Skip to main content

India's rulers making desparate attempt to "date" Mahabharata, Ramayana: Romila Thapar

Counterview Desk
Well-known historian Romila Thapar has said that the function of a public intellectual is to make knowledge accessible and protect it from distortion, “hence it is essential that knowledge advances through questioning”. Talking with human rights activist Teesta Setalvad in an interview, Thapar has added, “The need of the hour explore the real history of science in order to explore real achievements from early India.”
Speaking out against “irrational claims” of scientific learning, as reflected by Sangh Parivar “intellectuals”, Thapar said, there is a need to understand “how true knowledge in all fields emerged from deep observation and evolved with rigorous scientific testing.”
Thapar is emeritus professor of history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and has been honoured with D Litt at the University of Oxford and the University of Chicago. Twice, in 1992 and 2005, she has refused the Padmabhushan.
Winner of the 2008 prestigious Kluge Prize for the study of humanity, an honour reserved for disciplines like history, which is not covered by the Nobel Prize, she is the author of path-breaking approaches to history, from Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas to forging contemporary identities through history.
“Navigating the world of history through a multi-dimensional and incisive lens, Thapar spoke on the criticality of independence and courage in the public intellectual, especially today, given the authoritarian tendencies of the regime in power in New Delhi”, Setalvad said.
Thapar told Setalvad, “Our early Indian traditions were questioning and skeptical, always testing knowledge through the prism of rationality. Today there is a need to face political challenges dictated by the current regime in Delhi. It is essential that we proudly claim this tradition and not succumb to predominant irrational discourse.”
The top historian said, “The desperate need of the current dispensation to date our great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, when historians of repute have spent the past 80-100 years testing them, stems from a political motivation to claim Indian history, religion and tradition to a single, politically dominant discourse.”
Thapar explained the “Ramayana composed by Valmiki is one version of the epic, the Buddhist Jataka (Dashrath Jatak) has another version of the same tale, and there is also a Jain version. These are all different versions of the Ram Katha that offer fascinating insights into the early Indian period of history.”
In the interview, running into 12 parts, Thapar dwelled on how colonial historiography contributed to the seminal discourse and the motivations (political, economic and social) behind the desecration of religious monuments in world history.
“It is critical for an understanding of how history should be approached and offers fascinating incites on early travelers into the Indian sub-continent, be it the Greeks, the Chinese or Al Beruni”, she said, even as delving into two parallel streams represented by the ‘Brahmans’ and the ‘Shramans’. She also talked of Asoka’s Dhamma and the Kalinga War, the great monarch and his relationship with the people, and the true historiography behind the narrative of the Somnatha temple and its destruction.
---
Watch the interview at http://www.sabrang.com/cc/ccinterviews/RomilaThapar.htm

Comments

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".

Ex-IAS, IPS, IFS officers tell Modi: Pragya Thakur doesn't represent India's rich heritage

Counterview Desk
In an open statement, a group of former civil servants have said that normally they would have dismissed the candidature of Pragya Thakur, who is BJP’s choice for the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, as an act of political expediency. However, they were forced to react to her candidature after none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed has as a “symbol of our civilisational heritage.”

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.

India sans Modi preferable, Congress worthier recipient of Indians’ votes: The Economist

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded and crucial commentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the electoral political battle is on, influential British weekly “The Economist”, has declared that “Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election, would be better off with a different leader”, even as pointing out that that under Modi, “India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy.”