No nation called “India” or “Bharat” existed when William Carey landed in Bengal in 1793. The idea of “India” fascinated European explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama because the Latin Bible said that “India” was Persia’s eastern-most province when Esther was the queen. That is, around 482 BC.
Persians and Greeks pronounced river Sindhu (now in Pakistan), as “Hindu” or “Indu.” Persians named the area around Sindhu, “Hindustan”. They branded the religious practices of the natives as “Hindu.” Hindus had no name for Hinduism, since Tantra was the state-religion in most “Hindu” states. That is why, today, many Hindus prefer to brand themselves as “Sanatani”, which is a Buddhist term.
Prior to the 19th century, each “people group” (extended family, caste, sub-caste, tribe or race) in India worshipped and feared its own deities and demons. They communicated in dialects that had no literature or Scripture.
Aryans came to India with a fairly well-developed language, Sanskrit. But they did not develop a script for Sanskrit. They wanted Brahmin priests to memorize the “Sacred” sounds (Mantras). Writing down sacred mantras carried the risk of making public their secret source of power. The masses needed to be kept ignorant, so that they revere the priests’ access to gods. Famous Ashoka Pillars, for example, were carved between 268 to 232 BC. Yet, none of them had a single Sanskrit inscription. The priests’s wisdom was their monopoly, not to be shared with anyone, except devoted disciples.
After William Carey, his contemporaries and followers began India’s intellectual renaissance… after European Indologists started translating Hindu scriptures, some Brahmins decided to adopt a pre-existing script, Devanagari, to write down Sanskrit scriptures.
It should not surprise anyone that no Brahminical Scripture described India’s geography. For the Hindu worldview looked upon the external world as Maya — illusory, deceptive. The Bible, in contrast, begins by describing Eden’s geography.
Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore was the first Indian poet to describe pre-partition India’s geography as “Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid, Utkal, Banga, Vindhya, Himachal, Yamuna Ganga . . .” His song, “Jan, Gan, Man” (1911) was adopted as our national anthem, even though it excluded Jammu and Kashmir from his geography of “India”.
Tagore’s geography of India came not from the Hindu tradition but from the Postal Act of 1899, enacted by the British Parliament. The Act left out Kashmir because the British had won it from a Sikh ruler and sold it to a Hindu. It was not a part of the India that the British ruled.
In short, the Bible-informed Roman Catholic explorers brought to South Asia the geographic concept of India. William Carey’s paper “The Friend of India” popularized the idea of a geo-political nation-state called India.
Carey and his colleagues in Calcutta’s Fort William College gave us the vision to build a great nation — just, educated, non-fatalistic and prosperous. For example, Carey, began transforming a moon-worshipping fatalistic culture of Astrology into a moon-studying culture of Astronomy that seeks to establish human dominion over nature and demons.
William Carey became the father of modern India because he launched India into the trajectory of becoming a great nation.
How did he do that?
To build India as a modern nation, William Carey injected the Bible into our soul — in Indian languages, literature, education, worldview, law, civil services, family and governance. To give another example, it was the Bible that taught reformers such as Keshab Chandra Sen that a Hindu should have only one wife because God created only one Eve for Adam.
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