Skip to main content

India's written history is focused on Manu’s Aryavarta: Scholar blames historians Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib

Bidar Fort, Karnataka
By Our Representative
A well-known commentator on current affairs is all set to create a ripple among India's policy makers as well as top scholars by pointing out that Indian history, as is being taught in our schools today, as also written in books, is "the history of the vanquished", and is "mostly a chronological scroll down of events in the Indo-Gangetic plain", treating south of Vindhyas with utter neglect.
"The textbooks start with the Indus Valley civilization and after that remain largely focused on the consecutive onslaughts and occupations of India from the northwest. Like the Aryans, Greeks, Bactrians, Huns, Afghans, Persians, Arabs, Uzbeks, Mongols and Turks, not necessarily in that order, all of whom entered through its northwest and stayed to leave their respective imprimaturs on India", Mohan Guruswamy says in a recent Facebook post.
"The other part of the story covers the European era and India’s freedom struggle, which is mainly the story of the Indian National Congress. These invasions, subjugations, prolonged residence and assimilation broadly constitute the history of India, whoever it is written by and for, that is imparted to us", says Guruswamy, who heads the Centre for Policy Alternatives, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and author of several books.
Taking on not just right-wing historians but also those who have been branded as Left-liberal, Guruswamy says, "Whatever be the version of history that emerges, Murli Manohar Joshi’s or that of Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and others, what will still remain is a history focused on the people of the Indo-Gangetic plain."
Pointing out that, that is his "real grouse", the commentator says, "Take for instance the two volumes of 'The History of India' by Percival Spear and Romila Thapar. Of the twenty-four chapters twenty-one are about the peoples who either lived in or kept conquering the Indo-Gangetic plain."
Noting that "South Indian history that is fairly distinct and certainly more glorious than the tale of defeat after defeat in northern India gets only three chapters" in the books of these "Left-liberal" historians, he continues, "And mind you the Deccan region now accounts for almost forty percent of India’s population."
Mohan Guruswamy
Guruswamy continues, "Little is told about regions like Orissa and Bengal, while Assam hardly figures", adding, "If Spear and Thapar are reticent about acknowledging the role of other regions in shaping modern India, AL Basham and SAA Rizvi in their two volume effort 'The Wonder That Was India' have even less time and space for other regions and their contribution to the composite culture and the multi-dimensional character of the Indian nation."
Thus, he complains, "Rizvi’s volume covering the period 1200-1500 AD is so single-minded that it is entirely devoted to the 'Muslim' rule over parts of India," even as commenting, "Quite clearly if Indian society has to be inclusive, all its various peoples must share a common perspective of the past. This is not so at present, and hence, to my mind at least, the history textbooks need to be rewritten."
Believes Guruswamy, "The written history of India is quite ethnocentric and focused mainly on Manu’s Aryavarta, which by the ancient lawgivers own description did not extend south of the Vindhyas. Beyond the pale of Aryavarta was the land of the non-people and the legends of the Indo-Gangetic plains fully reflect these primitive attitudes."
Guruswamy says, "This northern bias manifests itself in several ways, sometimes with great economic consequences", starting how "the tourism industry in India is mostly about Delhi, Agra and Jaipur", regretting, while "the stupendous beauty of the Taj Mahal is a great magnet that draws tourists into India ... the profligacy’s of the Mughals and the collaborationist kingdoms of Rajasthan cannot be India’s only attractions without the almost exclusive promotion of these by the government and the tourism trade."
He underlines, "So much so that the past that can still been seen in places of great historical importance like Badami, Vijayanagar, Belur and Halebid in Karnataka, Warangal in Andhra Pradesh and Kanchipuram, Madurai and Tanjore in Tamil Nadu do not have half decent facilities to encourage tourism."
"Even Bijapur with its great Gol Gumbaz and gigantic mosque does not have a half decent hotel or any worthwhile facilities for tourists", says Guruswamy, adding, "If the battles of Panipat are important in the history of northern India, the battle of Talikota determined the final fate of the great Vijayanagar kingdom with the defeat of its powerful army by the forces of the Muslim confederacy."
He notes, "There is not even a marker at Talikota suggesting a battlefield consecrated with so much blood and so much valor. The great Mughal army commanded by Raja Jaisingh was decisively defeated in a great naval battle on the vast Bramhaputra at Saraighat by the Asom forces of Lachit Barphukan. Let alone a marker at Saraighat, even Lachit Barphukan does not figure in our written history."
"So by all means rewrite our history", says Guruswamy, but underscores, "That task is long overdue. But the question is whether we will get it right and keep the RSS mumbo-jumbo out of it? It is doubtful. Till then written Indian history will remain just what it is, the history of the vanquished."

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
Mr. Guruswamy is right--this blog has really woken me up to the realisation that we have been ignoring half our country's history. What a sorry state of affairs

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

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.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.