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The Ruins of Hampi: A song of hope and a story of treachery, then and now

The Central government has declared that Hampi will be developed as an ‘Iconic Tourism Site’. It is one of 10 tourist sites that will be developed by the Central government in a bid to boost tourism across the country. During the presentation of the 2018 budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, “The government proposes to develop ten prominent tourist sites as Iconic Tourism destinations through holistic infrastructure and skill development. In addition, tourist amenities will be upgraded at 100 Adarsh Monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).”

In a twisted sense of irony perhaps and as a reflection of the malaise that afflicts our country today that the Karnataka government, on the other hand, will celebrate the Bahamani Sultanate which committed massacres of hundreds and thousands of Hindus. Of course, as the Chief Minister says he is unaware, Kalaburgi district in-charge minister Sharan Prakash Patil maintained it will be a one-day celebration. The lust for votes has consumed certain political parties to such an extent that they shall not hesitate to spit on the sacrifices of their ancestors to win elections.

Over 70 years have passed since our independence and it is symbolic of the misguided priorities of the Secular State of India that Hampi has not received the attention that it deserves and the story of the great Vijayanagara Empire has been largely forgotten by the people of our nation. We stand at a critical juncture in the glorious history of our civilization today and if we are to secure a future where our Gods are worshipped and our ancestors are given their due, it is imperative that our children are taught the heart-rending melody that one can still hear if he visits the ruins of Hampi.

History repeats itself, so goes the saying, but what people fail to comprehend that history repeats itself not because it has to but for the reason that people either fail to learn from the events of the past or they conveniently forget them entirely. The story of the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire is a crude reminder that our nation has once already tread the path we are currently on and should we fail to learn the lessons from the past, then we are destined to suffer the same fate that befell the once great Hampi.

It is hardly surprising that certain sections of the political spectrum are not comfortable with the Ruins of Hampi being given its deserved attention. The ruins shall shatter their fairy tale notion of secularism and reduce it to dust. The story of Hampi is one of betrayal and treachery and of fatal naivete. In the Battle of Talikota, when the Vijayanagar Empire was besieged by the Deccan Sultanates, it was not the armies of the enemy that struck the fatal blow; it came from the enemy within. The Vijayanagara Army was winning the battle but then, two Muslim generals switched sides at a critical moment during the battle and captured and beheaded Rama Raya, the king. The Army then fell into confusion and was routed by the Sultanates.

Then, with the zeal that monotheists throughout the ages have exhibited towards Pagans, the army of the Sultanates plundered the glorious city and reduced it to ruins. In his book, ‘The Forgotten Empire’, Robert Sewell writes :

“With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description.”

To the careful listener, the ruins of Hampi do not only sing a morose tale. It also sings of hope and resilience and undying defiance in the face of immense adversity. It is also a melancholic reminder that despite the million attempts at obliteration, our civilization has not gone the way of the ancient Greeks and the Romans and the Persians. We are still right here and we are still a billion strong. That, centuries after its destruction, Hampi still has people who cherish the great empire that built it and sing odes to their valour is a testament to the remarkable persistence of the Hindu civilization. The flame of Dharma that inspired the people of the Vijayanagara empire to scale new heights of prosperity is still alive and thriving and it still burns in the hearts of a billion Hindus.

Decades of neglect and the defilement of everything sacred by the rampant secularization of our society has eroded the soul of our nation. For years, as Arun Shourie in his book ‘Eminent Historians’ has pointed, our historians have deliberately distorted the history of our nation and governments have decreed that the atrocities committed by Muslim rulers not be mentioned in school textbooks lest the ‘secular fabric’ our nation be disturbed. Indeed, peaceful existence between the two communities is desirable but lasting harmony cannot be built on a foundation of lies. For harmony to prosper, it is of paramount importance that both communities confront the demons from the past with honesty and integrity and then approach each other in good faith. Secularism cannot and will not prosper on an edifice built of the desecration of the legacy of our ancestors and the tragedies of our past. If secularism is to prevail, it has to prevail upon the foundations of truth. And if the truth is too much to bear for the secular fabric of our nation, then perhaps the cause of secularism was doomed from the very beginning.

The Karnataka government’s decision to celebrate the Bahamani dynasty is a grim reminder of the reality that the Republic of India could very well suffer the same treachery that sealed the fate of the Vijayanagara empire. Certain political parties are perfectly willing to destroy the unity of the Indian union if they could rule over the pieces. We are living in an age of chaos and it is of paramount importance that we remember the story behind the ruins of Hampi if we are to catapult ourselves into a new era of prosperity.

Before the Marathas fulfilled the dream of Hindavi Swaraj, there was the Vijayanagara Empire that served as a bulwark against the destruction of our polytheistic faith by the followers of the one true God. The restoration of Hampi to its former glory would be a strong statement of intent towards ensuring the continued existence of our civilization. The decision of the central government to develop Hampi may have come late but as they say, better late than never. It may only be a punitive step towards the revival of Hampi but should Hampi indeed be revived as a glorious city in the future, then it would be a great leap for the Hindu civilization.

The story of the fall of the Vijayanagara empire should never ever be forgotten. The ruins of Hampi should always serve to warn our people of the dangers of extreme naivete. And as long as our children remember the treachery that befell the great empire, our nation shall continue to exist and prosper.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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