K. M. Panikkar
Kavalam Madhava Panikkar (3 June 1895 – 10 December 1963), was an Indian novelist, journalist, historian, administrator and diplomat. He was born in Travancore, then a princely state in the British Indian Empire and was educated in Madras and at the University of Oxford.
Asia and Western Dominance: a survey of the Vasco Da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498–1945
- The effects of Asian contacts on Europe, though considerably less, cannot be considered insignificant. The growth of capitalism in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in itself a profound and revolutionary change, is intimately connected with the expansion of European trade and business into Asia. The political development of the leading Western European nations during this period was also related to their exploitation of their Asian possessions and the wealth they derived from the trade with and government of their Eastern dependencies. Their material life, as reflected in clothing, food, beverages, etc., also bears permanent marks of their Eastern contacts. We have already dealt briefly with the penetration of cultural, artistic and philosophical influences, though their effects cannot still be estimated. Unlike the Rococo movement of the eighteenth century, the spiritual and cultural reactions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are deeper, and have not yet fully come to the surface. The influence of Chinese literature and of Indian philosophical thought, to mention only two trends which have become important in recent years, cannot be evaluated for many years to come. Yet it is true, as T. S. Eliot has stated, that most modern poets in Europe have in some measure been influenced by the literature of China. Equally the number of translations of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, which have been appearing every year, meant not for Orientalists and scholars but for the educated public, and the revival of interest in the religious experience of India, are sufficient to prove that a penetration of European thought by Oriental influences is now taking place which future historians may consider to be of some significance.
- Better understanding of the Asian mind ‑ Indian and Chinese ‑ had one further consequence which needs emphasis. It had been almost a dogma of European thought that everything of value arose in the regions that touched the Aegean Sea. Religion, philosophy, art and even science, it was claimed, originated in this area. In fact, for all civilization a Greek origin was postulated. A persistence in this belief was responsible in the early years of Oriental research for the futile attempts made to date events in Asia, especially Indian history, to periods where they could be conveniently adjusted to developments in Greece. That belief in a monopoly of wisdom for the Greeks had to be reluctantly abandoned, as a result of increased knowledge of Asian civilizations. The liberalization of the Furopean mind consequent upon the recognition of the fact that all nations have contributed towards the growth of human civilization, is a gain of considerable significance.
- It is unnecessary for our pupose to go into the sordid details of the Company's early administration of their Diwani of Bengal. In brief, it may be stated that for a decade the whole power of the organized State was directed to a single purpose ‑ plunder. It was a robber State that had come into existence, and Richard Becher, a servant of the Company, wrote to his masters in London on May 24, 1769, as follows: `It must give pain to an Englishman to have reason to think that since the accession of the Company to the Diwani the condition of the people of this country has been worse than it was before .... This fine country, which flourished under the most despotic and arbitrary government, is verging towards ruin.'...
- In fact, in the plantation areas conditions amounting to slavery were re‑established by the planters with the acquiescence of the Government.Some idea of the misery to which the population of these areas was reduced by this system of merciless exploitation in the interests of British capital may be gained from the Bengal Indigo Commission's Report and from some of the literature of the period. Nil Darpan or the Mirror of Indigo, a Bengali drama, created a sensation by throwing a little light on this dark corner of Britain's action in India, and the reaction in official circles was so great that a European missionary, Mr Long, who translated and published it in English, was fined and imprisoned. During the whole of this period, in fact till the rise of nationalism after the Great War, conditions in plantations were of a kind which showed the worst features of European relations with Asia.
- The captain-general’s ship flew at its mast a flag on which was painted a large cross of Christ and also carried cannon, symbols of the new power entering the East.
- St Xavier had come to the East representing both the Pope ‑ as a Legate ‑ and the King as an inspector of missions. As missionary work was a State enterprise charged to the Crown's revenues in Portugal, this identification of national, interests with religious activity should not be a matter of surprise.
- Lin had made two miscalculations. He was under the impression that the British Government was not a parry to the smuggling of opium, which like an honest man he thought was the activity of unscrupulous traders and of depraved and barbarous pirates. This is well brought out in the letters which he addressed to Queen Victoria. ....Indeed the British Government was committed up to the hilt in this illegal and depraved traffic and in the piracy which went along with it. This Lin did not and could not be expected to know, especially when his own view of the State, as a true Confucian, was a moral one, where the Emperor under a mandate of Heaven upheld the proprieties.... These miscalculations affected the result, but they did not alter the legal rectitude of Lin's action. Nor could they be held to justify the action of Elliot in forcing a war on the Chinese and giving his Government's moral authority to a commercial system based on illegal traffic in drugs enforced by organized piracy.
- Wilhelm II styled himself Admiral of the Atlantic, though that ocean had never been claimed to be an inland waterway. The fleet of gunboats that cruised up and down the Yangtze was a standing temptation for the local representatives of the Great Powers to give point to their often unreasonable demands by a demonstration or the threat of a bombardment. Many instances could be given of this kind of 'gunboat diplomacy' in the interests of missionaries, private debtors and even ordinary Christian converts.
- Unfortunately, before his mission could be completed, Burlinghame died in St Petersburg. His mission was important from two points of view. In the first place he was able to secure assurances both from America and England that they would deal only with the Central Government at Peking, and the danger that existed at one time of the Powers directly negotiating with viceroys and thus securing a dissolution of the central authority on which British mercantile opinion was insistent was avoided. The Shanghai merchants' refrain at this time was `when will the Foreign Office realize that China was a confederation of many States?'
- More important than these two considerations was the fact that Russia was at no time concerned with the two policies ‑ the forcing of opium on China and the trade in human flesh ‑ which both the people and Government of China resented and which brought her untold humiliation. ... In the `pig trade' ‑ that is, the forcible transportation of Chinese workers to plantations and mines again, in defiance of the orders of Government and of the protests of the people ‑ in this new slave trade, where sometimes forty per cent of those transported died on the way, all Western Powers including America were deeply involved. Russia, for whatever reason, was no party to it. It was these two, the `poison trade' and the `pig trade', that made the iron enter the soul of the Chinese and made them bitterly anti‑foreign.
- Also, it should be remembered that Count Lamsdorff, the Russian Foreign Minister, declared to the British Ambassador in St Petersburg that his government `took no interest in missionaries' and would not therefore associate itself with other Powers in demanding punishment of those who had attacked missionaries. This deserves to be contrasted with the demand persistently made by the Western Powers for the execution of those against whom they preferred the charges of attacking missionaries.
- Up to this time the attempt of the Portuguese, secular and missionary, was to carry the heathen fort by assault. The state enterprise in christianization, which the Portuguese attempted at Goa, Cochin and other fortified centres, was one of conversion by force. Even at Goa, with the Inquisition in force for a long time, the majority of the population however continued to be non‑Christian. Clearly the strategy of direct assault had to be given up. Valignani and Ruggieri now attempted to evolve a new line. The new policy was for the missionaries to conciliate the high officials and to render special service to them which would make the Christian propagandists valuable to those in authority. In order to do so, it was necessary to study the language, manners and customs of the country and conform to the life and etiquette of the circles in which they aspired to move.
- A violent propaganda campaign was launched by Carey and his associates against Hinduism in Bengal which seemed to them to be in a state of dissolution. But Hindu orthodoxy reacted vigorously and Lord Minto felt obliged to prohibit such propaganda in Calcutta. Minto's letter to the Court of Directors is worth quoting: `Pray read the miserable stuff addressed specially to the Gentoos (Hindus) in which . . . the pages are filled with hell fire, and hell fire and with still hotter fire, denounced against a whole race of men, for believing in the religion which they were taught by their fathers and mothers. . .
- The French joined the second China War on the pretext ‑ which was to become a classic excuse in China to cover political aggression ‑ that the execution of a missionary demanded punishment. In the treaties that were concluded with the Powers in 1858, the missionaries obtained the privilege of travelling freely all over China, together with a guarantee of toleration of Christianity and protection to Chinese Christians in the profession of their faith. Thus was Christianity not only identified with Europe, but reduced to the position of a diplomatic interest of Western Powers in their aggression against China. The missionaries were clothed with extra‑territoriality and given the right to appeal to their consuls and ministers in the `religious' interests of Chinese Christians. No greater disservice, as history was to show, could have been rendered by its proclaimed champions to the cause of the Church of Christ. It is also significant that out of the unconscionable indemnities exacted from China after the various wars, the churches received a considerable portion. The missions thus started by benefiting from the humiliations of China and by being identified in the eyes of the Chinese with aggressions against their country.
- The treaty clauses, in fact, wrote the ultimate doom of Christian activity in China. To have believed that a religion which grew up under the protection of foreign powers, especially under humiliating conditions, following defeat, would be tolerated when the nation recovered its authority, showed extreme shortsightedness. The fact is that the missionaries, like other Europeans, felt convinced in the nineteenth century that their political supremacy was permanent, and they never imagined that China would regain a position when the history of the past might be brought up against them and their converts. `The Church', as Latourette has pointed out, `had become a partner in Western imperialism.' When that imperialism was finally destroyed, the Church could not escape the fate of its patron and ally.
- The success of the missions need not have been so meagre but for certain factors which may be discussed now. In the first place, the missionary brought with him an attitude of moral superiority and a belief in his own exclusive righteousness. The doctrine of the monopoly of truth and revelation, as claimed by William of Aubruck to Batu Khan when he said 'he that believeth not shall be condemned by God', is alien to the Hindu and Buddhist mind. To them the claim of any sect that it alone possesses the truth and others shall be `condemned' has always seemed unreasonable. Secondly the association of Christian missionary work with aggressive imperialism introduced political complications. National sentiment could not fail to look upon missionary activity as inimical to the country's interests. That diplomatic pressure, extra‑territoriality and sometimes support of gun‑boats had been resorted to in the interests of the foreign missionaries could not be easily forgotten. Thirdly, the sense of European superiority which the missionaries perhaps unconsciously inculcated produced also its reaction. Even during the days of unchallenged European political supremacy no Asian people accepted the cultural superiority of the West. The educational activities of the missionaries stressing the glories of European culture only led to the identification of the work of the missions with Western cultural aggression.
- In 1454 he [Prince Henry the Navigator] received from the Pope Nicholas V the right to all discoveries up to India. The Bull, which is of fundamental importance and is the first of three which determines the Portuguese monopoly in the East, is quoted below:...‘We, after careful deliberation, and having considered that we have by our , apostolic letters conceded to King Affonso, the right, total and absolute, to invade, conquer and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracen or Pagan, by our apostolic letter we wish the same King Affonso, the Prince, and all their successors, occupy and possess in exclusive rights the said islands, ports and seas undermentioned, and all faithful Christians are prohibited without the permission of the said Affonso and his successors to encroach on their sovereignty. Of the conquests already made, or to be made, all the conquests which extend to Cape Bajador and Cape Non to the coast of Guinea and all the Orient is perpetually and for the future the sovereignty of King Affonso.’
- But he was a keen-eyed observer. He noticed that the Portuguese had landed artillery to protect the area in which Christians lived. On a visit to a Portuguese vessel to see Father Coelho he observed that the ship, though small, was heavily armed. He was also well aware of the interest that the western daimyos were manifesting in the arms and equipment of the Portuguese and of their attempts to strengthen themselves by friendship with the foreigners. Hideyoshi acted with firmness and in 1587 the activities of the missionaries were prohibited throughout the length and breadth of Japan.
- Jacques Spex had explained to Ieyasu the methods of Spain and Portugal and in 1612 Henrick Brower presented to the Shogun a memorandum on Spanish and Portuguese methods of conquest. In the time of the second Tokugawa Shogun (Hidetada) the European nations were themselves denouncing each other's imperialist intentions. The Japanese converts had, as elsewhere, shown that their sympathies were with their foreign mentors and for this they had to pay a very heavy price. The Christian rebellion of 1637 in Shembara disclosed this danger to the Shogun. It took a considerable army and a costly campaign to put down the revolt which was said to have received support from the Portuguese. The Japanese were also fully informed of the activities of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spaniards and the English in the islands of the Pacific especially in the Philippines, the Moluccas and Java ‑ and these had taught them the necessity of dealing with the foreigners firmly and of denying them an opportunity to gain a foothold on Japanese territory. In 1615 the Japanese sent a special spy to the southern regions to report on the activities of the Europeans there. They were strengthened by the information that reached them in 1622 of a Spanish plan to invade Japan itself. By the beginning of the seventeenth century Spain had consolidated her position in the Philippines, where she maintained a considerable naval force. Japan was the only area in the Pacific which Spain could attack without interfering with Portuguese claims or the Papal distribution of the world which in her own interests she was bound to uphold. It seemed natural to the Spaniards that they should undertake this conquest. The reaction of the Shogunate was sharp and decisive. All Spaniards in Japan were ordered to be deported, the firm policy of eliminating the converts was put into effect and a few years later the country was closed to the Western nations.
- One strange act, which was precursor of many such in Chinese history, may be noted. The Chinese Repository, XI, 68o, records: 'Sept. 3. A party of British officers and others acting the barbarian in right good earnest visited the porcelain tower. They went (so the Abbots testified) with hatchets and chisels and hammers and cut off and carried away large masses doing no inconsiderable damage.' A Chinese observer of this desecration noted that `the English barbarians frequently ascended the pagoda . . . took away several glazed tiles, which is indeed detestable in the extreme'. William Dallas Barnard even excuses this act of desecration as 'a not unnatural desire to possess specimens or relics'. This inveterate tendency to desecrate and destroy was repeated again and again in European relations with China, in the Summer Palace in 1860, in Tientsin in 1870, and in Peking itself in 1900.
- Panikkar, K. M. (1953). Asia and Western dominance, a survey of the Vasco da Gama epoch of Asian history, 1498-1945, by K.M. Panikkar. London: G. Allen and Unwin.
- The explanation for capturing the vessel is perhaps to be found in Barroes’ remark: ‘It is true that there does exist a common right to all to navigate the seas and in Europe we recognize the rights which others hold against us; but the right does not extend beyond Europe and therefore the Portuguese as Lords of the Sea are justified in confiscating the goods of all those who navigate the seas without their permission.’ Strange and comprehensive claim, yet basically one which every European nation, in its turn, held firmly almost to the end of Western supremacy in Asia. It is true that no other nation put it forward so crudely or tried to enforce it so barbarously as the Portuguese in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, but the principle that the doctrines of international law did not apply outside Europe, that what would be barbarism in London or Paris is civilized conduct in Peking (e.g. the burning of the Summer Palace) and that European nations had no moral obligations in dealing with Asian peoples (as for example when Britain insisted on the opium trade against the laws of China, though opium smoking was prohibited by law in England itself) was pact of the accepted creed of Europe’s relations with Asia. So late as 1870 the President of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce declared: ‘China can in no sense be considered a country entitled to all the same rights and privileges as civilized nations which are bound by international law.’ Till the end of European domination the fact that rights existed for Asians against Europeans was conceded only with considerable mental reservation. In countries under direct British occupation, like India, Burma and Ceylon, there were equal rights established by law, but that as against Europeans the law was not enforced very rigorously was known and recognized. In China, under extra‑territorial jurisdiction, Europeans were protected against the operation of Chinese laws. In fact, except in Japan this doctrine of different rights persisted to the very end and was a prime cause of Europe’s ultimate failure in Asia.
- Legislature protected the right of converts to their share in Hindu joint families, and High Court decisions enabled converts to blackmail their wives to follow them into the fold of their new religion. The Government also encouraged the missionaries to work among the backward tribes.”
- “It was the devout hope of Macaulay… and of many others, that the diffusion of new learning among the higher classes would see the dissolution of Hinduism and the widespread acceptance of Christianity. The missionaries were of the same view, and they entered the education field with enthusiasm, providing schools and colleges in many parts of India where education in the Christian Bible was compulsory for Hindu students. The middle classes accepted Western education with avidity and willingly studied Christian scriptures, but neither the dissolution of Hindu society so hopefully predicted nor the conversion of the intellectuals so devoutly hoped for showed any sign of materialization. On the other hand, Hinduism assimilated the new learning, and the effects were soon visible all over India in a revival of a universalistic religion based on the Vedanta.”
- “The feudal rulers of that part of Japan were anxious at that time to attract Portuguese vessels to the harbours mainly with the object of strengthening themselves against other feudal Lords. They realized instinctively the close connection between the foreign powers across the seas and the missionaries who had come to preach the new religion.”
- “The commander of a Spanish galleon which was driven ashore spoke of Spanish power and recounted to the local daimyo who had salvaged the vessel and claimed the cargo the glories and prowess of the Conquistadores in a boastful manner. Hideyoshi’s suspicious mind, already aware of Portuguese action in the East, ordered the arrest of all Spaniards in the country and had them crucified in Nagasaki as spies.”
- “These sisters arranged for the payment of a sum for every child brought to the orphanage, that is, in plain words established a kind of purchase system, encouraging the less scrupulous Chinese middlemen to kidnap children…
- [The Treaty that followed] “provided for the suspension of official examinations for five years in towns where foreigners had been molested - a device meant to give a chance to the missionary educated young men and Christians to be employed in service…”
- “Sir John Bowring, who negotiated the treaty of 1855, was able to secure the principle of extra-territoriality for British subjects, permission to build churches and exemption of all duty for import of opium.”
- “The monarch of Siam assumed the title of the Defender of the Buddhist Faith in imitation of the British King’s title. The conservative but generally enlightened policy followed by the monarchy during the critical period between 1870 and 1920 had the effect of getting Siam through the transition without violent tumult and a disorganization of society, so that in the period following the First [World] War she was enabled to recover her natural independence in full by the gradual abolition, through negotiations, of the rights of extraterritoriality which the foreign nations possessed.”
- There was considerable missionary sympathy for Karen separatism, and not an insignificant part of the troubles that Burma had to face after her independence may justifiably be attributed to the favouritism with which the Christian elements among the Karens were treated by the West.
Quotes about K.M. Panikkar
- Panikkar’s study was primarily aimed at providing a survey of Western imperialism in Asia from CE 1498 to 1945. Christian missions came into the picture simply because he found them arrayed always and everywhere alongside Western gunboats, diplomatic pressures, extraterritorial rights and plain gangsterism. Contemporary records consulted by him could not but cut to size the inflated images of Christian heroes such as Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. They were found to be not much more than minions employed by European kings and princes scheming to carve out empires in the East. Their methods of trying to convert kings and commoners in Asia, said Panikkar, were force or fraud or conspiracy and morally questionable in every instance. Finding that “missionary activities… which became so prominent a feature of European relations with Asia were connected with Western political supremacy in Asia and synchronised with it” he concluded: “It may indeed be said that the most serious, persistent and planned effort of European nations in the nineteenth century was their missionary activities in India and China, where a large-scale attempt was made to effect a mental and spiritual conquest at supplementing the political authority already enjoyed by Europe. Though the results were disappointing in the extreme from the missionary point of new, this assault on the spiritual foundations of Asian countries has had far-reaching consequences in the religious and social reorganization of the people...
- Sita Ram Goel, Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (1998)
- The message that Panikkar had tried to convey to Asians in general and to his own countrymen in particular was that the history of Christianity surveyed by him was a running commentary on the imperialist character of the Christian doctrine. But the Brown Sahibs who had taken over from the British - the politicians and the intellectual’s elite in India - failed to grasp his message and ignored his monumental study altogether. On the other hand, the missionaries were up in arms against him. “To prove his point,” they said, “Panikkar picks and chooses historical facts and then deals with them one-sidedly.” But none of them came out with facts which could redeem or even counterbalance those. presented by Panikkar. Efforts to explain them away or put another interpretation on them, also remained a poor exercise. Fr. Jerome D’Souza had jibed, “A very fine narrative Mr. Panikkar, but you must not call it history.” But he or his missionary colleagues never bothered to tell what was that history which Panikkar had not taken into account. Subsequent Christian writings show that the missionaries have never been able to stop smarting from the hurt caused by Panikkar’s book.
- Sita Ram Goel, Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (1998)
- What hurt the Christian missionaries most, however, was Panikkar’s observation that “the doctrine of the monopoly of truth and revelation… is alien to the Hindu and Buddhist mind” and that “to them the claim of any sect that it alone represented the truth and other shall be condemned has always seemed unreasonable”. He had knocked the bottom out of the missionary enterprise. No monopoly of truth and revelation, no missions. It was as simple as that.
- Sita Ram Goel, Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (1998)
- A new image of medieval India had also emerged in my mind by reading K.M. Panikkar’s A Survey of Indian History. It was no more the India of Muslim monarchs ruling leisurely over a large empire, building mosques and mazãrs and madrasas and mansions, and patronizing poets and other men of letters. On the contrary, it was the story of the long-drawn-out war which took a decisive turn to the disadvantage of Islamic imperialism with the rise of Shivaji. The war had ended in a victory for the Hindus by the middle of the 18th century.
- S.R. Goel: Muslim Separatism – Causes and Consequences (1987)