Intro: British interpretations of Indian history served to denigrate the Indian character and achievements, and justify colonial rule. Now the time has come to talk of ‘Indianisation’ of Indian history and build a nation to proclaim her pride across globe.
There has been a talk in the past few months about the necessity of revisiting our history text books. History is a subject which is normally not a hot subject for the student community. Ours is a generation where importance is sought to be given to professional courses like law, medicine, engineering and management. History is looked down upon by the intelligentsia and it is remembered only when there are news headings like ‘secularisation’ or ‘saffronisation’ of education. The intellectual community interprets the education according to its own leanings and clinging. Is there a necessity to revisit our history books at all? When the subject ‘history’ itself is held in low esteem, why is this hysteria when revisiting the history in the course curriculum is sought to be discussed? There lies the crux of the problem. George Santayana, a great philosopher of USA, has rightly stated, “A nation which does not know history is condemned to repeat it”.
The historical pride of the nation enlivens in the culture, the philosophical leanings and the civilisation of the nation. A nation with no pride of its own can boast of nothing to represent in the global spectrum. The history beckons a spirit of resolution and there by inspiration to the community of its people. It is the light-house that guides the drifting sailors to anchor to a right destination. If we say India has been a traditional nation of tolerance, it signifies amalgamation and assimilation of different cultures and philosophical streams without broadly altering the historical acceptance of the dictum of ‘vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ which the nation as a whole jealously protects. In the same vein, if we say that India is a dharmic country, it signifies that the country bestows more importance to ethics and ethical dealings since ‘dharma’ advocates pursuing all other material aspects in tune with righteousness. If a nation is to be concurred, it is essential to uproot its culture, its history and its philosophical leanings. The centuries that have gone by, especially till 19th century, believed in concurring a nation with physical might. The current century is a century that believes in soft power. Soft power believes in undermining the intellectual thought process by subverting and undermining the historical pride of the nation. Long back, George Orwell had told that ‘the most effective way to destroy people is to deny their understanding of their own history’. Here the weapon is cultural domination in the forms of music, dance, life style, habits, food habits, likings and dislikings. We already witness a generation of youth who dislike whatever is Indian and like whatever is from the West. In the absence of knowledge of India’s history, we have become pessimistic about India and we have forgotten our national pride.
The youth is not to be blamed entirely for this pathetic situation. There has been a soft force which has wreaked havoc over the last two centuries. When the English invaded India, they initially invaded to plunder our riches and it is historically acknowledged by the scholastic community. Cambridge History of Economics records that by 1700 AD, India had an enviable GDP of 25 per cent of the world’s GDP, while the contribution of the North America and Europe constituted just 20 per cent of the world’s GDP. In a span of 100 years spanning from 1700 AD to 1800 AD, India’s contribution to the world’s GDP declined from 25 per cent to 2 per cent, while contribution of the West increased from 20 per cent to 80 per cent. In the course of colonisation, the Britishers also studied our literature, our scriptures, our philosophy and our history. As a victorious nation, it is but natural that it could not digest the richness of our culture; and the scholastic community, while praising the richness of cultural heritage, tried to undermine its greatness in order to fit in to the ‘benevolent superior race bestowing modern ideas to inferior race’ concept. The theory of Aryan invasion, Aryan-Dravidian divide etc are a few examples. The grand narrative of India that is the totality of the ideas for which it stood for took the back seat and the accidental accretions in the form of rituals got projected to degrade the race. The books on History of India were originally written systematically by western scholars like Vincent Smith, Max Muller and the like. British interpretations of Indian history served to denigrate the Indian character and achievements, and justify colonial rule. The lack of strong sense of chronology on the part of Indians and the narrative nature of historical books like Raja Tarangini, Harsha Charitra, Pratap Rudriyam etc enabled the Britishers to take advantage of the vacuum to create and enliven their own view of history. The generalisations made by colonialist historians were by and large either false or grossly exaggerated, but served as good propaganda material for the perpetuation of the despotic British rule. Unfortunately the same trend continued to dominate in the post Independent India with certain school of historians who never appreciated the national pride writing history books. The cumulative result what we experience today is—a nation with no national pride, a nation ready to hear its greatness from the western mouth. This situation could have been averted had there been a strong leadership capable enough to unearth historical facts for presenting to the modern youth. In all advanced countries of the west, there is no iota of objection if scriptural studies are part of the school curriculum. But in the name of secularism we have excluded our youth from the rich legacy of our literature and scriptures. India which believes in universal manhood is sought to be criticised by western leaders as a land of intolerance. Strangely, we find a lobby of scholars and politicians ready to support the views. The basic reason for this pathetic situation is two-fold—negligence in reading our own literature and negligence in understanding the hidden agenda and the real politic of the west. The westerners want to destroy the legacy for soft domination as their core strategy. They want their dominance without shooting a single bullet but by undermining the cultural and intellectual base. A weak nation can be a strong prey in the long run. A nation with nothing to boast of on intellectual and philosophical front is an extension of the Super Power. A name by India but fame with foreign leaning is what is expected and encouraged. The situation could be obviated if Indian scholars read the basic tenants of western idealism and philosophy to intellectually challenge those nations. We have a tradition of logically arguing with the concept of ‘purva paksha’. Unfortunately, we are withdrawing from this method slowly and steadily, the way for cultural dominance. Sometimes the historical necessities emphasise arguing with offence. We need to look in to cultural genocides perpetrated by the so called civilised countries. A casual look in to books like, ‘A History of Torture throughout the Ages’, ‘History of Genocide’, ‘History of Inquisition’ and the ‘History of Slavery’ etc through ample evidences to refute thoroughly the western preaching of religious toleration to a country which believes in the dictum of advaita and universal brotherhood.
A casual look for the malady is obvious. Would it not be nice to revisit our history from Indian perspective? Would it not be prudent to impart positive ideas to our youth? It is time to come out from the concepts of ‘secularisation’ (which is not followed in true sense) and ‘saffronisation’ (which is used with political connotations). It is time to talk of ‘Indianisation’ of Indian history. Let us build a nation with the youth strong enough to proclaim their pride across the spectrum of the globe.
Prof Karanam Nagaraja Rao (The writer is associated with School of Business, Alliance University, Bengaluru)
(July 19, 2015 Page : 32-33)