Funneling India

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“Funneling India” depicts the shortcoming of various historical accounts that reduce Indian history into a one-pointed, singular tale. Pandey’s “The Appeal of Hindu History” inspired this piece, in which he analyzes how Hindu history has come to define all of Indian history. His paper highlights how the construction of the past allowed authorities to assert identity and status among religious communities. He shows how these constructions of Hindu history functioned as a nationalist upsurge, attempting to define the ‘true Indian’ against ‘the other’, or Muslims. ‘Hindutva’ ultimately reflected the Hindu attempts to formulate Indian history in exclusive nationalist terms.

I wanted to capture this reduction of Indian history in my creative response. The funnel reflects how both British and Hindu historical accounts neglect the complexity of Indian history. Through their narratives, all variations of Indian histories “are similarly collapsed into one monolithic category called ‘the Hindus’” (Pandey, 380). Each bubble represents a different aspect of Hindu history that has been overseen in historical narratives. The two bubbles on the bottom, one depicting the caste system and one depicting the different sects of Hindu communities, portray how the various castes and sects of India have been merged into a single depiction of the ‘true Indian’. Another bubble shows the different regions of Indian to represent how regional variations of these communities were discounted for in Hindu history. The bubble containing a timeline reflects the timelessness of historical narratives and how “mythic time, historical time, our time, all run into one another” (Pandey 384). All time and place is fixed to convey a cycle of Hindu resistance against the ‘other’. The last bubble containing the swords and blood attempts to account for how Hindu history has merged the numerous riots and outbreaks of the past into the “image of a single, bloodthirsty, insatiable invader” (Pandey, 380). Pandey describes how every conflict regarded Muslims as the enemy and ultimate source of contention. In such a way, the internal histories of various Hindu communities remain irrelevant as they funneled into a singular, homogenized tale. This tale, Pandey describes, only acknowledges the conflict of Hindu versus Muslim, good versus bad, Rama versus Ravana, all centered on a fixed issue.

The funnel literally shows how all these variations and inconsistencies in Hindu history are filtered into a singular conception of the state. I represent the state with the temple at Ram, which lies at the bottom of the illustration as a product of the funnel. I wanted to highlight how Pandey compares the event of Ram Janmabhumi to this conception of the state. He suggests how the role of the site in history parallels the complete, fixed nature of Hindu India as a nation. All events in Hindu India cycle around this event at Ram, where “everything leads-and returns-to this point” (Pandey, 374). Both Hindu history and the temple of Ram do not depict any agency or individuality. The multiple strands of the past have been striped of any context, time, or space. In this way, Pandey proclaims that religion “substitutes for both history and politics” (Pandey, 387). The blurring of religion with politics allowed authorities to reconstruct the role of religious identities with respect to their own interests. Just like the manipulation of Islam seen in my other creative responses, Hindu historical accounts manipulate the past as a means of asserting state power and promoting a nationalist unity.

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