How India Became A Land of No History
Please read Part 1 here : How Textile trade crumpled the Richest Empire into Poverty
This essay has been on my mind ever since I looked up Khadi for a design project, roughly 2.5 months ago. And, I apologize for taking so long.
I am sure, you’ll understand why if you stick till the end.
So, tell me, isn’t innovation driven by economic well-being of a country?
Then why don’t we hear more about Indian achievements? Is zero our only significant contribution to man, in all of 2000 glorious years? Even though Greeks and Romans had a short run in a very distant past, why is the West heralded as heroes of humanity?
The European Miracle, brought to you by India
Imagine living in 17th Century Britain, an island nation just 1/13th the size of India. It’s obliged to import shiploads of goods from East, for lack of resources. And as a country infested with plague and crime, it constituted a mere 2.9% of World GDP.
Contrast it with Mughal India, whose income itself was equivalent to entire treasury of UK. We had a thriving export economy, and barely needed any imports. And constituted the highest world share of GDP, 24.5%!
Industrial Revolution should ideally have started here, right?
But, as you know, it began in Britain.
In 1747, British East India Company(EIC) became the overlords of the wealthiest and industrially most advanced region in the world - Bengal Subah. It alone accounted for 12% of world GDP.
This gave Britain everything they needed:
India provided a continuous supply of money for developing disruptive machinery. William Digby estimated that £900 million was transferred, between just 1870 to 1900.
Without raw material, how will mills run? In 1856 alone, India exported £4,300,000 worth of raw cotton, only £810,000 worth of cotton manufactures, £2,900,000 worth of food grains, £1,730,000 worth of indigo, and £770,000 worth of raw silk. And did they trade fairly for those goods? Never.
Finally, India was the largest captive market for consuming mass manufactured garments.
But, above money, material and market, the most important factor for any invention is knowledge and inspiration. After 3 decades of failed attempts, a spinning jenny was reverse-engineered from Indian charkha. It was the most significant invention that eventually destroyed handspun fabrics.
As Dan Nadudere states, “It was by destroying the Indian textile industry that the British textile industry ever came up at all.”
Money began pouring in from sale of British textiles worldwide. This provided capital for other inventions and ultimately gave rise to Industrial Revolution. Within a couple of decades, The Great Divergence occurred – the shift of world dominance from Orient (India & China) to Occident (Europe & America).
Did you know that Ancient Greeks and Romans, much like Englishmen, were infatuated by Indian technology, state planning, and philosophies? Upanishads and Vedic Scriptures were referenced extensively to create rockets, nuclear weapons, jet engines, and even mind control technologies! In fact, scientifically advanced Germans, are known to be the world’s most ardent Indologists.
But no one talks about how important India was.
History is written by the Victors
Be it wealth, wellness, or workplace - Industrial Revolution tremendously advanced the world.
Perhaps, the most revolutionary invention is the printing press. The world went from ignorant to informed, babblers to builders, simpletons to scientists.
Before India, Europeans had spread their language and culture by colonizing countries from America to Asia. This presented a unique opportunity.
For the first time ever, history could be written for the whole world to read.
Being at the pinnacle of power, what do you think happened?
The Case of Khadi
Since childhood, we have all associated Khadi with India’s freedom struggle and M.K.Gandhi. A quick google search tells you that it's a coarse cotton material. And we hear how we must support local cloth weavers, even though it’s expensive.
But, did you know? Khadi has 108 varieties, varying from the thinnest Muslin to the coarsest denim-like Calico. And, in the last essay I extensively wrote how famous Indian cotton and silk clothes were for their intricate finesse and quality.
In 12th Century, Marco Polo described it as 'finer than the spider's web'.
It took Britain everything in its power to ban, monopolize, and artificially hike prices of Khadi. But nothing is as powerful as the written word, right?
So, this wonderous cloth was written off as undesirable and expensive, which ultimately crippled our weavers.
Sadly, we still see it in the same light, even though, Khadi is heavenly:
8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into cloth in a factory.
A metre of khadi consumes 3 litres of water, while 1 metre of mill fabric requires 55 litres!
Unlike stressed out factory clothes, Khadi feels more comfortable and beautiful with every wash.
Khadi keeps one warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Khadi is the only fabric which has health benefits, is non-allergic and is eco-friendly.
Today, it costs same, if not cheaper than other mass-produced clothes.
The Case of World Map
We’re all too familiar with the world map we carry in our phones.
Now check the true size of every country below.
The European Mercator World map pumps up the sizes of mighty countries like Europe, America, Russia, etc. Visually, Canada and Russia look like they take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s surface, when in reality they occupy a mere 5%.
Imagine how intimidating it would be fight a dog that’s magnified to be as huge as you. That’s the impact of an exaggerated map that seeped into our minds during innocent school days.
Despite this glaring error, it was quickly adopted worldwide, because hey, it purported white supremacy.
The Case of Science
Yes, we all know the romanticized story of Newton, apple, and gravity. But, long before Newton was even born, several Indian scholars knew and worked out the law of Gravity.
And it’s not just gravity.
Ancient Indians have made remarkable contributions without which life would be impossible today – Decimals, Number System, Calculus, Wireless Communication, Metallurgy, Democracy, complex Medical advances like brain surgery, plastic surgery, anaesthesia, just to name a few.
India got exploited to her bones and never gets mentioned. Instead, it gets thrown around as a poor developing country. Even today, it is written next to Africa, Brazil, and other underdeveloped countries.
Even the word exploitation feels too little.
Doesn’t that fill you with rage?
Mental enslavement of Indians
Prominent Europeans from Hegel to Karl Marx have created a fantasy of how India was a land of despots who sat on riches acquired by extorting money from countrymen. And that She was irrelevant to world history because it had no history. Westerners have always been superior, and are destined to greatness.
Sounds similar to what most of us feel?
And what’s the first thing Britain did when they took over ‘Paradise of Nations’ - Bengal? Suppressed Bengalis so much that it paved way to one of the world’s worst famines. It wiped out one-third of population, and all the while, they joyously sat on looted fortunes.
This is a perfect example of – “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are”.
The West has glorified itself so intelligently, that it’s hard to believe that just 300 years ago, we rocked the world for at least 2 millennials.
And the sickest thing is, we believe them.
After 74 years of Independence, we are still stuck at 7-8% GDP.
All your life, how many times have you seen the ‘Made in India’ tag on a product and decided against buying? And how many of you went crazy for an import?
Be it an outfit, job, or people, we’re all guilty of preferring western versions.
Let’s admit it.
What can we do then?
Buy Desi products. Because, the entire establishment that created the product gets paid. This revenue results in better products and businesses. And in no time, we can become world class.
At the height of Indian textiles, Sir Joseph Bake observed that the muslin he received had an astonishing 2425 thread counts. Today, even the most advanced technology can barely cross a dubious thread count of 1000!
Perhaps a recent one?
We didn’t have a single PPE manufacturing unit before COVID-19. But by May 2020, we became the second largest manufacturer of PPE in the world!
It’s high time we stop idolizing foreigners and rekindle the great King Porus in all of us! Because our minds are so agile, we can achieve anything from whatever we have.
Before history gets re-written by China, we need to support ourselves.
Else, Mother India will remained crushed and torn forever.