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Before Inventing The Internet And Aeroplanes, Our Ancestors Came Up With Fake News

We are the first civilisation to invent fake news and use it for political gain.

Our ancestors had already invented the internet during the Mahabharata, aeroplanes in the Treta yug, plastic surgery even earlier in the pre-historic era. The wise men of our times have been proclaiming these truths far and wide over the last few years. However, there is another achievement of our ancestors that they choose to ignore. Fake news existed in India long before the advent of social media. We can take much pride in being the first civilisation to invent fake news and use it for political gain.

Indra, the king of the devtas, was very insecure about his throne. He was paranoid about plots to steal it away. One day, he heard about a sadhu doing strict tapasya in a dense jungle to please Lord Shiva. This filled Indra with dread. He was the king of the devtas, but even he knew that he was not the most powerful being in the universe. Shiva was far more powerful and refused to discriminate between rakshasas, devtas, sadhus and kings. Shiva was known to grant boons to anyone who pleased him. If the sadhu continued his tapasya, Shiva might be moved to give him Indra’s throne as a reward. Indra had to stop this from happening.

Indra looked up his bag of tricks. He realised that the apsaras, his most potent weapons, would not work on this sadhu. Their beauty would not tempt the sadhu to break his tapasya. Indra would have to think outside the box. He travelled to the forest, where the sadhu had been fasting for many days to invoke Shiva’s blessings. As Indra looked at the frail, austere sadhu, he wondered whether he was letting paranoia get the better of him. The sadhu didn’t seem like the kind of man who would want to become the king of the devtas. But then he chastened himself for even thinking of letting his guard down and nodded determinedly.

Indra took the form of a ferocious elephant and charged at the sadhu, trumpeting wildly and threatening him with tusks. He conjured up a storm, accompanied by lightning and thunder. This broke the sadhu’s serious concentration and he looked up in alarm at the crazy animal running towards him. He hurriedly got up, rolled up his prayer mat and made as if to run away. But suddenly, he heard a gentle voice in the background, “gajo mithya, gajo mithya” (the elephant is fake, the elephant is fake). The sadhu was quick to react. He replied “gajo mithya to bhago bhi mithya” (if the elephant is fake, my flight is fake too). He unrolled his mat and continued his tapasya as if nothing had happened.

What happened to the sadhu after that, I don’t know. I do know that he never became the king of the devtas, so even though Indra’s attempt to disseminate fake news failed, he managed to save his throne. Just like then, fake news today is here to stay. So unroll your mats and keep fighting for the truth.

Prerna Jain is a photographer and has published a coffee table book on birds. 

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