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

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Critics of your government should not be in jail: PUCL shoots open letter to Modi

Counterview Desk In an open letter, Ravikiran Jain, national president, and Dr V Suresh, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) have taken strong exception to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s view that raising human rights issues can ‘tarnish’ the country’s reputation, stating, those who raise human rights concerns do it “through established United Nations mechanisms such as the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights.”

Dalits 'celebrate' Constitutional Power Era in 12,500 villages of 16 districts on Nov 26

By Pradip More*  It is a fact that the majority of the people do not have much knowledge about the law, and especially the Constitution. Yet, today's younger generation is becoming increasingly aware of its rights. One wished it would have been good if it was taught about the Constitution well in the schools.

When judges behave more like priests, delivering sermons from high podium...

By Ajit Singh*  The theory of separation of power found its origins in ancient Greece but with the passage of time it became widespread in other parts of Europe. Early proponent of the theory Greek philosopher Aristotle in “Politics” argued that implementation of constitution in letter and spirit can only be possible if the three elements among whom the power has been distributed are well arranged.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'We are scared to even raise our voice': Delhi sewer workers tell roundtable

By Our Representative  A roundtable attended by more than 100 sewer workers in Delhi, saw sharp voices against the contract system, poor wages and lack of any social benefits. Organised by the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM), which has refused to reveal the identity of the sewer workers who spoke on the occasion for fear of retaliation from the authorities, saw workers complain that have been working for more than 10 years, hoping that someday they would be made permanent.

Govt of India's 'narrative' of hate, 'clarion call' for onslaught on civil society: Ex-babus

Counterview Desk  Addressing “fellow citizens”, the Constitution Conduct Group (CCG), having former prominent civil servants as it members, has said that recent assertions by National Human Rights Commission National Human Rights Commission Justice (retd) Arun Mishra, the Prime Minister and General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff, portent a deliberate and disturbing strategy to “deny civil society the space and wherewithal for its operation.”

Muck being thrown in Uttarakhand rivers: Villagers face 'existential' crisis

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  The Uttarakhand government must act fast to clear the path of Dhauli Ganga river about two kilometres ahead of village Neeti and about one kilometre from Ghamsali village, which is about 90 kilometer from Joshi Math town in district Chamoli. The creation of an artificial lake due to throwing of muck and mud can create a catastrophic situation like what happened on February 7, 2021-- the Rishi Ganga-Dhauli Ganga tragedy at Tapovan and Raini village in which over 200 people lost their life.

How Indore turned into water minus city after authorities 'managed' Water Plus title

Water harvester cleaning up hyacinth from an Indore river By Rahul Banerjee*  Recently, the city of Indore was declared the first Water Plus city in India under the Swachh Sarvekshan programme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for its ostensibly exemplary waste water management. However, the reality is quite different as a detailed study of the prevailing wastewater management situation in the city shows.

UP govt 'ignoring' demand to fill up teachers' posts despite unemployment: Rights groups

Sandeep Pandey with Shikha Pal Counterview Desk  Commenting on the unique protest undertaken by Shikha Pal atop an overhead water tank for nearly four months, the Socialist Party (India), in association with several civil rights group, Yuva Shakti Sangathan, Socialist Yuvjan Sabha and Rihai Manch, have wondered why has the Yogi Adityanath government is so “insensitive” towards her demands and is looking the “other way.”