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(Source of Data: India, or “Bharat” as it is known in Hindi, was historically known as “Bharat-Varsha”-the land of Puritanic king Bharata. The name “India” was applied to the country by the Greeks. Presently the nation consists of 28 states, 7 union territories and the national capital territory of Delhi” (Müller and Patel 2004). Its population reached one billion in the 1990s and is 81.3% Hindu, 12% Muslim, 2.3% Christian, 1.9% Sikh and 2.5% other groups including Buddhists, Jain and Parsis. India has two national languages: English and Hindi. Hindi is the primary tongue of about 30% of India’s population and is a direct descendant of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. However, although Hindi is widely spoken and understood in all urban centers of India, it is important to note that there are in fact about 325 languages spoken in India in total. It is then not surprising that in addition to Hindi and English, the Indian Constitution also officially recognizes 14 regional languages, namely: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit. With a land area of approximately 3.3 million square kilometers, India varies greatly across its regions. At its northern boundary, India occupies the highest mountain system in the world-the Himalayas, while its eastern, western and southern boundary stretches


along the Indian Ocean. Vondhya mountains cut across the country from East to West, dividing it into Northern and Southern India (Vinay Lal 2005). However, perhaps the most imposing geographic features in India are its two great rivers: the Ganges and the Indus. The Ganges rises from the Gangotri glacier at around 10,300 feet above sea level in the Himalayas. It is approximately 1,577 miles long and flows eastward until it empties in the Bay of Bengal. Its name is derived from a Hindu goddess Ganga-daughter of the mountain god Himavan or Himalaya. It is said that bathing in the river washes away one’s sins and water from Ganges is often used in religious rituals. However, the first major Indian civilization developed along a different river-the Indus. The Indus Valley Civilization Indus rises in southwestern Tibet and enters Indian territory near Leh in Ladakh. It is in this area where the Indus river valley civilization first developed around 2,500-5,000 years ago. It is often referred to as the Harappan Civilization after its first discovered city Harappa in present day Pakistan. The Harappa society was most likely a centralized state with uniformly planned towns such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. According to anthropological findings, there is evidence of standardization of all Harappan products, presence of an efficient distribution system and regulated trade of gold, silver, copper and turquoise with Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan and Southern India. Thus, all of these factors point to a theory that the Indus valley civilization had a highly advanced and effective administration. In addition, the Harrapans were also rather sophisticated technologically as evident in their precise and uniform measurements of physical units, complex design of drainage systems, Mesopotamian model of irrigated agriculture, cultivation of cotton, production of cloth and new techniques in metallurgy. The Indus valley people also had an advanced writing system simplified from a logographic-cum-syllabic writing to a phonetic and later alphabetic script. Lastly, perhaps their main achievement was the peaceful coexistence of different religious and ethnic groups. This was most likely accomplished through encouraged inter-ethnic unions as well as an extensive free trade of various goods, which resulted in benefits to all Harppans. The Aryan Invasion Theory However, according to various anthropologists and historians, by 2,000 BC the Indus valley civilization began to decline. One theory suggests that the Harppans were pushed down into Southern India with the invasion of Aryan tribes from Afghanistan and Central Asia. This theory, called the “The Aryan Invasion Theory”, postulates that Aryan nomads entered India with chariots and iron weapons, overthrowing the Indus Valley Civilization and becoming part-agriculturalists in newly constructed villages. It also implies that Vedas, ancient texts which contain the mythology of Hindu Gods and are considered to be the foundations of the Hindu religion (see chapter on Hinduism), were written by the Aryans rather than by the Harappan civilization.


However, recent archeological and anthropological data questions the existence of an Indo Aryan invasion in South Asia. For instance, it has been found that the region of Vedic text, the Sapta Sindhu, had been continuously occupied by cultural traditions dating back to 8,000 BC without any breaks. This discovery was further strengthened by the findings of Kenneth Kennedy of Cornell University who found no evidence of demographic discontinuity in archeological remains of the region during the period of 4,500 to 800 BC and thus eliminated the theory supporting a major influx of individuals into the area (Kak 2005). In fact, geologists determined that the Sarasvati river (frequently mentioned in Vedic hymns and neighboring the highest concentration of Harappan sites) dried up around 1,900 BC. According to archeologists such as Jim Shaffer of Case Western Reserve University, the shift of Harappans following the drying up of the Sarasvati river is the only archeologically supported west to east migration of populations in India before the first millennium BC. Thus, there could not have been an Aryan invasion during that particular time period. Archeologists have also been skeptical about the theory that Aryans invaded Harappans as horse riding nomads. This is due to the fact that a clay model of a horse was discovered in Mohenjo Daro. Similarly, there is a lot of discourse pertaining to the very term “Arya”. The word “Arya” is never defined in the context of race or language in the Vedic texts. Instead, it connotes qualities of nobility and righteousness and is often used much like the term “sir” or “monsieur” (Nambiar 2002). Furthermore, Vedic texts contain no discussion of a human invasion of the area or destruction of a civilization. They also lack descriptions of any holy places outside of India, which we assume Aryans might have included in Vedas due to their recent migration from various locations in Central Asia. Lastly, it was assumed that the Indus Valley civilization had a writing system which was non-Vedic and probably Dravidian. However, recent findings point to a striking similarity between Indus signs and those of later Hindu Brahmi (Frawley 1994). Therefore, as the above discussion illustrates, the discourse on India’s first major civilizations is still in progress and will most likely continue to evolve as more anthropological findings resurface. After all, it was only in 1872-1873 when the archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham first excavated the site at Harappa, followed by a more extensive excavation by Rai Bahadur Daya Ram Sahni in 1920. There is thus an enormous amount still to be learned about the Indus Valley Civilization and we can only hope that future research will shed more light on the inhabitants of the ancient Harappa. The Mauryan Empire Following the Vedic era, India’s territories grew and eventually gave rise to various kingdoms. In the 6th century BC some of these kingdoms became more powerful than others, leading to an emergence of the most powerful one-The Kingdom of Magadha as India’s first empire. In 305 BC, the throne of Magadha was succeeded by Chandragupta Maurya who became the first ruler of the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BC). The Mauryan Empire is the first reign under which the Indian continent experienced a high degree of political unity. The state (with a capital at Pataliputra or present day Patna) controlled all


economic endeavors, divided its population into seven endogamous groups (philosophers, peasants, herdsmen, traders, soldiers, government officials and councils) and maintained a large army. Under its third ruler, Asoka, provisions were made for public health care, judicial and administrative system was improved and new technological skills were implemented in agriculture. Most importantly, Asoka was the first monarch to practice Buddhism (which will be discussed shortly) and is credited with establishing Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The Gupta Empire Gupta Empire (320 AD-540 AD) is often referred to as the “golden age” in India. During this dynasty, a strong centralized government was established and the society was ordered according to the Hindu caste system. More importantly, mathematicians of the Gupta era developed the concept of zero, the decimal system based on the number 10 as well as Arabic numerals. Gupta physicians were also highly accomplished as seen in the fact that they actually vaccinated locals against smallpox. Finally, the Gupta Empire is known for its contribution to Indian art and literature. It was during this period that Kamasutra was written and local architects dedicated themselves to designing and building Buddhist shrines to house the remains of holy individuals-known as “stupas”. Unfortunately, the Gupta Empire declined in early 6th century when the White Huns, nomads from Central Asia, invaded India. Interestingly, the White Huns were also shortly defeated by their enemies and collapsed as well. This left India bare of centralized states and instead ruled by regional kingdoms which often fought with each other. It wasn’t until the arrival of Moslems when India was united again. The Mughal Empire Muslim dominance of India (1000-1750) began with the invasion of India by Turkish Muslims in the 10th century. In 1175 Sultan Muhammad of Ghur and his slave lieutenant Qutb-ud-din Aybak raided Delhi and consequently conquered it in 1193. In 1206, Qutbud-din Aybak established the Delhi Sultanate with a capital at Delhi and thus began the Slave dynasty. This sultanate was ruled by a succession of five dynasties before being overthrown by rulers of the Mughal Empire who invaded India from Afghanistan. The Mughal Empire (1483-1757).extended over most of the Indian subcontinent and is perhaps most famous for its achievements in art, architecture and music. Its first emperor was Babur, a descendant of the Turkish conqueror Timur and of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. However, perhaps the most known Mughal Emperor was its fourth rulerShah Jehan who ruled from 1628 to 1658 and was credited with fulfilling the most impressive expression of the Mughal style architecture-The Taj Mahal. In fact, the construction of white marble buildings was so extensive during the Shah Jehan period that it was called the reign of marble. Unfortunately, the Empire began declining with the death of Shah Jehan’s son Aurangzeb who ruled from 1658 to 1707. Aurangzeb was famous for attempting to impose orthodox Islam on India through radical measures such as establishing tax on all Hindus, dismissing them from public services or destroying


their temples. Soon after his death, India experienced a severe decline of centralized power, political chaos and formation of many small kingdoms. India under the British Rule Apart from its architectural accomplishments, the Mughal Empire reign was also known for yet another significant factor in India’s history-the beginning of European presence on the subcontinent. In 1498 a Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama sailed to the Malabar Coast and led to establishing Portuguese-Indian trade exchanges. The British and Dutch soon followed with the establishment of the English East India Company in 1600 and the Dutch East India Company in 1602. Both engaged primarily in the trade of cotton, indigo, silk, sugar and other commodities. However, by the 18th century Europeans began rivaling each other, leading to a power struggle between the British and the French. Due to the fact that local kingdoms asked the foreign forces to support them militarily, the French became powerful in southern India while the British established themselves in Bengal. The turning point in the European struggle came with the 1756 seizure of British citizens in Calcutta in a dungeon known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. After the incident, one of the clerks of the East India Company-Robert Clive, decided to avenge the attacks by seizing the province of Bengal. Consequently, Bengal became a tax farm for the East India Company and Great Britain and the French were unable to regain their powerful position in India. The British influence in India was further strengthened with the implementation of a British Regulating Act of 1773 which placed control of the English East India Company’s matters in the hands of the British Parliament and established a position of “governor-general of India”. In addition, throughout the late 1700s and early 1800s, the British adopted a doctrine which entitled them to govern any Indian state which did not have a natural heir to its throne. This doctrine served as a catalyst to the expansion of the empire and, coupled with new strict taxation of Indian land, led to the first sign of Indian resistance to the British presence-the Sepy Rebellion of 1857-1858. The sepoys were Indian soldiers employed by the English East India Company. Upon hearing rumors that the rifles they used had cartridges greased with fat or cow fat (which the sepoyes would come in contact with while biting off the ends of the cartridges), both Hindu and Muslim soldiers rebelled in a town north of Delhi called Meerut. Subsequently, the revolt extended to other areas of India before being extinguished by the British with their capture, trail and conviction of the last Emperor of the Mughals: Emperor Bahadur Shah. It is however significant to note that the Rebellion propelled the British to resume an even more authoritarian presence in India. In 1858, the English East India Company was shut down by the British Parliament which also assumed all of the responsibilities previously held by the company. However, the most prominent sign of British control of India was the employment of a viceroy in Calcutta who implemented all of the British policies and the proclamation of Queen Victoria that as of 1876 she was the “Empress of India”. India’s Anti-colonial Movements


The opposition to the British rule was materialized politically in 1885 with the formation of the Indian National Congress. This political party was not only the forum of debates on the unfair British trade regulations, taxes and other policies but also on such social issues as caste or gender discrimination. Its most well known leaders include such figures as Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak or Jawaharlal Nehru. However, the most famous and momentous figure of the anti-colonial struggle was Mahatma Gandhi (18691948). Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (the name Mahatma-Great Soul was given to him later in life by an Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore) was born on October 2, 1869 in Prbandar, present day Gujarat. Both his grandfather and father were diwans-chief ministers of Porbandar and were of the Vaishya caste. After his father’s death in 1885, Gandhi was encouraged to go study in England in order to become a barrister and take his father’s place in politics. Mahatma decided to take this opportunity and consequently completed his studies in London in 1891, returning to India as a new lawyer. However, his success in legal practice in Bombay was rather meager and in 1893 Gandhi decided to proceed to South Africa as a counselor in a lawsuit of an Indian businessman Dada Abdulla. It was in South Africa where Gandhi’s sense of social justice was truly developed. While traveling with a first-class train ticket in Pietermaritzburg, Gandhi was thrown out of the compartment car for being an Indian. The lack of political rights and racial prejudice against Indians living in South Africa led Gandhi to “awaken” politically. It was thus in South Africa where Gandhi formulated his theory of non-violent resistance which he called “satyagraha” by combining the Hindu words for “truth” and “holding firmly”. Perhaps one of the most prominent expressions of “satyagraha” was Gandhi’s reaction to the 1919 Rowlatt Act passed by the British in order to place restrictions on Indian civil liberties. In opposition to the bill, Gandhi staged national work strikes (hartals) as well as a public protest in Amistar during which 400 Indians were killed and 1200 injured by the British troops. In 1930, he also staged a non-violent march protesting the British Salt Tax which prohibited Indians to collect salt from the coast of India and forcing them to buy it instead. The Salt March began such a wave of protests that British shops and mills soon began closing. Soon after, the British withdrew from India. India’s Independence India attained independence from England on August 15th, 1947. As a result, the country was divided along religious lines into predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan. As its national flag, India adopted the tricolor of saffron (kesari) at the top, white in the middle and green at the bottom, with a navy blue wheel representing the chakra at the center. The saffron is supposed to be representative of the strength of the country, the green of fertility and growth and the white of peace and truth. The Ashoka Chakra in the center is supposed to depict the “wheel of law” which appears on the abacus of the Sarnath Lion Capital made by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. It’s representative of life in movement and death in stagnation.


On January 26, 1950 (The Republic Day), India adopted its constitution which guaranteed rights to all citizens and prohibited discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, caste or religion. Under the Indian constitution, suffrage is open to all individuals over the age of 18. The Indian Parliament is composed of the Council of States, “Rajya Sabha” (consisting of 250 members elected for six-year terms) and the People’s Assembly-“Lok Sabha” (consisting of 543 members serving five-year terms). The President is elected for five-year terms by an electoral college (consisting of members of both Parliament houses and the legislatures of the states). The Vice President is elected by both houses of Parliament for five-year terms while the Prime Minister is elected by Parliamentary members of the party which wins the legislative elections. India’s first prime minister was Jawaharlal Nehru, a leader of the Indian National Congress and a close associate of Gandhi. Under Nehru’s leadership, India embarked on large scale agrarian and industrial reforms. For instance, in 1950 the Government set up a Planning Commission, with Nehru as a chairman, which was responsible for allocation of resources, formulation of five year plans for economic development and implementation of such plans. In Nehru’s words, the steel mills and damn were to become modern India’s temples. Following Nehru’s death in May of 1964, India’s new prime minister was Lal Bahadur Shastri who in turn was succeeded by Nehru’s daughter and leader of the Congress PartyIndira Gandhi (1917-1984). Indira became the prime minister of India during the nation’s severe economic crisis due to successive monsoon failures and inefficient industrial investment. While holding the office of the prime minister from 1966 to 1977, Indira was popular due to the 1971 Indian triumph over Pakistan (a short war which saw the birth of Bangladesh). However, in 1975 the High Court of Allahabad found her guilty of illegal political practices and demanded her resignation. As a result, Indira declared a state of emergency under which constitutional rights were abrogated. Confident that she had thus crushed her opposition, Indira called for new elections which she unfortunately lost. Yet in 1980, Indira once again won elections and entered her second term as a prime minister. Her term, however, ended early as she was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in revenge for the destruction of the Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine, by the Indian troops given the order to flush out terrorists hiding in the shrine. At her death, her older son, Rajiv Gandhi, was sworn in as head of the Congress party and Prime Minister of India. Yet in 1991, Rajiv was assassinated as well by a Sri Lankan Tamil terrorist, a group which Rajiv tried to suppress by sending Indian troops to battle it in 1987. Following his assassination, P.V. Narashima Rao became India’s new prime minister. During that time, India was facing a severe economic crisis and wide spread poverty and hunger. As a result, on July 24th 1991, Rao implemented a New Economic Policy- a standard structural adjustment package proposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for the countries of the developing world (Upadhyay 2000). It included “devaluation of the rupee, an increase in interest rates, a reduction in public investment” as well as liberalization of domestic trade and privatization of industries such as banking or telecommunication (Upadhyay 2000). However, Rao’s “reign” ended with his resignation as prime minister in 1996 due to allegations of corruption. The same year,


the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won most seats in parliament but failed to win a majority. Yet with the invitation of the Indian President, it formed a government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee which only lasted 13 days in parliament. Due to the fact that the party with the second highest number of parliamentary seats was the United Front, with the help of the Congress (I) Party, it formed the government under Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda. Once again, that government crumbled after only nine months in power and another United Front candidate-Inder Kumar Gujral became the Prime Minister. Gujral resigned in 1997 and was succeeded in 1998 by a newly elected Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the BJP party. India’s Current Developments Vajpayee stepped down from the position of the Prime Minister of India after BJP's loss in the 2004 elections which were won by a political alliance led by the Congress party and its leader Sonia Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi was born Sonia Maino in Turin, Italy. She is the late wife of Rajiv Gandhi, a member of the Congress party since 1997, its president since 1998 and has been holding a seat in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) since 1999. Although in 2004 she was elected by the Congress party to become the next Prime Minister of India, she turned down the offer and instead nominated Manmohan Singh for the position. Mrs. Gandhi said that her decision was based on her “inner voice” talking yet political analysts saw it as her way of escaping right-wing attacks of her nationality which could subsequently become a liability for her party (Majumder 2004). In either case, on May 22, 2004, Manmohan Singh became India’s current Prime Minister and as a Sikh, India’s first non-Hindu Prime Minister. A Cambridge and Oxford educated academic, Mr. Singh was India’s finance minister under Rao and is widely regarded as the architect of India’s New Economic Policy which brought the country back from economic bankruptcy. In his first address to the nation, he proclaimed his faith in economic growth “accompanied by equity and social justice” and boldly stated that the poor should be at the center of all of the government’s policies (The Indian Express 2004). Although it is still too early to evaluate the success of Mr. Singh’s policies, we can only hope that his plans of aiding the farmers (through a “new deal” to rural India), improving education and public health will soon be materialized. India’s Main Indicators Despite the fact that at the present time it is impossible to evaluate the performance of Mr. Singh’s government, we can quickly look at some of the basic indicators of India’s economy and social sector. As of July 2004, India’s population reached 1,065, 070, 607 and was composed of 31.7% individuals between the ages of 1-14, 63.5% of individuals between the ages of 15-64 and 4.8 % of individuals over the age of 65. According to the 2004-2005 Economic Survey of the Indian Government (announced on February 25th, 2005), India’s Gross Domestic Product GDP (which was $2,900 per capita per year in 2003) has recently grew by 7.4%. The year 2004 also witnessed a higher production of rice and wheat which is significant due to the fact that rice and wheat constitute India’s main agricultural products along with cotton, tea, sugarcane and oilseed. It is also


significant due to the fact that over 60% of India’s working population is involved in agriculture. Another sector of India’s economy which registered a growth (of 8.4%) in the first quarters of 2004-2005 was the industry which is significant to such Indian endeavors as textiles, chemicals, steel, cement, mining and software. The growth of industry is also significant due to the fact that it composes 28.4% of India’s GDP while agriculture composes 23.6% and services 48% (Government of India: Economic Survey 20042005).Lastly, according to the Economic Survey of 2004-2005, India improved in terms of its human development index HDI, which encompasses such dimensions as income, education and health. India’s Main Religions: Hinduism We will now turn to a discussion of India’s major religions. As it has been previously mentioned, over three fourths of Indian citizens describe themselves as adherents of Hinduism. “Hinduism” is an English word which entered the English language in the 19th century as a description of beliefs of those individuals in India who did not practice Christianity, Islam, Judaism or other religions. The Hindus themselves often prefer to call their religious tradition Sanātana Dharma or “The Eternal Way”. In fact, Hindus began using the word “dharma” to describe their religion as early as approximately in the 7th century while the term “sanātana” was added later in order to distinguish their dharma from other religions which also utilized the term. However, the real origins of Hinduism lie in the Vedic culture and depend particularly on the spiritual foundation of the Vedas (discussed earlier) and the Upanishads. The Vedas were written approximately between 1300 and 1000 BC (although the period is still being disputed) and include the following: Rig-Veda (a collection of hymns pertaining to the mythology of Hindu gods), the Sama-Veda (a collection of hymns and chants recited at various religious rites), the Yajur-Veda (a collection of instructions for the rites themselves) and the Athara-Veda (a collection of knowledge of the sage Athara). The Vedas are considered as shruti, “heard” and are thus considered to be revelations of eternal truth. They are also known for being instrumental to the development of the infamous caste system in the Indian society. According to the caste theory, each person has his/her own destined path or “dharma”. The reference of castes in Rig-Veda is embodied in a passage which claims that the god Purusha sacrificed himself to himself and as a result, each part of his body emerged as a different portion of the society. The mouth became the Brahmin (priest), the arms became Kshatriyas (warriors), the thighs became Vaisya (merchants, farmers and artisans) and the feet became Sudra (servants). Thus, although each caste (or part of the god’s body) had a different function, they were all united. Yet, despite the importance of Vedas in forming early Hinduism, it is Upanishads which are credited with forming classical Hinduism. Unlike the Vedas, Upanishads were constructed to provide an actual mean or way of attaining enlightenment which was only discussed in the earlier spiritual texts. Perhaps the most keystone Upanishad beloved by


all Hindus is the Bhagavad Gita. It contains discourse on the purpose of human existence in the words of Supreme Lord Krishna himself. However, unlike the Vedas which are considered to be shruti, the Bhagavad Gita is thought of as smriti or “tradition”. Other such revered texts include post-Vedic scriptures such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, Devi Mahatmya and Yoga Sutras. Within Hinduism, there are six various astika or “orthodox” schools of thought: Nyaya (which emphasizes rigorous logic), Vaisheshika (which emphasizes the matter), Samkhya (which emphasizes numbers and categories), Yoga (which emphasizes meditation techniques), Purva Mimamsa (which emphasizes analysis of sacred texts) and Vedanta (which emphasizes the experience of spirituality). The non-orthodox or non-Vedic schools of thought are called Nastika and include Buddhism, Jainism and Lokayata. In addition, there are four major divisions in contemporary Hinduism: Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. Although all of them share common beliefs and rituals, they all adopt a different view on how to attain liberation. But what are some of these main Hindu beliefs? First of all, Hinduism states that the highest form of existence is the realization of the innermost self or “ātman” with the ultimate reality or “Brahman”. This ultimate reality can be nirguna (with distinguishing attributes) or saguna (with personal attributes). Saguna Brahman generally takes form of Brahmā (spirit from which universe arises), Vishnu (force which sustains the universe) or Shiva (force that brings end and destruction). Brahman can also come into existence in a knowable form or “avatar”. For instance, Vishnu has ten major avatars such as Krishna or Buddha. It is only through awareness of ātman and its unity with Brahman that one can attain happiness as well as liberation (moksha) from a chain of lives (samsāra). Thus, samsāra, or a chain of births and deaths, is caused directly by a lack of knowledge of ātman and is governed primarily by karma. It’s important to note that it is karma which provides the basic foundation for Hindu ethics by stating that the present life condition of each individual is a result of actions which were committed in previous lives. Hinduism is also distinct from other religions in its view of the four goals of life or “purushārthas”. These are kāma (pleasure of the senses), artha (power and wealth), dharma (moral harmony) and moksha (liberation). In addition, most Hindus view life as composed of four stages or āshrama which provide a clear sense of purpose. They are as follows: brahmacharya (a celibate student), grihasthya (household stage during which one marries and becomes an active member of the society), vanaprastha (gradual detachment from the material world) and sanyasa (renunciation of the world in order to seek liberation). During all of these phases, Hinduism is often practiced through a variety of yogas such as bhakti yoga (loving devotion), karma yoga (selfless service), raja yoga (meditation) and jnana yoga (discrimination yoga). It is also expressed through various religious activities which can be divided into three main branches: nitya (actions that are performed daily), naimittika (actions performed on specific occasions) and kāmya (actions performed voluntarily). In turn, all of these are performed through three types of rituals: yajna (sacrificial fire), puja (offerings) or dhyana (meditation). Each person typically worships the deity they chose (ishta-devata) on daily basis through puja. It is


usually conducted with the help of mantras (meditational prayers), devotional songs (bhajans), praise (kirtan) and fire rituals (arti). However, perhaps the most visible expression of Hindu spirituality is in its symbols. For instance, many Hindu women wear a bindi on their foreheads. This serves as a symbol of a third eye and supreme consciousness. Some men in India also wear a corresponding tilak mark which represents devotion to a particular deity such as Vishnu or Shiva. Yet another infamous Hindu symbol is the sacred syllable om. It is considered to be a divine representation of existence. Hindus chant it during meditations and its vibrations are said to penetrate the ātman. Finally, many Hindus use the swastika symbol in their everyday life. This symbol is defined as “satya” or truth within the power of Brahma, or the sun “surya”. Its rotation in four directions is representative of the four directions of the world. Finally, many Hindus are known not to consume beef. The scriptural prohibition of this dietary habit arose with Vedas. For instance, in the Vedic tradition, Krishna is considered to be the herder of cows (Govinda) and their protector (Gopala) while Shiva is attended by the bull (Nandi). Therefore, despite many variations within the Hindu tradition, its main belief is the struggle for enlightenment. Coincidentally, that is also the main concept in another religious tradition largely represented in India-Buddhism. Buddhism Buddhism is a religion based primarily on the teachings of the Buddha Siddhārta Gautama (approximately 563-483 BC). The word Buddha comes from an ancient Indian language Pali and Sanskrit and is defined as “the one who has become awake”. Siddhārta (“he who has attained his goals”) was born as the prince of the Shakaya tribe in Lumbini in the kingdom of Magadha (present day Nepal). Upon his birth, Siddhārta’s father-King Shuddodana, consulted a seer called Asita to inquire about the future of his son. Asita proclaimed that Siddhārta had two possible paths in life-one in which he could become an emperor and one in which he could become a great religious sage. Due to the fact that Shuddodana wanted his son to follow in his own footsteps, he decided to shield the boy from anything which could spark his religious interest. Thus, Siddhārta was only allowed to wonder around his family’s three palaces and was never allowed to see signs of illnesses, old age or suffering. At the age of 16 Siddhārta married Yashodhara and settled into a life of luxury. However, he also began feeling restless and curious about the world outside of his palace. When he expressed a desire to see the people of his kingdom, the king arranged for a parade to be held outside of the palace during which only young and healthy individuals could greet the prince. Yet, during the outing, Siddhārta accidentally happened to steal a glance of not only a couple of older men who were walking near the parade but also of some people who were ill, of a funeral ceremony and a wandering holy man. These sights, called the Four Passing Sights, led him to believe that factors such as old age, sickness, death and birth were ever present in everyone’s life. As a result, at the age of 29


Siddhārta snuck out of the palace in the middle of the night, abandoning his wife and son Rahula, in search of a way which would allow one to overcome suffering. One of Siddhārta’s first attempts at reaching enlightenment came through his ascetic practices of self-mortification with five Indian holy men (sādhus). Although Siddhārta practiced such austerities with them for over six years and eventually even surpassed their teachings, he didn’t feel fulfilled in his spiritual quest. Consequently, he decided to fast and practice suspension of breathing, eventually almost starving himself to death. One day Siddhārta decided to take a bit of milk-rice from a passing peasant girl named Sujata, upon which he decided that perhaps it was time for him to find yet another way of ending suffering. In the town of Bodh Gaya, Siddhārta sat under a tree (now called Bodhi tree) facing east with the intention to stay there for as long as it took to resolve his problem. His mindful meditation bore fruit and on a full moon in May, six years after he left his palace, Siddhārta attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. As a Buddha, Siddhārta not only understood that everything in the world is impermanent (anitya) but also that all lives are influenced by the effects of the actions performed by each individual (karma). In fact, he perceived that everything comes into existence due to the law of cause and effect- a doctrine later on called “dependent arising” in Buddhism. According to a legend, soon after Buddha achieved such enlightenment, Brahma asked him to teach and share his knowledge with others. Buddha obliged and upon coming across the five ascetics with whom he practiced self-mortification, he preached his first sermon (The Turning Wheel of Dharma) during which he not only explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path but also consequently gave rise to the Sangha or a community of monks. The Four Noble Truths pertain to the concepts of dukkha, samudaya, nirodha and marga. According to dukkha, all worldly life is suffering. According to samudaya, the cause of suffering is attachment or desire rooted in ignorance. According to nirodha, the end of suffering is Nirvana and according to marga, the path which leads out of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path. In turn, the Noble Eightfold Path is an approach which outlines three qualities that must be fulfilled in order to attain enlightenment. These are wisdom (panna), morality (sila) and concentration (Samadhi). The first include right understanding and right thought; the second include right speech, right action and right livelihood while the third includes right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Soon after Buddha’s death, five hundred monks who attained arahantship (enlightenment) held the First Council at Rajagaha. During the meeting, monastic code (Vinaya) as well as Buddha’s lessons (Sutras) was recited and a decision was made not to change any rules established by the Buddha and not to add any new ones. However, by the second council in Vaishali held one hundred years later, there were vast debates on the monks’ codes of rules. As a result, the more liberal group of monks (which labeled itself Mahasangha or in Pail “Theravada” meaning “great sangha”) split from a more traditional group (called Sthaviravādin or “way of the elders”). While the former said that the traditionalists followed rules too rigidly, the latter said that the liberals were just negligent monks of the sangha. Ultimately, each group spilt into even more minor


divisions eventually leading to a present categorization of Buddhist schools of thought into three main groups: Nikaya, Mahayana and Vajrayana. As it was mentioned above, the Theravada school (the only surviving representative of the Nikaya school of thought) based its doctrine solely on the Pali Canon whose sutras are accepted and valued in every branch of Buddhism. This branch of Buddhism is practiced today in Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and some portions of Malaysia. The Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) school is characterized by its recognition of not only the Nikaya scriptures but also other texts written in Sanskrit which discuss the selfless ideal of the bodhisattva. This branch is practiced today in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Lastly, the Vajrayana (“Diamond Vehicle”) school of thought is characterized by its recognition of not only the Mahayana scriptures but also a large body of texts such as the Buddhist Tantras which discuss spiritual techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practices. This branch if practiced today in Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, Tibet and some areas of India. Tibet: Bön Tradition Let’s now turn to a discussion of one of the most infamous sites of Buddhist traditionTibet. According to a Tibetan tradition, Tibet is a “land of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, and the Tibetan people are his descendants” with an ancestry stemming from a union of Avalokiteshvara and Tara (Government of Tibet in Exile 2005). However, the oldest spiritual tradition in Tibet was not Buddhist but actually the Bön religion. According to various traditions, the founder and the first enlightened teacher (called “bön po”, bön signifying “truth” and being equivalent to “dharma”in Tibetan Buddhism) of the Bön religion was Tönpa Shenrab. Some believe that Shenrab studied the Bön doctrine in heaven and renounced the world at the age of thirty in order to spread his beliefs to others. Consequently, while pursuing a demon “Khyabha Lagring” who stole his horses, Shenrab went to Mount Kailash in Tibet and wound up teaching Tibetans his two doctrines called the Four Portals and One Treasury and the Nine Ways of Bön. While the first dealt primarily with rituals and rules, the latter also discussed astrology and various philsophical discourse. It is generally agreed that Bön beliefs have most likely been derived from shamanism and ancient tribal religions. For instance, bön spirits were said to be present in every aspect of nature and considered to be divine. The main mountain deity of Bön was Mount Yarlha Sampo-located in a region where the first Tibetan King (who was in fact an Indian king named Rupati and who fled India after he was defeated in a war) was enthroned in 127 BS by twelve bön pos and named Nyatri Tsenpo. In addition, followers of Bön believed that due to the presence of deities as well as demons in the mountains, travel through mountain ranges was rather dangerous. Thus, they started placing heaps of stones (“laptse”) as a toll on the passes. Consequently, this ritual initiated the practice of placing “mani” piles on the roads, mountain tops or near various monasteries in the area. Today, mani (a simplified form of Six Sacred Words On Mani Padme Hum) piles are often seen


in the Himalayas and it is believed that by walking around them in a clockwise manner, people can cleanse themselves of their sins. Unfortunately, Bön was discouraged and gradually abolished with the introduction of Buddhism to the area around 8th century. It is however fortunate that due to an extreme devotion of various Bön priests and followers, some Bön monasteries were built in Tibet since the 11th century. One of them, Menri, was the center of monastic Bön studies. Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet, it was re-established in Dolanji in Himachal Pradesh and still continues to serve an an educational center for young Bön monks. It was even recently visited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who has been an avid supporter of the preservation of Bön tradition. Besides Menri, today there are fourteen other Bön monasteries in India and Nepal. Hopefully, they will continue to not only preserve the Bön spiritual tradition but also eventually shed more light on its impact on present day Tibetan Buddhist practices. Tibet: Buddhism Although Buddhism was initially introduced to Tibet in 173 CE, it made no significant impact on the area until the reign of the 33rd King of Tibet (Song Tsen Gampo) during 600’s when Buddhist scriptures brought from India were translated into the local language. The tradition was further strengthened during the 8th century reign of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen who invited two Buddhist scholars from India: Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava (Guru-Rinpoche), to bring their texts and traditons to the Tibetan people. While the first master built the first monastery in Tibet (Samye), the latter used his wisdom to protect and guide the construction of that monastery. As a consequence, in 792, King Trisong Detsen officially proclaimed Indian Buddhism to be the religion of Tibet. Throughout time, Buddhist tradition in Tibet developed into eight major practice lineages called the “Eight Great Chariots”. Each lineage (a transmission of teachings from the teacher to the student) has a similar doctrine but varies in its authoritative texts or masters. Today, these lineages are usually divided into four major schools: Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelupa. Nyingma traces its origins to the initial phase of Buddhism in the 8th century and is thus called the “old school”. Its leading figure was Padmasambhava and it is usually noted for its teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Kagyu (“command lineage”) was founded by Tilopa and his disciple Naropa. Its main distinctive feature is the oral transmission of instructions passed from a teacher to a student while its important teachers included Marpa and Milarepa. Sakya was established by Gonchok Gyelpo (1034-1102) and its name is derived from a monastery called Sakya which was built by Gyelpo in Tibet. Lastly, Gelupa (the Virtuous School) was founded by Tsong Khapa (Je Rinpoche) (1357-1419) and is known for being headed by the Dalai Lama. Along with Skya and Kagyu, it is considered to be one of the “new schools” of Tibetan Buddhism. It is important to note that although all Tibetan Buddhist schools trace their origin to Buddha Shakyamuni (Siddhārta Gautama), Tibetan Buddhism possesses certain features


which are unique to its branch of spiritual tradition. For instance, Tibetan Buddhism established a position of a lama or a teacher. In 1578, Mongol overloads called the head of the Gelupa School Dalai Lama (Dalai being a Mongol word for ocean) which meant “guru as great as the ocean” and thus started a tradition which continues to the present day. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th person to bear such title and was born as Tenzin Gyatso in 1935 in Amdo, Tibet. Although he fled Tibet and moved to India in 1959 upon Chinese occupation of the region, he was successful in setting up a government-in-exile and ensuring the preservation of Tibetan culture, religious activities and welfare of other Tibetans in exile. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts. In addition, like other Tantric Buddhist branches, Tibetan Buddhism believes that the path to enlightenment is guided by a use of certain rituals and ritual objects. For example, great emphasis is placed on meditation which can be aided by the use of various hand gestures called mudras or chants called mantras (words or sentences spoken repeatedly to invoke a certain experience). Perhaps the most famous mantra is that of Avlokiteshvara: Om Mani Padme Hum (“Hail the jewel in the lotus”). It is said that this mantra brings

(Om Mani Padme Hum written in a Tibetan script. Source of Image:

(Om Mani Padme Hum written in an ancient Indian Ranjana script. Source of Image:

about blessings of the embodiment of compassion-Chenrezig. It is often inscribed on rocks, walls, mani stones (discussed earlier) on roads or yet another symbol of Tibetan Buddhism-prayer wheels. Prayer wheels can either be small and carried by practitioners or larger and constructed into the gates of monasteries. They are usually made of a cylindrical body of metal with a wooden or metal handle. It is the cylinder which is not 15

only carved with the mantra but also holds rolls of thin paper with imprinted mantra Om Mani Padme Hum in either Indian or Tibetan script. As it is spun, each turn of the wheel (clockwise to match the circumambulation of the stupas and to spin in the direction of the sun) generates as much prayer as reciting a mantra millions of times. It is thus not

(Source of Image: surprising that due to their ability to protect from all danger, prayer wheels are widely used in the Tibetan tradition. Mantras in Tibetan Buddhism are also used in conjunction with prayer beads which mark the number of repetitions of the mantra. There are different types of prayer beads. For instance, beads used with mantras to “appease” are usually made out of 100 crystal or pearl beads; beads used with mantras to “increase” are usually made out of 108 gold, silver or lotus seeds; beads used with mantras to “overcome” are usually made out of 25 sandalwood or saffron beads while beads used with mantras to “subdue through force” are usually made out of 60 raksha seed beads. Bodhi beads are also used for many various mantras as well as circumambulations etc. Perhaps one of the most astounding visual ritual objects of Tibetan Buddhism are mandalas (“circles”). Mandalas are paintings or diagrams which serve as symbolic pictures of the world. They represent a sphere which is free of spiritual impurities and are used as visual aids in meditation, varying according to a given central deity. Many mandalas are adorned with yet another Buddhist symbol-vajra. Vajras are the symbols of Buddha’s compassion for the meditating person. They may have nine, five or three

(Source of Image: spokes. The upper stokes of a five spoke vajra symbolize five wisdoms (mirror-like wisdom, the wisdom of equality, the wisdom of individual analysis, the wisdom of accomplishing activity and the wisdom of the sphere of reality). The upper stokes of a


nine spoked vajra represent Buddhas of five families and the four mothers while its lower spokes represent the five wisdoms and the four wishes of joy, love, compassion of equanimity. Vajras are often also paired with bells in order to represent wisdom. Each bell has a round base with a vase adorned with a face of Prajnaparamita, an image of a lotus, a moon disc and a vajra as well as be 8,12,16,18 or 22 finger-widths in height. It is important to note that lotus is an ever present symbol in Tibetan Buddhism and is representative of purity and divine birth. While its flower is closed, it is symbolic of a human heart which has not yet awakened. However, when it blooms, it is representative of Buddha’s virtues and teachings. A lotus flower is in fact one of “Eight Auspicious Symbols” including the precious vase (long life, prosperity and liberation), right-coiled white conch (Dharma teachings), precious umbrella (preservation from illness and harmful forces), victory banner (victory over obstacles and negativities), golden fish (auspiciousness of living without fear), Dharma wheel (the Eightfold Path and Buddha’s doctrine) and auspicious drawing (union of wisdom and method). According to various legends, these symbols came about when all heavenly beings came to make offerings to Buddha Shakyamuni and brought the above mentioned signs or objects. The last symbol in Tibetan Buddhism which we will now discuss is a chorten (stupas in India). Stupas (from Sanskrit “stup” or to accumulate) were traditionally burial mounds for the kings of India. However, Tibetan chortens are monuments or vessels containing relics of not kings bur rather realized Buddhist masters. They contain statues, texts and various relics which are supposed to represent Buddha’s speech, mind and body. According to the legend, Buddha Shakyamuni instructed his disciples to cremate him and bury the remains in a stupa. However, when the body was cremated, there was a dispute over who should be in charge of constructing a stupa for it. As a result, a Brahmin Done decided that the remains will be divided among eight different parties and thus eight different stupas were built in various parts of India. The eight types of chortens commemorate eight major events in the life of Buddha Shakyamuni. Thus, the lotus stupa commemorates Buddha’s birth, the enlightenment stupa commemorates Buddha attaining enlightenment, the stupa of wisdom (or the stupa of sixteen gates) commemorates Buddha’s first teaching of the Four Noble Truths, the stupa of miracles commemorates Buddha’s miracles in Lisabi, the stupa of descending from the Tushita Heaven commemorates Buddha’s descent from a god realm where Buddha gave teachings to his mother, the stupa of unity commemorates reconciliation within the sangha, the stupa of complete victory commemorates Buddha prolonging his life span by three months upon his students’ request and the stupa of Parinirvana commemorates the attainment of Parinirvana in Kushinagara. In addition, it is important to note that chortens are also symbolic of the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Thus various levels of a chorten correspond to various levels of a path to


enlightenment. For instance, the square foundation of a chorten corresponds to earth, the dome corresponds to water, the pole of the parasol corresponds to air or wind, the parasol itself corresponds to void or space while the harmika or stone fence corresponds to fire. Furthermore, the base of a chorten has four steps, all of which are symbolic to some Buddhist doctrine. For example, the first step of the foundation stands for mindfulness (cattari satipatthani), the second for four efforts (cattari sammappadhanani), the third for psychic powers (cattaro Iddhipada) and the fourth for five faculties (pancindriyani). Similarly, the dome (anda) stands for the seven factors of enlightenment (mindfulness, truth, energy, rapture, serenity, concentration and equanimity) while the harmika represents the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Lastly, the top-most part of a chorten corresponds to the thirteen mystical powers of the Buddha. Thus it is evident that chortens are powerful symbols in Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhist devotees often light candles or butter lamps on them, walking clockwise around the structures in order to concentrate better on the essence of Enlightenment. Tibet: Chinese Occupation Unfortunately, today many chortens, as well as many of the 6,000 Buddhist monasteries in Tibet have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The occupation came about with the victory of the communist party and its leader Mao Tse-tung in China in 1949. Immediately after their win, the communists claimed that Tibet was in fact part of the Chinese territory and that Tibetans were asking them for “liberation” from the Lhasa governing body. As a result, in 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet as far as the provinces of Kham (the headquarter of the Tibetan Army’s Eastern Command) and Amdo. Furthermore, the Chinese Government claimed that Tibetans invited Chinese troops to enter their nation, citing the 17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet as a proof. However, according to the Tibetan Government in exile, the “Tibetan Government was coerced into accepting the document drafted by China and imposed upon the Tibetan negotiators” (Tibetan Government in Exile 2005). In either case, the Chinese rule grew more oppressive with time and in March of 1959 the Tibetan resistance to Chinese occupation reached its pivotal point when the threat to the 14th Dalai Lama became stronger with each day. On March 1st 1959, two Chinese officers visited the Dalai Lama at the Jokhang cathedral and asked him to attend (without companions) a theatrical performance and tea at the Chinese Army Headquarters in Lhasa. The Dalai Lama did not confirm his presence at the event and consequently on March 7th the Chief Official Abbot received a telephone call from an interpreter of a Chinese military leader in Lhasa asking once again for Dalai Lama’s presence at the ceremony. The date confirmed by both parties was March 10th. However, on March 9th Chinese officers told the commander of the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards that on the following day, Dalai Lama was to travel from his Norbulinka summer palace to the army headquarters without armed bodyguards, Tibetan soldiers or any customary ceremonies. This was directly opposed to the usual group of 25 armed guards accompanying the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans in Lhasa lining up along the path of his travel. Thus, on March 10th, 30,000 Tibetans surrounded the Norbulinka palace in order to prevent him from visiting the Chinese Army headquarters and protect him from a


possible abduction. Over the next days, mass meetings and protests took place in Lhasa, demanding the Chinese withdrawal from Tibet. Eventually, open confrontations took place between the Tibetans and the Chinese, resulting in bloodshed. On March 17th, 1959, the Chinese army fired two mortal shells at the Norbulika palace. This propelled the Dalai Lama to escape Tibet in order to fight for his people through appeals for international help. Wearing a solder’s uniform, the Dalai Lama left Lhasa on the night of March 17th, proceeded by his mother and sister. On March 21st, the Chinese shelled the Norbulinka palace with 800 shells. 200 of the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards were publicly killed, 87,000 Tibetans killed in the three months following the uprising and Lhasa’s major monasteries (Gaden, Sera and Drepung) were shelled. On March 28th, the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued an order stating that the Government of Tibet has been dissolved. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama crossed the Indian border on March 31st and was granted official asylum by Nehru on April 3rd. Upon his arrival in India, the Dalai Lama established a Tibetan Government in exile based in Dharamsala and through the Central Tibetan Administration, assistance of the Government of India and other international organizations, was able to not only rehabilitate Tibetan refugees but also establish more than 80 Tibetan schools in India, Nepal and Bhutan as well as re-establish more than 200 monasteries in exile. He said that upon his death, reincarnation will not come under the Chinese control but rather be born in a fee world. Himachal Pradesh It is important to note that since the Chinese occupation, there have been over 175,000 Tibetans in exile with 36 refugee settlements in India alone and over 5,000 Tibetans living in Dharamsala, located in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. In order to fully comprehend the socio-political and economic context of the Tibetan (as well as Hindu) life-style in India, we will now turn our attention to Himachal Pradesh and its geographical, historical and political features. Himachal Pradesh is an Indian state bordering Jammu and Kashmir to the North, Punjab to the West and South-West, Uttar Pradesh to the South-East and China to the East. It encompasses an area of about 55,673 square kilometers and is composed of twelve districts: Hamirpur, Kangra, Mandi, Una, Bilaspur, Chamba, Kullu, Sirmour, Shimla, Kinnaur, Lahul & Spiti. Its total population numbers at 6,177,248 with over 90 % of the residents living in rural areas and less than 10% in urban centers (HP Government Official 2005). Himachal Pradesh has its capital in Shimla and is known for its numerous rivers (Sutlej, Beas, Ravi and Parbati), lakes (Nako, Suraj Tal, Renuka and others) and most importantly mountains ranging from 350 to 7,000 meters above the sea level. According to the 2001 Census of India, Himachal Pradesh has a population density of 109 individuals per square kilometer, has 57 towns, 53 urban bodies and 1,607 inhabited villages. Furthermore, the state has 3,831 health institutions, 15,800 educational institutions and is known for its 1,169 bridges, 8 national highways and over 8,006 villages which have access to motor able roads. Himachal Pradesh also houses hydroelectric plants in five river basins (Yamuna, Satluj, Beas, Ravi and Chenab) and has


(Source of Image: an approximate area under vegetable production of 38,000 hectares, producing 17.84 lakh tons of food grains annually. The annual per capita income is about 24,800 rupees. The earliest inhabitants of the region were supposedly tribals called Dasas, Dasyus and Nishadas in the Vedas. They were pushed to this region by the population of the Indus 20

Valley Civilization which displaced them from their original location in the Ganga plains. According to some researchers, the next migration to the area came in the form of the Mongoloid people and latter in the form of Aryans from Central Asia (HP Government Official 2005). The state was initially composed of small republics called janpadas However, during the Mauryan Empire, Chandragupta took over most of the Himachal republics and his grandson Ashoka later on was credited with introducing Buddhism to the region. During the Mughal rule, many of the Himachal states were invaded by the Muslims. However, as the Mughal Empire collapsed, a Katoch ruler, Sansar Chand, took direct and sometimes indirect control of most Himachal states such as Chamba, Suket, Mandi, Bilaspur, Guler, Jaswan, Siwan and Datarpur. The next migration into the region came from the Gorkhas, a martial tribe from Nepal, who annexed Shimla and Sirmour states and defeated Sansar Chand in 1806. Unfortunately, the Gorkhas were unable to capture some areas and upon coming into violent contact with the British, were expelled from Himachal east of the Satluj. The British strengthened their position in the Himachal when the Sikhs invaded the British territory by crossing the Satluj in 1845 and lead to various treaties between the British and some rajas. In 1876, upon proclamation of Queen Victoria that she was the “Empress of India”, most territories in the region came under the British control. Consequently, the political situation in the area remained unchanged until the Indian Independence in 1947. Finally, Himachal Pradesh was formed on April 15th, 1948 by uniting 30 princely states of the area. At that time, all of the states constituted an area of 27,169 square kilometers and formed four districts: Chamba, Mahasu, Mandi and Sirmour. However, in 1954 another state, Bialaspur, was annexed into the region and thus added one more district. Similarly, in 1960, a district Kinnaur was formed and in 1966 certain areas previously belonging to Punjab were included in Himachal Pradesh, adding four more districts: Kullu, Lahaul & Spiti, Kangra and Shimla. Lastly, Himachal Pradesh was made a fullfledged Indian state on January 25th 1971 and has remained unchanged administratively since 1972; compromising 12 districts and 52 sub-divisions. Himachal Pradesh: Lahaul & Spiti We will now look at a few of the Himachal districts, starting with Lahaul & Spiti. Lahaul & Spiti is a district bordering with Tibet. As it is evident from its name, the district is composed from two mountain tracts: Lahaul and Spiti. These two entities were once separate political units of Kangra and have two distinctive historical backgrounds. For instance, Lahaul was ruled by monarchs from Ladakh but was taken over by a Kulu chief in the seventh century upon disintegration of the Ladakh kingdom. Subsequently, during the British colonial period, Lahaul was a part of the Kangra district from 1846 to 1940 and was ruled by local thakurs. Meanwhile, Spiti was part of Ladakh until it came under the control of the East India Company beginning in 1846. However, in 1941 Spiti and Lahaul were constituted into a sub-tehsil of Kullu and in 1960 were officially considered to be a district of the Himachal Pradesh.


As of 2001, Lahaul & Spiti had a population numbering at 33,224 people (22,674 in Lahaul and 10,550 in Spiti), with a population density of 2 persons per square kilometer. Languages spoken in the region include Manchad dialects, Bhoti and Sanskrit. With a geographical area of 13,835 square kilometers, 4,459 hectares were under cultivation (main crops being potatoes and peas) and 135,369 hectares were considered to be a forest area. The main rivers include Chandra, Bhaga, Chandrabhaga, Spiti and Tsarab while the main lakes include Chandra Tal, Suraj Tal and Neel Kanth. The region’s altitude has mountain ranges from 5,480 meters to 6,400 meters above the sea level, with an average altitude of 10,050 feet above the sea level. In addition, the district has 3 community health centers, 1 district hospital and 9 primary health centers as well as 205 primary schools, 28 middle schools, 14 high schools and one college. In 2001, its literacy rate was 73.17 percent. Lastly, the area houses many major Buddhist monasteries: Kardang, Shashur, Gemur, Tabo, Kee, Tayul, Guru and Ghantal. Himachal Pradesh: Shimla The district of Shimla has its boundaries with Mandi and Kullu in the North, Kinnaur in the East, Sirmaur in the West and Uttaranchal in the South. It came into existence as a district in 1972 however its political history goes back to the Gurkhas. In the 1800s Gurkhas took over most fortified posts in the area between Jamuna and Satluj. Yet local people appealed to the British for help in order to be liberated from the Gurkha rule. As a result, with the battle of Malaon in 1815, the Gurkhas were defeated and the region came under British control. In fact, the British based their summer capital of India in the town of Shimla-present day capital of Himachal Pradesh. The town of Shimla derived its name from “shyamalaya” –blue house, which was supposedly a name of a blue slate house on Jakhu hill (7,140 ft). Some also say that the name might have been derived from “shamla”, meaning a “blue female” and referring to the Goddess Kali whose temple used to be on the Jakhu hill and was later moved to the location of the present day Kali Bari Temple. In either case, Shimla is perhaps best known for its panoramic views, colonial heritage buildings such as the Viceregal Lodge and the 1946 conference which gave way to India’s independence. According to the 2001 India’s Census, Shimla has a population of 721,745, with 554,912 individuals living in rural areas and 166,833 living in urban settlements. The languages spoken include Hindi and Pahari. With a geographic area of 5,131 square kilometers, the region has 101,160 hectares of cultivated area and bases its economy on agriculture of such crops as wheat, potatoes, apples and maize. Furthermore, the district has 9 civil bloc hospitals, 1 regional hospital and 2 Ayruvedic hospitals. Lastly, there are 1,616 primary schools, 264 middle schools, 157 high schools and one university. The local literacy rate in 2001 was 87.72 % for males and 70.68 % for females. Himachal Pradesh: Kulu Kulu is a Himachal district with an area of about 5,503 square kilometers located on either sides of the river Beas. Its population numbers 301,729 individuals speaking Hindi,


Punjabi and/or Pahari. Perhaps the best known part of Kulu is its town of Manali. Manali draws its name from Manu. According to the legend, Vaivasvate (the seventh incarnation of Manu) once found a fish which asked him to care for it. In return for his services, the fish told Manu that there was a flood coming which will submerge the whole earth. Quickly, Vaivasvata and Seven Sages ran to an ark and were led to safety by the very fish (Matsya) and rested in a place on a hill later on called Manali. Today, Manali has not only many tourist attractions but also houses 2 major temples: Hadimba and Manu. While the first is dediced to the Goddess Hadimba, the second is supposedly the only temple of Manu Rishi (the creator of human race on earth) in India. Lastly, 51 kilometers from Manali is the famous Rohtang Pass (3,979 meters). Located on a highway to Leh/Keylong, the pass offers not only great views of the glaciers and mountain peaks but also of the river Chandra. Himachal Pradesh: Kangra Kangra is a Himachal district located 526 kilometers northwest of New Delhi. It derives its name from the town Kangra which in the ancient times was called Nagarkot and was part of an area called Trigartha (Jullundur). Today, Kangra has a population of 1,339,030 people with a rural population numbering at 1,266,745 and an urban population numbering at 72,285 people. With a geographical area of 5,739 square kilometers, the region has over 1,275 square kilometers of cultivated land and a forest area of 2,367 square kilometers. Its literacy rates stand at 87.1% for males and 73% for females (2001 India’s Census). Perhaps the most known part of Kangra is one of its towns-Dharamshala. Dharamshala is located at an altitude varying from 1,250 to 2,000 meters and is thus divided into an upper town (including McLeod Ganj and Forsynth Ganj) and a lower town (including the Kotiwali Bazaar) on the Dhauldhar range. During the 19th century it served as a British hill station. In fact, the name McLeod Ganj is derived from David McLeod-Lieutenant Governor of Punjab while the name Forsyth Ganj is derived from a name of a divisional commissioner. Up until 1905, Dharamsala was mainly composed of the Forsyth and McLeod Ganj, however, following an earthquake in 1905 the British shifted most business entities into lower reaches of spur and formed what is today known as lower Dharamshala. Dharamshala’s international notoriety came about in 1959 when his Holiness the Dalai Lama used the upper town as his base for the Tibetan Government in Exile. Today, out of the 19,200 Dharashala residents, 5,000 are Tibetans. The Tibetan presence in the region is not only noticeable in the area due to a pronounced number of Tibetan immigrants living in the region but also due to the presence of various significant Tibetan structures such as the Tsuglag Khang temple and the Norbulingka Institute. The Tsuglag Khang, or the Main Temple, is located directly opposite from the private residence of the Dalai Lama and serves as a place of his many audiences and teachings. It was built shortly after His Holiness’ arrival in India and is named after a seventh century temple in Lhasa. Furthermore, it houses a three meter bronze statue of the Shakyamuni


Buddha, a statue of Padmasambhava (facing Tibet) and a statue of Avalokitesvara (facing Tibet) of whom the Dalai Lama is considered to be an incarnation. The last statue is particularly important due to the fact that the original image of Avalokitesvara from the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa was discarded during Chinese Cultural Revolution. However, some Tibetans managed to save some of its pieces and send them to India where, in 1970, they were encased into the new Avalokitesvara statue. The Norbulingka Institute is a trust chaired by the Dalai Lama and dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. It houses the Center for the Arts, the Academy of Tibetan Culture and the Literary and Cultural Research Center. Near the institute, there is also a nunnery where women are taught various aspects of Buddhist philosophy. Himachal Pradesh: Kinnaur Kinnaur is a Himachal district located approximately 235 kilometers from Shimla and bordering Tibet to the east. It has only been open to the outsiders beginning in 1989. Kinnaur’s three main mountain ranges include Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar. Its main river-Sutlej-houses the old Hindustan-Tibet road which enters Tibet at Shipki La Pass. Most importantly, some believe that this region was a temporary home for Pandavas and that Kinners (residents of Kinnaur) were creatures stuck halfway between men and gods. Today, the region has a population of approximately 78,334 individuals with a population density of 12 persons per square kilometer. Only 9,355 square kilometers of Kinnaur’s geographical area compromise cultivated land. However, the region houses over190 primary schools, 37 middle schools and 25 high schools. The literacy rate for males stands at 84.3% while that for females stands at 64.4% (2001 India’s Census). Perhaps the best known locations in Kinnaur include Sangla, Chhitkul and the lake Nako. Sangla (sang meaning light and la meaning pass) valley village is towered by the KinnerKailash peak (6,050 m) and is one of the few areas where polyandry is still present in the region. Chitkul (3,450 m), located on the banks of River Baspa, is the last village on the old Hindustan-Tibet road. Its local goddess is Mathi and thus the village has an extensive temples in her name. In addition, Chitkul also houses the Kagyupa temple with a very old and valued image of the Shakyamuni Buddha. Lastly, Nako (3,663m) is a lake which is located near not only a village with a Lagang temple but also a rock which supposedly has imprints of the saint Padmasambhava. Himachal Pradesh: Current Developments Perhaps one of the most stunning aspects of the Himachal state is its success in attaining some of the lowest poverty rates in the entire India, some of the highest levels of school attendance and one of the most rapid demographic transitions in the nation. This is especially impressive considering the fact that mountain areas typically experience high levels of poverty and deprivation. In fact, in the fifties and sixties, the region known today as Himachal Pradesh was widely considered to be one of the most underdeveloped


areas of the country. Even the Report of the States Reorganization Commission referred to the area as extremely disadvantaged and used its low level of development as a major argument against it becoming a separate state. Yet, fifty years or so down the line, living conditions in Himachal Pradesh have been radically transformed for the better (Dreze and Sen 2002: 102). The transition is perhaps most striking in education. In 1951, less than 20 percent of children ages 10-14 were literate in Himachal Pradesh. These rates mirrored rates of disadvantaged so-called BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh). However, according to the most recent second National Family Health Survey of 1998-1999, school participation rates among 6-14 year olds in Himachal Pradesh were as high as 99% for boys and 97% for girls (Figure 1). They were the second highest in the country. On the contrary, percentage of females age 6-14 attending school in states such as Bihar or Uttar Pradesh was only 54.1 and 69.4 respectively (NFHS-2).
Figure 1. Percent of Fem ales age 6-14 attending school 1998-1999 (From The National Fam ily Health Survey "NFHS-2". 2000)
1 20

1 00







These numbers are extremely momentous as basic education is not only directly valuable as a constituent element of the quality of life but can also help to generate economic success of a more standard kind. In fact, organizations such as United Nations World Food Program (WFP) are turning their attention away from direct money or food aid to implementation of social programs because according to UN administrators such as deputy executive director John Powell, “an ill-educated, unhealthy population can’t take advantage of an open economy” (Thurow and Solomon 2004). Furthermore, various studies indicate that basic education plays an integral role in securing jobs and incomes (Nawani 1994: 7). Literacy is also an essential tool in obtaining bank loans, taking

sh de ra la P r a al Ke ach im H oa G r am o iz M hi el D jab du n a Pu i l N m Ta im kk r Si i pu htra an s M a ra ah a M n ya y a ar la H ha d ir eg n M al a a hm ag k s s h N ata Ka de r n & ra Ka mu al P m h l Ja ac ga un e n Ar t B es W sa ri s O m sa As sh a de di t In ar a ra sh P e uj G h ya rad ad P h M hra des d ra An r P n tta a U asth aj R r ha Bi



advantage of new technology, competing for employment, claiming inheritance rights or becoming politically active. For example, in India states with higher literacy rates achieved faster economic growth than those with lower rates (Dreze and Sen: 322). Himachal Pradesh’s high female literacy rates are especially significant due to the fact that literacy rates of mothers play an important role in reduction of child mortality as well as female disadvantage in child survival. It is therefore not surprising that Himachal
Figure 2. Infant Mortality Rate 1998-1999 (From the National Family Health Survey "NFHS-2". 2000)
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0


Figure 3. Under-Five Mortality Rate1998-1999 (From the National Family Health Survey "NFHS-2". 2000)
160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0
h es ad Pr a esh hy d ad ra M rP a ay tta al U h n eg ha h M t as es aj ad R ar Pr h Bi sa al ris ch O na h u es Ar ia d a d ir In am Pr m s a sh Asdhr t Ka An jara & u u G mm a n Ja rya a H njab Pu kim ka l k ta a Si rna eng K a st B d e n u W ala ad a ag N t r N i l sh m ra Ta ha a ur M nip a h M hi es el m D ora rad iz P M a al o h G ac im H ala r Ke

ya la sh h h a d e es e g ra a d M r P Pr tta a U dhy a M sa an ri s h O ast aj R r ha sh r B i am s de mi A s a ra s h h d i P a es In hra & K rad d u P An m al m h Ja nac u t Ar ara uj G njab a n Pu ya ka ar a al H nat ng r e Ka s t B d u e Na W il m Ta lhi e ra D im ht kk a s Si har d a n M a al ag m N a or sh iz ur de M ip ra an M a al P o h G ac im H ala r





Pradesh experiences one of the lowest fertility rates and under-five mortality rates in the country (Figure2 and Figure 3). In the early 1970s, birth and death rates in Himachal Pradesh were comparable to those of underprivileged Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Since 26

then, Himachal Pradesh has achieved a remarkable decline in death rates of almost 50 percent and 40 percent in birth rates. No other state has achieved a proportionate reduction of more than 35 percent on both counts over this period.
Figure 4. Total Fertility Rates 1998-1999 (From The National Family Health Survey "NFHS-2". 2000)
5 4.5 4 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0
a lay h h a des eg M Pr a r n ta Ut stha ja d Ra l an ga sh Na de r ra ha P Bi ya h ad M pur i an M am r i zo M an a ry Ha a di In m i ir m kk Si at as h h r K des uja G u & Pr a m al m Ja ac h ra un ht Ar ras a ah M sa ri s O i lh De m al sa ng h As t Be des a e s Pr W ra dh An ab du esh nj Pu il Na r ad m lP Ta cha a a m Hi ata k rn Ka la ra Ke oa G



Figure 5. Percentage of Rural Poor 1993-1994 (From Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen. 2002. India: Development and Participation. Oxford: University Press)
60 50 Percentage 40 30 20 10 0
n Pu r ha Bi sa ra ris ht O as ar ah a M ak at rn u Ka ad sh N il de m ra P Ta a hy ad M m sa As a di In at ar sh uj de G ra h r P des a tta U Pr ra dh al An e ng tB es W an th as aj R la ra Ke sh na de ya ra ar lP ir H m ha sh ac Ka im H & u m m Ja b ja


Today, Himachal Pradesh has the highest contraceptive prevalence rate, the secondhighest child immunization rate, and the third-lowest fertility rate among all major states (Figure 4), and it is also doing better than most other states in many other aspects of social development” (Dreze and Sen 2002: 102). As a matter of fact, the region is now experiencing one of the highest wages and lowest poverty rates in all of India (Figure5, Figure 6, Figure7).


Figure 6. Percentage of Urban Poor 1993-1994 (From Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen. 2002. India: Development and Participation. Oxford: University Press)
30 25 Percentage 20 15 10 5 0
As Ka Ja Hi Pu Ha Ke Gu Or W R A Ind Ma M T Ut B m e s aja nd tar i ha s rn m i ia ha adh amil h mu ac n jab ryan am ral a jara ss a tB s ras ya Na ata k Pra r ha t e n than ra P a & Pr a htr de ra ga Ka l Pr ad du de a sh a l sh es sh mi des h h r


Figure 7. Percentage of Children Aged 12-23 months who have received full immunization 1998-1999 (From Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen. 2002. India: Development and Participation. Oxford: University Press)
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
r h ha des Bi ra rP ta a Ut ak at rn u Ka ad sh il N d e m ra P Ta a hy ad htra M as ar ah M h es a di ad In Pr ra dh n An ha st ja al Ra e ng tB es W sa ri s O at ar uj G la ra Ke m sa As na ya ar h H es ab rad nj lP ir Pu m ha sh ac Ka im H & u m m Ja



Himachal Pradesh: Reasons for Its Success In trying to explain the reasons behind Himachal Pradesh’s success, many researchers quote factors such as its rural economy, high employment of local residents in the public sector or high per-capita government expenditure. However, when one compares these indicators to those of other states such as Haryana, they are extremely comparable and yet Haryana does not have the same success as Himachal in social indicators. Thus, according to researchers such as Dreze and Sen, Himachal Pradesh’s success is due to the following three factors: public support of social opportunities, the agency of women and local democracy and social cooperation (Dreze and Sen 2002).


For instance, the state places primary emphasis on the development of roads and schools in rural areas and on reducing inequalities within its region, especially in remote tribal areas such as Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spitit. Second of all, women in Himachal Pradesh are generally rather independent in a sense that they marry later, they always retain close bonds with their parents and are often family decision makers. Furthermore, women in Himachal have the “highest female labor-force participation among all major states” (Dreze and Sen 2002: 106). This is significant due to the fact that high female labor participation is often also associated with a higher status of females in the society. Thus, due to the fact that Himachal values women’s abilities and allows them to enjoy great employment opportunities, the states thus makes it easier for local women to make family decisions, to afford to send their kids (including daughters) to schools, to get their children immunized etc. Lastly, in addition to not having very pronounced gender divisions, Himachal Pradesh also does not have very acute divisions along the lines of class or caste. For instance, Himachal has the lowest incidence of landlessness and the lowest proportion of agricultural laborers (which are usually from the lowest castes) (Dreze and Sen 2002). Thus, Himachal’s egalitarian social makeup creates great conditions for social cooperation and exercise of local democracy. It has also contributed to not only impressive social indicators in the region but also to the state’s rapid economic progress, by “enabling most people to ‘participate in the development process’ and fostering ‘growth with equity’” (Dreze an Sen 2002: 109). Currently, we can only hope that the successful egalitarian socio-economic structure of Himachal Pradesh will not only further develop in the region but also spread to other areas of India.


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