It's 8:00 a.m., and students slowly trickle into Mr. West's 6th grade
history class. The majority of the people, including the teacher, are white.
One African-American, two Orientals, and myself, a second generation Indian
girl, make up the rest of the class.
On the blackboard is written "World Religions." As the rest of the class prepares for a boring two hours, I can already feel my stomach sink - what did I do to deserve this?
We are handed a fill-in-the-blank chart of major world religions and are instructed to look in our books for the answers. Finishing quickly, I hand in my chart to Mr. West at his desk, and turn to leave. "Now wait a minute, you put 'monotheistic' down for Hindooism," he remarks.
"I know," I reply, feeling my face burn as the class looks up.
"Hindoos are polytheistic."
"No, they're not,"
"Are you a Hindoo?"
Scattered murmurs break out among my peers, whispering about how freaky Hindus worship elephants and monkeys. Great.
"Well," Mr. West says standing up and going to the chalkboard, "from what I understand, Hindoos are all about their caste system." And he begins a long, irrelevant, and incorrect explanation, which he memorized from our textbook. What does that have to do with being monotheistic? I don't even bother correcting him, to save myself any more embarrassment. I wanted to get out of there. Fast.
7th grade starts, and it's culture day in history. "Both of my parents are Indian--" I begin when it's my turn. "Do you mean Native American Indian, or Middle Eastern Indian?" my teacher asks. Sounds like it's going to be another fun year in social studies.
When 8th grade starts, India and Hinduism are summed up in a few short sentences by the teacher. India is described as filled with pollution, cows, and poverty-stricken people. Hindus love to bathe in rivers where they throw the ashes of their parents and yes, they do worship elephants and monkeys.
"Do you speak Indian?" I'm asked at least two times a week. "I heard there were two thousand gods and every full moon you had to give a sacrifice to them. Do you do that?" No, I try to explain that all the gods are really aspects of one almighty being. I've never sacrificed anything except my dignity, which slowly dwindles with each question. The release of popular award-winning books such as Homeless Bird, which portrays the typical Indian girl who is forced to get married at thirteen, didn't help Indians anywhere. And, who could have guessed, the author hadn't even been to India! No kidding.
Six entire chapters in the textbook were devoted to Christianity, whereas one page is given to the history of India and the teachings of Hinduism. A second page is entirely about Lord Shiva, accompanied by a rather unbecoming picture of an ancient dancing Shiva statue. Buddhism gets one paragraph.
This doesn't make sense, as most of the school already knows so much about Christianity, but hardly any even knew Buddhism or Hinduism existed. Now that they did, we would be ridiculed publicly. Thank you, Board of Education.
At last, high school starts. I almost die of shock when I see the 9th grade textbook has devoted an entire 3 sentences to Sikhism and Jainism. It claims Sikhism "combines the Muslim belief of one god with the Hindu belief of reincarnation."
Christianity in India and the ever-popular "western influence" get pages and pages of text. One of the main pictures which help represent "typical life in India" is one my fellow students describe as some sort of drag-queen in make-up doing an obscure peacock dance. Out of all the dazzling pictures of Indian culture, that is the one they have to stick in? They chose that one over a picture of, say, the classic Taj Mahal?
But the fun just gets funnier -- the next picture of a sari earns a whole two sentences. Oh, but it's not an exquisite silk or glittering embroidered sari. Nope, it's a dirty yellow (perhaps once white) cotton sari worn by an old woman bathing in the Ganges River. In spite of its pollution, "Hindus readily drink and bathe in the Ganges' water; people even come to die in the river." To further prove their point, they stick in a picture of a filthy and trash laden section of Ganges, not a clean part, which much of it is.
I kid you not, upon reading this and looking at the picture, a boy in my class had to be excused to the nurse's office because his stomach had become queasy.
Now we come to the sacred cow. They say entire streets are blocked because Hindus don't want to run over our beloved cow. C'mon, even in America, people aren't going to just run over a local cow; they'll find a way to move it or get around it.
On an ending note, Indians are technologically behind. They fail to mention that we have a space program, nuclear capabilities, and many Indians, believe it or not, have heard of a computer.
Every day, young desi children and teenagers are unreasonably tormented because of our perceived background. The school textbooks are half the cause. The average American doesn't know squat about India, and with the help of poorly researched textbooks, they learn nonsense. The sheer embarrassment of the situation is enough to make desi students everywhere wish we could have been "normal" by American standards. Explaining to your peers that you don't worship a thousand gods like the Greeks; your grandmother doesn't force you to bathe in dead people's ashes every full moon; and even though you know how to bhangra, kuchipudi, or whatever it may be, you've never danced with a drag-queen, is not fun for any young desi.
But why do we put up with it? Jewish, African-American, and Orientals all have organizations against defamation and they are represented correctly in the textbooks. Why aren't we? If Christians can effectively lobby to remove the theory of evolution from school science textbooks, then certainly we should be able to at least correct the blatant misinterpretation of our culture. Reading what you or your child's Social Studies textbooks says on India and Hinduism and writing a simple letter or e-mail to the editor can make a world of difference for not only you but for thousands of others. A letter to the Board of Education for your district can't hurt either, since they decide which textbooks will be used. It only takes five minutes of your time, but it can change how you, an Indian, are viewed in society.
Desis are being ridiculed everywhere in America because of what today's modern student is learning. It's not going to change unless we become part of the solution.
Letter was written by: Trisha Pasricha of Houston, TX, a 14-year old schoolgirl, who writes an advice column for kids.
On the 3rd of December, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier was celebrated with lot of pomp and gaeity in the State of Goa. Thousands of people of all castes and religions flocked at the Old Goa Church for the feast of this Saint. Many Hindus are literally unaware of the role played by Xavier in abusing religions, the cultures and traditions of Goa and India.
Xavier's own writings would clearly indicate that his sole mission was to bring the heathen Indians(whom he used to refer as descendents of a barbaric race) under the true command of Jesus Christ. Xavier knew very little about the genius and wealth of the Goan and Indian culture. He even relied greatly on the power of the civil arm, and favored the Inquisition to promote faith. And although Xavier was not alive during the infamous Inquisition, he was the one who asked for the Inquisition to be brought to Goa. It has to be noted that this Inquisition was established in Goa in 1560. Many people were burned alive. The Christian God, in whose name these were done, was considered by many as a punitive God of vengeance and wrath. Only in 1812 was the inquisition abolished, and all religious cults allowed to enjoy equal toleration.
Over the several years, the Church has allowed the perpetuation of several myths and has attributed several miracles to Xavier, none of which have any sort of rational basis or historical evidences. On the contrary, evidences would suggest that Xavier was a very cruel missionary who would pit the converts against their own family members, who would instigate children against their own parents, etc.
On one occasion, Xavier wrote
" The fruit that is reaped by the baptism of infants, as well as by the instruction of children and others, is quite incredible. These children, I trust heartily, by the grace of God, will be much better than their fathers. They show an ardent love for the Divine law, and an extraordinary zeal for learning our holy religion and imparting it to others. Their hatred for idolatry is marvellous. They get into feuds with the heathen about it, and whenever their own parents practise it, they reproach them and come off to tell me at once. Whenever I hear of any act of idolatrous worship, I go to the place with a large band of these children, who very soon load the devil with a greater amount of insult and abuse than he has lately received of honor and worship from their parents, relations, and acquaintances. The children run at the idols, upset them, dash them down, break them to pieces, spit on them, trample on them, kick them about, and in short heap on them every possible outrage. "
With history like this being suppressed, with the methods used by Xavier being unknown to a vast majority, it is no wonder that he is adored so ardently. Historical research clearly suggest that beastly methods were followed by St.Xavier and the Portuguese to convert the Indians whom they called with the contemptuous word ‘heathens’!
While falsified history and Church propoganda would attribute false miracles to Xavier in seeking converts, reality is no so. For instance, the fishermen of Tamilnadu got converted to Christianity to protect themselves from Muslims and not due to some so called miracles as it has been made out to be.
Prof.Anne Menezes writes
"...Similarly, when Xavier moved further South, he organized the Paravas of the Fishery Coast who were pearl divers. They sought Portuguese protection against their Muslim foes, and in gratitude for this protection had embraced Christianity en masse. However, a shortage of priests and catechists reduced their instruction in the Faith almost to nil, and hence they were just nominal Christians.."
The reality of Xavier is horrible and bitter. Xavier was an extremely rascist person and had a large amount of hatred against the native cultures and traditions. The fact that St.Xavier had only contempt for Indians, dark coloured Indians is evident from various sources (mostly his letters to St.Ignatius, his Spaniard friend who later became a Saint).
This is what Mariano Jose Dias has to say on a book review of The Letters And Instructions of Francis Xavier by M. Joseph Costelloe:
"viewed from the Indian perspective, they make poor reading, as an echo of a distant but odious past, reminiscent of a dark age in Christian history, characterized by dehumanization and alienation fromthe mainstream of Indian values. This denies them of any relevant missiological relevance in the present environment of dialogue between Christians and non-Christians.
The saint's antipathy for Indians is almost obsessive and borders on phobia for reasons that are not difficult to unravel. He shared with his colleague, Fr. F. Henriques, in his letter of 22nd October 1548 (211) his conviction that few, whether white or blacks, - note the emphasis on colour and the clubbing of Indians with blacks - go to paradise from India. This is an outrageous claim he was least qualified to advance, with his very limited knowledge of India.
He was, however, more enthusiastic with the Japanese and Chinese whom he praises lavishly and whose white colour he specifically mentions in his letters from Cochin of 29th January 1552 to his companions in Europe (341) and to St. Ignatius (347). One shudders at the plans that Xavier entertained of almost deserting the Indian mission when he wrote from Kaoshima, Japan, on 5th November 1554, to his companions in Goa, to be ready to go to Japan.
It is not without sadness that one observes that the great apostle of the east had this negative outlook towards India that the late Fr. Monchanin hailed as the 'Land of the Trinity.' Yet his letters will continue as authentic witness of the western missionary enterprise in India and other areas around it. "
Again this is from a Christian, M.D.David author of Western Colonialism in Asia and Christianity who mention this:
"..A particularly grave abuse was practiced in Goa in the form of 'mass baptism' and what went before it. The practice was begun by the Jesuits and was alter initiated by the Franciscans also. The Jesuits staged an annual mass baptism on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25), and in order to secure as many neophytes as possible, a few days before the ceremony the Jesuits would go through the streets of the Hindu quarter in pairs, accompanied by their Negro slaves, whom they would urge to seize the Hindus. When the blacks caught up a fugitive, they would smear his lips with a piece of beef, making him an 'untouchable' among his people. Conversion to Christianity was then his only option.."
This barbaric method of conversion which made the Muslims look better is said to have been initiated or supported by St.Xavier. This is what St.Xavier wrote about his conversions:
" When all are baptized, I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken to pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done."
When Xavier's attempts to convert high castes had been foiled, he then turned his attention to fishermen.Those fishermen who refused to covert, were attacked on the Malabar coast by the Portugese navy, as they returned with catchment. Entire fishing boats were set ablaze, as their women and children helplessly watched from the shores. Those fishermen who jumped into the water to save their lives, were either bayonetted or shot dead and a lot of terrified fishermen, whole villages that is, converted to Christianity.
Commenting on the atrocities, a Christian historian Dr. T. R. de Souza mentions this:
" At least from 1540 onwards, and in the island of Goa before that year,
all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples
had been destroyed and their sites and building material was in most cases
utilized to erect new Christian Churches and chapels. Various viceregal
and Church council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese
territories; the public practices of Hindu rites including marriage rites,
were banned; the state took upon itself the task of bringing up Hindu orphan
children; the Hindus were denied certain employments, while the Christians
were preferred; it was ensured that the Hindus would not harass those who
became Christians, and on the contrary, the Hindus were obliged to assemble
periodically in Churches to listen to preaching or to the refutation of
Such then is the tyranny of Xavier and the Portuguese. It is sad that
feasts are celebrated in his name...and history like this is being
Sonatapes Pvt Ltd, Goa, India
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