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From Pioneer, 6 July 2009

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->AGENDA | Sunday, July 5, 2009 | Email | Print |

Shedding colonial baggage

<b>BB Kumar’s book is a rich collection of materials and painstaking analysis, writes Satya Mitra Dubey</b>

India: Caste, Culture and Traditions
Author: BB Kumar
Publisher: Yash Publications
Price: Rs 2,100

<b>Author BB Kumar, being a teacher, an academic administrator in the field of higher education, an active researcher with training in anthropology, with his natural inclination for a textual and empirical understanding of Indian society mixed with first hand familiarity with the linguistic, socio-cultural and political problems of the tribes of the Northeast, can easily depend on his experience and study to write a book on Indian castes, culture and traditions.</b>

According to him, <b>“The confusion of the average Indian about our social structure, culture and tradition is enormous. The root cause is our culture and tradition illiteracy that is quite high in society, especially among our university degree holders. One reason for this is the continuance of the old colonial education in our country even after Independence.” </b>

<b>Kumar is of the view that social science disciplines such as anthropology, history and Indology, apart from the mindset of a large section of educated Indians, are coloured by colonial misinterpretations.</b> This is primarily the motivating factor for writing this book. <b>“Efforts should be made to get our social sciences and education rid of the all pervasive colonial hangover without any delay. The book, written with this perspective in mind, tries to inform about Indian social structures — varna and caste — and the various other aspects of our culture and tradition in the succeeding chapters,” Kumar says.</b>

<b>Al Beruni mentions only four castes and eight outcastes in Hindu society and the fact that all the four castes, as observed by him, had no hesitation in eating together, Kumar says, indicates that the caste system in its present form is a post-Turk phenomenon. The constant invasions, wars, defeats and reprisals in the medieval period generated insularity among Hindus, leading to the hardening of commensality and extreme forms of the notions of purity and pollution.</b>

<b>The early administrators of East India Company were primarily interested in profit through loot, expansion and consolidation of the British Empire.</b> <b>The well-integrated Indian society and stable village communities were portrayed in their reports, monographs and surveys as consisting of isolated, mutually-exclusive castes, tribes, communities, linguistic groups, sects, religions and mass of people geographically scattered and racially distinct.</b>

<b>Some of the early Western translators of Sanskrit texts into English deliberately misinterpreted the philosophical and religious concepts. By this the main purpose was to strengthen colonial rule, propagate Christianity and convert Indians. To achieve these objectives, Indian customs and traditions were degraded.</b>

Going through these bold assertions, a natural question may arise: <b>Has Kumar offered sustainable evidence to prove his line of argument? Yes.</b>

The author recognises the valuable contributions made by William Jones and a host of other scholars and administrators. But at the same time, <b>he points to the negative, distorted and motivated pictures of Indian society as presented by Abbe JA Dubois, Max Mueller, James Mill, ET Dalton, HH Risley, among others. </b>

<b>James Mill’s History of British India was recommended as a basic text for candidates of the Indian Civil Service.</b> Even a pro-colonial scholar like <b>Max Mueller calls this book “most mischievous”. According to a well-known Sanskrit scholar, Prof Wilson: “Mill, in his estimate of Hindu character, is guided by Dubois … Orme and Buchanan, Tenant and Ward, all of them neither very competent nor very unprejudiced judges. Mill, however, picks out all that is most unfavourable from their works and omits the qualifications which these writers felt bound to give to their wholesale condemnation of the Hindus.”</b>

<b>Brahmins, being the intellectual class in India, were especially targeted. Dubois considered them the greatest hurdle in winning “India for Christ”. The Boden Professorship of Sanskrit in the University of Oxford was established to translate Sanskrit books into English so as to enable the British to proceed in the conversion of the natives of India to the Christian religion. Macaulay, who had a design of “proselytisation through education”, proposed to pay £10,000 to Max Mueller for translating the Rig Veda in such a manner that it would destroy the belief of Hindus in the Vedic religion.</b>

In Kumar’s assessment, in the early phases, the process of differentiation and stratification based on the varna system was positive. The varna system played significant roles in division of labour in Indian society and helped in organising occupational structure. Its contributions were pivotal in the socio-cultural integration of Indian society. <b>The present degraded form of rigid and untouchabilty-based caste system is the product of the latter phases.</b> In the first decades of the 20th century, such views were strongly upheld by scholars like Bhagwan Das and Anand K Coomaswami. Even Mahatma Gandhi had highlighted the positive roles of varna and caste.

The author has tried to discuss different aspects of caste in different chapters with special emphasis on its relationship with varna, professions and mobility, clan and marriage, food taboos and commensality, caste clusters, socio-religious practices, panchayats and castes and the caste-tribe continuum. There are chapters on deities and priests, the jajmani relationship and Scheduled Castes.

In the evaluation of any work, there are bound to be different opinions. This book, too, is not an exception. For its rich collection of materials and painstaking analysis, this book deserves admiration. At the same time, in this era of ideological controversies and political motivations, some others may find it tradition-oriented.

Both these stands will make this book more readable and valuable.

The writer is a senior sociologist and political analyst
The following is an important book to read and understand Deccan India.

History of Andhra Pradesh_Durga Prasad_Uty of Hyderabad

I have been searching for this for quite sometime.
Does anyone know if the diary of Vasudev Balwant Phadke was written in Marathi & if so, has it been translated into English?

Also I heard he also wrote an autobiography besides the diary he kept.
I found the book "Dharma, the categorial imperative" fascinating. I recommend this:

An example of History syllabus at MA level

we should do our own reading from the book lists provided.

MA History syllabus
William Digby, 1901, Prosperous British India: a revelation from official records, London, T. Fisher Unwin
(Google book for full download 646 pages).
Google books:

Hemu: Napoleon of India
Prof R C Majumdar's take on himU, in an appendix of the above book: http://books.google.com/books?id=Emm0nTvll...page&q=&f=false

But the Hindu traditional sources (mostly the family histories of his relatives) differ on the origins of Himu. In contrast to what Majumdar says (sourcing from Badayuni and abulfazl), that he was a humble baniya from Haryana, it seems he was from Mithila and not at all from any humble background. According to this tradition, he was from the family of sArthavAha vaishya-s of mithilA who controlled and managed the trade routes and supply chains between magadha and nepAla, and this caste was and even today is, although vaishya but very kshatriya-like. They used to command private armies to protect the warehouses, trade posts and routes, guard the large trains of goods, and had became even more powerful and resourceful during sher shAh's rule. There are some families still living in kAThamANDU that consider himU an ancestor.
Dr. M. Lal Goel (University of West Florida)Hinduism Studies and Dhimmitude in the Amercan Academy (word document) review of Doniger's work.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Doniger’s 779-page tome is laced with personal editorials, folksy turn of
the phrase and funky wordplays.  She has a large repertoire of Hindu
mythological stories.  She often narrates the most damning mythical
story—Vedic, Puranic, folk, oral, vernacular—to demean, damage and disparage
Hinduism.  After building a caricature, she laments that fundamentalist
Hindus (how many and how powerful are they?) are destroying the pluralistic,
tolerant Hindu tradition. Why save such a vile, violent religion, as painted
by the eminent professor?  There is a contradiction here.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->She narrates the now discarded story
about the impaling of Jains at the hands of Hindu rulers in the Tamil
country. Then she says that “there is no evidence that any of this actually
happened, other than the story.” (p 365).  Then why narrate the story?<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Doniger says that Hindus would do the same to Muslims if they had the power
to do so.  Hindus did come to power after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in
1707, when the Mughal rule rapidly declined.  The Marathas were the
strongest power in Western and Southern India in the 18th and
19thcenturies, as the Sikhs were in North India.  There is no account
of large
scale demolition and looting of Muslim places of worship either by the
Marathas or the Sikhs.  If a copy of the Quran fell into the hands of
Maharaja Shivaji during a campaign, the same would be passed on to a Muslim
rather than being burned.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Doniger argues that Hindu ‘megalomania’ for temple building resulted from
Muslim destruction of some Hindu temples.  In other words, because the
Muslims destroyed some of the Hindu temples, the Hindus went on a building
spree.  If Doniger’s argument is accepted, Hindus should thank Islamic
marauders for looting and desecrating their shrines.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->While discussing the Hindu epic Ramayana in London in
2003, Doniger put forth her usual gloss: that Lakshman had the hots for his
brother Rama’s wife Sita, and that sexually-charged Sita reciprocated these
feelings. An irate Hindu threw an egg at her and conveniently missed it.
This incident is her cause célèbre.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Doniger’s inflammatory book on the Hindus makes sense only in the light of a larger global trend—a trend that seeks to re-package Islamic history as a
force for tolerance and progress.</b> <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Read the link, for more details.
My interview with Wendy Doniger

Anyone who is serious about studying Hinduism needs to study the works of Wendy Doniger (b.1940), who for over 40 years has been researching, translating, and commenting on Hindu scriptures and stories. Had it not been for her, I would not have had access to so many tales hidden in our scriptures. Her language is direct and simple, shorn of distracting ornamentation. But her interpretations and choice of words (like the insistence in using the word ‘evil’ even though no common Indian language has a synonym for it) though thought-provoking are not always satisfying.

A distinguished professor at the Divinity School, Chicago, with a PhD from Harvard and DPhil from Oxford and with several honorary doctorates to her credit, her first book, published in 1978, was the Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Siva. This year sees the release of her latest book The Hindus: an Alternative History, which puts together the various influences – beyond the Sanskrit texts – that have shaped Hindu thought over thousands of years. Despite the usual male-bashing and Brahmin-bashing, this is without doubt a monumental work that is awe-inspiring and humbling in its scale.

The Hindu Right has denounced her writings as being lewd and vulgar and disrespectful. An egg was thrown at her during a lecture in London. Mercifully, it missed her, struck the wall behind her, and, thankfully, propelled her name beyond academic circles, enabling more people to read the delightful stories she unearths. That this event which took place in 2003 is recounted again and again every time her name is mentioned makes one wonder if it is being milked for media mileage by various forces for it does give an act of immaturity more significance than it deserves. The Hindu Left, or should we say secular Left, would disagree vehemently as they bend over backward applauding her objectivity. The truth is, like all things human, somewhere in between the extreme reactions Wendy Doniger evokes. And this, I feel, is evident in her answers given to the questions I emailed her a few days ago.

In one of the questions, I had suggested that she enjoys intellectual heckling. It is an opinion I have held for long. I realise after reading her answer that it could be just a case of a different sensibilities. For example, the cover of her book shows (of the countless options Hindu art has to offer) Krishna riding a horse made up of naked women. This is a popular theme in Patta Paintings of Orissa; more often, the women collectively give shape to an elephant or a temple-shaped Kandarpa Ratha, chariot of the love-god. Such images have been around for a long time. The erotic content is often overlooked, or may occasionally evoke mild amusement. As the book discusses women and horses and patriarchy in the Hindu context, the image even seems appropriate. But when a Jewish American scholar puts it on her book about the Hindus, it can – in a time of political opportunism, religious intolerance, and scholastic puritanism – be construed as provocative and insensitive. But then, maybe, this priestess of Saraswati, having read and reread the Vedas and the Brahmanas and the Upanishads and the Shastras for over four decades, has more faith than I do in the maturity and wisdom of humanity.

What made a dancer trained under Martha Graham move into academic research?

There was no real connection, but a conflict: I had to give up dancing to study Sanskrit, and it was a hard choice to make, but I have never regretted it.
What is that first event that drew you towards Hindu scriptures?

I suppose it was the first time I saw my mother’s rubbings from Ankor Wat, that were on the walls of our house, and I asked her about them; or the time she gave me a copy of E M Forster’s A Passage to India; or when I read the Juan Mascaro translation of the Upanishads. I don’t know which one of these events came first, but they came together to ignite my interest in Hinduism.
Which of the many Hindu scriptures that you have translated over the years filled you awe, and which one filled you with disgust? Why?

I suppose the Rig Veda struck me with the most awe, such a beautiful, profound text and so old, but the one that fascinated me most was the Yoga-Vasishtha, with its brilliant stories. No Hindu texts have ever disgusted me; I got quite angry at Manu

from time to time while I was translating him, especially when he was particularly racist or sexist, but I never lost my respect for his enormous intelligence and his ability to put together into an integrated whole so many different aspects of dharma.
Your writings seem very left brained. Is that you, or simply the demands of academia?

I would say that I am more of a right-brain type, more intuitive; people sometimes complain, especially editors of early drafts of my books, that I make instinctive connections and fail to spell out, for the reader, the logical processes that led me from one point to another. I have to work hard at the left-brain, analytical processes.
My mother and aunts wonder why academicians refer to Shiva-linga as Shiva’s phallus. They feel it is not so. Whose truth is the truth – that of the believers or that of the research scholar?

There is no one correct truth here. Historically, the Shiva-linga was indeed understood as a representation of the phallus of Shiva; you can see this from visual representations like the Gudimallam linga and from stories in the Puranas about the origin of the linga from the body of Shiva. But since the 19th century reforms of Hinduism, many Hindus have entirely lost these historical associations and see the Shiva-linga as a purely abstract symbol. So your mother and aunts are right, but the scholars of the history of Hinduism are also right.
I feel Hindu scriptures use a lot of symbolic language so one is never sure what is ‘real’ and what is ‘representation’. Is the Ram of the Ramayana, a man, a god, a principle of metaphysics? What do you think?

The beauty of symbolic language is that a powerful symbol can be many things at once, and certainly the Ram of the Valmiki Ramayana is a man, a god, and a principle of metaphysics. At any moment, or in the mind of any particular reader or devotee, he may be more one than another, but all of the possibilities are always there. It is simultaneously “real” and “representation.”
Brahmin-bashing is a favorite pastime of the intellectual. Is there nothing redeeming about Brahmanism?

In my book, The Hindus, I demonstrated at length the great positive contribution that the Brahmins have made to Indian civilization and therefore to the civilization of the world. And there are many kinds of Brahmins; some are powerful and narrow-minded, and they have done a great deal of harm to people of other castes; but many are entirely open-minded, and they have opened the way for women and people of lower castes to contribute to traditional Hinduism. Brahmins are primarily responsible for Sanskrit literature, which is a glorious thing. But I also went out to point out how much the other castes have also contributed to Sanskrit literature in ways that have been overlooked.
Is Hinduism all about patriarchy and caste?

Certainly not. The basic structures are patriarchal and caste-oriented, but Hindu men and women from all castes have always transcended the boundaries of the basic structures and much of Hinduism has nothing at all to do with either patriarchy or caste.
What is the one consistent theme you find across the history of Hinduism?

I suppose there is no single theme; I’ve argued for clusters of basic themes rather than a single one. But the cluster would include karma, dharma, narratives, puja of one sort or another, and attention to the infinite diversity of possibilities for a human life.
How would you define dharma?

Again it includes so many things — justice, truth, law, religion — but I suppose I would define it as the way that one should live in harmony with other people and with nature.
When I read your books, I feel you enjoy heckling people. Your choice of words can be rather stark. I can almost feel you chuckle at the orthodox getting their knickers in a twist. Am I imagining this?

Yes, I think you are indeed imagining this, but apparently you are not the only one. Perhaps if you gave me an example of something that you regard as heckling or stark I could see where the misinterpretation has come in. My sense of humor, which is a New York Jewish sense of humor, sometimes is mistaken for flippancy. But I never ever write with the intention of making anyone angry. The only people I poke fun at in The Hindus are the scholars who generated such outlandish ideas about the Indus Valley on the basis of absolutely no evidence. I never ever poke fun at any Hindus. I sometimes see Hindu texts as themselves as funny, or as poking fun at other people, and I enjoy those texts and cite them. I certainly do not always agree with what the texts say. But I do not heckle them.
Unlike a guru-shishya tradition where information flow was customized to the student’s intellectual and emotional grasp, books are highly democratic. Uninitiated and uninformed readers can be in for a shock when they read some of the things you recount in your writings. Is that why there is outrage at some of your work by a section of Hindus?

This is a good point. It is indeed a shock to encounter information about your own tradition that you never heard when you were growing up. But this is an argument for making such information available earlier, not for avoiding it in order to avoid the shock. Uninformed readers need to become informed readers, and my hope is that once the initial shock wears off, they will come to appreciate their own tradition even more than they did when they thought it was narrower than it actually is.
Many people are uncomfortable with the secular left, and with the religious right. But they don’t have much of a voice. What do you have to say to them?

I believe in democracy, in everyone having a voice. As long as people are allowed to speak and write what they think, and to vote without fear of repercussions, they will have a voice, and they will be free to say what it is about the left or the right that makes them uncomfortable. India is a democracy, and the rights laid out in its Constitution must be preserved and defended. This is never easy to do, in the United States or in India or anywhere else, but it is very important to keep speech free.
There are people who believe that homosexuality is against Hindu culture. Is that scriptural or their imagination? Any references if breathing exercises cure homosexuality?

There is very little information about homosexual behavior in traditional Hindu Sanskrit texts. The dharma-texts briefly list homosexual acts as unnatural, and use a pejorative term (kliba) for people who deviate from a rather narrow definition of normal sexuality, but even those texts punish homosexual acts with very minor fines, in dramatic comparison with much more serious punishments for infringements of heterosexual customs [heavy punishment for rape, for instance]. The Kamasutra, by contrast, is entirely non-judgmental in its description of men who have oral sex with other men. So you could say that some parts of Hindu culture condemned it while other parts did not. I don’t know anything about those breathing exercises.
How certain are you about anything you write? Do you ever doubt your conclusions?

I always doubt my conclusions, and indeed I usually try to avoid making them at all; my editors are always begging me to write them at the end of books, where I really just prefer to tell the stories. I often change my mind after I’ve written something. But I always try to make the best sense of any thing I write about to the best of my knowledge at the time when I’m writing it.
What do you seek in a student?

Intelligence, of course. Enthusiasm. A pleasure in learning languages. A mind that comes up with ideas about the things it encounters, rather than just soaking up information. Humility, the constant realization that you never really know enough about anything to be sure of your conclusions.

No major monotheistic religion depicts God in female form. Why?

Well, there are just a few monotheistic religions, primarily the three Abrahamic religions, and even there the Christians have Mary, who is, for some, the most important figure. I think since men controlled the real world in those religions, they imagined that the ultimate control must be male too.
Do you feel the Hindu way under threat?

No more than any other tradition. Change happens. All religions that cling to old ways of doing things, all orthodoxies, have to struggle to maintain their worlds when all the rest of their culture is changing. Some aspects of Hinduism, such as the caste system, are under pressure to change, and new religious movements siphon off worshippers from more traditional forms of Hinduism. But Hinduism as a whole is certainly not under threat; it is thriving, precisely because it is changing.
Do you believe in rebirth?

Yes, but since very few people, if any, can remember their previous lives, I don’t find the concept of rebirth as nourishing or interesting as it would be if you could remember who you had been. Without that, it’s just an abstract idea, not something you can use in your life. But I think it’s a very good idea, and quite likely true. Everything else is recycled in nature, after all; why not the soul, the spark of life? But consciousness evidently is not recycled, and that’s the problem.
Do you pray? To whom?

Sometimes, but not to anyone in particular.
Who is your favorite god? Why?

Shiva, particularly as he is described in the Puranas. His qualities seem to me to explain the way the world is-—glorious, terrifying, unpredictable, passionate, but he is also brilliant and very much of an intellectual.
Who is your favourite goddess? Why?

Durga, particularly as she is worshipped in Bengal. I love the stories about her courage and beauty, and when I lived in Bengal I loved the rituals of Durga-puja, particularly the final immersion in the river amid all the floating lights.

Do you prefer God with form or without form?

With form, absolutely. I have little capacity for abstract thought; I like stories.

Can the world exist without religion?

Apparently not. It is everywhere, and has always been everywhere. This is not to say that everyone is religious; many people are not. But no culture has survived as a whole without religion.

Have the scriptures that you have read changed you? How?

Certainly reading the Hindu texts over the years has changed my worldview. In particular, the texts that I read when I was writing The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology helped me to come to terms with the death of my father, whom I had loved so much that at first I didn’t think I could go on without him. The Hindu understanding of death was a great comfort to me then, more than any Christian or Jewish texts had ever been.


Lot of unpublished works of Dharampal which he has collected from British Archival material on India from London is now available in


Nearly 20 volumes all in PDF files giving exhaustive material on :

i. how Britishers wanted to loot and plunder India.
ii. details of EIC , torture,
iii. correspondence between various EIC administrators, British ministers,
Prime ministers etc
iv. Observations about India from various foriegn visitors
[url="http://news.rediff.com/column/2010/jan/06/the-maharaja-the-state-and-the-temple.htm"]The Maharaja, the State, and the Temple[/url]

Quote:The autobiography of the Travancore Maharaja, released in Thiruvananthapuram by former President APJ Abdul Kalam on Tuesday, is worthy of any coffee table or library, says T P Sreenivasan

The biography is a tribute to the oneness of the Maharaja, the State and the Temple -- forming an integrated soul,' wrote Dr A P J Abdul Kaiam about the autobiography of HH Uthradom Tirunal Marthanda Varma's Travancore -- The Footprints of Destiny, My Life and Times Under the Grace of Lord Padmanabha as told to Uma Maheswari (that is the title of the book), published by Konark. It is no ordinary book either in substance or in appearance. It is history, recorded by one of its major actors, the hero and the author combining to create a masterpiece. The quality of production, the choice of paper, the value of the photographs, the quaint charm of the drawings by young Sharath Sunder and the elegance of styling make the volume worthy of any coffee table or library.
Google Books

Aspects of India's International Relations:1700-2000 By Jayanta Kumar Ray....
And while at it read K.M. Pannicker's "Asia and Western Dominance"


Pranav on BRF wrote:

Quote:Would strongly recommend this book: Hostage to Khomeini by Robert Dreyfuss (1980). Available for download at http://www.archive.org/download/HostageT...ostage.pdf

It is well known that the overthrow of the democratic Mosaddegh govt in 1953 was sponsored by western elites. This book describes how the overthrow of the Shah, and the installation of Khomeini too, was supported by the same forces.

This book is particularly valuable for its close-up look at the techniques of revolution - provoking unrest, mass manipulation via the media, creation of economic crises, how the loyalty of key persons in the armed forces was turned, how uncooperative personnel were assassinated, how arms depots were captured, and how even those that cooperated with the revolution were liquidated in its aftermath.

Also useful are the insights it offers into the mindset of the western elites.

There are many similarities between the Indian political elites of today, and the feckless regime of the Shah of Iran.

it also gives an insight into Islam and its reactionary inclinations.

The latest edition of the book The Myth Of St Thomas by Ishwar Sharan

++ The introduction with its footnotes
[url="http://www.dailypioneer.com/304682/Past-and-prejudice.html"]Past and prejudice[/url]

December 22, 2010 8:47:09 PM

Quote:Makers of Modern India

Author: Ramachandra Guha

Publisher: Penguin

Price: Rs 799

Ramachandra Guha has his own preferences while making the list of the ‘makers’ of modern India, writes Saradindu Mukherji

In post-Independent India, conformism to the received wisdom is the key to “glory” in social sciences/historical studies, and deviation leads to guillotine. Ramachandra Guha is fully conscious of this truism. His book, Makers of Modern India, deals with 19 mainly well-known, and a few lesser-known, personalities; many of them were titans of our national resurgence.

Short biographical sketches are supplemented with their speeches, writings, etc, without any interrogation. While Jyotiba Phule, rightly, gets 20 pages, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, considered by Guha among the “makers” of modern India, has about 16 pages on his speeches; Bal Gangadhar Tilak, in contrast, gets just nine pages. And, Lala Lajpat Rai is mentioned only in the foot-note. Guha, indeed, has a unique vision of history!

Among the leading thinker-politicians from the West, omission of William Ewart Gladstone appears surprising, considering what all he wrote and did!

India is not an “unnatural nation”, as Guha suggests. Long before it developed as a united entity in the 19th century under the colonial impact, it was the cultural unity which had provided the bedrock. Right from the 52 shakti pithas spread across the subcontinent, our saints and poet-philosophers had visualised the concept of ‘Bharatvarsha’.

Guha cites a speech by Jayaprakash Narayan in Patna, when he said, “Travel to the remotest corners of India, and you will find things that are linked to our epics and scriptures — when we speak of the unity of India, we do not really mean its political unity.” It is the spirit of mutual accommodation born out of our ancient Hindu-Buddhist ethos that explains our survival as democracy, and the presence of a growing number of minorities — however distorted that “secularism” might have turned.

The author excludes Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and many more, because they lacked what he calls “original ideas”. One always believed that great activists are mostly fired by original ideas. But then, the personalities, their writings/speeches and the bibliography he mentions are a matter between the author and the publisher. Surendranath Banerjee (“surrender-not” to the British), also called the “prophet of modern India”, who authored A Nation in Making, is not even mentioned in the foot-note! Dadabhai Naoroji doesn’t find a place among the 19.

Rammohan Roy’s Persian book, with its ‘preface’ in Arabic, wasn’t only an attack on idol worship, as Guha mentions, but also a critique of prophetism, and thus against intolerant monotheism. In any case, Roy was not talking of a creedal religion. In dismissing Shivaji rather pejoratively as a “warrior-chief”, the author ignores, among many others, the impact of the Shivaji tradition — the inspiration behind the nationalist challenge in Maharashtra and elsewhere. Rabindranath Tagore has a wonderful piece on this.

Guha blunders egregiously in comparing Syed Ahmad Khan with Rammohan Roy. Unlike Roy, Khan had no faith in democracy and liberal principles. The latter was in the habit of reminding his co-religionists about their tradition of military conquest and supremacy over Hindus. It is he who gave the sobriquet ‘Quwwat-al-Islam’ (might of Islam) to the mosque built over 27 Hindu/Jain temples in Delhi’s Qutub Minar complex. While Roy campaigned against sati, Khan never uttered a word against triple talaq, jihad, the concept of kafiror similar ideas. As for Aligarh’s Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, Guha smothers its role in spreading a vicious brand of Muslim separatism.

In Guha’s scheme of things, Mohammed Ali Jinnah is considered the “maker of India”! There is, however, no mention of his call for the “Direct Action”, resulting in the massacre of thousands of Hindus, and, of course, the persecution of minorities in Pakistan. In blaming “Congress arrogance”, “separate electorates” and the policy of “divide and rule” for Partition, Guha ignores the ideological-theological basis of Islamic separatism and Muslim propensity for street violence, exceptions apart. This perfectly suits our ‘secularists’, and would sell well in Pakistan, too.

The inclusion of Jayaprakash (JP) Narayan, Rajagopalachari, Rammonohar Lohia, along with Gandhi and Nehru, is apt, but then, by that logic, Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s presence in the book would not have been absurd. But then, this is the author’s prerogative! Hence, the exclusion of JP’s speech in 1974, preceding the fraudulent Emergency is not so surprising. After all, JP had a stellar role in giving us a respite from the dynastic rule. As there is a lot on Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru everywhere, I refrain from commenting anything more on what he says. He admits a preference for the “older books”, yet there is none from the magisterial writings of venerable Ramesh Chandra Majumdar.

Hopefully, one day, some open-minded historian/publisher would dare to write an inclusive history on the makers of modern India. Besides excluding some, and including those deserving a place on the high pedestal, the ideal chronicler would care to include, besides Swami Vivekananda and Dayanand, the likes of Sri Aurobindo, JC Bose, CV Raman, Jamsetji Tata, Visveswaraiya, among others. Till then, many of us, at least our children, would be content with reading Amar Chitra Katha.

-- The reviewer is professor of History, University of Delhi


Bullet Ram Chandra Guha's Discovery of Makers of Modern India

By Raj Kumar Jha on 12/20/2010 7:03:22 PM

Jawaharlal Nehru discovered the spirit of India in his Discovery of India . Sunil Khilnani found the spirit of India in Nehru's discovery . For him Nehru's ideas and ideology constituted the spirit of India . Dr Guha , who initially showed much promise has fallen a prey to the belief that in order to be recognized and praised it is necessary to join the bandwagon of the court historians .


Bullet Past and prejudice

By N.S. Rajaram on 12/19/2010 5:38:00 AM

Ramachandra Guha is not a historian but a court chronicler of the Nehru Parivar. He knows nothing of India. To him, India before Nehru is a Dark continent-- like the world before the Prophet in Islamic historiography.
The Ishwar Sharan Archive (previously at hamsa.org) is now at:

[url="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/world/asia/01pai.html"]Anant Pai, 81, Is Dead; Comics Told Indian Children Their Country’s Stories[/url];

[url="http://www.mumbaimirror.com/index.aspx?page=article&sectid=2&contentid=2011022520110225024839854f1d12481"]Anant Pai[/url], founder of Amar Chitra Katha is no more. May his soul rest in peace.

Quote:He was working with the Times of India books division, which brought out Indrajal comics, at the time.

When participants, who could take questions on Greek mythology, were unable to say who Rama's mother was he decided he had to do something to connect them to their roots.

So, with India Book House, he started a story that eventually contributed to the pursuit of national integration.
R.C Majumdar's Advanced history of India.

[url="http://www.archive.org/download/advancedhistoryo035045mbp/advancedhistoryo035045mbp.pdf"]Advanced History of India.[/url]

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