Why are Patriotic Indians Obsessed with the Past?

Raise a hand if you’ve heard statements like this on blogs, articles and various comment forums:

  1. India was the greatest power in the world for thousands of years
  2. Muslim invaders came and destroyed Indian culture
  3. Indian knowledge was far ahead of its time and was the envy of the world
  4. India had the greatest philosophers
  5. India had the wisest kings
  6. India had the best warriors
  7. The British stole India’s Kohinoor! etc etc.

You get the idea..

They are made with the utmost passion and are usually followed by a tirade of how India has fallen from greatness, has embraced “western imperialism” and needs to get back to its roots. Modern society is degenerating, homosexuals are roaming freely, and women are “losing their modesty”. Honestly, I’m astounded at how often I hear such nonsense.

Beware the Evil Muslim Hordes!

Beware the Evil Muslim Hordes!

Let’s assume it’s all true. Obviously there’s a good amount of idealization, glorification and whitewashing, but I’m going to ignore it for now. Pretend that India was the greatest jewel on the planet for thousands of years, that all the rulers were paragons of virtue, justice and wisdom. Give in to the belief that evil Muslims came and destroyed everything great about this paradise hundreds of years ago and imposed their barbaric rule, culture and laws upon it.

I may be asking for too much I know, but bear with me. Now that we’ve descended into self delusion and absorbed this nauseatingly glorified past, I have just one question.


Indians living today share nothing but a few bits of DNA with our long dead ancestors. We didn’t know them. They certainly didn’t know us. We have no connection to them. But still we want to somehow claim greatness based on their (supposedly) lofty stature in the past. In effect, we want to bask in undeserved glory. The reality is that the deeds of those before don’t confer superiority on us today. Those who lived and died hundreds of years ago are strangers to us.

It means nothing. We have no business to feel proud.

I’ll tell you the kind of people who look to the past to find glory and feel better about themselves. Those who have no achievements of their own. People who think themselves so worthless and without anything to brag about that they have to dig up old glories of India – imagined or not – to elevate themselves and compensate for their current failings.

The atrocities committed hundreds or thousands of years ago have no bearing today. Those responsible have long since died and crumbled to dust, beyond the reach of our laws. Even those who suffered have been extinguished. The past is past. Let bygones by bygones.

Advocates of the past justify bringing up these old non-wounds by saying we must “learn from history” and trot out that famous saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This might have been valid if there was a danger today of Muslim hordes overrunning India today. If there was a risk of barbarians on horses frothing at the mouth waiting to convert every Hindu into a Muslim.

But there are no such barbarians today. There is no threat. We have far bigger problems than Islamic terrorism threatening us. Perhaps we’re afraid of tackling them and so find an easy target to blame everything on. It’s the evil Sonia Gandhi and her Christian pals in Rome! It’s the minority appeasing Congress that wants to convert every Hindu into a Muslim and impose Sharia law!

If only things were that simple and the enemy was so clearly outlined. But they’re not. Nothing is simple. We have far deeper and real systemic problems which we need to address. Finding an enemy to swing a sword at is just childish. We desperately need to grow up.

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  1. You spoke my mind in this post!  I really don’t get how people keep feeling proud of India, Indians in US, Indians around the world, themselves for being born in India & proud of everything of the past- like “Indians invented zero” , scriptures in the Vedas have this, that,etc… I totally have respect for the achievements of the past & those great people but it is high time we stop this bragging about ancient past. [Another thing- how can we proud of people leaving India and making other nations progress?! (I used to feel this way in the past about brain drain but I stopped being judgmental about the choices of NRIs coz those who made success made it because they were out of India,if they stayed back here, perhaps they wouldn’t have achieved the same or been any closer for the state of governance here.Things might have still been different if they stayed, but it is unfortunate that we don’t have good atmosphere to encourage talent here.That’s a different issue altogether…sigh!) ]Why I feel sad or annoyed regarding this thing is that, people simply say ‘I love India’, ‘I am proud of India’ and all that but don’t do things that reflect what they say- throw garbage anywhere & everywhere and litter the city/any place – like railway lines… In historical monuments & places of natural monuments write names, disfigure the carvings, paintings, whatever :( And being proud of Indian culture (which they think is superior to western culture)- which is patriarchy, rape women, female infanticide and a lot of superstition followed with austerity & piousness but traffic rules flouted at every chance.Who are we doing it for?For the cops?for the sake of saving fine? I believe one should be one’s own police.  The mere thought of such things annoy me and hurt me a lot! Did we deserve this freedom?The sacrifice that the freedom fighters made for us… Would they regret if they saw the state of India today? Lots of thoughts to ponder… Ignorance is bliss!


  2. I get the gist of what you’re trying to say but I believe that history teaches us something. It is upto each person to interpret it: I for one am always wary of the fanaticism around a certain politician which has caught on in our country. It has never failed to remind me of the rise of Indira Gandhi. Indians today could do with being reminded of how charismatic Hitler and Indira were during their rise, and what they turned into later.


  3. You are absolutely right. Whatever false claims you indians may make, fact of the matter is that you are a filth on this earth today.


  4. Advait Joshi says:

    what you said about the actions of our ancestors having no association to the people of the contemporary day is definately true. We should not be proud of what individuals did years… or possibly centuries ago. However, that being said, I think it is of utmost essence we remember the acts of greatness committed by our forefathers in order to incite present and upcoming generations to… “continue their legacy” if i may??… and further commit ourselves to act of nation-building and patriotism… in the hopes of bringing India back to the glorious state it once was :)
    – “Remembering our past” is so much more effective than “Regretting it”


    • In reply to Advait Joshi

      Then I feel we should remember the acts of greatness committed by all human beings, and not only Indians. After all, it’s by pure chance that we were born in India, so patriotism in the sense of feeling “proud” of a country means nothing. We can be happy to be born in India. Even grateful. But proud…I don’t think that makes sense.


  5. Advait Joshi says:

    Oh and i think that certain features of Indian society prove a necessity for pride to be embodied in every Indian. Theres so many great things (too long to list out) which other nations would define as impossible that India manages particularly well that a stimulation of anything but pride is extremely hard to result in


  6. Here is a not-an-Indian who do some own research on why many Indian are rude and sexist. I’ve found people from some countries who obsess with the past. I just don’t know if Indians are one of them.

    Of all the people I’ve found, I’ve found one common thing among them:there are no hope for the bright future for them, hense the only way to feel OK with themselves and feel that they are equal to people in other countries is to look back at their glorious days in the past.

    ID was, is, and will be a great nation if you ask me, unfortunately that’s not true for her people. Many still lacks behind others –Education, health care, etc. The only way for these people to feel that they are second-to-none is to praise themselves which ususally come with lowering down people/society of other countries.

    That’s my 2 cents. Sorry for any typo.


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