismal in several regions of India. Unless all regions are developed equally concerning the infrastructure, communications, electricity, water and sewage, a country could not progress. Sanitation and sewage system exists in cities, but sadly the sewage flows untreated into the rivers of India causing immense pollution. Sewage treatment plants should be built, and all sewage water should be treated properly before letting it drain into the rivers. 

India dreams and envisions its arrival on world stage as a first world country. Every leader of India proclaims India's arrival on the world stage during his Independence Day and Republic day speeches. Same message is repeated in the states by the respective Chief Ministers. India's leaders promise and tell the public of India how close India is to becoming a super power like Japan, Or Singapore in Asia, and become the number one Asian country, and join the league of top nations of the world along with its neighbor China. However, India is bogged down by several constraints of its own making which are hampering its progress towards becoming a first world nation.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


SAARC (South Asian Association for Cooperation) represents an acronym that could not be easily understood. The acronym is a true representation of the hodge-podge of states that it includes. Other than geographical proximity its member states (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Srilanka, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan) are completely different from each other in political, economic and social structures. It is strange that Myanmar is still not a member of this group. Similar is the case with NAM. India joined the Non Aligned Movement with Nehru's initiative with lofty goals, but due to the nature of states that joined it, there is very little that it accomplished. It exists only in name, while a number of its members are currently in conditions that are similar to civil war, no diplomatic or military initiative is undertaken by this group. Emerging crises have rendered the NAM become an association that holds periodic meetings with no significant contributions. 

Any association dictated by geographical proximity rather than political, social and economic ideals is bound to fail in the face of crisis, which is exactly what the SAARC is attempting to avert. Half of the nations that are members of this group are struggling with internal terrorist organizations, and some are still struggling to establish democratic states. India is the only stable, and established democracy in this group of nations. With the internal and external terror threats, and border disputes, it is impossible for this association to progress  beyond the basic economic cooperation. 

India if it plans to be member of an association for economic and defense cooperation it should look towards the Indian Ocean. India should take lead in developing an association similar to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) by including East African nations and other states on the Indian ocean economic zone such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand,  and Australia. It could also include New Zealand and Japan, which could strengthen it further. Asia needs a powerful regional association of cooperation. These nations should cooperate not only in trade, but in military and defense strategy, jointly developing techniques to counter terrorist and military threats. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ministry of Yoga: A Step in the Right Direction

Ministry of Yoga: A Step in the Right Direction

Government of India took a step in the right direction by creating the ministry of Yoga. This is the first step to reclaiming and possessing India's true cultural heritage. Prime Minister Modi is upholding his promise to serve India, through this quest for true knowledge and heritage of Yoga, one of the greatest contributions of India. Yoga is an esoteric mind-body spiritual technique perfected in India as early as the early first evidence of Indian culture are traceable. Indus valley, as well as Vedic texts provide the first basic evidence, while the first text is Yogasutras composed by Patanjali, dated to about 600 B.C.E. Early lime stone statue of a man from Mohenjodaro in meditative stance (John Marshal identified him as philosopher-king) supports that meditative practices (known as yoga) were known during this period. Vedas also contains several reference to yoga, which will be discussed below. Traditional yoga includes practices that have come to be classed as Hathayoga, Pranayama, and Rajayoga, while earlier yoga included all of these three elements as part of the essential practice of yoga. However, modern yoga and its revival is to be credited to the West, which rekindled the interest of millions of individuals in the fascinating practice of yoga.

Origins of Yoga in India
A thousand years of colonial and alien rule has forced India to distance itself from its past, and especially its spiritual and religious heritage. Yoga has suffered most due to this neglect. Its origins are lost, and only cryptic references from the Vedas remain. Rigveda, the most ancient scripture in the world (Rigveda's  most ancient hymns date to 4600 B.C.E while the its latest sections date to 2300 B.C.E. although some place the latest portions between 2000-1800 B.C.E.) contains the earliest references to yoga. Vedic references note yoga, as a vehicle (conveyance), to visualize or to go beyond what can be seen or understood by the naked eye (the physical vision). Hence Yoga is also used in the sense of yukta (join or jointed) with the inner self-conscious (Atma-Brahma) to open the mind's (mana) eye. Opening this inner eye or the eye of the mind by ascending the vehicle of yoga is at the core of yoga practice referred in this early stage. This central goal continues to dominate the later quest of yoga known from Hindu tradition (also known from other Indian traditions such as Buddhist and Jain traditions, as well as other yoga practitioners such as Anatha Kesakambalin, etc.).  Life stories of both the Buddha (560-480 B.C.E) and the Jaina Mahavira (599-527 B.C.E.) mention their meeting with established yoga teachers, and their practice of yoga, as a path to enlightenment. Therefore it is clear that between 2000 B.C.E-600 B.C.E., yoga was practiced by sages, and those seeking true knowledge (atma jnana), although it is not clear if it was practiced by common people during this period. Yoga practice by common people only comes to us through the discussion of yoga in Bhagavadgita and Mahabharata (300 B.C.E). Yoga texts may have also existed during this early stage between 2000 B.C.E-600 B.C.E, however, only Patanjali's Yogasutras, and Samkhyakarika of Isvarakrishna are the only surviving texts known to us. While the Yogasutras, and Samkhyakarika provide the textual basis for the philosophical practice of mindful meditation. while physical discipline and postures are important to achieve perfection in this philosophical practice of mindful meditation texts avoid describing the postures, and leave it to personal practice under an accomplished teacher, lest it may lead to wrongful postures and become harmful rather than beneficial to the soul. This might have been the reason Mahabharata and Bhagavadgita confine to discussion of meditative and philosophical aspects of Yoga, but not physical postures.     

Modern Yoga

Modern society found reliable and quantifiable value in practicing yoga, for mental and physical well being of an individual, which is at the core its revival in the West as well as India.  However, India should be conscious of Yoga in its true practice and evolution, and support a holistic understanding of Yoga as a spiritual and physical practice, but not entirely driven by utilitarian goals of health, and beauty.
The following book may be useful in understanding the research and publications available on yoga: Callahan D. Yoga : An Annotated Bibliography Of Works In English, 1981-2005 / Daren Callahan (Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co. Inc., Publishers, c2007). This book includes 2,400 scholarly and popular works on Yoga, which only goes to show the popularity of yoga as a subject of popular study and practice in modern world. Physical ailments from multiple sclerosis to arthritis, blood pressure, heart attack and numerous other issues. Yoga is especially found to be helpful to individuals suffering from depression and PTSD. It is this utilitarian perspective that brought yoga to fame recently in the last fifty years. Yoga is found to be helpful in a number of health issues at the same time it is also noted for boosting self confidence and body image of practitioners. The positive benefits of yoga made it a favorite activity  for a number of practitioners in the United States, and the Western hemisphere in general. Therefore yoga has transformed in the modern practice as a therapy, and a physical exercise, although it is also practiced for spiritual benefits occasionally. Recent book Yoga : the art of transformation by Debra Diamond et al., published the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on the occasion of the exhibition Yoga: The Art of Transformation, October 19, 2013-January 26, 2014, broadly discusses the background and practice of yoga with illustrations (Organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Path Forward
Yoga community hopes for help and support from the ministry of Yoga in its development and practice. The Ministry of Yoga, would be served well to invite proposal from various community members of Yoga practice, as well as scholarly and research groups for the development of Yoga, and its practice. As a new ministry, it will be challenge to develop an all encompassing program at the outset, but seeking cooperation and advise from various practitioners might help it evolve a right action plan. One aspect that needs to be considered carefully is preserving the integrity of Yoga in age of commercialization. Aspects of commercialization should be curbed, and a clear path of understanding and synthesis between the traditional path of Yoga and modern practice of Yoga should be established. A priority of the ministry of Yoga should be finding and digitalizing all available texts and resources of Yoga and making them freely available to Yoga practitioners.