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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

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.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.