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

Allow international human rights observers, media to access Kashmir: US lawmakers

Counterview Desk
In a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two members of the American Congress, Pramila Jayapal and James McGovern, raising "significant concerns" about what they call "humanitarian and human rights crisis in Jammu & Kashmir”, quoting "credible reports" from journalists and advocates on the ground" have said that "the Indian government has detained thousands of people with no recourse, imposed de facto curfews on residents' and cut off internet and telephone access in the region.”

TN woman's No Caste, No Religion struggle 'follows' ideals of Marx, Ambedkar, Periyar

By Sheshu Babu*
In these days of rising communal tensions, a courageous woman from Tamil Nadu achieved her dream of obtaining 'No Caste, No Religion' certificate through persistent struggle. This is quite a significant achievement. It comes alongside some colleges in West Bengal introducing 'humanity', 'agnostic' , 'secular' or 'non-religious' in the application forms for online submission for students who are unwilling to disclose their faith.

Rescind Gates Foundation award to Modi, demand three Nobel Peace laureates

Counterview Desk
In a major boost to those opposing the award to the Gates Foundation’s proposed to be awarded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Mairead Maguire (1976), Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Karman (2011) and Shirin Ebadi (2003), have in an open letter called upon Milinda and Bill Gates to withdraw their decision, stating Modi is allegedly involved in human rights violations.

US Kashmiri diaspora body: World leaders, UN 'not acting', India enjoys total impunity

Counterview Desk
Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly session, to begin on September 17 in New York, Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary-general of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, a non-profit organization based in Ohio, US, claiming to focus on providing information on Kashmir, has regretted that despite "violent" behaviour of Indian authorities in Kashmir, they enjoy "total impunity" across the world.

Modi used to 'run errands' during Emergency, his role was that much: Top JP associate

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp exposure, well-known Gujarati critic, journalist and activist Prakash N Shah, who had been among the main contact persons of Jay Prakash Narayan (JP) in Gujarat, has recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “merely running errands” during the Emergency (1975-77) period, adding the PM’s stature has been “sought to be unnecessarily inflated”, though adding, he is not saying this to “belittle him.”

Jharkhand riverine terminal: 485 families 'displaced', lose land, livelihood in Sahibgunj

Counterview Desk
Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposes to inaugurate on Thursday India’s second riverine Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) at Sahibganj in Jharkhand, built at a cost of Rs 290 crore reportedly in a record time of about two years, several civil rights organizations* have said that the government has failed to address the high-profile terminal’s social and environmental concerns.

Now clampdown on rally, arrest of pro-freedom activists in Pak-occupied Kashmir

Counterview Desk
In a fresh evidence, international human rights organizations are not just confining their attention on the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), whose special status was taken away by the Government of India in early August, leading to an unprecedented clampdown on the region. They have simultaneously begun focusing on the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), where the situation is said to be worsening.
Thus, the International Human Rights Council ((IHRC) Hong Kong (HK), a top human rights organisation, said to be working towards to the promotion peace, equality, fundamental rights and social justice “as enunciated in the UN Human Rights Charter and other instruments of human rights”, has noted now a new wave of independence movement has struck PoK.  With offices in US, UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong, and having Kirity Roy and Lenin Raghuvanshi as IHRC office bearers from India, in a statement, it has claimed that on September 7 one of the biggest pro-Independenc…

Govt of India 'moves' to hold Assam-type foreigners' tribunals across India, warns report

Counterview Desk
A People’s Tribunal on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has warned in its interim jury report that two recent notifications of the Government of India may lay down the groundwork for triggering an NRC process in different parts of the country, pointing towards recent moves towards this.

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk
“Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

New sample suggests high pollution off Vadodara effluent channel, 'requires' action

Counterview Desk 
Gujarat’s top environmental group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has sharply criticized the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s (GPCB’s) “on-serious, casual letter” dated September 5, which allegedly suggests that the top state state agency does not favour taking any action Central Gujarat’s effluent treatment plant, Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd (VECL).