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Post Info TOPIC: The Problems in Indian Historiography


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The Problems in Indian Historiography
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The Problems in Indian

Historiography

 

K. V. Ramakrishna Rao B.Sc., M.A., A.M.I.E., C.Eng.(I)., B.L.,

 

This paper was presented at UGC Seminar on �Situating Historical Writings in Post-Independent India� held at Bharatidasan University from March 23 & 24, 2002 and summary published in the �Abstract volume�, pp.27-28.

Presented at the 6th National Conference of ABISY held at Nagpur from January 31st to February 2, 2003.

Full paper published in Itihas Darpan, Vol.IX, No.2, July, 2003, pp.21-37.

Published as a booklet and circulated during the 64th session of Indian History Congress held at Mysore from to 2004.

 

Introduction: Even after the independence the Indian historiography has been plagued with certain problems, issues, questions, uncertainties, puzzles which are yet to be tackled, answered and settled by the Indian historians and historiographers. Except few, majority of scholars has not been freed from the clutches of the British, Colonial, Euro-centric, Marxist interpretations one way or the other and some identified are as follows:

1.      Assumptions and presumptions have been made to build up certain premises on which hypotheses put forward.

2.      Such hypotheses have been taken as theories without any further systematic study or research.

3.      Even the validity of such automatically turned theories or otherwise have not been critically analyzed to be taken as theories.

4.      The dates earlier mentioned carefully as circahave been taken many times conclusively and the other dates fixed accordingly.

5.      The tentative and approximate chronology constructed by Vincent Arthur Smithhas been accepted without any cross checking, verification and research.

6.      None has questioned, tackled or verified the sheet anchor of the Indian history or the earliest absolutely certain precise date that is just named 326 B.C as fixed by the British writers.

7.      They have not answered to the main accusation that Indians have no sense of history, history and so on.

8.      In spite of vast literature, inscriptions and other comparative contemporary evidences, they have not attempted to use such materials.

9.      Even today, scholars have been engaged in fighting with each other ideologically with professional bias instead of solving or settling the important problems concerning Indian history.

10.  They are mustering evidences and suppressing others only with an intention to prove or disprove what others say instead of for constructive, objective and useful historiography.

11.  If they are not able to counter with evidences, they resort to personal attack on the writers and scholars, stooping down to the level verbal terrorism.

 

Therefore, the scholars should come out from their subversive ideologies, fixed mind-sets, political affiliations and trans-territorial loyalties for genuine, fair and objective Indian historiography. Though, there might be many such problems, some of them are taken up and discussed in this paper for the consideration of historiographers.

 

1. Aryan � Dravidian Race hypotheses and theories: �I have declared again and again that if I say Aryan, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull, I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language���To me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolicocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar�. Thus confessed the inventor of �Aryan race� in 1888 itself2. But the propagator of Dravidian race had not declared so and the Aryan � Dravidian race hypotheses and theories continue. Race and language are two different concepts and entities, but in Indian context, the influenced scholars always try to confuse both for political purposes. After the two World wars, the scholars realized the pseudo-scientific nature of the race hypotheses and theories and dumped into dustbins. Even the U.N passed resolution that the term race should not be used. But, the scholars of Indian have been still race conscious, racist in their views and racialist in interpreting the religious, social, political and economic processes in terms of Aryans and Dravidians. Even Marxist historians know the carrying over the fallacy and have been careful in their writings. They say3 that there archaeologically there was no Aryan invasion, but the language speaking peoples were there and their movement! In the Colonial historiography, the Invasion hypothesis and theory had been a feature to justify their invasion, enslavement, exploitation and colonization. However, such hypothesis to become a theory, the following conditions should be satisfied:

 

1.      There should be an invader.

2.      There should be an invaded.

3.      There should be a reason to invade.

4.      There should be a vulnerable or weakened condition existing in the invaded.

5.      Decimation of native population.

6.      Disruption of economy and communication.

7.      Widespread destruction of property.

8.      Forcible removal of native power structure and substitution of a new power structure administered by the alien invaders.

 

But nothing had or has been proved by archaeological evidences in Indian context. In fact, the existing and present archaeological evidences prove no Aryan invasion4.  H. D. Sankalia5, a noted archaeologist pointed out the danger in spreading such unproved hypotheses and theories:

 

Assumptions or hypotheses are the soul or pillars of research. These should, doubtless, be judiciously made and not be dogmatic. For very often, thought very haltingly made on inadequate data, they are passed on as gospel truth. Witness for instance the late Rev. Fr. Heras� identification of the Harappans with Dravidians and Wheeler�s attribution of this civilization to the Aryans. For as Hitler�s Germany, these two hypotheses have done incalculable harm in setting up the South against North. Smouldering antagonism against Brahmins and so-called Aryan Brahmins have taken the space of a political vendetta�.

 

Thus, though western and Indian scholars have started reassessing the myth of Aryan invasion, the Dravidian historians, Dravidiologists and Dravidian protagonists have vehemently struck to these hypotheses and theories. But, they should carefully go through the available evidences. It may be noted that the western scholars have cleverly made the Dravidians also entered India like Aryans. In fact, James Fergusson6 suggested a third race Dasyusbesides Aryans and Dravidians. It may be noted that the Dravidian scholars treat both Dravidians andDasyus are one and the same. In fact, according to them they know very well that without Dasyus, there is no interpretation of Aryan invasion derived from the Vedas.

 

 

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
    
 


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Augustin Thierry began by interpreting English history in terms of the race struggle between Saxon native and Norman invader. The same methodology was followed and applied to the histories of the colonies to sow the seeds of division. As the history was also been written by the British they interpreted the same in terms of race struggle between Dravidian natives and invading Aryans in India7. They have made much fuss about the chronology of history of other civilizations, particularly Indian, but have not questioned anything about themselves. Benjamin Constant in his famous pamphlet, �The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation in Europe� (1813) brings out the truth:

 

Our fanatical reformers purposely confuse chronology to kindle and keep up hatred just as some had gone back to the Franks and Goths to find pretexts in order to express in the opposite direction� (PP.121-122; 9 in).

 

Jacques Barzun8, while discussing about the professional bias, exposes the motive of the British scholars, clearly as follows:

 

The historians Fauriel, Merimee and Augustin Thierry were in touch with De Stutt de Tracy as late as 1821 and Buches summed up in his characteristically titled Introduction to the Science of History (1833) the complex ideas and beliefs relevant to the study of race�.

 

Therefore, instead of emotional attachment to race, blood, language and other spurious, pseudo and unscientific hypotheses9, scholars should free themselves from such narrow parochial, sectarian and chauvinistic outlook to deal with the history in an objective manner.

 

2. The Development of Script, Language and Literature: The concepts of script and language are two separate entities. There are scripts without languages or still undeciphered, because of human ignorance or deficiency and languages without script. It is not necessary that each language should have only one script, or because one script is used for two or more languages, other language-speaking people should treat that language as alien. Language and literature may appear to be related, but still have separate entities. There are languages without literary traditions � tropical Africa and variety of distinct languages each with its own literary tradition � India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cyprus. Therefore, the people without script are not pre-historical (period without written records for historical purpose) and their history cannot become pre-history or the people with script but without literature can become historical (period with written records). Just to cover up this mess, the expression proto-historic period (in the formative period of history!)  is used. The following questions should be answered without mincing the words:

 

1.      As the Indus Valley script has not been deciphered, can it be still be considered belonging to pre-historic period with the advanced status of civilization and amenities?

2.      Scholars say that Indo-European languages are the oldest and Sanskrit is the oldest of that group. But, Sanskrit inscriptions are available only from first century BCE, whereas, its literature is dated to 2500 BCE! How then, the language existed without script?

3.      How the Sanskrit-speaking people werenomadic with such refined and literary language?

4.      Tamils claim that their language is the ancient, perhaps older than Sanskrit. Then, the following questions should be answered:

1.      Had Tamil been the developed language, the inscription could have been very well in Tamil script instead of Brahmi in the 3rdcentury BCE.

2.      Can it be said that, therefore, it could have been developed into classical language only after this period i.e, 300 BCE?

3.      Do they accept the datings of Sangam literature during the first centuries, Five Great Epics 3rd to 7th centuries, Tolkappiyam 9thcentury and so on?

4.      Now, Marxist scholars say there was no State formation during the Sangam period. Does it imply that Tamils were leading a tribal life?

 

Therefore, scholars should deal this aspect carefully without any bias, prejudice and partiality.

 

3. The Intellectual and Material Progress and Development: The western scholarship has defined progress and development differently according to their own convenience and used in subjects variously to suit their convictions10. But, the Indian scholars have understood improperly or having understood properly have applied with their ideological orientation confusing the historical processes. Intellectual progress is related to high mental development exhibited in the refined language, literature, arts and sciences. Thus, the intellectual progress is reflected in their material culture, progress and development. The Western, British, Imperialistic or Colonial historiographers may accuse that Indians might be having an advanced and thus progressed civilization, but it was and is not developed one, because such progress had and has not been continuous one.

 

The following facts as has been accepted are noted:

 

1.      India has the oldest language Sanskrit, which is also the oldest of the European or Indo-European language family.

2.      India philosophical system has been the oldest.

3.      India has the credit of inventing zero and infinity and the decimal number system.

4.      India has the oldest civilization with archaeological remains.

5.      India had been ruling the ocean because of its extensive oversea trade and business that is why the ocean touching India was named as Indian Ocean long back.

6.      India had been the prosperous and exporting goods (even up to 1920s) and thus, the Europeans wanted to find a sea route to India.

 

Then, how India has been accused as barbaric, heathenish, irreligious, infidel people indulging in magic and snake charm, worshipping devils and demons, throwing themselves before Juggernaut, committing suicide in the waters of Ganges, burning widows  on the lines of Curzon, Macalay, Mayo and others11? If India was so barbaric, why the West and Europe wanted to come to India buy Indian goods and so on? Were Indian goods civilized, but Indians uncivilized? How then uncivilized could produce civilized goods? Therefore, the mental and material development and progress should go together and the ancient Indian historical processes have to analyzed, understood and interpreted accordingly.

 

4. Development of Science and Technology: Vedic literature (datable to 4500 / 3500 BCE or before) has ample evidences for the development of science and technology during the material period of its composition. Therefore, such knowledge and application of knowledge must have been evolved, experimented, perfected, developed earlier and put into use then. Indus Valley Civilization (hereinafter mentioned as IVC) has material evidences for the following:

 

1.      The extant of the ancient astronomical works like Vedanga Jyotisha by Lagadha (c.1400 BCE), Surya Siddhanta etc prove the highest standards of mathematics and astronomical subjects and studies in India.

2.      Decimal system was used (3500 BCE). The standard size of the bricks, weights and measures found prove the fact.

3.      The seals clearly show the usage of number system. The model symbol of infinity has been borrowed from the seals.

4.      The human figurines (the red sandstone torso of a man) prove the perfected sculpture technology - cutting, hewing, chipping, chiselling, carving, engraving, forming, finishing, niche completing etc. and these processes are not possible without usage of high tensile implements. 

5.      The Copper figures (dancing girl etc) prove the established fact of metallurgy in all aspects � refinement of ore, alloying techniques, pattern making, moulding, metal melting to thousands of degrees, casting etc.

6.      This clearly proves the usage of Iron implements during the material period.

7.      The Copper technology of IVC has close link with that of Rajasthan and other areas.

 

Therefore, the interpretation that Indian had to wait till the invasion of Alexander in 326 BCE to receive all arts and sciences from the west and then develop and progress is not tenable. The historiographers could critically analyze to come to any conclusion.

 

5. Horse in India: The recent controversy about the horse in Harappa brewed by the Marxist scholars clearly proves that their attempts have been not to disprove the existence of horse but the ideological usage of horse. Undue importance and much publicity has been given during the last six years for this issue, evidently started by R. S. Sharma and his colleagues8. They have clearly indulged in the propaganda about the introduction of horse by the invading Aryans around 2000 BCE in northern India. The Frontline and The Hindu have publicized and now readers have been very clear about the issue.

 

Fossils of horse, their depiction in terracotta, rock paintings and in IVC seal are tabulated as follows:

 

Sl.No

Representation

Place where found

Datable to / period

Specie / conclusion

Reference

 

Fossils of horse

Upper Siwalik

 

Equus sivaensis

Wadia, Geology of India

 

Fossils of horse

Pinjor stage

Pleistocene

Equus

Do

 

Terracotta figure

Lothal

 

 

S. R. Rao, Lothal and Indus Valley Civilization, pl.XXIIIA.

 

Horse seal

 

IVC

May be a horse

Mackay, Further Excavations at Mohanjadaro, I, p.289, II, pl.LXXVII, II).

 

Horse in rock paintings

Bhimbetka, Bhopal

c.30,000 YBP

Horse

 

 

Horse in rock paintings

Tamilnadu

c.2000 BCE

Horse

Report of Tamilnadu State Archaeological Department, Taramani.

 

Terracotta figure

Lothal

 

Horse

S. R. Rao, Lothal and Indus Valley Civilization, p.89.

 

A painting on pottery

Rangpur

 
 


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