Since I started college (way back in 2005!), I’ve been deeply interested in the study of religions, their history, and their impact on human history. Since most of this impact has been in the medieval and modern ages, it is these periods of history that I’ve come to be most conversant with.
Many people find this fascination of mine to be rather unusual. Personally, however, I’ve always found it to be the most natural thing. After all, most of us saw the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre on live TV. Then the subsequent US response in Afghanistan, the Iraq War – there were religious motivations and religious wars everywhere while we were growing up!
In India, there was a massive Islamic bombing campaign that targeted major Indian cities throughout the 2004-2009 period, ending only with the terrorist siege in Mumbai. All through this period, again, there were religious slogans everywhere. Although, of course, even without terrorism, India is not really a place where you can ever escape religion – it is all around you, and of all kinds – on the streets, in conversations, and in landmarks.
I have always been extremely curious. I’ve been reading encyclopedias since I was a kid. I was already very well read when I entered college, but frankly, religion and its impact on history was mostly a blind spot. As it happened, college was not really challenging, and I had a lot of time on my hands, and not enough ways to spend it. I was already aware of this gap in my knowledge, but I had as yet found no way to remedy it. After all, books on this specific topic are not very easy to find.
Interestingly, at this exact same time, we got an Internet connection at home. Finally, I had access to a limitless source of knowledge on everything! Yay!
In a certain sense of the word, I became obsessed with finding out the roots the religious conflict that was all around us.
I started my study from Islam, since it was obviously the most visible of religions of the time. I used a number of websites, followed debates, and personally debated many Muslims over Orkut. I started reading up books on Medieval Indian History, a period dominated by Islam in our history.
A little time later, I stumbled upon Hindutva literature (though I was aware of the movement earlier too). I chanced upon the voi.org website (now renamed to voiceofdharma.org) and over a period of about 2 years, I literally read everything on their website. During this same period, I devoured a number of books on Medieval Indian History, that gave me the necessary background to follow along.
There was a phase, however, from 2008, when I sort of gave up on reading about this stuff. There were several reasons. One, I had begun my Masters, and it was now the science of statistics that fascinated me. Two, there was not even that much literature available and left unread. This lull, however, allowed me to think, to digest everything that I had read previously. Slowly, I came into my own. I was no longer just a reader, I was able to see for myself whatever had been said (in those books).
However, I was not able to stay away for long. The gigapedia website came online about this time, and I started downloading books off it like crazy. I read some more.
Recently, I’ve again found myself to be less occupied than usual. This blog shall now record all that I have learnt in the past years. I hope it shall be a worthy enterprise, both for me, and for you, the reader.