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Indian Pursuit of Scientific Temper: The dumbing down of Hindu civilization – Rajiv Varma

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“A word of caution. We [must] all stop thinking and articulating in speech and writing words and phrases like ‘false realm of mythology.’ It is absolutely Romilla Thapar. Mythology like pagan is [a] derogatory description of non-Abrahamic worship, cultures and worldview. As tho Jesus alone or Mohammed alone are historical while Hindu devas and devis are all mythology” – Radha Rajan

Rajiv VarmaIt is good to see resistance is offered to this idea. I will extend this to put this resistance in a certain framework. Indians who find “science” in Vedas or historicize Ramayana or Mahabharata or Puranas, actually end up demeaning our culture and civilization. It is akin to dumbing down a horse to the level of a donkey, so that the horse can fit into a herd of donkeys.

In their classical definitions – “Science” and “History” are disciplines that are contextual to the Western civilization. The evolution of classical “Science” in the West is not an intrinsic development, it is in response to the Abrahamic colonization of the West that began with Emperor Constantine. After 17 centuries, this colonization has been internalized no doubt, and now the then colonized have became the “new” colonizers, but it is colonization nevertheless.

Thus the Science/Philosophy/Knowledge development during Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic pre-Christian era has a certain philosophical disconnect with Renaissance and post-Renaissance “Science”. While the Graeco-Roman knowledge development had a natural rhythm, the post-Renaissance science evolved in the backdrop of earlier Dark Ages that was a direct consequence of Christian colonization of the West.

While it may be true that Renaissance thinkers did rely, inter alia, on (for example) Cicero’s De Natura Deorum for inspiration in their quest for new knowledge, they never did escape the outer orbit of Christianity. Thus, it explains the formation of now discredited “sciences” such as craniometery, which became the basis of racism and genocide later. There is a certain amount of “irrationality” (or I call it unnaturalness) in the Western “scientific rationalism or temper”. That is – “it” is limited to the cartesian plane – and it is not allowed to look beyond it – transcend it, because the Christian God is waiting on the other side, to save the souls.

The efforts like the so-called Noetic Sciences are still disjoint in their conceptualization. Western Science can make giant strides, but it cannot do one thing – it cannot see beyond the “Edge of the Universe” – it does not have the means to – and most importantly it does not have the will to do so. The limitation is provided by the Christian worldview. One can see that the notion of secularism, protects Christianity, God and Jesus business from scrutiny.

On the other hand Vedic Rishis have no such handicap. The material and non-material transcend. Hence the sciences that evolved in Ancient India were in tune with the natural rhythm of human civilizational development. The Vedic epistemology established the scope for a Rishi to explore the worlds beyond the “Edge of the Universe” if his/her inquest pointed in that direction. The system never posed any problem in this regard. A student of civilizations can see that harmful sciences like craniometery would have had no chance of forming in a naturally inquisitive culture like India. Thus, Vedic knowledge system is much more comprehensive than Post-Renaissance “officially secular but Christian-nevertheless sciences.”

Therefore, finding such (Christian-European) “science” in Vedas is demeaning to the Vedic culture.

It is the colonized Indian mind that sees the (Christian-European) “science” as virtuous, and due to its deep-seated inferiority complex, seeks validation from the West

Ditto with “history”. Again, post-Renaissance academic discipline of “History” is also a false benchmark to aspire to for Indians. Western discipline of History also exists in Christian framework, whose evidentiary parameters are limited to a set that disables a researcher and an academician to go prior to the dates of Genesis. It is made to sound rational, but in essence it is highly irrational. If Indians were to re-write their history based on Christian parameters, all they would get is a molehill and never discover the mountain that they have.

Then, there is another problem that is even more severe. The authors of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the Puranas never intended to tell legends for the purpose of “modernist” historical validation. The purpose of this corpus of literature is adhyatmic (spiritual). These are tools for a human to know his larger Self (capital S). Valmiki never intended for the shrota of Ramayana to start digging graves to find cartesian evidence of existence of Rama or Sita. Ramayana serves only one purpose – viz. spiritual empowerment for the purposes of upholding Dharma. Ramayana serves as a living kernel of the Indic/Hindu civilization. Not a cartesian history book.

I am not against finding historical evidences for the Indian past. But that needs to be a separate discipline. I am not for dumbing down Ramayana and Mahabharata to “fall” to a pseudo-benchmark that our colonialist has set for us.

Ultimately, Western Science will self-destruct and will become extinct, just like the Neo-neanderthal man, because of its own limitation. Graeco-Roman-Hellenestic, Chinese and Vedic Knowledge Systems have a better chance of survival and growth, because of their natural rhythm.

Let us not dumb down our horses to the level of donkeys.

When the term “scientific temper” was inserted in the Indian Constitution, good ole Panditji had no clue that the West had hoodwinked him into a herd of donkeys.

See also

“Debate about Indian contribution to science must not be seen as jingoism,” says Dr Joshi – Navtan Kumar

Navtan Kumar“Joshi cites the statement of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, during the Infosys Science Prize ceremony in Kolkata, in which he said Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject. ‘But there was no specific mention of what India has given to others. There should be an objective view as far as sharing of knowledge is concerned,’ says the veteran BJP leader.” – Navtan Kumar

Murli Manohar JoshiSenior BJP leader and former Union minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is peeved that all talk of ancient Indian science is being branded as jingoism by a section of the “intellectual” class. He says there is no doubt that India has learnt many things from the West, but wonders why there is no talk about what India has given to others.

Speaking to this correspondent, Joshi says the time has come for a “reappraisal” of the history of science. “This is the responsibility of the academic institutions, authors and thinkers to ponder over this issue. The government can only act as a facilitator, which can encourage people to explore space and time and compare that with rest of the world,” he says.

Joshi cites the statement of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, during the Infosys Science Prize ceremony in Kolkata, in which he said Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject. “But there was no specific mention of what India has given to others. There should be an objective view as far as sharing of knowledge is concerned,” says the veteran BJP leader.

He says that there is plenty of evidence, mainly documentary, to suggest that India has made significant contribution to science in the past. “And this is not me (talking), but many Western experts and academicians have said this for a long time. Please have a look at their writings in several books.”

Bhaskara IIHe points out that according to Jean Filliozat, the trigonometric “sine” is not mentioned by Greek astronomers and mathematicians. But it was used in India from the Gupta period onwards: the Surya Siddhanta gives a table of sines, which the Arab astronomers picked up from their Indian contacts and passed them to Europe in 12th century. The only conclusion possible is that the use of sines was an Indian development and not a Greek one, he adds.

John Playfair, in 1789, referred to certain astronomical tables received from the East Indies by European scholars at an early stage in their contact with the East. Some of these tables were received from Siam (Thailand) and their “epoch” corresponded to 21 March 638 AD. But interestingly, the “meridian” of these tables was not Siam but Benares, now Varanasi.

Other tables received from South India had one thing in common. Their epoch coincides with the era of “Kali yuga”, that is, with the beginning of 3102 BC. Playfair finds that the positions of the planets given in these tables is close to the positions calculated with the help of modern integral calculus and the theory of gravitation. So, for him, the inescapable conclusion is that these positions were observed by the Brahmins and it is rather a wonder that the Brahmins could do so rather precisely at so distant a past.

PythagorasSimilarly, E. J. Urwick has said that Pythagoras accepted the most popular Indian theories of the time. Almost all the religious, philosophical and mathematical doctrines ascribed to him were known in India in the 6th century BC. According to Urwick, the transmigration theory, assumption of five elements, the Pythagorean theory in geometry etc., have their close parallels in ancient India.

Seidenberg, while discussing the origin of geometry, argued that the Babylonians knew the algebraic aspect of this theorem as early as 1700 BCE, but they did not seem to know the geometric aspect. The Shatapatha Brahmana, which precedes the age of Pythagoras, knew both the aspects.

Joshi feels that there should be an “academic debate” on the issue. “I am saying this as a student of science. No political colour should be attached to it,” says Joshi, who did his PhD in Spectroscopy and then taught physics at the Allahabad University.

Asked to comment on the papers presented by some scientists at the Indian Science Congress, suggesting things like aeroplanes existed 7,000 years ago, and thus creating much controversy, he says, “That is not the issue. The issue is whether there was scientific tradition in India or not; whether or not India made original contribution. What were the landmarks in these areas? Sadly, nobody is discussing this. As a result, people are taking extreme positions. Some say it was developed while others say it was under-developed. But there is a need to take an objective view on the issue. While talking about Western contribution, we should also discuss what India has given to others.”

“We have also made ample contribution in science. Talking about India’s contribution should not be taken or misunderstood as ‘jingoism’ or ‘distorted nationalism’. There is always a case to be studied objectively. Rather than condemning the Indian view all the time, we should discuss how others got ideas from us, like how Pythagoras got the Buddhist concept,” he says.

SushrutaOn the role of the government, he says, “The government should create conditions so that India becomes the ‘principal contributor’ to science once again. For this, there should be a proper vision and encouragement. Science should have no monopoly for the rich or affluent. Rather, it should be used to work for the overall well-being of civilisation.”

He says, as Minister of Human Resources Development, he started the process. “I tried to discuss ancient Indian science, traditions, context and level of scientific theory. We should talk about these things.” Joshi also defends Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark that plastic surgery existed thousands of years ago. “When he said this, he basically highlighted the achievements of Indian science. Sushrut had done it 500-600 BC,” he says. – The Sunday Guardian, 18 January 2015 

The state of ancient Indian historical studies in modern India – J. K. Bajaj

Prof Dilip K. ChakrabartiThis is a summary of the talk by Dilip K. Chakrabarti given at Lala Diwan Chand Trust in Delhi on 27 November 2014 and sponsored by the Centre for Policy Studies and the Diwan Chand Institute of National Affairs. Dr. Chakrabarti is Emeritus professor of South Asian Archaeology, Cambridge University, and Dean, Historical and Civilizational Centre, Vivekananda International Foundation, Delhi.

A number of points regarding the present state of ancient Indian historical studies deserve consideration. Out of the few hundred universities and university-level institutions, only a few offer courses in ancient India. Even among this handful of institutions, the places where the subject is taught with some kind of competence and expertise are very few. Why is the study of ancient India in modern Indian educational system so limited and so poor? The answer is rather unpleasant: we Indians are not seriously interested professionally in our ancient past; there is no prestige in its study and at the end no job. More unpleasantly, there is also some hostility from the vested interest groups of historians of “modern India.” To give only two examples, Nalanda International UniversityProf. Gopa Sabharwal, in which the Ministry of External Affairs is directly involved, is known to have recently filled the posts in its “school of historical studies.” The selected professor/dean is an anthropologist with specialization in Rajasthani folk literature. The academic credibility of another professor recruited to this school seems to be his knowledge of the Korean language. He has done some translation work but his research credentials in history are not at all clear. A third person recruited on a junior level seems to have done primarily de-construction work so far; detailed empirical research does not seem to have played any major role in his research record. Although the other recruits have something to do with history, none of them has anything to do with ancient India. Secondly, Presidency College University in Kolkata does not have any ancient Indian historian among the people recently recruited for its Department of History. For the last 50 years at least historians of the West Bengal universities have shown profound contempt for ancient India. This has taken different forms, one of which is that the MAs in Ancient Indian History and Culture, and Archaeology are usually not recruited for history teaching in the undergraduate colleges of the state.

R.C. MajumdarThe third point is that ‘”Hindu-baiting” is also a feature of many of the current studies on ancient India. Upinder Singh, a Delhi university historian, criticizes R.C. Majumdar by saying that he equated ancient India to Hinduism. She forgets that Buddhism and Jainism, two other visible religions of ancient India, were offshoots of Hinduism and that historians like R.C. Dutt had no hesitation to equate ancient India to Hindu civilization. When it comes to the study of the religion of the Indus civilization, a good number of Indian and foreign scholars are rather disturbed by the mention of Hinduism in that context. Hindu-baiting is also manifest in the way the status of Hinduism as a religion has been denied by various scholars. Their idea is that if the census operators of British India had categorized people not as Hindus but as adherents of Siva, Vishnu and others, Hinduism would not have emerged as the majority religion of India.. It would have emerged as an agglomeration of different sectarian groups. Western scholars have consistently argued this ignoring the overarching principle of unity that one finds in the Upanishads and they have been joined by Indian scholars like Romila Thapar.

H.D. SankaliaThe fourth point is that there is very little sense of nationalism among the Indian ancient historians and archaeologists of the post-Independence generation. The situation has deteriorated so much that any claim of high antiquity for anything Indian is viewed with suspicion. It is this almost endemic attitude which prevented people from looking at Indian history in proper historical perspective. H.D. Sankalia’s influence on Indian archaeology has been enormous — he was a kind of archaeological guru in the Deccan College, Pune, but according to him the sun of civilization for India lay always in the West. This is a bizarre opinion, but it is this attitude which still persists in the institute where he spent many years.

Bankim Chandra ChattopadhyayThe fifth point is that most of the teachers and students of ancient India feel no affinity with the history and culture of the period because they do not have much clue to the language in which the ethos of the period manifested itself. There was a time when Sanskrit was more or less compulsory in Indian schools. As most of the Indian languages are rooted in different forms in Sanskrit, the sense of alienation between the past and the present was much less. A Bengali of my generation could fall in love with the Sanskrit-inspired passages of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, among others. Not many Bengalis of the modern generation can read them in original. I consider that a calamity for Bengali culture but we cannot do anything about it unless the study of Sanskrit is made mandatory in schools. – HPI, 1 December 2014

» This report prepared for Hindu Press International by Dr. J. K. Bajaj, Center for Policy Studies, Chennai.

Contending Paradigm of Indian History: Did India lack historical agency? – Shivaji Singh

Prof Shivaji SinghAum dhidhampchetinyaii  shabdabrahmaswayambhuve.
Bhagavatyaii saraswatayaii bhuyo bhuyo namoh namah.

As you all know, history is indeed very important. As a major portion of collective social memory and as a significant segment of effective social psyche, history acts as vehicle of culture and civilization from generation to generation. History of a people shapes and defines the people’s social identity. It invariably provides lessons to learn from past experiences, and acts as a source of morale in times of distress. This is why a continued presence of a positive historical consciousness is considered to be essential for any living and vibrant society.

Unfortunately, however, today in India, history is unable to play its expected useful role of keeping the people emotionally integrated and psychologically buoyant and proud of their heritage. Instead, it is fast turning to be perilous — a major source of division and discard, an unnecessary burden on memory, and an impediment to progress. This is because there have come into existence several versions of Indian history that contradict each other, creating great confusion. History is admittedly an established discipline, but the world of Indian historical discourse has become so chaotic today that it would be a travesty of terms to call it a discipline.

How did the history of India come to such a chaotic condition? And, is there any way out of this mess? These two questions are, I think, the most important ones, demanding immediate attention of all scholars who care for the discipline called history and believe in its usefulness to society. 

Let us have a broad look on the early history of history in India. 

Guru & ChelasThe antiquity and pre-modern stages of Indian historical tradition 

Ancient Indians had a sense of history and historical tradition that goes back to the Rigvedic times. The Rigveda evidences the presence of three literary genres of historical nature: royal and priestly eulogies, Gathas, and Narasamsis — all prevalent in those days, like the Riks, in oral form constituting a floating mass of literature. A verse of Rigveda (IX.10.3) clearly states that kings are graced (anjate) with eulogies (prasastibhih). Several Danastutis (hymns composed in praise of liberalities shown by kings to their priests) also tend to take the form of eulogies. Eulogies were composed for priestly families too. Rigveda VII.33 is an eulogy of the Vasisththas. Rigveda III.33, which is a dialogue between Visvamitra and rivers Vipas (Beas) and Sutudri (Sutlej), is rightly taken by some scholars to be an eulogistic anecdote of the Visvamitras. 

The term ‘Gatha’ in the Rigveda normally means ‘song’, but it gradually develops a more special sense in later portions of the text and stands for songs of historical or legendary content. The word ‘Narasamsa’, from which Narasamsi is derived, denotes according to Yaska ‘praise celebrating men’ (Yena narah prasasyante sa narasamso mantrah. Nirukta IX.9). The difference between Gathas and Narasamsis was that while a Gatha  could relate to human as well as non-human beings (as in Indra-gatha, Yajna-gatha, etc.), the Narasamsis pertained only to human beings. 

In the later Vedic age, three new forms of historical narratives also came into existence. They were: Akhyana, Itihasa and Purana. Akhyana literally means “the communication of a previous event.” Composed in the form of short historical episodes, Akhyanas had become quite popular in the later Vedic times. The Aitareya Brahmana (III.25.1) refers to Akhyana-vids (a class of literary men who had specialized in Akhyana literature). 

The word ‘Itihasa’ literally means “verily thus it happened.” It appears probably for the first time in the Atharvaveda (XV.6.4) but became very prevalent in the later Vedic period itself. It repeatedly occurs in several Brahmanas such as the Satapatha, Jaiminiya, Gopatha etc. Before the term Itihasa acquired a broader sense of all forms of historical narratives, including even law and administration, as in Kautilya’s Arthasashtra (1.5), it denoted only Puravrittam (history in the narrow sense of the term). This, as V. S. Pathak rightly points out, is implied by the Nirukta (X.26) and explicitly stated by the Brihaddevata (IV.46). That, a distinction was made between Itihasa and Akhyana, is also attested to by the Satapatha Brahmana (XI.1.6.9) wherein it is told that Daivasuram (the war between Devas and Asuras) is related partly as Akhyana and partly as Itihasa. 

The term ‘Purana’, according to its etymology as provided by the Vayu Purana, means “that which lives from ancient times” (yasmatpura hynanatidam Puranam, Vayu P. I.203). As a form of legendary lore, Puranas may have existed from pre-Vedic period, that is, from times of antiquity even prior to the composition of Rigvedic mantras. The Atharvaveda (XI.7.24) refers to Puranam along with Richah (mantras), Samani (chants), Yajusha (formulae) and Chhandansi (meters) indicating, thereby, that Purana was fully recognized as distinct literary category by its time. By the time of the Chhandogya Upanishad, Purana definitely denoted actual book or books (Chhanogya Up. VII.1.2). According to A. D. Pusalkar, a well-known scholar in the field of Epic and Puranic studies, “in the later Vedic age, Itihasa preponderated over Purana, but gradually the latter asserted itself. 

By the close of the Vedic period, we meet two additional genres of historical compositions. They are known as Vamsas and Akhyayikas. Literally meaning ‘lineages’, the Vamsas focus our attention on genealogies rather than on history as such. A further development of this species of literature is indicated by the distinction made between Vamsa and Vamsanucharita, the former relating to genealogy of gods and rishis and the latter pertaining to the sequence of dynasties. Both Vamsas and Vamsanucharitas were later assimilated in the Puranas. They were taken to constitute two of the five characteristic features (pancha-lakshanas) of an ideal Purana. Akhyayikas denoted shorter Akhyanas. Both Akhyayikas and Akhyanas were later liberally utilized to swell from time to time the body of the Mahabharata as also of the Ramayana, the two most well-known ancient Indian Itihasa works. 

The early medieval period witnessed a further flowering of Indian historical tradition. Several historical works such as Bana Bhatta’s Harsh Charita, Bilhana‘s Vikramankdeva-Charita, and Jayanaka’s Prithviraja-Vijaya, etc, were written in this period by historians mostly attached to royal courts. Persons of royal blood too, even if rarely, distinguished themselves as a historian. Somesvar III Bhulokamalla, the son and successor of Vikramaditya VI of the Chalukya dynasty of Kalyani, is an example. Known mainly for his famous work Manasollasa, he had also written a biography of his father entitled Vikramankabhyudaya. 

The Indian historical tradition, thus, continued to develop and proliferate unabated during several millennia from its beginnings in Rigvedic times down to the end of the medieval period. As a result, such a rich and huge mass of historical literature came into existence that one could not possibly adequately describe it without classifying it into some sort of categories. Attempts have been made to classify it according to its sources (like Vedic, Buddhist and Jain) or in accordance with its chronology and provenance. However, all such efforts present difficulties for Indian historical tradition in one-piece, a ‘whole’ that cannot be segmented into parts. Even A. K. Warder, who assumes that Indian historiography becomes increasingly regional during the medieval period, admits that “it (always) derives from the universal ancient pauranika history”. 

Why is Indian historical tradition so unique? Where is its wholeness derived from? Let us find out. 

Brahman - AtmaUniqueness and wholeness of the Indian historical tradition 

A characteristic feature of Indian tradition, that has played the central role in shaping its historical paradigm, is the acceptance of the existence of an ultimate reality or essence of which ‘Rita’, ‘Satya’, and ‘Dharma’ are respectively the mental perception, verbal expression and practical application. In Indian tradition, therefore, historical events and processes are judged in the light of their conformity with Rita, Satya and Dharma, the three modes of the Ultimate Reality. 

Let me explain this feature a bit more. The cornerstone of Indian traditional value-system is the concept called Rita. It is difficult to find a concept equivalent to it in any other language or society. Its renderings in English as ‘Eternal Order’ or ‘Cosmic Order’ are inadequate. The ancient Greek vocable ‘anagki’ and the ancient Chinese term ‘tao’ appear to resemble the word Rita in meaning, but they too fail to fully express its connotation. The concepts ‘Lex naturalis’ and ‘archetype’ of Western thought are comparable but not equivalent in conception to Rita. In fact, in time-span Rita is eternal, in its expanse it is cosmic, and by nature it is proper, true, divine, pious, religious, perfect, glorious and noble, all rolled into one. 

It is also worth noting that Rita, Satya and Dharma are not different entities. They are three modes of the same Reality. Commenting on Rigveda 10.190.1, Sayana clearly states that Rita is another name of Satya (ritamiti satyanam). Rita is the mental perception of the Reality (ritam manasam yatharthasankalpanam), and Satya is the verbal expression of that Reality (satyam vachikam yatharthabhashamnam). In the motto: Satyamevajayate nanritam (Mundaka Upanishad, 3.1.6), Anrita is placed in opposition to Satya which also confirms the identity of Rita and Satya. As Rita and Satya are identical, Satya and Dharma too are one and the same entity. “Verify, that which is Dharma is Satya” (yo vai sa Darmah Satyam Vai), confirms the Brihadaranyak Upanishad (1.4.14). When the Reality transforms itself from mental perception and verbal expression into practical application it is called Dharma. 

Events and process that constitute the subject matter of history consist basically of human activities performed through Mana (thinking), Vachana (speaking) and Karma (acting). According to Indian value-system, perceptions, statements and actions are right only to the extent they conform to Rita, Satya and Dharma respectively. Ultimate Reality or Essence in its three modes, thus is the standard by which all human actions and activities, that is to say, entire history is to be judged or evaluated. 

In this concern for Satya (truth), a mode of Rita and Dharma, that compels Kalhana, the author of the Rajatarangini, to unequivocally emphasize the importance of objectivity in historical interpretations. “That man of quality alone is praiseworthy”, says he, “who is above (the feelings of ) love and hatred and whose intellect remains steady while relating the meaning of (the facts of ) the past”. 

Slaghyah sa eva gunavana ragadveshabahishkritah,
Bhutarthakathane yasya stheyasyeva Sarasvati. (Rajatarangini, 1.7) 

Sarvepalli RadhakrishnanA ‘superb’ colonial myth: Ancient Indians lacked the sense of history 

The colonial era of Indian history was an era of historical myth-making. Innumerable myths were created and propagated to falsify history with a view to change Indian psyche and denationalize Indian identity. The Aryans constituted a race of people culturally backward and barbarous but physically vigorous and bellicose! They were the sole possessor of horse and horse-drawn chariots that provided them superior maneuverability in battles against their enemies! They invaded India, destroyed the Indus cities and drove away their occupants, the Dravidians, to South India! Indian people had always been ruled by despotic and tyrannical rulers! The Indian society was static; it remained substantially unchanged throughout its long span of existence until the arrival of the British! The root cause of India’s backwardness was its (Hindu) religion! India as a concept never existed till the British imperialists invented it! So on and so forth; the list of colonial myths is endless. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan succinctly puts it: “The west tried its best to persuade India that its philosophy is absurd, its art puerile, its poetry uninspired, its religion grotesque and its ethics barbarous”. 

Most of these myths have been exploded and the ones remaining are in the process of meeting the same fate, despite the efforts of the intellectuals who still uphold the colonial paradigm and try to redefine and reproduce the myths in a new jargon. However, the myth according to which ancient Indians had no sense of history may be said, in a sense, to be a ‘superb’ myth of a sort for it continues and it continues as a commonplace view! 

The origin of the myth is traced back to German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) and his Euro-centrism. Hegel is on record to have stated: “India not only has old books of religion and brilliant works of poetry but also old codes of law … and yet it has no history”. He indeed suffered from Euro-centrism, a bias shared by many scholars of the colonial era. Rajiv Malhotra has exhaustively quoted from his writings to demonstrate Hegel’s Euro-centrism. I would like to add that Hegel was still more parochial in his outlook for he takes the Mediterranean region, not Europe as a whole, to be the pivot of historical transformations. In fact, it was partly his peculiar metaphysic and his obsession with thesis-antithesis dialectic and largely his ignorance of ancient Indian literature that came in his way of recognizing the age-old Indian historical tradition. Be that as it may, his metaphysic and his dialectic are long since discredited. Years ago, Bertrand Russell had rightly observed: 

“I cannot see any justification, on the basis of his (Hegel’s) own metaphysic, for the view that world history repeats the transitions of the dialectic, yet that is the thesis which he developed in his Philosophy of History. It was an interesting thesis, giving unity and meaning to the revolutions of human affairs. Like other historical theories, it required, if it was to be made plausible, some distortions to facts and considerable ignorance. Hegel, like Marx, and Spengler after him, possessed both these qualifications. It is odd that a process which is represented as cosmic should all have taken place on our planet, and most of it near the Mediterranean. Nor is there any reason, if reality is timeless, why the latter part of the process should embody higher categories than their earlier parts – unless one were to adopt the blasphemous supposition that the universe was gradually learning Hegel’s philosophy.” 

Myths have their own life-time, their own duration of existence. And, when, as in the present case, a myth is created by an eminent philosopher like Hegel, whose influence by the end of the nineteenth century had made most of the intellectuals of America and England largely Hegelian, it has got to last long. But, the real reason for its longevity lies in British colonial interests in India that wanted to show that the Indians were backward, living in prehistory and so in dire need of foreign help to modernize and begin history. The rest of the story as to how the Colonial Power launched on a major project of creating ‘a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellects’ is too well-known to be repeated here. Writing years after independence, A. K. Warder notes: 

“The standard imperialist version of Indian history, worked out during the colonial period, is now most remarkably, taken for granted among modern Indian historians of almost all persuasions, not least among them the ‘Marxists’ (who is this respect remain Hegelians; S.A. Dange is an honourable exception), as well as among academic historians in all other countries, again regardless of political persuasions.” 

In fact, as it is said, one can recognize a cat only if he/she has a picture of a cat in mind, a mental model or an idea of the cat, so to say. The history taught in the colonial era infused in the minds of Indians the modern idea of history which is European in origin. This idea of history had sprouted in Graeco-Roman tradition and developed under the shadow of the 18th century European Enlightenment. It is very much different from the ancient Indian indigenous sense of history, know as Itihasa, that had originated and developed in ancient Indian philosophic cultural context. History, as we know, “develops in close juxtaposition and with constant interactions of associated scheme of ideas”. Since, the formations of the ancient Indian sense of history and the modern European idea of history had occurred in different cultural-intellectual environments, it was natural that they differed in their tone and tenor and more particularly in their ethos. As people all over the world, including India, have at present the modern idea of history in their minds, they fail to recognize ancient Indian historical tradition or recognize it only to the extent to which it anticipates the modern view. 

History of IndiaComparing the ancient Indian and modern ideas of history and their validity 

Despite the fact that the modern idea of history is now globally accepted and the indigenous Indian sense of history is rarely shared by historians even in India, it would be worthwhile, I believe, to compare the two concepts of history and judge their validity purely from an epistemological point of view. 

One significant difference between the two is that while ancient Indian indigenous history, called Itihasa, aimed at man’s self-fulfilment and self-realization, the history current today has either only vague objectives like furtherance of freedom, rationalism and individualism or a hidden agenda to support this or that political ideology. The other important difference is that while Itihasa interpreted historical change in terms of reasons, not causes, current history, under the impact of positivism and other modern concepts, emphasizes causality and value-neutrality.

Now, a point to ponder: Is the notion of casual explanation, in which explanation is based on antecedent causes and conditions, applicable to history? I doubt it. The central concept of history, it must be noted, is action, not behaviour. Behaviour is a quasi-physicalistic, physiological and infra-rational category. Action, on the other hand, is a purposive, goal-oriented activity or conduct. A human action may be reasonable or unreasonable, right or wrong, just or unjust and the like, but it can be interpreted only in terms of its reasons, not causes. Intentions, purposes and motives do not ’cause’ actions, for, firstly, they are not identifiable separately from them, and secondly, they are semantically related to them. 

And, what about the doctrine of value-neutrality, the other postulate involved in modern idea of history? The notion of value-fact dichotomy is totally wrong. Of course, there is a distinction between fact and value, between descriptive and prescriptive, between ‘is’ and ‘aught’, but it is a distinction without dichotomy. Facts and values are the two modes of the same reality. Facts qua facts do not exist. What appears to be a purely factual statement contains an implicit evaluation. A fact can only be understood in terms of a corresponding norm. 

Thus, we see that even from a purely epistemological point of view, the modern idea of history is inadequate. In traditional Indian history, on the other hand, value-fact dichotomy is not accepted. Historical events and processes are judged, as I have discussed above, on the basis of their conformity with Rita, Satya and Dharma, the three modes of the Ultimate Reality or Essence. 

Antonio GramsciConfusion in contemporary Indian historical discourse 

Indian historical discourse is in a state of chaotic confusion and disarray today. Several paradigms of Indian history are endlessly contending with each other for their justification and supremacy. As a result, we have several versions of Indian history current simultaneously. An impartial person willing to know something about India’s past is in a fix, unable to decide as to which one is a trustworthy version. In such a situation, the very utility of history for society is becoming doubtful. 

Until recently, books on historiography described only three paradigms of Indian history: Imperialist, Nationalist, and Marxist. Today we have at least as many more. The colonial era is long since over, but the imperialist paradigm is continuing, albeit it is now called ‘Western Elitist’. The Marxist paradigm is still alive despite the fall of Marxism. It is now more generally known as ‘Secular Marxist’. The Nationalist paradigm has tremendously refined its historical models making them more and more scientific. However, it has been mysteriously renamed as ‘Hindu Nationalist’! 

Among the new ones, the most well-know is the Subaltern paradigm. It emerged in 1980s inspired mostly by Eric Stokes‘ historical writings. It started with the basic assumption that history contains many more complexities and paradoxes than what the monolithic and dogmatic reconstructions of the past have revealed so far. It has apparently borrowed ideas and terminology from Italian philosopher and political theorist Antonio Gramsci (including the term ‘subaltern’ itself) but given them a new context and meaning. Although there is no umbilical cord connecting Subalternists and Marxists, who are in fact very much critical of each other, the elite versus subaltern theme is modeled more or less after the Marxist bourgeoisie versus proletariat. In my view, however, the subaltern paradigm of history in Indian context is a reflection of a larger ongoing literary movement fostering identity politics of the left-behind sections of the Indian society or what is termed as the marginalized social groups. In Hindi literature, it goes by such names as Dalita Vimarsha and Nari Vimarsha. 

The upholders of this postmodern historical paradigm analyse contemporary Indian historiography in two categories: neo-colonialist and neo-nationalist. They are critical of both the categories for they find that both share an elitist perspective that wrongly paints the significant role and contributions of the subaltern groups as a mere response to an elite inspiration, influence or guidance. Elitist historiography, according to them, “renders invisible the quotidian experience of ordinary people”. They, therefore, plead for extending the historical narrative in scope “not only to make room for the pasts of the so-called peoples without history but to address the historicality of everyday life as well.” However, had it been only a question of extending the scope of historical narrative, it would not have been a matter of concern. But, of late, Subalternists have started rejecting what they call “the imagined-into-reality framework of the Indian nation” and raising several other such alarming theoretical issues. 

Another paradigm newly emerging in Indian historical discourse is inspired by the ‘Annales School‘. Founded a century ago by French historians, this school has been quite influential in setting the agenda for historiography not only in France but in other countries as well, particularly in Italy, Poland and Venezuela. Although it has maintained its leftist leaning all along, its focus has been shifting from time to time. At one time it gave serious attention to the role of mentalities in history, linking them with changing social conditions, but now that has been almost given up. However, taking a long-term view of history, emphasizing social rather than political issues, a concern for marginalized peoples, wide range of interests and differing methods of approach may be said to be the hallmark of the Annales School. The Annales School’s approach to history has started influencing Indian historians. Harbans Mukhia of JNU, Delhi, who has edited (jointly with Maurice Aymard of Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris) two volumes on French studies in history, is, to my knowledge, perhaps the most vocal admirer of the Annales School. S. Settar‘s books Inviting Death (New York: Brill, 1988) and Pursuing Death (Dharwad: Institute of Art History, Karnatak University, 1990) too have an Annales’ imprint although not acknowledged openly. 

The ‘Deconstructionist‘, though not a paradigm in the technical sense of the term, is yet another postmodern and post-structuralist historical ‘consciousness’ that has added to the current complexity and confusion in Indian historical discourse. Its roots go back to a school of philosophy that originated in France in late 1960s mainly through the writings of its chief proponent Jacques Derrida. Derrida’s stand is based on two of his basic perceptions: one, dichotomous categories such as mind/body, sacred/profane, signifier/signified, etc., that are generally accepted and used by philosophers and other scholars in their expositions, are arbitrary; and the other, all such expositions contain implicit hierarchies that impose a sort of order on realty subordinating, partly hiding and even totally excluding from our view many of its aspects. His intellectual efforts were mostly aimed at exposing and challenging these dichotomies and hierarchies that come in our way of a proper understanding of reality. ‘Deconstruction’ is the designation Derrida gave to his efforts in this direction and to the procedure he adopted in making them. 

Although the deconstructionists coming after Derrida have sufficiently modified and refined the methods of deconstruction, the aim of its application in historical analysis remains the same. Looking in a broader perspective, it may be said that they have, in fact, brought into sharp focus the old problem of the extent of correspondence – or rather, isomorphism or one-to-one correspondence – between historical reality (history as it happened in some space-time context) and the written history (constructed or reconstructed by the historian). They do not deny the existence of historical reality, which nobody can do, but in tune with the spirit of the postmodern age, they challenge “the old modernist certainties of historical truth and methodological objectivity, as applied by disinterested historians”. They raise questions about the legitimacy of empiricism in constituting history as a separate epistemology (that is, a special form of knowledge) as also about the role and use of historian’s theoretical and explanatory frameworks in historical understanding. 

The confusion is worse confounded since all these different historical paradigms are current simultaneously. What David Harlan observes in reference to postmodern American historiography is equally, if not more, true in context of contemporary Indian historiography: “If we ask, ‘what is historical writing?’ the answer can only be ‘there is this kind of historical writing, and that kind, and then again that kind.” The greatest problem before a student of Indian history today is to cope with such a situation. Shall the concept of validity become altogether irrelevant to history? Is there any way out of this dilemma? I believe that there is one, and now I come to that. 

PsycheA basic knowledge of Indian psyche essential for understanding Indian history 

Long ago, in his famous book: The Idea of History, published posthumously in 1946, R. G. Collingwood (1889-1943) had stated that to know the past the historian must re-enact it in his own mind. He tried to explain his point by several examples. For instance, he said, suppose a historian has certain edict of an emperor before him. “Merely reading the words and being able to translate them”, said he, “does not amount to knowing their historical significance. In order to do that he must envisage the situation with which the emperor was trying to deal, and he must envisage it as that emperor envisaged it”. His statement, as expected, invited several objections. It was argued, for instance, that “an act of thought by becoming subjective ceases to be objective, and thus, by becoming present ceases to be past.” Collingwood continued to answer the objections throughout his life and although he could not satisfy the objectors, he succeeded in making out an important point: an action can be judged properly only in the light of the thoughts and intentions leading to it.

Can anybody judge history, which consists mostly of individual and social actions, without knowing the thoughts and intentions of the historical actor or actors concerned? The answer is unequivocal: one cannot. Despite differences in historical orientations and paradigms scholars in general are unanimous on this point. Thus, Alun Munslow, even though far from Collingwood in time, space and historical perceptions, echoes the same feeling. “The most basic function of the historian,” writes he, “is to understand, and explain in a written form, the connections between events and human intention or agency in the past.” It follows, then, that Indian history cannot be understood and explained without a basic knowledge of the specific structure or rather architecture of Indian psyche, the fountain of all sorts of intentions commonly shared by Indians. 

The two most important ‘building blocks’ of this architecture are Bharatiya Chitta and Mana, that have shaped the psyche of a common Indian, the fundamental source of all his thoughts, intentions and actions. Chitta and Mana are not one and the same in connotation, although both are generally rendered as psyche in English. They must not be confused with what the Annalistes designate as ‘mentality’ too. These are characteristically Indian concepts. For understanding them, we must begin with the Indian notion of ‘Antahakarana’ or inner consciousness, the human faculty that deals with almost all non-tangible matters. Antahakarana is said to have four constituent parts (together known as Antahakarana-Chatushtaya). They are Mana, Chitta, Buddhi and Ahankara related to each other in a hierarchical order. 

The most potent of the four is Ahankara (self-awareness), the sense of being, the consciousness that ‘I am’ or ‘I exist’ (in Sanskrit ‘asmi’ from which the term ‘asmita’ meaning identity is derived). Ordinarily a person perceives his self-consciousness in terms of his physical and social being, and identifies his self with his body (dehatma-buddhi). This is an instinctive human tendency present everywhere and in all ages. But, then, there is an ideal of self-awareness too, “which men accept, as distinct from their actual and habitual self-awareness”, and which is “generally derived from the cultural tradition to which they belong and varies accordingly.” In Indian tradition individual self is taken to be non-different from the Essence or Ultimate Reality. This Ultimate Reality is described by many names like Brahma, Isvara, Paramatma, etc., and worshiped as Godhead under various denominations. In essence it is ever-present (Sat), pure consciousness (Chit) and limitless bliss (Ananda). Being part of the Ultimate Reality, the individual self too shares all the three attributes. It is deathless, but bonded by the body and Ahankara, its consciousness is diluted and bliss jeopardized. The diluted consciousness is called Chitta as against pure consciousness which is Chit. 

Both Chit and Chitta are derived from a basic concept Chiti and all these terms go back to Rigvedic times. Although the concept is living in Indian tradition as attested to by the popularity of a large number of names like Chidambara, Chinmaya, Chidakasa, Sachchidananda, etc., very little work has been done on this significant cluster of concepts. To my knowledge, Deendayal Upadhyaya is the first thinker who has repeatedly drawn our attention to the concept of Chiti. Fortunately, now some institutions like the Research and Development Foundation for Integral Humanism and Deendayal Shodh Sansthan are making commendable efforts in properly explaining Chiti and related concepts.

Mana is also an old Rigvedic concept. While the function of Chitta is reflection, that of Mana is paying attention. Chitta is more powerful than Mana and if Mana finds something pleasurable or desirable Chitta often takes it over from Mana. However, the most important point to be noted is that a considerable part of Chitta and Mana, as also of Ahankara and Buddhi, is determined by the geo-cultural environment in which it develops, although since human being is a human being, different from other zoological beings, a portion of his Antahakarana-Chatushtaya ever remains universal as well. 

Indian history stands distorted badly because the so-called ‘motivated’ and ‘committed’ historians have been intentionally distorting it continuously since the colonial times to foster their political, religious or other ideological interests. This is beyond doubt and by now well-known. But what is not so well-realized is the fact that even those historians who cannot be categorized as ‘motivated’ or ‘committed’ have brought in considerable aberration in Indian history because being ignorant of Indian psyche they have failed to recognize connections between events and human intention or agency in pre-modern Indian history. 

RishiJudging Indian history from a wrong angle: A few illustrations 

The Aryans were a “non-urbanized people and semi-barbarous” who destroyed the non-Aryan Harappan Civilization and “the Rigveda is the epic of destruction of one of the great cultures of the ancient world”. This is the view adopted and expressed in the prestigious UNESCO publication entitled History of Mankind, Vol. 1. One may not wonder on the assertion of the Aryan Invasion Theory in this volume for it was published at a time when that theory was accepted as a Gospel truth. But it is certainly surprising to hear that the early Vedic people were ‘semi-barbarous’ people. Can anybody degrade a people as semi-barbarous who have the honour of bequeathing to posterity a literary composition like the Rigveda, considered to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, human achievement of its kind, and which contains high philosophical thoughts of several enlightened souls like Rishi Dirghatamas

The reason for this anomaly lies in application of a totally alien-to-Indian-psyche definition of ‘civilization’ in Indian history. This definition, still prevalent among historians and archaeologists, does not entitle non-urban peoples like the Vedic Aryas (who were erroneously supposed to be merely a village folk) to be called civilized. The definition is based on a materialist conception of history. It was initially suggested by Lewis H. Morgan in 1877 in his book: Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of  Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization. Frederick Engels adopted this definition in his famous essay: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, written in German which appeared in Zurich in 1884, wherefrom it was applied in the fields of archaeology and history by V. G. Childe. The definition is defective in several respects, but we need not elaborate the points here. Suffice it to say that a definition given from a particular view-point cannot hold good for others who do not accept that point of view. 

Many more examples can be cited in which outlandish concepts, totally unfit for Indian historical circumstances, have been unduly inserted in Indian historical discourse. But, instead of listing them I would like to draw your attention to another type of unwarranted imposition on Indian history pertaining not to concepts used in it but to its very structure. 

The structure of any historical narrative depends mainly on its periodization and a proper periodization must indicate the major turns and twists in the spirit of the people concerned, that is, the people whose history we are considering. But, as we know, the periodization of Indian history was done by James Mill on the basis of three major influxes of foreigners in India, be they invaders or traders/colonizers. He divided Indian history into three periods: the Hindu, the Muslim and the British beginning respectively with the (presumed) Aryan and successive Muslim and British arrivals. But Mill was a knowledgeable person, and he was aware that he was violating the basic principle of periodization by keeping in view the outsiders not the insiders. So he propagated the myth of Indian passivity. He asserted that the Indian past had been that of an unchanging, static society. Mill’s periodization still continues with cosmetic change as the ancient, the medieval and the modern. The structure of Indian history he conceived remains intact. 

But, consider, for instance, the situation of India in the 17th century. We find an unmistakable upsurgence in the rise of Ramdas and Shivaji in Maharashtra, the Gurus in the Panjab and the Rajputs in Rajasthan. The upsurgence continues through time and, despite political and economic domination by Britain, finds expression in the Great Uprising of 1857 and in thoughts and actions of Dayanand Sarasvati, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekanand, Tilak, Shri Arvind, and several other saints and savants. K. M. Munshi designates this period in Indian history as the ‘Age of Modern Renaissance’. There have been periods of great expansion and efflorescence in Indian history as well as times of distress when Indians have displayed commendable resistance. The monotonous periodization: ancient, medieval and modern fails to project the paradigmatic trajectory of Indian spirit. 

Finally a word about the ‘Idea of India’ that too has been distorted because of westernized thinking. The Idea of India and the understanding of Indian history are interconnected. If you want to know about India, you need to go through books on its history albeit a bit cautiously. But, if you want to write the history of India, you must be conversant with the personality of India before hand. Several scholars do not appear to be sensitive to this interconnection and take the issue of the ‘Idea of India’ lightly. 

Thus, in his H. D. Sankalia Memorial Lecture entitled ‘The idea of India and its heritage: The millennium challenges’ (delivered in 2000), D. P. Agrawal remarks: “Nations are essentially spatio-temporal concepts, which change with time and geography. So let us not get bogged down into such mires but address the more substantive and challenging issues”. Agrawal is a senior scholar and an old friend of mine whose scholarship I highly admire despite differences of opinion on historical issues. However, I fail to see why Agrawal taking the ‘Idea of India’ as a millennium challenge finally whisks it away as a less-substantive or less-challenging issue. India is not just a spatio-temporal entity that has been changing with time and geography. India has a personality of its own, and the millennium challenge is to define that personality. 

In his lecture, Agrawal quotes the famous words from Nehru’s Discovery of India that depict India as “an ancient palimpsest on which layer upon layer of thought and reverie had been inscribed, and yet no succeeding layer had completely hidden or erased what had been written previously”. It is true that Nehru emphasized the miscegenation and accretion of cultures in India; and that was true for most of the early epochs of Indian culture. Living at a time when the Aryan Invasion Theory was accepted as an article of faith, Nehru could not think of an original indigenous culture of India. He could not see that the ancient palimpsest he was talking about had, in fact, an original inscription engraved on it so deeply that layer upon layer of subsequent engravings could neither hide nor erase it. 

Nevertheless, despite all British impact on his education and personality, Nehru had occasional glimpse of ‘Indianness’. In his Foreword to Filliozat‘s India (1962), he writes: “There is an Indianness which distinguishes every part of India. … That Indianness is something unique and deeper than the external differences.” Nehru felt this Indianness emotionally and intuitively but he could not locate its primary source (Utsa). 

In fact, Bharatiyata or Indianness cannot be defined in geographical and political terms. It can be defined only culturally as a set of values based on intuitive recognition of transcendental spirituality. Spirituality, it may be noted, is a category of perception higher than religion or even morality. Bharatiyata or Indianness is distinguished by a spiritual vision of life, which the Vedic Rishis have bequeathed to humanity. – GFCHINDIA, 2014

» Prof Shivaji Singh is the former Head of the Department of Ancient History, Archaeology and Culture, University of Gorakhpur. He is presently the National President of the Akhial Bhaarateeya Itihaasa Sakalana Yojanaa.

Denial is not a cure for historical abuse, truth is – Amish Tripathi

Amish Tripathi“Examine honestly the troubling episodes of our history; accept the truth and learn from it. Forgive, but do not forget. This truth will kill the poison that is coursing through a few extremists in India. Denial is not a cure for historical abuse. Truth is.” – Amish Tripathi

Victoria & African ChiefOne of the greatest gifts that children can receive from their parents is an emotionally stable childhood. Materialistic trappings cannot compensate for the bliss of growing up in a well-adjusted, happy family; one where the child is not exposed to domestic violence, warring parents, physical or emotional abuse. Sadly, both research and anecdotal evidence indicate that many children are deprived of this blessing and grow up in dysfunctional families. They develop coping skills to handle traumatic experiences: Sometimes denial (convincing their conscious mind that no abuse happened) and at other times unfocused anger (allowing inner rage to poison their mind to the extent that they become hateful, even towards those unrelated to the abuse). One doesn’t need to be a psychologist to know that both approaches are unhealthy. 

As it is with children, so it is with countries. Few countries can rightfully claim that they have no ‘history’ to contend with. But it is easier to gaze charitably at the past with quiet confidence when the country is successful. During my recent travels across the United States on a fellowship programme, it was apparent that the Anglo-Saxon American mind was unscathed by the oppression of British colonial rule (the African-American mind is another matter). My journey through the Arab world, however, told a different tale. They still cringe at the memory of the persecution and oppression they had suffered for centuries through Mongol, Turkish and later European conquests. The present-day outbursts of ‘unfocused anger’ in the Arab world could well be strongly associated with this historical abuse — besides other issues, I admit. 

The psychological strategy of ‘denial’ however — where the victim convinces himself that no (or minimal) abuse happened — finds almost matchless expression in India. 

Winston ChurchillOne example of this is the attitude of many Indians towards the British Raj. 

Many believe that, while there may have been some injustices meted out during the British Raj, overall, colonial rule was beneficial. Some even claim that the British created India, as, apparently, we weren’t a nation before their arrival. If one draws up a list of the excesses of the British Raj, the worst, we are told, was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where over 1,000 Indians were killed in cold blood. But is this the worst that they did? Not by a long shot. In the early 1940s, Winston Churchill consciously ordered a scorched earth policy in eastern India to halt the advancing Japanese army, which led to the death of 1.5 to 4 million Indians. That’s nearly as many as the number of Jews that Hitler ordered to their deaths. Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis gives troubling accounts of the vast numbers — in the millions — killed by British policies. A little-known fact in India is that the edifice of the British Raj (and the white man’s ‘civilising mission’) was built on the biggest drug-running racket in the history of humanity. The British forced Indian farmers to grow opium, which was then smuggled into China. The Chinese economy — not to mention the lives of millions of Chinese — was destroyed through this trade. At the same time, millions of Indians died as food crops were forcibly replaced with opium (besides other crops for British trade), leading to recurring food shortages and famines. 

These events have been carefully airbrushed from Indian history books. Why? Some will say that those who have dominated the Indian imagination for most of its independent history — the Indian anglicised elite — have obscured these facts due to loyalty to the country of their cultural ancestors: Great Britain. But I think that would be too grave a charge. I have interacted with many members of the anglicised elite. I admit that most of us would find it difficult to understand their strangely eccentric culture, but they are not Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Baburtraitors. They do love India in their own peculiar way; but many of them believe that Indians cannot handle the truth and ‘social peace’ can only be maintained by ‘airbrushing’ history to remove the ugly portions. Besides the British era, this also includes other painful historical episodes, like the brutal Turkic invasions of India in the medieval period, rated as one of history’s bloodiest conquests (read Tarikh-i-Ferishta to know more). 

But denial leads to the repressed truth finding expression in ugly forms, resulting in hatred and anger, as we see in some parts of India today. It’s healthier to accept the truth and learn to handle it. Forgive, but do not forget. We should have detailed sections in our history books on the famines caused by British policies; and also on the massive British drug-smuggling business. We should honestly teach Indian students the truth about the horrific brutality of medieval Turkic invaders. 

But we must also teach that history should not extend itself into the present and colour our evaluations of a people today. For example, we don’t need to settle scores with today’s British for the actions of their ancestors. And furthermore, if Indian Christians are not blamed for British excesses just because the British happened to be Christians, why should Indian Muslims be blamed for the vicious Turkic/Mongol/Persian conquests, just because these foreigners happened to be Muslims? We were slaves under foreign rule for 800 years. Let’s not blame our fellow Indians for the crimes of those barbaric foreigners. 

Many civilisations have at some point of time been victims, and at other times, oppressors. Present conduct rather than past ills should determine the way a people are judged today. 

IndiaMy suggestion: Examine honestly the troubling episodes of our history; accept the truth and learn from it. Forgive, but do not forget. This truth will kill the poison that is coursing through a few extremists in India. 

Denial is not a cure for historical abuse. Truth is. Satyamev Jayate. – Hindustan Times, 21 November 2014

» Amish Tripathi is a banker who has become the best-selling author of the Shiva Trilogy. He is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy.

David Frawley: US historian insists ‘Aryans were indigenous to India’ – Heena Kausar

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri ) during Lecture of  ‘Aryan Theory in The Light of Textual Evidences’, Department of Sanskrit at North Campus in Delhi University in New Delhi on Monday 24/11/2014

Delhi University Arts Faculty

“There is no literary evidence of an Aryan invasion or migration. So called textual references to Aryan invasion or migration require changing meaning of words and taking them out of context.” – Dr David Frawley

Throwing his weight behind the ‘Aryan Project’ by Delhi University’s Sanskrit department, noted American scholar David Frawley said there is a need for an extensive new Vedic study, and insisted that Aryans were indigenous to India. 

“There is a need for extensive new Vedic study and research in India, including considering the mantric and yogic dimensions of Vedic knowledge,” Frawley said on Monday while giving a presentation of his findings on ‘Aryan Theory in The Light of Textual Evidences’. 

Vedic literary evidence — the largest, best preserved and most complete from the early ancient world — reflects a compilation over a long period of time by several kingdoms and dynasties, he said. 

“Such a vast literature cannot exist without a civilization to produce and sustain it over the centuries.” 

“No literary evidence of Aryan invasion or migration. So called textual references to Aryan invasion/migration require changing meaning of words and taking them out of context.” 

“For example, Arya was a term of respect and not about ethnicity. Dark skinned Dasyus are only forces of Avidya or darkness, not a racial metaphor,” Frawley added. 

The western born teacher in the Vedic tradition is popular for his books in which he has rejected the ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’

The Sanskrit department, which has started the project to prove that Aryans were indigenous to the country, will hold at least seven lectures. 

AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory)It also plans to invite national and international scholars to speak on the issue. 

The ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’ is a hotly contested one in the academic world. Noted historians like Romila Thapar and D. N. Jha support the theory, while right-wing historians claim that Aryans were indigenous to the country

“This debate has been there for long but we never had the Sanskrit department doing anything about it. Where were they all these years? Why all of a sudden they have come out. This shows they have a backing now. No historian takes Frawley seriously. His right-wing credentials are well-known,” Jha remarked. – Daily Mail, 25 November 2014


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