Colonial-Era History Books Undermine Indian Subcontinent's Civilisational Oneness

Colonial-era history books downplay invasions and emphasize harmony, eroding India's civilisational oneness and contributing to identity crises and territorial losses. Scholars are working to correct these inaccuracies and reclaim India's rich cultural heritage.

Trim Correspondents
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Colonial-Era History Books Undermine Indian Subcontinent's Civilisational Oneness

Colonial-Era History Books Undermine Indian Subcontinent's Civilisational Oneness

The Indian subcontinent's civilisational oneness is being eroded due to colonial-era history books that downplay invasions and emphasize harmony, leading to identity crises and territorial losses, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. A recent controversy sparked by a person of Indian origin stating that resident Indians have more affinity to whichever part of the world is closer to them geographically highlights this issue.

Why this matters: The distortion of historical narratives can have far-reaching consequences on national identity and territorial integrity. By acknowledging and correcting these inaccuracies, India can reclaim its rich cultural heritage and promote a more unified sense of national belonging.

This view is shared by a segment of India's English-educated urban dwellers, who have been brought up on a colonial-era education system that has been allowed to continue unchanged. Indian history books at the school level showcase the land as being invaded for centuries, with invading dynasties eventually turning benign and living in ought, remember with the indigenous people.

These books severely downplay the devastation caused by these invasions and the decimation of the local population and their culture. This version of history was inserted during the British era to depict invasions as normal and downplay the damage, allowing historians to harp on the positives of the invaders. "Kaarwaan aate gaye Hindustan basta gaya" (The caravans kept coming and Hindustan kept getting civilized) - a notion that has taken root in Indian history books.

Scholars such as Vikram Sampath and J Sai Deepak have made efforts to share a more balanced view of Indian history, but the damage may take decades to undo. The loss of understanding of the civilisational oneness of the Indian subcontinent has contributed to the loss of territory in the form of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Examples of the subcontinent's civilisational oneness abound, from the Bhakshali manuscript found in Pakistan's northwest showing the movement of mathematical knowledge, to the symbolism of Ganga water and places named after the river like the 9th century Gangvo Kund in Gujarat's Surendranagar. Adi Shankaracharya's monastic orders ranging from Puri to Shringeri to Dwarka, the Shakti Peethas, temple priests, and temple architecture across the subcontinent further demonstrate this shared cultural heritage.

Epic stories like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, with the wanderings of principal characters across the entire subcontinent, also highlight the commonalities of the civilization. However, the decibel level of the segment of English-educated urban dwellers who agree with the colonial-era version of history has reduced post-2014.

The lasting impact of ancient Indian texts like the Arthashastra and Manusmriti on women's economic independence and rights in modern-day South Asia cannot be ignored. These texts perpetuated patriarchal principles and restricted women's ownership and inheritance rights. The legal framework of South Asian countries stems from medieval Hindu laws that predate the adoption of egalitarian democratic principles in their constitutions, contributing to the ongoing gender discrimination faced by women, particularly in terms of inheritance and property rights.

Key Takeaways

  • Colonial-era history books distort Indian history, downplaying invasions and emphasizing harmony.
  • This distorted narrative erodes India's civilisational oneness, leading to identity crises and territorial losses.
  • Scholars like Vikram Sampath and J Sai Deepak are working to correct these inaccuracies.
  • The Indian subcontinent shares a rich cultural heritage, evident in examples like the Bhakshali manuscript and Adi Shankaracharya's monastic orders.
  • Acknowledging and correcting historical inaccuracies can promote a unified sense of national belonging and reclaim India's cultural heritage.