Skip to main content

India's written history focused on Manu’s Aryavarta: Historians Thapar, Habib blamed

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

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.