Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How Safe Are India's Gold Reserves

After steadily rising for 10 years, how safe are the world’s largest reserves of gold?

India, with the largest (private and government) reserves of gold in world, needs to examine the safety question very seriously. While, there have been many advocates and supporters for many European claims, I am yet to see any support for reclaim of any of the colonial loot from India by Britain.

In spite of close cultural and economic relations, WW2 was started by countries of Western world for gold, oil and access to markets. With excess of printing capacity, any country in world can print notes. During any period of turmoil, what matters is gold. After all, even India with the largest gold reserves in the world, needed to pledge gold in 1991 for small loan from IMF and World Bank. Is our gold safe? Look at the experience of some of these countries.

The Belgian Gold

Anticipating German invasion of the Netherlands, the National Bank of Belgium moved some part of its gold reserves to Bank of France, for safe keeping. However, after France itself came under attack, Belgium instructed the French to transfer Belgian gold to London. The French instead, moved that gold to Dakar, Africa, to a French bank. After the fall of France, Pierre Laval, Foreign Minister in the French Vichy government of Marshal Petain, handed over the gold to Hitler’s Germany - which reportedly, recast this gold, put pre-war stampings and sold it to the Swiss. What happened after that. Well, the Belgians lost it all, I presume.

Czech Gold

After Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, under the British-Czech treaty, Britain was enjoined to join the war on the Czech side. Instead, Montagu Norman, the head of Bank Of England, under a technicality, handed over Czech Gold to the Germans - in spite of the British Parliamentary restrictions; a supposedly secret transaction, blown open by a connected reporter.
After many enquiries, investigations, Montagu Norman, (yes, the same racist who collaborated with Churchill to loot the Indian peasantry) was let off without even a rap on his knuckles. After the war, Montagu Norman set up an institute to do research (like Joseph Mengele) in eugenics. His former boss, another racist, Churchill, set his armies on the Mau Mau, fighting for Kenya’s independence, and hundreds of thousands black Kenyans disappeared. Did the Czechs get their gold back? I doubt!

The French Experience

Before, during and after WW2, large numbers of national and private treasures were looted, misappropriated and generally fell into disputes. The French Government had a similar experience .

Spain and Gold

For nearly 10 years, the Spanish Civil War raged - a proxy war between the Germans and Russians. The target, Spanish gold. During the entire see-saw of the civil war, the entire Spanish gold disappeared - between the maws of the French and the Russians. Reputedly, Stalin boasted that Spain will never see their gold again. I am sure the ghost of Incas were at peace after 400 years.

The British Experience

Britain itself found that the they could buy anything only with gold. A staunch ally like the USA, demanded payments in Gold. Britain sold the Viscose Company, receiving a paltry amount. British investments in Canada were disposed to pay US for for raw materials. A significant part of British gold reserves, were safely moved to Canada on board the battleship Revenge and HMS Emerald to the vaults of Bank Of Canada (which still acknowledges the British crown) banks. American warship, Louisville was sent to Simonstown South Africa to take delivery of British gold

Secret of Japan’s rise

Year 1542. The Sado gold mines were discovered. In 16th-17th century, Japan became the second largest producer of gold in the world. Rapid rise of Japan after that and the rest of story is known to the world.

Korea claims that Japan plundered Korea of hundreds of tons of gold from 1937-1944. Philipines, Indonesia have all raised claims against Japan for war time gold loot. Regardless, one American writer had definitely hit a jackpot - Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (By Sterling Seagrave, Peggy Seagrave). Ian Fleming is supposed to have based his story on the Yamashita chapter of WW2.

Japan’s top underworld crime boss, Yoshio Kodama, (ranked as an admiral) a major figure in the Japanese underworld was in charge of Project “Golden Lilly” - after one of Hirohito’s poems! Objective - looting gangsters in Japanese occupied territories. Operations Supervisor - Emperor’s Hirohito’s brother, Prince Chicubi. Management - Japan’s top financial figures.

Subsequently, allegedly, a lot of this gold landed with Ferdinand Marcos; the Filipino dictator. Swiss banks, Macao criminals, American generals and politicians - all involved.

The Final Accounting

Nazi gold was found by various armies and individuals all over Europe. In Lake Toplitz and in the Thuringien salt mines. Finally a co-ordinating agency was set up by Americans for gold recovered by American Armies to account, re-distribute and reconcile claims. The European banking system, especially the Swiss and the Vatican have been subject to various claims, allegations and conspiracy theories.

China Bullion - Gold, Silver and Silk

Angus Madisson, researcher at Groningen University, has estimated that through most of last 1000 years, China and India have accounted for about 50% of the world economy. 20th century was different for both. While Indian gold based systems are well known, Chinese gold story is very different.

1. China & Neighbours - Gold Producers

India was always an importer of gold. Domestic gold production in India’s core geography has historically been low. China, on the other is different. China and Mongolia have been significant gold producers in history. Currently, illegal mining in China is big time activity and is indicted for supporting poaching!. Chinese were exporters of gold and silks.

2. Chinese - Great believers in silver

Chinese common coin was a silver coin - the tael (which came from the Malay word tahil; which came from Indian word tol; meaning ‘measure’). There were 2 taels - one was commercially pure silver ingot of one chinese ounce called a liang. The other was a kuping tael - which was coin. Bulk silver was used as currency and called sycee. There were many other taels like Tsaoping, Peking, Tientsin, Hankow, Canton. Chinese also use silver jewellery - against gold preferred by Indian women

3. Chinese invention of Paper

Chinese rulers circulated paper money for longer (from 6th century onwards) and greater area than any country in the world. The first paper currency jiaozi was issued in 6th century - which collapsed very soon. The Song dynasty re-introduced paper currency in 9th century due to copper shortage. Probably, some Jewish merchants were also involved in the jiaozi manufacture.

Kublai Khan’s (a descendant of Genghis Khan) paper money management received wide publicity in Europe (thanks to Marco Polo).

Opium & China

Western consumers bought tea, silks and other Chinese commodities for which they paid in silver. The Chinese did not need much of western goods - like India. To correct this negative balance of trade, Europeans promoted opium in China. When Chinese resisted the Opium trade, wars followed.

In early 19th century AD, Opium imports into China by British, French, American, Dutch, Spanish traders, sourced from India led to an outflow of silver from China - and a currency crisis. The ruling Qing state went into a downward spiral- culminating in the Chinese Civil War and rise of communism. The Kuomintang (supported by Chinese underworld, The Green Gang, The Red Gang and The Blue Gang) was pitted against the Mao Ze Dong’s Communist Party - and both were armed and supported by Western powers.

Opium for China was produced by indebted Indian farmers and a few Parsi traders set up their offices in Hong Kong. However, the Parsi role diminished after the advent of steamships, their big losses during the Opium Wars and the rise of the cotton trade. Other Indian traders, possibly restricted by ’shubh labh’ compunctions played a lesser role (compared to the European traders) in this Opium trade.

Major opium trading companies like Jardine Matheson, David Sasoon & Company and sundry traders set up The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation for facilitating this misery. The Chinese Opium problem was finally solved by several draconian measures during Communist rule.

Wars In China

When Chinese resisted the Opium flood, western traders resorted to war. The Japanese emboldened by new found wealth and military technology, joined western powers. The Sino Japanese Wars, The Opium Wars with Europeans and The Boxer Uprising before WW1 imposed large war reparations on the Chinese. The Civil War in China between the world wars destroyed Chinese commerce systems. The Cultural Revolution has left the Chinese commercially backward.

How did the Chinese preference for silver affect them?

In 1500, the approximate exchange ratio between gold liang and and silver liang was 1:4. Today it is 1:50. Silver mineral deposits, mining and availability is more elastic than gold. Elasticity of gold production is very low. Secondly, above ground supplies of gold are far higher than known below the ground estimates. Hence, manipulation of gold prices over a period of time is difficult.

On the other side, China today as the world’s largest holder of US dollar debt is constrained in its move to increasing gold reserves through market operations. A dollar sell off by China could collapse the world’s currency system. But a negotiated conversion of some dollar reserves to gold is eminently possible. Official Gold Reserves of Chinese Central Bank Gold reserves are about 600 tons of gold.

What does this mean for others

China, the largest creditor nation in the world, carries a big stick. They are not democratically accountable and transparency is not required from them. Hence, a significant conversion from dollar holdings to gold is feasible, can be done quietly (hence, at an economic price) and with trade power they have, a strong negotiating position is a given.

And that is an opportunity others may not get!

What should India do …

Scorched Earth Incidents In History

Emerging nations (India is hopefully, re-emerging), at some point, will confront militant and aggressive powers, who have used major massacres to secure their ends. Apart from well documented and known military massacres , there are equally effective massacres - the Bengal Famine of 1943 being a prime example.

Apart from two major incidents of slaughter in Indian history - the Kalinga War and the sacking of the Vijayanagar Kingdom, there is no other recorded incident of massacres initiated by Indian rulers or conquerors.

This makes the Mumbai 1993 riots, the 1984 Sikh Pogrom and the Godhra carnage in India a matter of concern and historical discontinuity.


Rome was sucked into the vacuum left behind by Alexander’s death. Roman generals consolidated in Asia Minor and expanded into Europe. One significant territory was Gaul (most of modern France). In 52 BC, the Gaels rebelled. Governor of Gallic provinces - Julius Caesar.

The rebellion was led by Gaellic chieftain, Vercingetorix (pronounced with a k; or in Gaellic possibly Fearcuincedorigh, Chief of a hundred heads, was son of Celtillus, a chieftain executed by his tribesmen, for attempting to unite the tribe). After nearly 2 years of campaigning, Vercingetorix was defeated by Julius Caesar, imprisoned for 5 years and brought in chains to Rome - and strangled to death after a public display.

Rome used massacres freely to quell this rebellion, and to instill fear amongst the tribes. An entire population of Avaricum (Bourges), varying estimates of between 40,000-120,000, was massacred. At the least, 1 million of 3 million Gallic Celtic populations was killed by the time Caesar finished with Gaul. Many Gaels were taken as slaves by soldiers to carry their baggage or sold to slave traders which accompanied these armies.


Kart Hadasht, or Carthage as we know it today, was a city founded by Phoenicians, a sea-faring nation, (based in an area near Tunis and modern Lebanon) - and one of the first rivals that Rome had. Carthage ruled over much of the Mediterranean and North Africa. It expanded into Spain - Barcelona is named after the Barca family, of whom Hannibal is the most famous.

Alexander’s campaign had taken the best of male youth from the Greek population and made it incapable of holding at the centre. Its vast dominions and revenues were unprotected. Greek political leadership were engaged with Alexander abroad. Its armies were tied up in Asia. No ruler after Alexander’s death in 323 BC was in a position to consolidate the conquests or overcome Greek infighting. In 306, BC, Rome allied with Carthage against the Greeks. Over the next 150 years, Carthage and Rome battled Greece, conquered Sicily and attacked each other. After three Macedonian wars and the war with Antiochus the Great of Syria, Rome established itself as a prime power.

Rome then turned its attention to other challengers, most notably, Carthage. Scipio’s armies, engaged Carthage in the Second Punic war (218-203) - and Carthage thereafter, was militarily, a spent force. Over the next 50 years, Carthage declined militarily - but prospered economically.

And Rome

In 150 BC, controlling much of Alexander’s empire, Rome decided that no one must be left to challenge its power. Cato the Elder, influenced the Roman Senate and pushed for Delenda est Carthago(”Carthage must be destroyed”). An army under consuls Manius Manilius and L.Marcius Censorinus was sent to destroy Carthage, militarily, a shell of its former self. Carthage offered to surrender and deposited all its armour and armament. Roman generals refused to accept the surrender.

Carthage re-armed to defend itself. Roman generals could not make much headway. Finally, the Roman senate sent a descendant of Scipio Africanus (of the Second Punic War), Scipio Aemilianus - and in 146BC, Carthage was defeated. Carthage city was destroyed, its fields plowed and salted, so that the city would never come up again. 50,000 residents of Carthage were enslaved. In parallel, in 146BC, Corinth suffered a similar fate. Final tally during the Punic Wars over 200 years - 10 lakhs people (1million)


50 BC. Alexander had passed into mythology. Romans had taken complete hold of the Alexandrian Empire. Millions (men, women and children) were enslaved. Swollen by revenues from the inherited Alexandrian territories of Asia Minor; by loot and conquests from Europe, Roman society was rolling in wealth. Nearly a million slaves toiled to keep Roman population well fed and in luxury.

On the other side of the world, Alexander’s conquests had increased trade manifold. Indo Roman trade flourished. Greco-Roman currency, laws started at Indian borders and led right to the heart of the world’s largest and most prosperous market. A ‘merchant prince’, Chandragupta Maurya and a Brahmin minister, Kautilya Chanakya, with the support of the 16 mahajanapadas (principal ruling Indian federations) had united most of Indian subcontinent. The most famous of this dynasty, Ashoka (The Great) started the spread of Buddhism.

With rapid economic growth, also came rapid change in social differences. In Rome the differences were political (slaves and master) and in India it was economic and social. In Rome this sparked the Spartacus revolution. 100,000 slaves mutinied and were led by Spartacus. After many battles between 72BC-71BC, Spartacus and his slave legions were defeated. 6,000 slaves were crucified on the main Roman highway - the Via Appia.

Ustashe Cleansing

Ustati in slav languages means “to rise”. 1939, Italy, supported and created the Croat Ustashi Army made up Croats. This army reached a size of upto 100,000.

After Hitler’s sweep across the Balkans, a Nazi puppet government of Ante (Anton) Pavelic, headed the “Catholic State of Croatia.” The Pavelic regime supported “Clerical Fascism”-a mix of Catholic religiosity, Anti-Semitism and authoritarian politics. Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany’s “Ausland” department assisted Ante Pavelic and his Catholic terrorists to set up a dictatorship. Ante Pavelic was declared Poglavnik - or what we better know as Fuhrer. Archbishop A. Stepanic established a Croat Separatist Movement and seized power.

They had a simple one point agenda - One third to be converted from Orthodox Christians to Catholic Christianity; one third to be killed and one third to be expelled . Their allies - Before and during the WWW2 - Italy, Germany and The Vatican. More than 10 lakh were put in concentration camps - and most died.

After WW2, Marshal Tito curbed the Ustashi - and the USA embraced these Ustashi to “fight communuism”. After death of Marshal Tito and collapse of the Soviet Empire, these groups were sent back - and the old massacres restarted.

Final tally - More than 20 lakh people killed.

Mau Mau

Post WW2, Churchill was the British Prime Minister from 1950. Kenya became the new jewel in the depleted British crown. The crown princess (the current queen) celebrated the end of war, with a well publicised holiday (1952) at a tree top lodge in Kenya. Churchill resisted the “liquidation of Her Majesty’s empire …” and “winds of change” were yet to blow across Africa.

Kenyan de-colonialisation movement was symbolised by a Kikiyu tribesman, Kamau wa Ngengi, who later took the surname, Kenyatta (from the Kikuyu word for a type of beaded belt he wore) and the first name Jomo - Jomo Kenyatta. Meanwhile, inspired by Gandhiji’s success in India, 1950 saw, at a joint meeting of KAU and Kenya Indian Congress at Nairobi, Trade Unionist Makhan Singh’s resolution for freedom for East Africa being passed. In 1952, Jomo Kenyatta was arrested in ‘Operation Jock Scot’ with 182 other African leaders.

The Kikiyu tribe, considered relatively less aggressive (compared to the Masais) and well settled in agriculture, were provoked to revolt by loss of their lands to white settlers. They formed the Land and Freedom Army and what followed was a 11 year guerilla war, which descended very soon into brutality - and reminded some of Nazi ways of Joseph Mengele. The British and the Western press called this the Mau Mau uprising in a derogatory manner.

Final count - as per Caroline Elkins 100,000 dead; 10,00,000 imprisoned and detained without legal cause; a record 1090 people hung to death. British Government numbers - 12,000 dead Kenyans, (certified). 100,000 imprisoned. Another article estimated close to 12.5 lakhs (of a total population of 50 lakhs) were killed or imprisoned.

Wipeout of the Red Indian Population

President Woodrow Wilson echoes the ideology behind the alleged “genocide” - “The experience of Liberia and Haiti show that the African race are devoid of any capacity for political organisation… there is an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilisation which are irksome to their physical nature.

Our industries have expanded to such a point that they will burst their jackets… Our domestic markets no longer suffice; we need foreign markets. In the matter of Chinese and Japanese coolie immigration, I stand for the national policy of exclusion… We cannot allow a homogeneous population of a people who do not blend with the Caucasian race.”


Churchill and his views on Arabs, Indians, Aborigines, Red Indians - “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race has come in and taken their place.“The Arabs are a backwards people who eat nothing but Camel dung”

Genghis Khan & The Mongol Tribes

Temujin, more famous as Genghis Khan had an empire larger than Alexander and lasted longer than Alexander’s. From remote fastness of Mongolia to borders of Western Europe, from Central Asia to Arabia, his family ruled for nearly 300 years - over an empire larger than Alexander’s. The expansion of the empire continued well after his death - unlike Alexander.

His armies made a habit of slaughtering entire cities - and the final tally is close to 30 lakhs (3 million). In his direct line of conquest along The Silk Route, Eastern /Central Europe had a population of 35 million. European population in medieval times is estimated at 60-80 million. World population at that time is estimated at 50 crores (500 million). Genghis Khan and his hordes slaughtered 20%-30% of humanity in affected territories.

The Bengal Famine 1943 & Indian Gold Drain

Between 1920-1945, the British manipulated exchange rates and trade to impoverish the Indians. Food grain prices rose sharply on supply disruptions during WW2. Indians had no financial reserves. 40 lakhs Indians died in the resultant Bengal Famine.

India Pakistan Partition

After WW2, Churchill promised that he will not “preside over the liquidation of Her Majesty’s empire …” Clement Atlee promised the British voter a quick exit from India. Post war Britain was tired of rationing, shortages - and subsidising a starving, bankrupted India. The Colonial Office was reporting deficits. Gold transfers from India had reduced to a trickle.

Clement Atlee won. Mountbatten was sent to India. An unprepared India and a leaderless Pakistan were handed over governance.

Many theories apart, it showed another extension of the “scorched earth policy” and a callous disregard for 10 lakh brown lives that were lost to Hindu-Muslim-Sikh riots.

Similarly, after the fall of the Chinese Imperial Dynasty, The Japanese Occupation, WW2, Western powers aided both sides in a conflict. Mao Ze Dong was aided by the Americans against the Japanese, Chiang Kai Shek against Mao Ze Dong and Communist China built with (WW2) aid, occupied Tibet.

Haiti - First Slave Independence

14th August 1791. St Dominque. A black slave overseer killed a pig. And it sparked off the world’s first successful slave uprising.

Boukman Dutty was Voudou N’Gan (oungan, houngan, voodoo priest), killed a pig as a part of an African tribal ritual Bwa Kayiman, to his ancestors and Ogoun, god of fire, iron and war. Ogoun and Erzulie Dantor (Ezili Dantor), a Vodou l’wha (loa) a warrior spirit, responded to this call to protect these slave warriors.

25th August. Night of Fire. 50,000 slaves rose in revolt. More than 1000 sugar and coffee plantations were put to fire. Flames could be seen as far as Bahamas. 31st December 1803, liberation brought about by vengeance, independence was declared.

St. Dominque, now called Haiti, was a French colony with 800 sugar plantations and 4,00,000 slaves from Niger and Dahomey (now Benin) in West Africa. Haiti, the greatest jewel of French colonies, accounting for 40% of French GDP in 1700s, was the largest market for slaves in Atlantic trade. It was the largest producer of sugar in the world and competed with British colonies (like India) for indigo production and had thousands of coffee plantations. Discovered and exploited by Christopher Columbus,

What happened to the original population 1.3 million of its original population. Done to death in forced silver mines in 10 years.

Cuban Independence

After the fall of Haiti, by 1860, Cuban production grew to 500,00 tons of sugar - 1/3 of the world’s production. Under Spanish rule from 1511, the indigenous population was annihilated and the island was populated by imported African slave labour. Henry Clay, Secretary Of State, in President John Quincy’s administration,”This counry prefers that Cuba and Porto Rico remain dependant on Spain …”

In 1844 Cuban slaves revolted unsuccessfully. 10th, October 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspesdes released his slaves and El Grito de Yara, a 10 year war against Spain started.

General Valeriano Weyler, “The Butcher,” to stamp out the independence movement. He created modern history’s first concentration camps. Hundreds of thousands of men women and children were put into concentration camps. In Havana city, 52,000 people died. The peasants retaliated by burning down vast Spanish owned sugar plantations. Weyler was recalled to Spain in 1879. October 7th 1886, slavery was finally abolished. Spain continued to rule Cuba - with greater repression.

” Seventy-five percent of Latin America’s exports to the United States came from Cuba and half of the Latin American imports from the United States went to Cuba in 1894. The United States had well entrenched itself in the Cuban economy and did not want to lose a valuable market so close by. Spain clung to its remaining claim. Cuba was caught in the middle in the mid-1890’s when the United States reduced sugar imports with the Wilson-Gorman tariff and Spain restricted United States imports to Cuba. Proponents of annexation and independence divided Cuba’s population.”

by Brad Williford in The Cuban Revolution of 1895-98

125 years after Independence, US was developing colonial ambitions. The Monroe doctrine was used to create colonies in the American backyard. “Yellow Journalism” invented. On April 25th 1898, the US Congress declared war. For the next 4 months, the US fought the Spanish American War. On August 12th, 1898, Spain signed the peace treaty. On December 10th 1898, the treaty of Paris was signed. USA annexed Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico in exchange for US$2,00, 00,000. Cubans became nominally declared free but with many conditions.

Cost - Over 20 years that Cuba fought the Spaniards, 500,000 people died.

The Israel - Palestinian Conflict

Post WW2, USA was the significant power which could project its power across continents. To protect this position, the USA and Europeans created Israel on specious grounds. Less than 1 lakh Jews (original inhabitants) were given preference over 10 lakh Muslims and the state of Israel was formed. Palestinians are today paying for Europeans genocide of Jews. If the Jewish state was essential, the Europeans could have created a Jewish state in Europe and guaranteed safety and neutrality of the same.

Why did West Asia have to pay for European genocide? One reason - Oil.

Israel is the Western world’s cat’s paw in West Asia. Price of this oil politics - More than 2 million in the last 50 years. Innocent Israelis and Palestinians - fed on distorted history kill and maim each other. The beneficiaries - Europe and USA.

Tally - More than a million dead.

The US Philippine War

After the abolition of slavery in USA, the ‘land of the free’ turned to proxy slavery - colonialism. The first attempt was Cuba.

In Asia, Philippines was the American colony in the Asia. To protect the US$2,00,00,000 payment made by the USA to Spain, USA colonial forces killed 1.4 million during the period 1899 to 1905. Over the next 80 years, Philippines was ruled by Americans and foisted dictators like Marcos - at the cost of these Filipinos. As history would have it, Brigadier General Arthur MacArthur fought the first Filipino war - and his son, Douglas fought in the second during WW2.

Human Cost - Some 1.4 million dead during the period from 1899 to 1905.

More updates on …

Atomic Bombing Of Japanese

The Jewish Persecution In Europe

African Slavery

Berlin Agreement on colonies & slavery


Hitler’s Holocaust

The Sacking Of Vijayanagar Kingdom

Timur, the Lame

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Feminism, Women, Social Position, et al

Indian women in the ancient world …

One of the wonders of the ancient world was The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for Amytis, his homesick Elamite princess. Amytis, the daughter of the Median King, (a neo Elamite King), longed for the greenery of her homeland. A prominent ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, 605-562 BC, (as spelt in English) not only married a Elamite princess, but also took on an Elamite name (related to the Dravidian languages). Replace ‘b’ with ‘d’ and you are very close the Tamil name of Neduncheziyan (Nedunchedianuru) - a current and modern Tamil name.

Interestingly, Neduncheziyan is more famous as the fabled erring Pandyan King in the Tamil classic - Silappadhikaaram. Neduncheziyan’s mistaken justice, brings him grief and finally death. In the Tamil classic, Neduncheziyan is overshadowed by the other King, Cheran Senguttavan. Cheran Senguttuvan’s fame rests today on the Tamil classic, Silappadhikaaram - written by Jain Saint, Elangovadigal.

And who were the Elamites?

The Elamites

The people of Elam (yes in Tamil, Eelam means homeland), were the first to civilise the Iranian Peninsula in the 2700 BC period. They were contemporaries of the Egyptians, the Mittanis and the Hittites. The Elamites were a significant people till the 800BC in Persia (modern day Iran).

The Elamites concluded a major treaty with the Akkadian, King Naram-sin (Naram to Narain and Sin is the moon goddess, Chandra; possibly Narayan Chandra). Akkadian language, is itself implicated of being in cahoots with Sanskrit and Indus Valley languages - and the creation and spread of most modern languages. The Elam culture had a language which is similar to Dravidian languages. Elamites were founders of the first kingdom in the Iranian geography.

ElamBas relief From Susan

Elamites, (cousins of modern Dravidians) founded Persia; the Middle East was influenced and had significant presence of Indic Mittanis and Hittites - and India was far bigger than what we see today.

The Greatest Chariot Battle In History

1301 BC. An Egyptian land army, numbering more than 20,000, (divided in 4 divisions) was raised. The leader - Pharoah Ramesses-II of the XIX Dynasty. They were out to punish a small kingdom of Hittites, for trying to lure Amuru, Egyptian vassals, to their side. Another force set sail, in ships, to reach Byblos and squeeze the Hittites in the world’s first pincer movement.

What followed was a historic chariot battle.

Peace broke when the queens of Hatti and Egypt, Puduhepa and Nefertari, both of Indo-Aryan extract and parentage, respectively, sent one another congratulatary gifts and letters. Over the next 15 years, they arrived at modus vivendi and drafted a peace treaty.

This peace treaty is the first in recorded history. A replica of this peace pact, in cuneiform tablet, found at Hattusas, Boghazkoi, hangs above the Security Council Chamber, United Nations, in New York, - a demonstration to modern nations the power of peace through international treaties.

Enter The Mittanis

One series are letters written by a Mittani king named Tushratta (meaning ” of splendid chariots”, similar to Dashratha meaning ” of ten chariots”) writes to his son-in-law, Amenhotep III, the king of Egypt ( the letter reads much like an Indian father-in-law’s letter will). Amenhotep married Tadukhepa, Tushratta’s daughter.

In these letters Tushrutta reminds Amenhotep, how his father, Thutmose IV had sought marriage seven times, with Tushrutta’s daughter, before this marriage to, Tadukhipa, was agreed upon.

Hittites were one of the main branches of Indics in the region. Ramesis II is about 100 years after Akhenaten - (एकनाथन Eknathan meaning One God in Sanskrit). Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep-III who wanted to marry the Mittani (another Indic kingdom) princess, daughter of Dashratta (Tushrutta).

Similarly, in order to marry Hattusil II’s daughter, the Amorite King Putakhi agreed, in the treaty of alliance for a specific clause “to the effect that the sovereignty over the Amorite should belong to the son and descendants of his daughter for evermore”.

The daughter of King Artatama was married to Tuthmose IV, Akhenaten’s grandfather, and the daughter of Sutarna II (Gilukhipa, - “khipa” of these names is the Sanskrit “kshipa,” night) was married to his father, Amenhotep III (1390-1352 BC), the great temple builder (alike the focus on temple construction in South East Asia 1000 years later).

Queen Sitamen
Queen Sitamen

In his old age, Amenhotep wrote to Dasharatha many (7 requests are documented and evidenced) times wishing to marry his daughter, Tadukhipa. It appears that by the time she arrived Amenhotep III was dead. Tadukhipa married the new king Akhenaten and she became famous as the queen Kiya (short for Khipa).

What is it, about these Indic princesses, that made them so sought after?

Indic women and Political Power

Interestingly, most Indic countries have had women in political power - in the post WW2 nations. Srimavo Badranaike, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Shaikh Hasina, Khalida Zia, Sukarnoputri, (not to forget Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharathi) were amongst the first in the world to rule their countries. The three divas/devis of Indonesia are not a co-incidence. Aung San Suu Kyi is waiting in the wings to add to this list.

An all-time favorite is, of course, the USA without a woman President, Chief Justice. So, much for political opportunity in the land of the free!

Economic Power

India has the world's largest private Indian gold reserves! And it is Indian women who have created, maintained these reserves over the centuries - even to the amusement of the westerners. Can someone please work out an instrument to make this gold, liquid, usable and empower India(n women).

Chinese Guanyin Figure
Chinese Guanyin Figure


The 2 most important festivals in India - Deepavali and Dusshera, are devoted to Lakshmi and Durga. Feminine goddesses. How many societies in the world have any female deities at all? Which society celebrates the biggest days in the year with female deities?

Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archaeologist, an expert in 16 European languages, excavated sites of Vinca, Starcevo, Karanovo and Sesklo cultures. Based on some pioneering work, she suggested that Indo-European cultures have descended from matristic (not even matriarchal) cultures which also worshiped "mother goddess" or female deities - something which starts happening from Indic cultures only. The whole of West Asian, European cultures have no worship of any female deity. Interesting thing is the furore this has caused - How can We Europeans, be female worshipers? is the unspoken objection!

In China, it was Buddhism which enabled the introduction of a female deity, Guanyin (or Kuanyin, Kwan Yin, Miao Shan, 观音觀音), the Goddess of Mercy, in the Chinese pantheon. Though there are 4th century mentions of Guanyin, but it was only 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, that worship of Guanyin became popular.

Working Women

Amongst the poor and low income income families, women are in a position of power as they significant contributors to family income. Malnutrition amongst poor, exists - regardless of gender or age.

Amartya Sen highlights in his landmark study (Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation By Amartya Sen) about The Great Bengal Famine that "...for every dead woman there were nearly two dead men ..." Sir Charles Elliot Famine Commissioner in Mysore in 1876 the general belief about Indian famines that "all authorities seem agreed that women succumb to famine less easily than men."

However, it was by the beginning of 20th century, that the West put the Birkenhead Drill in place. First used by HMS Birkenhead, in 1852, it allowed orderly evacuation of women and children first. Over the next 50 years this became standard practice. In India, during famines, the old, the children and women were the last to be deprived. It was the men who paid the price.

Role Models

Indian mythology has no negative characterisation for a wife - Mandodari, Ahalya, Sita, Draupadi, Kunti - the entire pantheon. The story of Kannagi's fight for justice for her husband (from the classic Tamil play, Silappatikaram) is repeated in some part of South India, every day, even now, 2000 years later.

The Western frieze of mythical characters includes Delilah, Helen, Clytemnestra , Jezebel - murderesses, adulteresses. The entire Greco-Roman frieze does not have a single positive characterisation of a wife.

Women are the source of all evil is current western concept - after all, Eve led Adam to his downfall from the Garden Of Eden. After a war with Midianites, Moses asked the Israelite army to kill all the women captives.

Moses blames the women - and an angry Moses tells the commanders

"of thousands and commanders of hundreds - who returned from the battle."Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. "They (the women) were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." (Italics, emphasis, bold letters mine).

In India a Grihalakshmi can take her Pati Parmeshwar anywhere in life.

Universal Suffrage

Universal suffrage came to the USA, Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Australia after a long struggle. The USA had to pass the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920; Italy in 1945; Canada in 1940; France gave women the right to vote in 1945; Switzerland in 1971 gave its women the right to vote in all elections.

These "advanced" countries, gave women the right to vote after a long struggle. In India, universal suffrage in 1950 started from the very first election in sovereign India. Without any female activism, Republican India had universal adult franchise from the very first day.

Education And Women

Indian women have been doctors, lawyers - and freedom fighters. The role of women like Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Nehru, Kasturba Gandhi's Annie Beseant, Madam Cama is more famous than known.

An interesting insight on the role that Indian women are playing in education is highlighted in - "Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse" by Laura E. Donaldson, Pui-lan Kwok. Indian women have been in the vanguard of the Indian culture - Bharatnatyam, Classical Indian Music and Sanskrit. If Indian culture survives another 100 years, Indian Woman, you saved it.

In the explosive TV content sphere, it is a matter of interest that TV stars are women - and men seem to be playing a nominal role (of looking good; next to their women).

Indian Women & Fashion

Much to the grief of Luciano Bennetton, Indian women have not taken after western fashion - unlike Indian men. Indian women have changed their fashion sense - from very regional variations to the very pan-Indian salwar kameez. But Indian.

But 2300 years before Luciano Bennetton, when Alexander's armies visited India, one of the few things they could take away were Indian clothes. Indian clothing became popular in Macedonia. The Macedonian national costume is the salvaria - which is the same as the salwar of the Indian North West. The entire North West Indian sub-continent, from Punjab to Afghanistan wears the salwar - which is tubular leggings.

This is a unisex garment - like the sari /dhoti also is. And popular all over India today. Unlike other parts of the world, where women were forced to conform to a male standards and prescriptions of dressing, Indian women were free and dressed like their men did (Feminists note - Indian men were forced to dress, like their women did, since you insist).

Unisex clothing, saris and dhotis dominate the Indian plains, and the salwars, in the North West mountain regions of Indian sub-continent. The Indo-Scythians used leather leggings - which were helpful in case of long marches on horse backs.

Criminals & Rape

While the press and activists beat their breasts about crimes against women, an interesting first hand insight that I can share. In Indian prisons, criminals and under-trials accused of rape are shunned by all other prisoners. They are not welcome in by other prisoners - in any any social activity. This is one crime that other criminals do not accept. However, much Indian films may show criminals targeting women, in reality, inside prison walls, criminals who have targeted women are not accepted.

Divide et impera

Indian women have a poor status in society - just like all other Indians. Period.

Indian society, due to economic poverty, political evolution, social changes has a long way to go before people (women, men and children) are treated right. Indian poli+bureau+crats are following their old colonial gurus and using ‘divide et impera’ divide and rule strategy. Further, western agenda, ideology, humungous funds drive many governmental programmes - which further creates false issues.

So, there are a myriad lost causes - child labour, dowry, poverty, backward classes, reservations, each one of which divides and gets lost in the "dreary desert sands". Isolating "women's" causes just furthers the date when everybody will get treated right. And that is my quarrel with all these sociologists, feminists, NGO groups who have serious misgivings about the status and empowerment of women in Indian society.

These misgivings - based on anecdotal evidence, ‘international' (read as western) imagery and paradigms, social biases and prejudices completely miss the picture.

Post Script

Shobha Narayan, a columnist, wrote,

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think Indian clothes are on the verge of dying out of corporate India. Sure, there are women executives who wear saris: ICICI’s Renuka Ramnath, Britannia’s Vinita Bali and HSBC’s Naina Lal Kidwai come to mind. In Bangalore, I am proud to say that prominent women such as Sudha Murthy and Rohini Nilekani don’t just wear Indian clothes, but bindis as well.

Unlike traditional Japanese attire such as the kimono, Indian clothes are wonderfully adaptable and comfortable. Nobody even knows what traditional Chinese clothing is. You have to go to Lijiang and Dali and observe pretty maidens from the Yi tribe in colourful red clothes to realize what China has lost in its race for economic prosperity at all costs

For my Delhi gig, I took the middle path, which I guess is the same as copping out. I wore Western clothes for one session and Indian clothes for another. I am not proud of my choice. I feel that I should have worn Indian clothes throughout, particularly in light of what I’ve just said. But cut me some slack, okay? It was my first presentation and I wanted to blend in.

Shoba Narayan has spent time in three countries - India, the United States and Singapore. After graduation, she enrolled as a Foreign Fellow at Mount Holyoke College where she majored in Fine Arts, focusing on welded steel sculptures. She went on to do five years of Art - three in graduate school in Memphis, and a summer at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.

After marriage, … she attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism (J-school) and received a Master's degree. She also won the Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship awarded to the top three students in each graduating class. Armed with the degree, she pursued a career in freelance journalism, writing for many publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Condenast Traveler, Time, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Saveur, Newsweek, Beliefnet and House Beautiful, among others. She also worked as a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered Weekend.

Shoba's first book, "Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes" was published in April 2003 by Random House. She lives in Bangalore, India with her husband and two daughters.

And no! Indian clothes (and whole parts of India) are not dying out, Shobha! There are Indian Women (many more like you) taking care of that! Thanks.

But a rare journalism piece was recently in the Times Of India. Untouched by Western effacement of Indian alternatives, this post makes some interesting points about the role of Indian women in Indian politics.

“A patriarchal ethos dominates both the societies, American and Indian, but they operate in different ways. In India, despite the patriarchal ethos, powerful women leaders have emerged,” says political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed.

The most famous examples are BSP chief Mayawati and AIADMK head Jayalalitha. Both emerged from the shadow of iconic godfathers, to establish themselves as leaders with grassroots support.

Neerja Gopal Jayal, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s centre of law and governance points out that “Even at the panchayat level, we have had women from the member families being nominated. But the first time, patronage may work but not the second time. And this is true at the national level too.”

Clearly, the Indian system — or lack of it — gives space to those who have no political backing or godfathers. For every Jayalalitha, Sonia Gandhi or Sheila Dikshit, there is a Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj and Renuka Chaudhary.

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research says, “What is unique to India, is the fact that women have the space to grow as leaders. Maybe, it has to do with our cultural ethos, where women are worshipped as goddesses.’’

More power to you Indian Woman.