Indomania

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On Wings of Song,
Sweetheart, I carry you away,
Away to the fields of the Ganges,
Where I know the most beautiful place.. ~ Poem by Heinrich Heine

Indomania or Indophilia refer to the special interest India, Indians and Indian culture have generated in the Western world, more specifically the culture and civilisation of the Indian subcontinent, especially in Germany. The initial British interest in governing their newly conquered territories awoke the interest in India, especially its culture and ancient history. Later the people with interests in Indian aspects came to be known as Indologists and their subject as Indology. Its opposite is Indophobia.

Quotes[edit]

  • An old worldview where Palestine and the Hebrews were the center of the world began to be challenged by a new one where the Indo-Europeans and their original home were seen as the creative center of the world, and ever since then India, Tibet, and the Himalayas have also assumed a special place in Western mythical geography as an alternative axis mundi to "Semitic" Jerusalem and Israel.
    • Arvidsson, Stefan (2006), Aryan Idols: Indo-European Mythology as Ideology and Science, translated by Sonia Wichmann, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. p. 38.
  • It is there in (Aryavarta) we must seek not only for the cradle of the Brahmin religion but for the cradle of the high civilization of the Hindus, which gradually extended itself in the west to Ethiopia, to Egypt, to Phoenicia; in the East to Siam, to China and Japan; in the South to Ceylon, to Java and to Sumatra; in the North to Persia, to Chaldea, and to Colchis, whence it came to Greece and to Rome and at length to the distant abode of the Hyperboreons."
    • Count Magnus Fredrik Ferdinand Bjornstjerna (1779-1847), Die Theogonie, Philosophie und Kosmogonie der Hindus
  • J.G. Herder also saw in India the "lost paradise of all religions and philosophies", the "cradle of humanity", the "eternal home", the "eternal Orient ... waiting to be rediscovered within ourselves". This is high praise, indeed, but it does not mean that he ever thought that India supplanted the West. Any such thought was far from his mind. What he meant was that India represented humanity's childhood, its innocence, as Hellenism represented its "adolescence" and Rome its "adulthood". Similarly, while Indians were "the gentlest branch of humanity", Christianity was the religion of "purest humanity".
    • J.G. Herder cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • One might think this position (that the English colonialist should convert their Indian "brethren" to the Gospel) would have endeared Max Muller to missionaries, but in fact it did not. Rather, they found him entirely too sympathetic to the "heathen" and suspected him of being insufficiently committed to the faith. Accordingly, in 1860 he was passed over for Oxford's Boden chair in Sanskrit, which carried responsibility for preparing the Sanskrit-English dictionary, both of which were intended, under the terms of Lt-Col Boden's will, to advance the conversion of Indians to Christianity, not to foster English understanding or respect for India
    • Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship by Bruce Lincoln, 1999. p. 68.
  • If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant, I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of the Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life... again I should point to India.
  • “Thanks to the labors of a science which is comparatively recent, and more especially to the researches of the students of Hindu and Egyptian antiquities, it is very much easier today than it was not so long ago to discover the source, to ascend the course and unravel the underground network of that great mysterious river which since the beginning of history has been flowing beneath all the religions, all the faiths, and all the philosophies: in a word, beneath all the visible and everyday manifestations of human thought. It is now hardly to be contested that this source is to be found in ancient India. Thence in all probability the sacred teaching spread into Egypt, found its way to ancient Persia and Chaldea, permeated the Hebrew race, and crept into Greece and the north of Europe, finally reaching China and even America.”
    • Maeterlink, Maurice, in The Great Secret) (Niranjan Shah, Indian Origins of Ancient Civilizations, International Vedic Vision Foundation, New York, 2011, p.4. Quoted from Stephen Knapp, Mysteries of the Ancient Vedic Empire [1]
  • "It will no longer remain to be doubted that the priests of Egypt and the sages of Greece have drawn directly from the original well of India." ... "Towards the Orient, to the banks of the Ganges and the Indus, it is there that our hearts feel drawn by some hidden urge - it is there that all the dark presentiments point which lie in the depths of our hearts... In the Orient, the heavens poured forth into the earth."
    • F. Majer (1771-1818) cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • In India I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it. Inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything but possessed by nothing.
    • Philostratus, in his book Life of Apollonius of Tyana, recognized the experience of Apollonius in India, he writes what Apollonius described. Quoted in "Brand New World: How Paupers, Pirates, and Oligarchs are Reshaping Business", .74, by Max Lenderman
  • Everything without exception is of Indian origin...
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Letter to Ludwig Tieck of 15 December, 1803, quoted by Leon Poliakov in The Aryan Myth. Quoted in A Look at India From the Views of Other Scholars, by Stephen Knapp [2]
    • Longer quote: "Here is the actual source of all languages, all the thoughts and poems of the human spirit; everything, everything without exception comes from India." cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • Whether directly or indirectly all nations are originally nothing but Indian colonies... the oriental antiquity could, if we consented to deepen it, bring us back more safely towards the divine....
    • Friedrich Schlegel, Essay on the Language and Wisdom of the Indians, quoted by Roger-Pol Droit in L’Oubli de I’Inde, Paris Presses Universitaires de France, 1989, p. 129. Quoted in A Look at India From the Views of Other Scholars, by Stephen Knapp [3]
  • Another great name belonging to this movement was that of Schopenhauer. His interest in Indian religion was first aroused by reading Anquetil Dupperon's Latin translation of Oupnekhat (1801-1802), itself a translation from a Persian version. He was deeply moved and he found its reading "the most rewarding and edifying", and its philosophy "the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death". After this he continued to take a deep interest in India. In Indians, he found the "most noble and ancient people", and their wisdom was the "original wisdom of the human race". He spoke of India as the "fatherland of mankind", which gave the "original religion of our race" and "oldest of all world view". He thought of the Upanishads as the "fruit of the most sublime human knowledge and wisdom", documents of "almost superhuman conception" whose authors could "hardly be thought of as mere mortals". He expressed the hope that European peoples "who stemmed from Asia ... would also re-attain the holy religions of their home".
    • Schopenhauer, cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • The enthusiasm for Indian culture was widespread. Amaury de Riencourt in his The Soul of India tells us that philosophers like Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Schleiermacher, poets such as Goethe, Schillar, Novalis, Tieck and Brentano, historians like Herder and Schlegel, all acclaimed the discovery of Indian culture with cries of ecstasy: "India, the home of universal religion, the cradle of the noblest human race, of all literature, of all philosophies and metaphysics." And he adds that "this enthusiasm was not confined to Germany. The entire Romantic movement in the West put Indian culture on a lofty pedestal which the preceding Classical Movement had reserved for Greece and Rome."
    • Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • Tolstoy, a late-comer, was also deeply influenced by Indian religious thought. Like Wagner, his introduction to it was through Burnouf and Schopenhauer. Beginning with his Confessions, there is no work of his "which is not inspired, in part by Hindu thought", to put it in the words of Markovitch quoted by Raymond Schwab in The Oriental Renaissance. He further adds that Tolstoy also "remains the most striking example, among a great many, of those who sought a cure for the western spirit in India".
    • Raymond Schwab, Tolstoy, cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • In 1760, Voltaire acquired a copy of Ezourvedam, a forgery of the Jesuits (most probably of Di Nobili). But even this served an unintended purpose. Voltaire with his acumen saw even in this document the voice of an ancient religion. While he praised Brahmins for having "established religion on the basis of universal religion", he also found that India was the home of religion in its oldest and purest form. He described India as a country "on which all other countries had to rely, but which did not rely on anyone else". He also believed that Christianity derived from Hinduism. He wrote to and assured Frederick the Great of Prussia that "our holy Christian religion is solely based upon the ancient religion of Brahma".
    • Voltaire cited in Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 4.
  • “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc. It does not behoove us, who were only savages and barbarians when these Indians and Chinese peoples were civilized and learned, to dispute their antiquity.”
    • Voltaire, quoted in Sanskrit Reader 1: A Reader in Sanskrit Literature by Heiko Kretschmer

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