Pseudo-Secularism

Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A search for India's true history

By Pramod Kumar

International conference on Indian history, civilisation and geopolitics.

"Indians are being cheated of their true history. The time has come to write an authentic and unbiased history of India free from ideological or colonial biases,” said former Union Minister Dr Subramanian Swamy while giving a call to reorient the policy of the Indian state to purge from history books’ false chronology of ancient India and myths such as Aryan invasion and racial divide of north and south Indians. Dr Swamy was addressing the valedictory session of a three-day international history conference in New Delhi on January 11. The conference was organised on Indian history, civilisation and geopolitics by the US-based Indic Studies Foundation and the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY) at Indian International Centre from January 9 to January 11. Apart from historical themes, the conference also discussed India’s modern geo-political landscape and strategic affairs. More than 100 distinguished scholars and historians from India, Greece, Belarus, US, UK, France, Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc. participated in the conference. The scholars challenged many aspects of ancient Indian history as it is taught today and exposed various myths that have been presented as facts by the Raj historians of the 19th century.

The Indic Studies Foundation seeks to propagate a more accurate approach based on reason and rationality for the study and dissemination of the Indian civilisational ethos in the world, particularly to the USA and India. The ABISY is dedicated to researching and writing Indian history spanning the last 5000 years. Major projects undertaken by it include determining the exact date of the Mahabharata as the sheet anchor of ancient Indian history, researches into kaalaganana (time-reckoninig) in Hindu traditions and researches into the now-lost Saraswati river.

Dr Swamy further said willful distortions in writing Indian history have been occurring solely due to state support and patronage since the British times until today. “The British rulers wrote our history to divide and rule us. But what is the excuse of Indian governments after Independence to continue with the same policy?”, he asked. He said myths spread by biased historians have overtaken Indian history while actual events and places in our history have been declared myths! “Not long ago, the Saraswati river, the submerged city of Dwarka and Ram Sethu were ridiculed as myths. But their reality has been proved by archaeology and satellite imagery,” he added.

Lashing out at colonial historians for creating a vicious myth that women were discriminated against in ancient India, noted scholar Dr S Ram Mohan said scriptures such as Manu Smriti accorded a very high status to women and deprived sections. Quoting dozens of slokas from the three major code books of Hindus to prove the exalted and enlightened status women enjoyed in ancient India, Dr Mohan, who is also Additional Member (Finance), Railway Board, said: “Women had no rights in ancient India is a vicious myth spread by colonial historians. The reality is that all the three ancient code books of Hindus—Manu Smriti, Narad Smriti and Yajnavalkya Smriti—have a common theme of social welfare and an egalitarian society, with a very high status assigned to women and the deprived sections.” He said all three Smritis have recommended lenient penalties for women compared to men and have prescribed death penalty for rape of a woman under police custody. Such kind of enlightened status of women was not found anywhere else in the world during the ancient times,” he added.

Dr BB Lal, former Director General of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said in a paper presented at the conference on first day that there is absolutely no proof that the Vedas were written in around 1200 BC and that the invading Aryans massacred the people of the Indus Valley. Unfortunately, these malicious distortions are still being taught in our schools as facts, he said. Stating that new distortions in Indian history are being created even today, he said it is the duty of Indian historians to set these distortions right through cogent evidence and sustainable arguments. Though the perception and mindset of historians play a dominant role in history writing, it is important for Indians to identify and challenge the distortions that have been deliberately introduced into their historical narrative over the centuries, he said.

Prof. Shivaji Singh, former Head of Department, Ancient History, Gorakhpur University, and president of ABISY, rejected the oft-repeated charge that Indians have no sense of history. “Ancient Indians had a robust historical tradition that originated in the Rig Vedic times and continued to develop and proliferate till the end of the medieval period. This tradition has created a rich and huge mass of historical literature that is unparalleled in the world,” he said. He explained that the indigenous Indian sense of history is unique because its main purpose is man’s self-fulfillment and self-realisation instead of vague objective such as furtherance of freedom, rationalism and individualism that are prevalent in the West. “You have to understand that the Indian sense of history is grounded in Indian culture and it should not be judged by the yardstick of how the Westerners write their history,” he added.

According to Kosla Vepa, executive director of Indic Studies Foundation, the objective of the conference was to decolonise various aspects of ancient Indian history and its chronology which were deliberately distorted and misdated during the British Raj with a view to causing confusion and a sense of inferiority among Indians. The conference aimed to contribute towards correcting this mangled historical narrative of the Indian civilisation. “Much of the ancient Indian history taught to our youth today has absolutely no basis in fact and is not supported by modern research. This is causing terrible cultural damage to our society and has to be set right urgently by taking a more rational view of the past,” he added. He also spoke about the demeaning condescension that many Western historians have bestowed upon India. “Books on Indian history sold abroad deliberately neglect our ancient history so as to minimise and sideline its contributions. At the same time, they try to whitewash the horrors that the British rule inflicted on India, such as the large-scale famines triggered by colonial policies. Changing the content of the textbooks worldwide and especially in the West to correct these distortions should be our goal,” he added.

Speaking at the conference on second day, Prof. Narahari Achar said most of the previous attempts at astronomical dating of the famous epic made the critical error of equating the Sanskrit word graha with a planet. “However, graha actually meant not only a planet but an heavenly object moving through the sky that can ‘grasp’ such as a comet or asteroid. Once we understand this, all apparent confusion and contradiction in the planetary positions given in the Mahabharata disappears. Though the epic has been variously dated from 5000 BC to 1000 BC by historians, this is for the first time that a scholar has taken into account the movement of planets excluding the comets to reproduce by simulation the astronomical references given in the Mahabharata. The year 3067 BCE arrived at by this method is consistent with the Hindu tradition and correlates perfectly with the time references given in Rigveda and Puranas for the epic,” he added.

Internationally acclaimed mathematician and philosopher Prof. CK Raju revealed that calculus was an Indian invention that was transmitted by Jesuit priests to Europe from Cochin in the second half of 16th century. “Indian infinite series has been known to British scholars since at least 1832, but no scholar tried to establish the connection with the calculus attributed to Newton and Leibnitz. When the Europeans received the Indian calculus, they couldn’t understand it properly because the Indian philosophy of mathematics is different from the Western philosophy of mathematics. It took them about 300 years to fully comprehend its working. The calculus was used by Newton to develop his laws of physics,” he added.

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