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