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

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

It's now official: Developed Gujarat's regular, casual workers earn less than 19 top states

By Rajiv Shah
Though not as low as state chief minister Vijay Rupani claims it to be (0.9%), Gujarat’s unemployment rate, at least as reflected in a recent report released by the Government of India, is 4.8%, lower than the national average, 6%. Yet, ironically, the same report, released soon after the Lok Sabha polls came to an end in May 2019, brings to light an even grimmer reality: Lower wages in "model" and "developed" Gujarat compared to virtually the whole of India, including the so-called Bimaru states.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Amaravati: World Bank refusing to share public grievances on Land Pooling Scheme

By Our Representative
A new report, prepared by the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), New Delhi, has taken strong exception to the World Bank refusing to share its independent assessment of the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), floated by the Andhra Pradesh government in order to build the new capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

Polygamy in India "down" in 45 yrs: Muslims' from 5.7 to 2.55%, Hindus' 5.8 to 1.77%, "common" in SCs, STs

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) justifying polygamy, saying it “meets social and moral needs and the provision for it stems from concern and sympathy for women”, facts suggest the the practice is down from 5.7 per cent of Muslim families in 1961 to 2.55 per cent in 2006.