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Bhiku Chaman Lal's 'discovery' of Hindu America
I think, serendipity in one's life is a matter of connecting the dots:

In early 50s when I was a young collegian, my uncle gave me two books from his library. "Read and keep these. I know they will excite you," he had said. Both books, 'Hindu America' and 'India, mother of all civilisations' were by Deewan Chaman Lal.

He along with Lala Hardayal and other freedom fighters was exiled by the British. Chaman Lal found his way to Mexico and under influence of a Buddhist, became a bhikhu and a pacifist. Scholar that he was, Mexico's ancient past gave him much to think about.

In 1982, I found myself on an assignment living at the local Sheraton hotel in Mexico City. With the background of the above two books, it was sheer serendipity that the world's largest archaeological museum, was a just a short walk away. I spent most my free time walking through the corridors of this vast collection of exhibits from the past civilisations of Central and South America.

The more I studied the exhibits, I was convinced that Chaman Lal's both books, which had extensive photographic proof and documentation of the sculpted figures, murals, ancient rituals and Sun calendars, had something to do with the stories our grandmothers used to relate to us from Puranas and other sources.

Chaman Lal had studied the Aztecs of Mexico, Mayas of Central America and the Incas of Peru. Ignited, I took leave after my assignment to also roam around towards South America. What I saw impressed and baffled me. How could things of ancient Indian fancy, find their way across continents, to distant America?

From nani's stories of 'patal lok', I had pictured it to be populated by beings that were gigantic, grotesque and menacing. That is what I saw, Mexico southwards. Huge threatening faces and nothing that could be called pleasant looking! Not even nature. The paradox is, that I saw also stone figures at which any Indian would exclaim, 'Look, Ganapati! I also saw figures performing Yoga's 'dhanurasan', the bow pose.

It is postulated, that aeons ago our 'Jambudweep' was apiece with today's African continent and South America, before the continental drift took place. Perhaps, the people who populated our mythology had drifted away along with its people over thousands of generations!

After Independence, Bhiku Chaman Lal returned to India. He was justifiably honoured by the nation, with a seat in Rajya Sabha. But his pursuits in Mexico and elsewhere were also taken up by other scholars.

In 'Early America and Hindu Culture', Charles J Ryan writes: "Mr Chaman Lal's evidence includes the sculptural and pictorial representations in America of the Indian elephants, with their unmistakably Hindu artistic "feeling." The American god was elephant-headed, as was the Hindu Ganesha, a derivative of Indra, and both were rain-gods. The author gives a large number of quotations from various sources illustrating the close resemblance between American and Indian cultures and ideas, such as religious traditions and myths, cosmic concepts, the knowledge of the four Yugas and identical social systems and customs, and yoga meditation methods. He discusses the use of the zero in mathematics among the Mayas, unknown elsewhere in the ancient world except in India; the symbols common to India and America such as the cross and the swastika and the traces of food-plants being transported across the Pacific, etc. These examples of Old World culture in ancient America were unknown till quite recently."

Madam Blavatsky wrote: "A daughter of Kauravya, King of the Nagas in Patala ('patal lok'!) was married to Arjuna, the disciple of Krishna, whom every tradition, oral and written, shows travelling five thousand years ago to Patala. The Puranic tale is based on a historical fact. Moreover, Ulupi, as a name, has a Mexican ring in it."

It is exciting to play with the idea, that our mythology of ages gone by, was indeed the reality of contemporary people of those times, on another continent thousands of miles away!

(Photo: history.com)


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