Sengol Story: How a Shaiva Mutt initiated the transfer of power from British India to Hindu India – Kaushik R.

Sengol : India's Golden Sceptre

With the Sengol at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of democracy, it will symbolize the collective will and aspirations of Indians. – Kaushik Ramasamy

The date was 3 June 1947. Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India proposed a plan which was finalized and India was to be reborn as a sovereign independent nation on 15 August 1947.

History was being created and it needed to be symbolized by a historic event. So, Lord Mountbatten asked Jawaharlal Nehru what plans he has to mark the occasion.

Nehru immediately turned to his trusted aide C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), a doyen of knowledge, to seek advice, who shared with him the ancient Tamil tradition of transfer of power.

During the Chola era, the transfer of power was done by the rajaguru (court high priest) who handed over the Sengol symbolizing power and justice, from the old king to the new king. The Cholas held the Sengol and took oath to uphold justice by swearing in the name of Lord Siva.

Rajaji shared about this tradition to Nehru and suggested that a Sengol (scepter) be made which the British can hand it over to the new prime minister through one of the Hindu priests. Nehru agreed and tasked Rajaji with the job of executing it.

Rajaji was an ardent follower of Thiruvavduthurai Adheenam, one of the oldest Hindu Saivite Mutts founded in the 16th century. It is situated in Mayiladuthurai district, 82 kms away from Thanjavur the erstwhile capital of the Cholas.

Rajaji immediately reached out to the 20th pontiff of the Mutt, Gurumahasannidanam Srilasri Ambalavana Desikar Swamigal.

Swamigal graciously accepted the responsibility and the making of the Sengol was entrusted to Chennai-based Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers.

The Sengol was crafted to be approximately 5 feet in length with intricate details and rich symbolism. The Nandi (bull) was positioned on top of the Sengol representing the concept of “Nyaya,” which signifies justice and fairness.

Vummidi Ethirajulu (96) and Vummidi Sudhakar (88), who are part of the Vummidi family, who were involved in the making of the Sengol are still alive today and recollect that the crafting was constantly monitored by the Adheenam.

The septre is offered to Mountbatten and then returned to the Thiruvavduthurai Adheenam seer Kumaraswamy Thambiran Swamigal who will take it to Pandit Nehru.

The Historic Event That Was Forgotten

On the historic day of 14 August 1947, one of the Mutt”s deputy pontiffs Kumaraswamy Thambiran Swamigal, the Mutt’s odhuvar (singer) Manikka Odhuvar and nadaswaram player T.N. Rajarathinam Pillai who was also the Adheenam’s nadaswaram player were specially flown to Delhi carrying the golden Sengol with them.

Fifteen minutes before the clock struck 00:00, the Sengol was sanctified with holy water and verses from Kolaru Padhigam of the Thirumurais (compilation of verses hailing Hindu God Siva) were chanted. As the last line “அடியார்கள் வானில் அரசாள்வர் ஆணை நமதே” meaning (Those who chant this padhigam will rule the heavens) was recited, the Swamigal gave the sceptre to Pandit Nehru, completing the transfer of power.

The photos of the event was widely published in Indian and international media and is displayed prominently at the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam.

Pandit Nehru holding India's sacred scepter at Independence, with attending Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam seer who gave it to him.

As Tamil Labs puts it, at the stroke of midnight, when the whole world slept, India awoke to life and freedom, with the sounds of the holy Thevaaram.

However, this high-profile historic event was kept low-key and slowly forgotten over a period of time thanks to the Nehruvian establishment.

The Sengol was kept at the nondescript Anand Bhavan Museum in Prayagraj (then Allahabad).

Sengol labeled 'Nehru's Golden Walking Stick' in Ananda Bhavan Museum in Prayagraj (Allahabad).

Sengol At The Centre Of Power

The historic event which awakened India to freedom and the Sengol which was suppressed for 7 decades has got a new lease of life.

History is now going to repeat itself marking the arrival of a New India with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the New Parliament House. To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would receive the Sengol from the Hindu sannyasis of Tamil Nadu. The Sengol will be placed majestically near the chair of the Speaker.

With the Sengol at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of democracy, it will symbolize the collective will and aspirations of Indians. – The Commune, 24 May 2023

› Kaushik Ramasamy is a political consultant and columnist.

India's New Parliament Building where the golden Sengol will reside.

Decoding ancient Indian history – Nanditha Krishna

Kurukshetra War: Angkor Wat Bas Relief

We know the Muslim kings who defeated Hindus, but nothing about Hindu kings who defeated the Muslims. … A more balanced view of Indian history will appear when we rewrite history from local sources. –  Nanditha Krishna

We are told that there were no historians in ancient India: the Vedas are all about Gods, the Ramayana and Mahabhaarata are myths, and Indian history began with the Buddha and Alexander. But this is not true. It is what the British wanted us to believe and their Leftist historian chelas took further.

The first historical event recorded by Rishi Vashishtha Maitravaruni in the Rig Veda (VII.18) was the Battle of the Ten Tribes, between Sudasa and his warriors against cattle thieves consisting of the Anus, the Druhyus led by their king Gandhara, Pakhta or Pakhtoons, Bhalana of the Bolan region in Baluchistan, Alina of Nuristan (eastern Afghanistan), Parsu or Persians, Prithu or Parthians of northeast Iran, Panis of Pakistan-Afghanistan and the Matsyas of Rajasthan-Haryana, among others. Dasas, said the British, were Dravidians and enemies of Aryas. But Sudasa was an Arya fighting the tribes of the north and west. British history of India was wrong.

Indian history writing began with two itihasas. Rishi Narada narrated the Ramayana, about Rama, to Valmiki; the latter made it into a fantasy full of flying monkeys and demons. The Mahabharata, the story of two battling branches of Kurus, was originally called Jaya (Victory), with 8,800 verses attributed to Vyasa. Unfortunately, as it belonged to the oral bardic tradition, verses were added by itinerant singers. Today, there are over 1,00,000 shlokas.

With Alexander came Megasthenes who wrote Indica. He lived between 350 and 290 BCE and was an ancient Greek historian, diplomat, ethnographer and explorer. He left behind valuable observations of India. Stone carving came into vogue at this time. Kings left inscriptions, coins and palm leaf manuscripts that tell us about their favourite deities, dynasties and more.

Of the ancient historians and biographies, Harshacharita was a biography of the Indian ruler Harsha by Bana, a Sanskrit writer who wrote the first historical biography containing vivid descriptions of society and nature in Sanskrit in 640 CE. Parimala Kalidasa, a Paramara court poet who lived in the 10th–11th century, wrote about the Paramara king Sindhuraja who ruled Malwa. Bilhana of Kashmir left home and wandered through Mathura, Kanauj, Prayag, Varanasi, Somnath, Kalyan and Rameswaram. On his return journey, the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI invited him to be the royal vidyapati. Bilhana (11th century) composed the epic Vikramankadevacharita.

In 1191–1192 CE, Jayanaka, a Kashmiri poet-historian in the court of Prithviraj Chauhan, wrote the Prithviraja Vijaya (Prithviraja’s Victory) about Prithviraj and his ancestors, on a birch bark manuscript in the Sharda script. The poem mentions Prithviraja’s victory over Muhammad Ghori in the first Battle of Tarain but not about his defeat in the second: it was obviously written between the two battles. Kalhana wrote the history of Kashmir, the Rajatarangini, in Sanskrit in the 12th century. Sanskrit was still the language of literature at this time.

Meanwhile, South India developed its own history. Ashoka, in the 3rd century, had mentioned the kingdoms of the Pandyas, Cholas, Cheras and Satiyaputras (Athiyamaan) beyond his empire. King Kharavela in his Hathigumpha inscription (150 BCE) refers to the Pandyan king and a league of Tamil kingdoms that had existed 113 years earlier. The earliest readable Tamil inscriptions, dating to 200 BCE, were found near Madurai. These are the oldest Jain inscriptions in South India. The Alagarmalai inscriptions of the 1st century BCE record the endowments made by a group of merchants from Madurai, while 3rd century CE inscriptions on rocks in Wayanad district in Kerala refer to the Chera dynasty.

Sangam literature, which starts from about 200 BCE, documents kings, dynasties and their achievements. Maduraikkanchi by Maruthanaar describes Madurai and the Pandyan kingdom. Netunalvatai by Nakkirar describes the palace of king Nedunchezhiyan III. The Purananuru and Akananuru describe several kings, and some literature was composed by the kings themselves. Pathirruppathu provides the genealogy of four generations of Cheras and descriptions of Chera country.

Works like Ainkurnuru, Akanaanuru, Kuruntogai, Natrinal and Purananuru tell us about ancient kings, while Pattinapaalai describes the port city of Kaveripoompattinam and the arrival of food from Eelam or Lanka. The first inscriptional reference to a Sangam chieftain, Atiyamaan Netumaaran Anci of Takatur, is found at Jambai, belonging to the 1st century CE. Inscriptions from the 2nd century CE at Pugalur near Karur and 4th century CE at Arachalur are important records too.

Inscriptions and coins have been found all over Tamil Nadu and South India mentioning the rulers, society, religion and administration. The Uttiramerur inscription is excellent inscriptional evidence of local democracy and administration during the time of the Cholas. The Pandyas, Cheras, Cholas and Pallavas left their histories in the form of elaborate inscriptions and literature on temple walls and copper plates.

Medieval Islamic historians were better-known because the British utilised their writings. Babur wrote his memoire, the Baburnama. Abul Fazl wrote the Akbarnama. Badayuni wrote his Tarikh which chronicles Mughal history from Babur to Muslim scholars, physicians and writers. Firishta wrote his Tarikh, containing the kings of Ghazni, Lahore, Delhi and Dakhin—divided into chapters on Gulbarga, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, Gujarat, Malwa, Khandesh, Bengal, Bihar, Multan, Sind and Kashmir.

There are similar sources of history from every state. Our historians quote British historians who wrote with a specific agenda of belittling Hindu civilisation and dividing Muslims and Hindus. We know the Muslim kings who defeated Hindus, but nothing about Hindu kings who defeated the Muslims, like Ranbal and Jayapala, Shahi kings of Afghanistan, Bappa Rawal, Rana Pratap, Raja Prithu the Ahom, Rana Sangha and the Chandela king Vidyadhara who chased Mahmud Ghazni back to Afghanistan. A more balanced view of Indian history will appear when we rewrite history from local sources. – The New Indian Express, 26 April 2023

Nanditha Krishna is an author, historian, educationalist and environmentalist based in Chennai.


Rethinking the Indus Valley civilisation – Nanditha Krishna

Mohenjo-daro Dancing Girl (ca. 2300-1750 BCE).

Vasant Shinde, who has excavated several Harappan sites, was fortunate to isolate DNA from the skeleton of a Harappan lady at Rakhigarh. The result was a South Asian gene spread all over India, with no Steppe or Iranian ancestry. But Harappan genomes have been found in Iran and Turkmenistan, giving credence to the Out of India theory. – Nanditha Krishna

A seminar on ‘Art in the Indus Civilization’ was recently held in Chennai. Why art? Because the unverifiable readings of the Indus script are a major impediment, art becomes the most reliable source of information. This Bronze Age civilisation covered a vast area, from Balochistan in the west to Western UP in the east, from Afghanistan in the north to Gujarat in the south, the largest “empire” of the ancient world. Remains of agriculture from 6500 BCE are found in Mehrgarh, Balochistan.

Although Kalibangan (in India) was discovered first, Mohenjo Daro and Harappa were reported first but went to Pakistan during Partition. Subsequent excavations revealed that 75 per cent of the Indus civilisation is situated along the Ghaggar-Hakra, now identified with the river Saraswati. However, it is still known as the Indus Civilisation because the first sites were excavated there. Kalibangan, Dholavira, Lothal and Rakhigarhi are among the important sites subsequently excavated. In 1924, the Indus civilisation was declared a site of remote antiquity by the British, who had earlier maintained that Indian history began in 600 BCE!

The art of the Indus civilisation includes terracottas, ceramics, glyptics, sculpture, jewellery made of carnelian, steatite, gold, silver and, faience and beads. Art “expresses important ideas or feelings” of a people. Early terracottas are primitive, made of pressed clay and pinched, with huge holes for eyes. The mature period produced beautiful images of trees, animals, birds and deities engraved on seals and paintings on pottery. The art residues are distinctive spokespersons for this civilisation. The seals were made of steatite, faience and terracotta and used commercially and ritually. Dogs with collars and elephants with rugs over their back suggest that they had been domesticated. Images of horses, rhinos, monkeys, rams, other animals and birds appear either as toys or on seals. Ornaments, shells, turquoise and lapis lazuli were moved from 500 to 1500 km away.

Why is the naked bronze dancing girl presumed to be dancing? Why is the stone priest-king of Mohenjo Daro presumed to be a priest-king? There are no answers. Several images of yoga poses exist, while two naked male torsos of grey lime are outstanding. One twists a leg, a male dancing figure comparable to the Nataraja pose. The other is in samabhanga, perhaps a Tirthankara (Yajurveda mentions three). 

The earliest worship scene in India is a seal from the Indus Civilisation where a three-horned male figure stands inside a stylised pipal tree. There are several seals of male figures with three pipal leaves protruding from the head, recalling the Ashvatavriskshastotram. The second important seal type is a tree with prickly thorns and small leaves, the khejari or shami, with a female figure seated on a branch and a tiger below, reminiscent of the paalai or desert described by Tolkappiyar, whose goddess is Kotravai or Durga and plant, the prickly kotran. Durga’s vehicle is the tiger. In the Vedas, ashvata and shami were rubbed together to produce fire. Three-headed male figures meditate in yogic moolabandhaasana. All these are Harappan and Vedic iconography. Popular animal stories from the Panchatantra are painted on jars.

Vasant Shinde, who has excavated several Harappan sites, was fortunate to isolate DNA from the skeleton of a Harappan lady at Rakhigarh. The result was a South Asian gene spread all over India, with no Steppe or Iranian ancestry. But Harappan genomes have been found in Iran and Turkmenistan, giving credence to the Out of India theory. According to Dr Shinde, the dominant gene in most south Asians is 25 to 30 per cent Harappan. By craniofacial reconstruction, he found that Harappans resembled contemporary Haryanvis.

Radha and Krishna playing chess.

Some scholars believe that the second urbanisation of 1000 BCE was disconnected from Harappa, with a dark Vedic Age in between. This is false, says Prof Michel Danino, because the same technologies in pottery, water management, metallurgy and crafts are pursued throughout Indian culture. Fire altars and lingassindoor and Mother Goddess figurines, lost wax technique to cast bronze statues, and more have continued since Harappa. Tribal women wear Harappan-style bangles on their arms, and chessmen from Lothal and dice from Harappa are still popular games. Swastika and tree worship still prevailed, while the Harappan weight system continued throughout Indian culture. Check dams to avoid flooding, bathrooms with commodes and drainage lines with manholes for cleaning are Harappan legacies. So, did “untouchability” begin there? Unlike Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus people didn’t build pyramids and ziggurats, but made life comfortable for the common person in well-built cities.

When people travel with their musical instruments, they retain their names. The piano and violin retain their names everywhere. Shail Vyas researched Mesopotamian references to Meluha (as the Indus Valley was known there) and found the names of 30 Indian musical instruments and 60 items of trade, including animals, birds and timber species, from Meluha, all in Sanskrit, with similar Mesopotamian equivalents. These had gone with the sea-faring Meluhans of the Indus.

It is time to rethink the Harappan civilisation, a culture with much archaeology but little literature. Vedic culture is all literature, and no material remains—is it possible? The Vedas speak of copper, not iron, making it a Bronze Age civilisation like Harappa. The Vedic civilisation was riverine and agricultural, like the Harappan. The Early Harappan Period lasted from 3300 to 2900 BCE, the Mature period from 2900 to 1900 BCE and the Late Harappan from 1900 to 1500 BCE. By 1000 BCE, the Painted Grey-Ware of the Mahabharata period had appeared, so the Vedas would have to be much earlier. The Vedas do not speak of any homeland outside India. The two civilisations were contemporary, probably the same, for Meluhan Sanskrit in Mesopotamia is compelling evidence. It is time our history books reveal the truth. – The New Indian Express, 12 march 2023

> Nanditha Krishna is an author, historian, educationalist and environmentalist.

Sindhu-Saraswati (Indus Vally) Civilisation Map

Was Tipu Sultan really a patriot and great freedom fighter? – Jaithirth Rao

Tipu Sultan

The fact is Tipu was a brilliant military tactician and a weak military and political strategist. He allied with the French, who ended up on the losing side. He was bigoted and had megalomaniac pretensions of a Muslim conquest of India. – Jaithirth Rao

If only the Marxist editors of NCERT textbooks had admitted that Tipu Sultan was a flawed human being, perhaps some of us would not have many problems. The absence of such honesty makes us say: Ay, there’s the rub! In the Marxist version of the earlier sarkari sycophants, Tipu was a patriot, a tolerant, secular ruler, a great freedom fighter and so on. The question of “flaws” simply did not arise.

Tipu’s apologist, the Australian historian Kate Brittlebank, points out that he was virtually unique in being an Indian ruler who died fighting the British and did not take a pension from them. There is a considerable verisimilitude in that statement. But that does not automatically make Tipu a patriot. He allied with the French and if the fortunes of war had been different, India may have come under the rule of the French East India Company—not exactly a sanguine prospect for Indian patriots.

Misplaced patriotism of Tipu Sultan

The ruler of Mysore corresponded with the Sultan of Turkey and was not averse to that exalted person becoming the suzerain of India. At least for many of us, the British Raj was a better happenstance than an Ottoman Raj and that is our view as patriots. The Ottomans are unlikely to have built railways or set up universities, institutions that incidentally came up in the Ottoman Empire decades after they did in British India. Tipu wrote to Zaman Shah Durrani, the third king of the Durrani Empire in Afghanistan, to help throw out the British in India. Some of us see this as evidence of religious bigotry against Hindu Marathas, not secular patriotism.

In emphasising his anti-British credentials, which are taken as self-evident proof of his patriotism, the Delhi-JNU-Aligarh-Rutgers-Australia group of historians seem to forget that the British were not the only enemies of Tipu. In the last siege of Seringapatam (or Srirangapatna, if you so prefer) in 1799, there were more Hyderabad Nizam’s soldiers in the army attacking Tipu’s than those of the East India Company. And I assume that no one can accuse the Nizam of being a Hindu bigot. There were a lot of Maratha soldiers too. In fact, more soldiers loyal to Indian rulers, Hindus and Muslims, fought Tipu than the soldiers of the East India Company, which the Marxists love to hate.

My mother’s family is of “old Mysorean” vintage and many of these tales are stories I have heard from my grandfather Madhava Rao and my many granduncles. Our narrative is that while Tipu’s father and ruler of Mysore Hyder Ali was a usurper, he nevertheless maintained the fiction that he was a deputy of our beloved Wodeyar kings. It is Tipu who started calling himself “Sultan” and who marginalised our traditional rulers completely. The dowager Wodeyar Maharani Lakshmammanni was in correspondence with the British who she saw as legitimate “restorers” of order in our land and who looked upon Tipu as the disloyal, treacherous and, need I say, unpatriotic traitor. The Marxist historians will doubtless dismiss the venerable lady as a Hindu bigot or in current parlance as a supremacist.

Kodavas, Roman Catholics, Nairs, and the British

It is interesting to note how the Marxists of today are making light of the sufferings of Kodavas of Coorg (or Kodagu) and slyly portraying them as British agents. The fact is that most Kodavas hate Tipu who allegedly forcibly converted many of them. The descendants of this community of Kodava “converts” are still around.

Tipu was also brutal towards the Nair community of Travancore and Malabar. Again, forced conversions were the rule. And he followed it up with the destruction of temples. His worst depredations were against the Roman Catholic Christians of Mangalore. Forced marches, forced conversions, abductions of Mangalorean Christian women—all of these are documented and well-known. I wonder if the bishops of today’s crypto-Marxist Roman Church in India will even bother to talk about this. The Leftist historians of the world dismiss Tipu’s cruelty to British prisoners, including the forcible dressing of young drummer boys as girls and the violation of their civil rights as “imperialist propaganda.” It definitely was propaganda. But let us not forget the kernel of truth in these accounts.

The so-called secular historians talk endlessly about Tipu’s support of the Hindu temples of Srirangapatna and Nanjangud and of the Sringeri Mutt. Many of these are documented and cannot and should not be denied. But if the historians are neutral, they should have the integrity and courage to state that some of this support stemmed from Tipu’s faith in these temples possessing unique abilities in the realm of astrological predictions. Tipu was a believer in astrology. I give him credit for that. Will secular historians do the same?

A brilliant tactician but a weak strategist

The other point that the Marxist historians make is that Purnaiah, who was a Brahmin and a minister under Hyder Ali and Tipu, was pro-Tipu. This is true. But the same historians could have and should have added that many Mysoreans believed and still do that Purnaiah was a traitor a few times over!  I have a simple explanation. Purnaiah was perhaps a nobody until Hyder spotted him and his entire rise, including becoming the  Diwan of Mysore, was on account of Hyder and later Tipu. He was simply being loyal to his benefactors. Incidentally, in his later life, Purnaiah was equally loyal to the East India Company. Arthur Wellesley, who later became the Duke of Wellington, respected and admired Purnaiah. My grand-uncle Nagaraja Rao, a devout Brahmin himself, while talking about Purnaiah once told me that “Brahmins have a chameleon-like ability to adjust realistically to the powers that be.” That might sum up the Purnaiah story. Not loyalty or disloyalty, but realism.

Tipu called his government (which from our family’s point of view, was one of usurpers) the Sarkar-e-Khudadad, an Islamic Persian expression indicating that it was the government of God. Tipu deliberately introduced Persian into the land records of his dominion. Is it bigoted on our part to admire the British army officer Mark Cubbon who subsequently changed the rules and reintroduced Kannada and Marathi in the village maps? Who is the traitor? Who is the patriot? Who was benevolent? Who was malevolent? Important questions to ask. No wonder, even today, no political party wants to change the name of Cubbon Park in Bengaluru or remove his statue.

The fact is Tipu was a brilliant military tactician and a weak military and political strategist. He allied with the French, who ended up on the losing side. He was bigoted and had megalomaniac pretensions of a Muslim conquest of India. Hence his outreach to the Turks and the Afghans. He was a parvenu local Muslim and anathema to the Nizam who advertised his Persian ancestry. The Marathas saw him as a thorn in their side. The Nawab of Carnatic Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah hated Tipu and was his unforgiving enemy. Many of Tipu’s subjects longed for the return of Wodeyar rule.

Hyder Ali was a military and political genius but his son Tipu, lacked his good sense. He allowed a large coalition—the Marathas, the Nizam, the British, the Kodavas, the Maharaja of Travancore and the Nawab of Carnatic to get together against him. He relied on the French who were irresolute and incompetent; he appealed to Turks and Afghans who were otherwise preoccupied and uninterested. He was clever. But unlike his father, he was not intelligent. He lost.

In any event, he was not a great, shining patriot. He was flawed, like most of us are. – The Print, 27 February 2023

Jaithirth Rao is a retired businessperson who lives in Mumbai.

Masjid-i-Ala (Jama Masjid)

Mysore Archaeological Dept Report 1935

Thaparite historians have reason to be afraid – Reshmi Dasgupta

Romila Thapar

Interested Indians cannot be left to the tender mercies of a coterie of like-minded professional historians who have so far not been able to make themselves accessible or intelligible to all those who have a yen to know. – Reshmi Dasgupta

Last week, at the launch of Sanjeev Sanyal’s latest book Revolutionaries, Home Minister Amit Shah spoke of the need to tell the “other side” of history, as it has for too long been seen through the prism of colonial historians. This week, historian Swapna Liddle, at the launch of her own new book The Broken Script, said history writing should be left to historians. These two contradictory views highlight an increasingly vexing question: Whose history is it anyway?

Many years ago, a venerated editor of a major national daily used to write a column that continued to be published long after he retired. His commentaries were not for the faint-hearted—or for the average newspaper reader. As a rookie journalist 30 years ago, I often heard the comment that “if more than five people read his column—and understood it—he would be offended.” He apparently believed that quality and popularity were inherently mutually exclusive.

Today’s “eminent” Indian historians concur. Think of a book on Indian history you found interesting—if you ever were enthused enough to think of reading a book on history, that is. The chances are that the one(s) you like are written either by non-Indians, or Indians who are not historians. Most professional historians here write books only for their peers and hapless students. Most would probably be annoyed—like that editor—if the hoipolloi read and understand them!

They, therefore, remain smugly unaware that they have been hoist by their own petard, as the rise of non-historians writing history is proof of the failure of the “professionals”. Had the writing of history not been left to these exclusivist historians all this while, non-historians like Sanyal (an economist by education and profession) would not have had to jump in to make history accessible and intelligible to the very people whose shared past forms its core focus area.

The presiding deity of the professional historian cult is, of course Romila Thapar. And her C.D. Deshmukh Lecture at the India International Centre last week was an impeccably enunciated excoriation of the “other” historians who have the temerity to tread on hallowed ground reserved for her ilk. The overwhelmingly grey-haired audience was told that the others were a bunch of ill-read, untrained, idiotic (saffron) flag-wavers who don’t know their ass from their elbow.

She talked of the professional historians’ loyalty to methodologies and processes, characterising the work of the “others” as flights of fancy based on hearsay, mythology and their own imagination. She obviously did not think it necessary to actually read any book by those “others” before attacking them, or else she would have been horrified to discover that most of them use the same sources, methodologies and processes she assumes are exclusive to her cohort.

The difference is that non-professional Indian historians use refreshingly non-academic language and present findings and arguments in a way lay readers can relate to, not turgid jargon-ridden treatises of “historians”. Yet professional historians abroad whether they lean left or right—let us not pretend historians anywhere are impartial—make the effort to write lucidly. So they appeal to wider audiences unlike their Indian counterparts, and even produce bestsellers.

Apart from her fellow “professional” historians and generations of unfortunate students forced to read Thapar as part of history syllabi in universities—myself included—few other Indians would willingly buy any of her two dozen or so books. Most other professional historians also wallow in the same shallow pool. Ironically, it suits this elite band to keep history—knowledge—confined to a select few in this way, just like the Brahmins of ancient India used to do.

But this elite group now has reason to be afraid—be very afraid—as a revolution is underway. Their superiority and monopoly are being challenged—not by the non-professional historians but by the people, by readers. Bestseller lists based on actual sales of books rather than the selections of interest groups consistently show that works by so-called amateurs are dominating the top ranks. So much so that even publishers are now looking beyond their previous elite favourites.

The redoubtable Arun Shourie had taken on this cohort in his 2014 book Eminent Historians showing how they have steered narratives in a particular direction via total control over the writing, researching, funding, guiding and teaching history. Those professional historians have achieved little apart from discouraging legions of students who may have been inclined to explore alternative—opposing—ideas or narratives and realigning them towards more “acceptable” ideologies.

Actually, historians like Thapar did notch up a success of sorts as the vanguard of today’s cancel culture: preventing bright minds from entering their hallowed portals in the previous 60-odd years. They could then confidently heap scorn on the “other side” for lacking people with the professional qualifications to write “credible” history. But those who have hogged the history space for decades and still seek to stave off others have good reason to be ashamed of themselves.

Because, as these gatekeeper-historians kept an iron grip on textbooks, the fact that so many, if not most, young Indians who finished from school under their watch deem history to be boring and nothing to be proud of is a damning indictment of their writing and teaching. They should have been made to explain their failure and reform. Instead, they were lionised, allowed to continue controlling access to history and even anoint themselves as ‘liberals’.

The damage they wrought on young Indian minds was not always via blatant twisting of facts; it was often through selection of facts, an accusation those “liberals” lob at non-professional historians today. Why, for instance, is it that the “important” battles students memorise are the ones that were “lost”—Porus in 326 BCE, the second battle of Tarain (1192), Panipat (1526, 1556 and 1761), Plassey (1757) and Seringapatam (1799)—rather than those that were won?

The fiery Ahom general Lachit Borphukan who defeated Aurangzeb’s Rajput general Ram Singh in 1671 at the Battle of Saraighat has only now been rescued from the footnotes of history, where he was consigned by historians for reasons no longer tough to figure out. As was the Gond Rani Durgawati, who defeated Mughal forces on the first day of the battle of Narrai Nala in 1564 before being wounded on the second day and killing herself to prevent being captured.

Last year Aneesh Gokhale, a merchant navy officer who has written three books on history previously, published a gripping account of Borphukan—Lachit the Indomitable. And this year, Rani Durgawati: The Forgotten Life of a Warrior Queen by Nandini Sengupta, a journalist and writer, has just been released. Both are non-professional historians and thus candidates to be “cancelled” by the cabal. Luckily they do not aspire to academic posts and can ignore patrician vetoes!

The fact that Sanyal’s books have been runaway bestsellers, whether about more recent times like our freedom movement or on ancient India, emphatically shows that many Indians are interested in our own history. Yet books by professional historians—whom Liddle thinks should have a monopoly over history writing—are evidently not the ones they want to pick up to read. That can only mean these professional historians are incapable of addressing this huge demand.

Interested Indians cannot be left to the tender mercies of a coterie of like-minded professional historians who have so far not been able to make themselves accessible or intelligible to all those who have a yen to know. History is always contested as facts can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. But like most things about India, there has to be diversity in approaches to discover, analyse and understand our past—and present it to Indians in a lucid, engaging way.

Having understood the zeitgeist, Amit Shah exhorts the unshackling of history. Liddle does not or cannot accept that history is too important to remain the exclusive preserve of “professional” historians. But why not let both sides flourish? There is enough material and space in Indian history for all types of research and writing. Democratise history writing so that different and differing approaches—not just Thaparite dogma—can be posited and understood by everyone. – Firstpost, 20 January 2023

Reshmi Dasgupta writes on history and politics.

Romila Thapar Cartoon

Britain and Pakistan: India fails to learn from its past – Gautam Sen

Narendra Modi & Rishi Sunak

One must admire the gall of the British establishment which has taken to the most egregious slander against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the BBC, trying to incite Muslim revolt in India with blatant lies, even as it is negotiating the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). – Dr. Gautam Sen

The background to Pakistan’s dire predicament today, economic and political chaos and unexpected clashes at the border with Afghanistan, need unsparing historical analysis. The hungry millions of Pakistan are already taking to the streets crying for atta, no different from Parisian mobs demanding bread on the eve of the French revolution. The emotions of Pakistan’s impoverished masses, converge with the visceral distaste of the TTP for Pakistan’s corrupt elites, whom they also regard as irreligious. There’s every possibility the mobs may turn on the homes of Pakistan’s elites as the TTP is doing with the nation’s security forces. It is reported members of the families of Pakistan’s wealthy chartered a plane, only three weeks ago, at vast cost, to fly to London to celebrate New Year while the leaders of the bankrupt country went begging for help in the capitals of the world.

This grim ground reality of Pakistan being encountered by millions of ordinary Pakistanis today originated in cynical British imperial intrigues, as it did for so many countries. It is Britain’s involvement and arbitrary creation of borders in the Middle East that left behind serious problems, which other imperial powers are still using to their advantage cynically. The most unjust and illogical partition was experienced by Iraq, which was left fundamentally unviable as an economy. The British drew a map around some oil wells and called it Kuwait, an area that would have legitimately been vital for a viable Iraqi polity. Not much needs to be said of British misdeeds in Palestine that have resulted in a homeless people and endless conflict. India too is a victim, with much of its continuing divisive domestic politics, stemming directly from British machinations that date back to the nineteenth century.

The creation of Pakistan was almost entirely the product of British geopolitical strategy to deal with a presumed Soviet threat from the north and associated aims in the Middle East. The fact that an intense debate was also occurring within the Indian Muslim religious and political community about partition, which was won by its proponents, was fortuitous and convenient for British plans. However, British political leaders at Westminster and its most senior military leaders were not collectively convinced at the outset that partition was altogether desirable. Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck was the most senior military officer who did not regard the partition of India as the best outcome for the withdrawing British. In fact, he refused a peerage in protest at the carnage that ensued with the hasty partition insisted on by Lord Louis Mountbatten. Shockingly, Jawaharlal Nehru made him India’s first Governor-General despite the man’s criminal role over partition. He even acquiesced to the destruction of the memorial for fallen INA soldiers, the first act of Lord Louis Mountbatten when he reached Singapore on victory over Japan.

However, the governor general and viceroy, Lord Archibald Wavell, Mountbatten’s predecessor until February 1947 and a field marshall himself, was convinced partition alone could address Britain’s geopolitical interests and was determined to see it through at all cost. In his view, the Soviet threat from the north and British interests in the Middle East could best be secured by a reliable ally through partition. Lord Wavell had correctly concluded independent India would not cooperate despite only achieving dominion status in August 1947. The request for the British navy to use the port in Bombay was refused and Karachi therefore became absolutely vital for the British navy. Lord Wavell’s concern with Britain’s geopolitical interests was shared by Winston Churchill. He opposed Indian independence and was a bitter antagonist of the “Hindu Congress” while he was wartime prime minister, conspiring assiduously with Mohammed Ali Jinnah to achieve British political aims.

Lord Wavell himself was not a man given to sentimentality, having served in the brutal Boer War, where concentration camps had first been invented, later copied by the Nazis for mass slaughter. However, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his wife Edwina were to prove much more adept than the brusque Lord Wavell at manipulating the Congress leadership, especially Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. It is now known from the recollections of their daughter, Lady Pamela Hicks, nee Mountbatten, and CIA archives, that Nehru was involved with Edwina Mountbatten. He formed an enduring intimate relationship with her until her death in February 1960. This was to prove fateful for India’s history because the Mountbattens and British chiefs of India’s armed forces, shockingly retained by Jawaharlal Nehru after independence, plotted successfully to ensure Pakistan retained a strategically significant part of Jammu and Kashmir thanks to Nehru’s wanton cupidity. Their treasonous role has been recorded by Lt. Gen. L.P. Sen who commanded Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, as brigadier, during 1947-48.

In order to signal to London and others like Field Marshal Auchinleck, wavering over the idea of partition, Lord Wavell wanted to give them a stark demonstration of what might happen across the length and breadth of India if Muslims did not get their homeland. He hatched a conspiracy to precipitate bloodshed through the Great Calcutta Killings of mid-August 1946, followed by violence in Bihar and Noakhali. The actual instigation of the mass killings, horrendous rapes with naked women hung from meat hooks next to joints of beef were fronted by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Calcutta and Bengal were chosen as the venue for the bloodletting because the Muslim League was in power in the state and its was a Bengali leader, Fazlul Huq, who had proposed the Lahore Resolution on partition. Bengal’s incumbent chief minister was the ruthless playboy confidante of Jinnah, Huseyn S Suhrawardy, who proved a faithful co-conspirator in the grim mayhem.

Governor Frederick John Burrows, the local police and the military commander were instructed by Lord Wavell to stand aside while the violence took place. It was organised by Huseyn Suhrawardy in a chilling public speech at the Calcutta Maidan after he had ensured the Muslims came to the public meeting armed and prepared. It was only possible to stage such an event in Bengal because Muslims were both in power in the state and also the majority population, unlike any other part of India, including the Punjab.

It is this contextual backdrop that accounts for the subsequent history of Pakistan and its evident unenviable and unsurpassable current predicament. Pakistan’s objective was, as Jinnah’s voluminous correspondence and records of his public utterances confirm, nothing short of inflicting permanent fatal injury to India and not merely the creation of a Muslim homeland. The aspiration was a corridor through the heart of India between West and East Pakistan as well as the attenuation of India into a patchwork of independent polities, an outcome that must have been music to the ears of the India-baiting Churchill and Wavell.

The insistence that Jammu and Kashmir be ceded and the war to snatch it from India, despite the hostility of its people towards the prospect under Sheik Abdullah’s leadership, was only the first step in the yearning to wage jihad against Hindu India. The intention was to replicate the genocidal wars waged by the Ghaznavids and assorted Turkic and Persian invaders like Timur and Nadir Shah, a fate which the Muslim League had actually threatened in 1946 if the demand for Pakistan was not granted.

The Pakistan that was established on the apparent basis of religious commonality proved to be a fragile artificial construct. It became the victim of the assorted conflicts over issues like language, political power and equity that bedevil most societies. In the case of Pakistan, Punjabi Muslim racism towards the darker-skinned Bengalis of smaller physical stature was to become an incendiary contributory theme that underpinned genocide in Pakistan’s eastern province in 1971. The disputes between the two halves of Pakistan began almost immediately with the caprice of imposing Urdu as a national language. It succeeded to a degree in West Pakistan, where historical regional mother tongues were virtually obliterated with even the dominant Punjabis abandoning it, whereas Bengalis rioted against the attempted imposition.

The denouement came when the Awami League won a majority in Pakistan’s first democratic elections in 1970, large enough for its Sheik Mujibur Rahman to become entitled to the premiership of Pakistan as a whole. This was unacceptable to the racially conscious Punjabi Muslim military caste that had usurped political power in Pakistan. Another dire specific fear also animated their animosity, which was the possibility of East Pakistani reluctance to fund the national defence budget for wars against India. The house of cards collapsed in short order with the single largest slaughter of Hindus in history that India and the world have striven to forget, not the least the upper castes of West Bengal.

Pakistan had become a garrison state at the outset, with formal military control seized in 1958 by Field Marshal Ayyub Khan. The Western powers came to regard Pakistan as a military cantonment, like other bases around the world, but much more substantial and with a dual purpose. It was a collaborator against Soviet Communism in the region and beyond and a useful constraint on India, unwilling to kowtow to the West and was friendly towards the USSR. Pakistan joined SEATO in 1954 and CENTO in 1955, the Baghdad Pact earlier, the latter along with Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Both these Cold War alliances operated under US leadership. These ties were to prove fateful because the Anglo Americans inferred that Pakistan’s role and military commitments in the anti-communist alliance needed to be insulated from the cut and thrust of any homegrown frivolous democratic political upheaval.

Although, in practice, the contingent raison d’etre for domestic public consumption was the alleged existential threat posed to Pakistan by Hindu India and its illegitimate occupation of Muslim Jammu and Kashmir. These were to become the overarching compelling justifications of the primacy of Pakistan’s military in the country involved in a permanent institutionalised conflict with India. Although the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir provided extraordinarily handy legitimacy, Pakistan’s armed forces must have baulked at any prospect of its resolution. The result was quiet Anglo-American welcome to the military coup of 1958 and inauguration of the absolute primacy of Pakistan’s military over its polity, economy and society, which has endured ever since. In the estimation of Pakistan scholar Christine Fair, elected Pakistani prime ministers are no more than the equivalent of the mayor of a city. But absolute power tends, as Lord Acton once averred, to corrupt absolutely.

The predictable outcome of military dictatorship, all outward fictitious appearances to the contrary, was the inevitable full-blown corruption of the officer corps of Pakistan’s armed forces. It was facilitated by organised plunder of national assets through over generous land grants to army officers and their gradual usurpation of most productive activities of the country as well. The corruption also acquired a parlous ethnic basis with the Punjab dominating the army officer corps, their relatives constituting the privileged landed gentry or recruits to the higher bureaucracy. The moral compass also ebbed in personal conduct with the astonishing sexual licentiousness among senior politicians and army officers alike.

The ordinary citizen was perfectly aware of the unspeakable rot and found nowhere to turn except to embrace religious motifs of protest. Such religious protest experienced a colossal boost when the Pakistani state, under General Zia-ul-Haq, sponsored the augmentation of militarised religious zealotry during the anti-Soviet intervention of the West in Afghanistan. These huge new militant religious assets were then found useful to deploy against India, especially in the aftermath of the nuclearisation of both countries. It seemed to diminish the threat of Indian retaliation against terrorist assault despite its superior conventional forces though that reverie has been disabused by Balakot.

The absence of democratic accountability has not unexpectedly proved to be the principal reason for the contemporary downfall of the entire artificial edifice left behind by the British and put to shameless use by the US, which armed and nurtured Pakistan over decades. Without the constant democratic feedback mechanisms that motivate politicians to adopt sane utilitarian policies for their own survival as public agents, corruption and looting reached catastrophic proportions. Pretty much all players in Pakistan’s public life are only exercised to increase their foreign assets and make retirement plans abroad, with London being a favoured destination. It is extraordinary that virtually everyone in Pakistani public life is a dual national and with their assets located abroad any commitment to national well-being cannot but be suspect.

In the meantime, the survival of the grossly mismanaged economy became dependent on handouts provided to Pakistan, as a useful military cantonment, by vulturine countries which barely regarded its citizens as human. As such, there was always a price to be paid and the recent entry of China into the equation is proving the most noxious. Chinese funding is always in exchange for physical assets or commitments to purchase costly services from Chinese firms allotted the task of creating utilities and infrastructure. Sovereign control of Gwadar port has effectively been surrendered to China, much like large areas of Gilgit-Baltistan in 1963 and now the idea of ceding it in entirety is the subject of much speculation. One wonders at the eventual fate of Karachi port too, which could prove extremely useful to China because of Western military threats to its imports through other routes.

The existence of Pakistan in its present form is surely in doubt unless it finds many hundreds of billions of dollars to reset the economy, which seems highly unlikely, and the military is decisively ousted from public life and confined to barracks. Perhaps only the Punjab will remain a functioning polity with most of the remainder of the country enjoying quasi sovereignty since Islam has proved an inadequate basis for solidarity and nationhood. Some of these newer quasi-independent entities might even look to India for succour and support. But it seems likely India will inherit a much more formidable foe, in the chaos of Pakistan’s disintegration. There is a danger China, not given to international norms and niceties, will occupy the whole of Gilgit-Baltistan and very likely, for strategic reasons, PoK as well.

Yet, the British are getting ready for a triumphant return to India despite ultimate responsibility for the dreadful situation for India’s borders, with China poised to surround it on several sides. Apart from placing India in an unenviable territorial quandary, Britain is the culprit which sowed the seeds of the festering wounds of Khalistan, Dravidianism as well as the poison of truculent Bengali Leftism. India is apparently intent on a free trade treaty (FTA) with Britain, though the benefits are uncertain and the negative consequences palpable. Yet, one must admire the gall of the British establishment which has taken to the most egregious slander against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the BBC, trying to incite Muslim revolt in India with blatant lies, even as it is negotiating the FTA. Unfortunately, it seems some self-serving British Indian-origin Ugandans, well-connected in Delhi’s corridors of power, favour a FTA and may well have the final say irrespective of its intrinsic merits for India’s future. Their rapid and unexplained enrichment since 2014 will only grow. – FirstPost, 20 January 2023

Dr. Gautam Sen taught International Political Economy and Political Science for more than two decades at the London School of Economics. 

BBC Hinduphobia and Indiaphobia

Was Jesus really born? – Virendra Parekh

Joseph & Mary

“The history of ancient Rome has been recorded in great detail. There is a vast body of historical and philosophical literature written in or referring to the time-frame when Jesus is supposed to have walked the earth. But that literature is oblivious of the mighty figure called Jesus Christ. Seneca (2 BC-66 AD), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Martial (40-102 AD), Plutarch (45-125 AD), Juvenal (55-140 AD), Apuleius (d. 170 AD), Pausanius (d. 185 AD) and Dio Casius (155-240 AD) do not mention any Jesus or Christ. … There is no reference to any Jesus in any Pagan work of the time.” – Virendra Parekh

“Let me tell you at the outset that Jesus is no mythological mumbo-jumbo like your Rama and Krishna, and even Buddha. On the contrary, he was a solid historical figure whose miracles were witnessed and vouchsafed by many contemporary people,” said a Jesuit missionary to Sita Ram Goel. Let us have a closer look at this “solid historical figure”.

Historicity of Jesus as described in Gospels has been one of the principal dogmas of all Christian denominations. Now, as Ram Swarup used to say, historicity by itself does not mean much. You and I are historical persons, but that fact by itself does not confer greatness or any other virtue on us. However, when historicity of the founder is touted as a point of superiority, we are inclined to examine it a little more closely.

The missionary propaganda would leave the impression that Jesus was a mighty figure who took the world by storm as soon as he appeared on the scene. However, the “solid historical figure” melts into thin air at the first brush with modern historical research. Biblical and christological research undertaken in the West during the last two and a half centuries has cast doubt on the historicity of every aspect of the life of Jesus, including his existence as a historical person.

Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer, the world famous theologian and missionary, admitted that, “There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the life of Jesus. The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of the God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth and died to give his work final consecration, never had any existence. This image has not been destroyed from without. It has fallen to pieces, cleft and disintegrated by concrete historical problems which came to surface one after the other and … refused to be palmed down to fit the design on which Jesus of the theology has been constructed….”[1]

Pagan Historians

Silence of the Pagans

The history of ancient Rome has been recorded in great detail. There is a vast body of historical and philosophical literature written in or referring to the time-frame when Jesus is supposed to have walked the earth. But that literature is oblivious of the mighty figure called Jesus Christ. Seneca (2 BC-66 AD), Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Martial (40-102 AD), Plutarch (45-125 AD), Juvenal (55-140 AD), Apuleius (d. 170 AD), Pausanius (d. 185 AD) and Dio Casius (155-240 AD) do not mention any Jesus or Christ. Epictetus (50-100 AD) refers to Galileans starting with Judas the Galilean who led the Jewish revolt against Rome in the first decade of the first century, but not to Jesus of Nazareth who is supposed to have come from Galilee shortly afterwards. There is no reference to any Jesus in any Pagan work of the time.

“The name of Seneca, of the elder and the younger Pliny, of Tacitus, of Plutarch, of Galen, of the slave Epictetus, and the emperor Marcus Antonius, adorn the age in which they flourished, and exalt the dignity of human nature…. Yet all these sages (it is no less an object of surprise than of concern) overlooked or rejected the perfection of the Christian system….” says Edward Gibbon in his classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.[2] Read it between the lines to grasp what he wants to convey to a largely Christian readership without causing offence. He adds, equally meaningfully, “those among them who condescend to mention the Christians consider them only as obstinate and perverse enthusiasts who exacted an implicit submission to their mysterious doctrines without being able to produce a single argument that could engage the attention of men of sense and learning.”

There are a few words or stray passages referring to “Chrestus” or his worshippers in Pliny the Younger (60-114 AD), Tacitus (55-120 AD), Suetonius (70-120 AD) and Sulpicius Severus (d. 400 AD). The word “Chrestus” (“good” or “agreeable”) was used as an appellation for characters belonging to several sects. It did not mean anything like “Christ” or “Christos”. That alone can explain the attempt by a Christian scribe to scratch the “e” in Chrestus and replace it by an “i” in a manuscript of Tacitus.[3]

Critical scrutiny has shown that all these references either do not relate to Jesus of Nazareth, or are influenced by Christian tradition, or are clever Christian fabrications. Ian Wilson concludes that “in all this there is scarcely a crumb of information to compel a belief in Jesus’ existence”.[4] Paul Johnson comments that fabrications “occur throughout the history of Christianity up to Renaissance and even beyond”.[5]

Sita Ram Goel has pointed out that word “Christian” does not appear in the Christian literature itself before 140 AD. On the other hand, anti-Christian polemics which appears for the first time around 160 AD, starts by questioning the existence of a character called Jesus Christ.[6]

Flavius Josephus

Non-evidence of Jewish historians

As per Christian tradition, Jesus was a Jew who lived in Palestine during the first 30 or 33 years of the era which is supposed to have begun from the year of his birth. One would expect him to get a pride of place in the writings of Jewish historians who lived and wrote during the same period or a little later. It is, therefore, strange that they are silent on Jesus or the religion he is said to have founded. Philo (20 BC-54 AD), who wrote a history of the Jews, knows no Jesus Christ and no Christians. Nor does another historian of the same period, Justus of Tiberius.

The most interesting case is that of Flavius Josephus who lived from AD 36 or 37 to 99 or 100. He has authored two monumental works—The Jewish War—in 77 AD and the Antiquities of the Jews in 92 AD—which are regarded as a major source for the history of Palestine in the first century. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, his works have been doctored by Christian scribes to impart a semblance of historicity to Jesus. Christian apologists point to two passages, one long and the other very short, which mention Jesus as a wise man and also as Christ. But scholars have proved quite convincingly that both of them are either clumsy Christian interpolations or have been tampered with by Christian scribes.

Here they are as they occur in the modern editions of Antiquities of Jews.

(1) Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was doer of miraculous works…. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of many of the principal men amongst us, (i.e. Jews) condemned him to cross (April 3, 33 AD), those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day (April 5, 33 AD)…. (VII, III.3)

The dates in the passage are those which are held by the modern Church, they are not supplied by Josephus. The whole passage is a later interpolation. According to Prof. C.K. Barrett, “The authenticity of Josephus’s reference to Jesus as it stands now is very questionable. The passage is found in all the manuscripts (but none is older than eleventh century) and was known to Eusebius (fourth century) but Origen (first half of the third century) does not seem to have read it, at least in its present form, since he plainly tells us that Josephus did not believe Jesus to be the Christ.”[7]

(2) … so he (Ananus, the High Priest) assembled the Sanhedrin (assembly) of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, … and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of law, he delivered them to be stoned…. (XX IX.1)

The authenticity and credibility of this passage is also dubious because its account of the character of James (as a law-breaker) and his death (by stoning) is contradicted by other early accounts.

The vast rabbinical literature of the Jews, composed during the first two and a quarter centuries of the Christian era, contains only five authentic references to Jesus. But they “do not conclusively establish his historicity, as none of them is sufficiently early”. Moreover, “they are so vague in their chronology that they differ by as much as 200 years in the dates they assign to him”. None of the five Jesuses fits the Christian scheme of Jesus Christ’s birth or life or death. The Talmud betrays no knowledge of Jesus independent of the Christian tradition, and it is conceded by most Christian scholars that it “is useless as a source of information about Jesus”.[8]

The ‘evidence’ of the Gospels

The quotation marks in the sub-title are used advisedly. In traditions influenced by Christianity, the phrase “gospel truth” signifies something absolutely certain, beyond the pale of doubt. However, the evidence of Jesus’ historicity as provided by gospels is so full of contradictions and inconsistencies as to provide good reason to doubt everything about him, including his existence. These have been noticed not just by sceptics and agnostics, but also by ardent believers. As far back as the fourth century, St. Augustine had said that “only on the authority of the Church could he believe the Gospels.”[9]

Ian Wilson, a practising Catholic, says: “it does not need anyone with a Ph.D. in theology to recognize that the Christian Gospels can scarcely be the infallible works fundamentalists would have us believe”.[10]

Ariel and Will Durant

Will Durant says: “In summary, it is clear that there are many contradictions between one Gospel and another, many dubious statements of history, many suspicious resemblances to the legends told of pagan gods, many incidents apparently designed to prove the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, many passages possibly aiming to establish a historical basis for some later doctrine or ritual of the Church.”[11]

Purely by way of illustration, let us see what the Gospels say on most elementary details about Jesus:

(a) Genealogy of Jesus: Two of the four Gospels—Matthew and Luke—give the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew lists the supposed ancestors from Abraham onwards (1.1-16). Luke traces Jesus’ supposed ancestors all the way to Adam and thence to God. Abraham, of course, figures in his list, too. When we compare the two lists, we find that in Matthew there are 39 generations between Abraham and Jesus. In Luke there are 55 generations between Abraham and Jesus. Matthew lists 27 generations between David and Jesus, Luke lists 42. Of the 26 names that occur between David and Jesus in Matthew, only four occur in Luke—and three others with similar spellings. And even among these few names, the order differs. And yet both the lists, as they occur in the Gospels, emanate from God and must be true.

(b) Year of Birth: Then again, in which year was Jesus born? “Jesus was born … during the time when Herod was king,” says Matthew (2.1). Now Herod died in 3 BC. That would place birth of Jesus in 4 BC or 3 BC at the latest. “It was the fifteenth year of the rule of Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, Herod was the ruler of Galilee and his brother Philip was….” says Luke (3.1-3) These verses put the date of Jesus’ birth to 2 or 1 BC. The same Gospel also tells us that “at that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor was Syria….” (Luke 2.1-3). Now, a census did take place when Quirinius was governor of Syria. But that happened in 6 or 7 AD. But all these dates—4 or 3 BC, 2 or 1 BC or 6 or 7 AD—must be taken as having God as their authors since they occur in the Gospels.

Look at the basic contradiction in the twin claims about Jesus being the descendant of David, and also being born of a virgin mother. If Jesus was born of a virgin, if Joseph had nothing to do with his being conceived then how can his descent be traced through Joseph to David?

Such contradictions and discrepancies mark every stage, every event in the life of Jesus: the place of his birth, the date of his birth, his ministry, his miracles, his trial, his crucifixion and resurrection. It is neither possible nor necessary to list all of them here.

Biblical scholars have compiled them with great diligence. The findings and conclusions of their research are available to anyone with relatively small effort. Among others, for example, Arun Shourie has documented them in great detail in his Harvesting Our Souls: Missionaries, their design, their claims (ASA Publications, New Delhi, 2000). Small wonder that no responsible theologian or historian is now prepared to construct the life-story of Jesus from material provided by the Gospels.

“But that is the whole point. You are nit-picking, going on and on about the discrepancies among the accounts of an event in different gospels. The details of Gospels are not what is important. What matters is the figure of faith that they weave,” the missionaries would say.

Although this is a somersault from tall claims about a “solid figure of history” as opposed to mythological mumbo-jumbo, we would let it pass. There is no doubt that millions of Christians through the ages have derived solace and guidance from the Gospels.

The Hindu response to this argument would be: If faith is what is important, what is the reason to prefer Jesus over, say, Ram or Krishna? As figures of faith they too have sustained millions upon millions of people for far longer than Jesus. Moreover, they have done so without the help of the highly aggressive, well-oiled and well-heeled machinery of the Church. What is the need for conversion if one figure of faith is to be replaced with another?

› Virendra Parekh is is a senior journalist and editor in Mumbai. 


  1. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters: AD 304 to 1996, by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1996.
  2. Missionaries in India, Arun Shourie, ASA Publications, New Delhi, 1994.
  3. Hindu View of Christianity and Islam, Ram Swarup, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1992.
  4. Jesus Christ: Artifice for Aggression, Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994.
  5. Profiles in Deception: Ayodhya and Dead Sea Scrolls, N. S. Rajaram, Voice of India, New Delhi, 2000.


  1. The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer, English translation, London 1910, reprint 1945, p. 397.
  2. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, Modern Library edition, p. 442.
  3. An Analysis of Christian Origins, Georges Ory, London, 1961, pp. 33 and fn 38.
  4. Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan Books 1985, p. 51.
  5. A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson, Penguin Books, London, 1978, pp. 26-27.
  6. Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression, Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994, First Reprint 2001, p. 5.
  7. The New Testament Background, ed. C. K. Barret, p. 277.
  8. Did Jesus Exist?G.A. Wells,  1986, p.12 with reference to J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, London, 1925, and M. Goldstein, Jesus in the Jewish Tradition, New York, 1950, as quoted by Sita Ram Goel in Jesus: An Artifice for Aggression, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994, p. 4.
  9. An Analysis of Christian Origins, Georges Ory, London, 1961, p. 39.
  10. Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan Books, 1985, p. 30.
  11. The Story of Civilisation, Part III, Caesar and Christ, Will Durant, Fourth Printing, New York, pp. 556-57.


Contours of India’s civilisational fate – Gautam Sen

Narendra Modi

The dynamics of historical forces on the fate of a country is usually of greater significance than the actions of mortal politicians, though they might occasionally seek to redirect it. – Dr. Gautam Sen

An air of optimism pervades the perception of many educated Indians about their country’s place in the contemporary world. Yet others are dismayed at an alleged collapse of values of tolerance and plurality that supposedly informed India’s socio-political life during the early decades after Independence in 1947. Neither view is a truthful or realistic depiction of India’s history and how it has unfolded in recent times since the accession of Narendra Modi as India’s prime minister in 2014. The long hand of the inexorable dynamics of historical forces on the fate of a country is usually of greater significance than the actions of mortal politicians, though they might occasionally seek to redirect it. Events like Peter the Great’s decisive moulding of Russia’s future, its twentieth century revolution, or changes wrought by the earlier French Revolution and American Civil War or indeed the upheavals in China following the accession of Mao Zedong are rare.

India came into its own, not as most believe as an independent country that had suddenly severed the umbilical cord of British rule overnight in 1947, but with much of the past association intact. It remained a Dominion of the British empire, with a British head of state and its armed forces led by British officers. Of course it experienced the momentous event of Partition, imposed due to the brutal sleight-of-hand of British geopolitical purposes. It was a fateful outcome that has come back to haunt the world with serious dangers as Pakistan emerges as the axis of global terrorism. The principal conspiratorial aim of establishing a military cantonment in the shape of Pakistan in northern India has been frustrated subsequently owing to developments that have bequeathed the strategic territory of Pakistan to China, now the greatest rival of the Anglosphere. Only the original aim of its deployment by Britain and then the US to constrain and harass India remains unaffected.

The India of Jawaharlal Nehru and his immediate successors was never quite so pluralist and tolerant as claimed by some. It was easier to rule since it was a more politically quiescent and less turbulent country during the first two decades after 1947.Yet, during Nehru’s premiership the democratically-elected communist government of Kerala was ejected and journalists and other critics were highhandedly incarcerated for offending his government. Of course it reached the unprecedented high water of a suspension of Indian democracy itself in the mid-1970s under the rule of his daughter, Indira Gandhi. By contrast, contemporary India continues with its raucous traditions of rivalry without pause. However, two distinctive changes of idiom are taking place, which are a genuine transformation of India’s socio-political landscape. Long established political parties are experiencing an apparent abiding decline in popularity and fortunes and that alone provokes accusations of autocratic misrule. There is also a willingness under the current dispensation to use the full force of the law to curb the illicit political funding of predecessors and rivals, which incumbents would previously ignore.

All the indicators suggest India has recently begun the surge of an historic economic trajectory that has its roots in changes first initiated more than thirty years ago. The list of indicators is long and intricate and include a major transformation of the nation’s infrastructure, a prerequisite for broader economic advancement, regulatory reform, the growing digitisation of the economy and the emergence of new commercial agents that promise to dominate India’s economic future. There is also an apparent change in political consciousness in important areas of the country, with more concern among voters about the quality of governance than parochial identity politics. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is still uneven and remains a potentially significant challenge to stable governance. The upshot of these economic and political developments has been evidence of India coping with the on-going global economic disruptions better than most. It has also managed to deal, so far, with the serious Covid pandemic with an impressive display of political self-confidence and organisational prowess.

Yet, such changes, of the kind being witnessed in contemporary India and accelerating since 2014, after a decade-long hiatus, are embedded in a significant political context. Its importance cannot be underestimated nor is there any guarantee that this arguably positive political context is inevitably durable. A major factor of the present political setting is the primacy of prime minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and his wider political role. He has been the driving force of contemporary change in India with a focus that is unique and, likely, problematic to replicate. There are some other examples of economic transformation within India that are also notable, for example, in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra for a period, the latter perhaps experiencing a possible renaissance now too. But the phenomenon of Narendra Modi’s is probably unique and the principal reason for the change in the quality of governance and the economic transformation that have been unleashed in India nationally. Weighty foreign policy successes have also been registered and these two layers of change, domestic and foreign, have reinforced each other.

How the ongoing current transformation of India will likely impact its longer-run historical evolution is not easy to anticipate despite confident predictions about its global economic status within the next twenty-five years. As far as one can infer, the political economy of prime minister Narendra Modi’s strategy seems, in the main, to be the delivery of a whole range of essential public services to the mass of ordinary people, combined with effective methods for doing so. These have been unequivocally spectacular and unprecedented and clearly the reason for the high esteem in which voters hold him. There have also been a host of symbolic religious gestures and social policies that have inspired the majority community. These economic and political measures have combined with major foreign policy accomplishments that are carrying an appeal for many. Yet, no far-reaching and durable attempt has been made to mobilise India’s majority and especially in the imperative BJP heartland, by adopting policies that would galvanise them and inhibit the possibility of their electoral defection indefinitely.

On the contrary, Hindu temples remain under the occupation of hostile secular forces. They are systematically destroying the heritage of India’s ancient civilisational identity with alarming long-term consequences not achieved by earlier iconoclasts. In addition, there has only been a dismayingly feeble attempt to alter India’s dangerously corrosive prevailing national narrative without imaginative countermeasures, forcefully implemented. There are also apparently two startling ideas that hold sway over the current political dispensation as well as the leadership of its wider national socio-political base. The first is that good governance will conquer the political terrain across the religious divide, which appears to be a case of triumph of hope over experience. The second seems to have been somewhat unthinkingly adopted out of perceived contingent necessity. It entails a conviction that India’s historic transformation can be achieved through the existing bureaucracy, with the help of American management consultants. These are staggeringly optimistic beliefs and one searches in vain for a convincing rationale. The potential consequences if the NDA falters as a result of such missteps would be a threat to India’s very survival as a sovereign polity, with the catastrophic electoral triumph of a fractious coalition national government, compromised by foreign interests.

While a mood of jubilation, even triumphalism, has overtaken much of India’s chattering classes they seem largely oblivious to ominous signs of structural forces unfolding relentlessly within their polity and society though adversaries of Indian nationhood have quite clearly understood them. One immediate contingent issue that has potential to destabilise India’s painfully won progress is Narendra Modi’s succession. There is a strong likelihood of an unholy struggle to become his successor and that could descend into a deadlock that anti national political forces will eagerly exploit, turning any drama into crisis for India. Such a scenario is what India’s foreign adversaries are awaiting, in order to intensify the internal subversion of India and the effective seizure of its domestic process. This will occur through assets already created by global evangelists, their Jihadi allies and others, who are clutching a MoU with India’s most dangerous enemy close to their chest.

Key Indian border states remain in virtual revolt and all the clever strategies to secure their stability will turn to dust the moment coalition opportunism and horse trading are normalised again in Delhi. The Punjab, West Bengal and Kerala sporadically turn their face against Indian federal obligations and their sullen acquiescence to them could suddenly become an open challenge to Indian political unity itself. Separatist sentiment remains fully alive south of the Vindhyas and their alliance with Anglo American evangelists acquired deep roots in the decade before 2014. At an opportune moment, the indissolubly entrenched soldiery of a Kashmir Caliphate will once again look to the neighbourhood for resolute help to recommence rampant jihad. Others, not excluding Turkey further afield as well as China, will find taking advantage of any fresh Indian troubles an irresistible temptation.

Most importantly, the accelerating demographic transformation of India will only compound any intractable eventual predicament. It is likely to bring the problems closer to the chic salon life of Delhi, with a whole swathe of territory across the heart of India already only nominally governable by either legitimate state or central authority. Delhi’s own recent internal communal violence ought to have already been a foretaste of things to come. Parts of one city alone, Meerut, only a short distance from Delhi, typifies the acquisition of the embryonic elements of concrete self-rule by a single community that derives from demographic pre-eminence. The demographic checkmate has already resulted in the de facto loss of authority in swathes of Indian territory, where the sovereign writ of the central government is barely enforceable. It was most graphically and egregiously evident in West Bengal where a 1,000 or more Hindu women, where sexually assaulted without redress and many others fled the state for having voted for the wrong political party. The killings of nationalists continue unabated in Kerala and threaten to spread elsewhere in the wider region.

India’s domestic vulnerabilities are embedded within a vortex of faithless predatory international intrigue in which opportunism alone rules. Its neighbourhood remains a cesspool of festering resentment and loathing camouflaged only by India’s oversized regional economic and military footprint. The three international players of significance to contemporary India are becoming hazardously unreliable and potentially inimical towards its fundamental national interests. India continues to remain afloat and able to assert its sovereign autonomy in a world of precarious cross-cutting conflictual cleavages and shifting mutual interests by virtue of an accident of fate that the gods alone could have decreed. Contemporary India has sufficient material resources to spend unconscionable sums on military hardware to deter adversaries and adequate balance of payment reserves to swim in the shark-infested waters of the international economy. That India has done so with a degree of adeptness is also fortuitous. It is due to a team of capable ministers and advisers around the prime minister as well as officials running the foreign ministry and supervising the nation’s finances and, of course, the heaven-sent gifts of its prime minister himself.

The US can hardly be regarded as anything other than a duplicitous peril to India’s integrity and autonomy. It only cares for Indian manpower, and infrastructure facilities as a signal to China for a highly unlikely actual military engagement with it, while the contours of their condominium are defined to the accompaniment of militarised tensions. India’s growing middle class market and its technically skilled domestic manpower are an important subsidiary additional attraction for the US. India has become a destination for outsourcing production of US consumption needs for digital services, with or without temporary rights of presence for Indians in the US for delivery. But virtually open war has been declared against India by US government agencies like USCIRF, its shameless arms-length media proxies and a malicious American academia.

The US refurbishing Pakistani F-16s while its national military planning, including nuclear strategy, are fully integrated with China’s war plans against India, is nothing short of treachery. This episode will no longer be dismissed as minor, as some in India have done, if China helps arm Pakistani F-16s with advanced missiles and India’s border standoff with China turns into real combat. The abiding US attempt is regime change in the hope of implanting the kind of accommodating political elite every other US ally is apt to become. If there are any doubts, the willingness of Europeans to contemplate national suicide to comply with US injunctions over the Ukraine should be a wake-up call for complacent Indians.

India’s new-found intimate friend, France, is ruthless in calculating national interest and immediate advantage though there is an absence of any obvious conflict between their respective contemporary national goals. But the bonhomie is essentially actuated by Indian purchase of French military hardware that lowers the average cost of exorbitant R&D commitments through larger production runs that exports to India allow. The rationale of overdone Israeli solicitude for India is not dissimilar since nothing apparently holds back its global cosmopolitan intellectual elite from unsparing attacks on India and its civilization, from the sanctuary of media houses and by vicious academics in the West. Both countries have relatively small markets for their own defence output and exports are an essential aspect of reducing average costs and ensuring affordability for domestic use. One only hopes the evident cynicism underlying the dynamics of the situational logic of their relationship with India has dawned on its own decision-makers.

The Indo-Russian relationship has long antecedents that justify indulgence in some sentimentality about its allure. Russia has been a reliable friend since the early 1950s, Stalin dispatching food grains to India when Russia’s own post-war situation was still appalling beyond imagining and the US response to India’s plea for supplies had been humiliating. The USSR could not offer succour to India in 1962, having already fallen out with China earlier and preoccupied with the climactic Cuban missile crisis. It rose to the challenge in 1971, mobilising forty divisions at the Sino-Soviet border as a warning against any intervention during India’s liberation war in East Pakistan and the rest is history. But India’s alleged strategic partner, the US, has managed to undermine this imperative partnership with Russia and the reliance on it to keep the mainstay of its air force flying, by forcing Russia into the arms of China in recent months.

The Sino-Russian engagement continues to deepen daily and casts a cloud over the Indo-Russian relationship. India has embarked on deft diplomacy to ensure the continuation of friendship with Russia, but it can no longer be taken for granted in a moment of crisis. Such a crisis will involve China whose covetousness of Indian territory has only grown over time, whetted successively by its dramatic economic advance since the late 1980s. China first seized Tibet formally in 1950, followed by Aksai China in 1962 and has since added Tawang to its list of demands as well as Arunachal Pradesh in its entirety. Demands for the strategic prize of J&K will likely follow if the Chinese economic and military gap with India continues to widen. India has deterred the insolence of the Middle Kingdom by mobilising militarily and it must remain constantly prepared for this challenge, the greatest historic direct and indirect threat to its integrity. – Firstpost, 30 November 2022

Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy for more than two decades at the London School of Economics. 

Indian and Chinese troops face-off along the LAC.

Why a nation and its people must know their true history – Makkhan Lal

India History Cartoon

No country can become a great nation, a world guru and a world leader on borrowed ideas, borrowed cultures and borrowed systems. The greatness and leadership is built upon the solid foundation and the pride of their own past. – Dr. Makkhan Lal

History, history writing and history teaching have, indeed, become newsworthy not only in India but also in most other parts of the world. The reasons may be varied—construction of a national history curriculum in India, England and Wales, the design of national history standards in the US, the content of history textbooks in Japan, China, Korea, Pakistan, Israel, and Germany, the approach to invasion of Latin American countries by the Europeans, the development of new curricula in the successor states of the former USSR, or even the rewriting of history textbooks in Russia after the collapse of the former USSR. Issues of identities, heritage, and citizenship, all rooted in the past, have become the hot stuff of politics.

Similarly, an issue can be raised about the conquest of peaceful people belonging to Inca, Aztec and Maya civilisations by the gun-trotting Europeans. Whether the victory should be viewed as the discovery of a new world and new economic resources for Europe, as is generally viewed by European and North American historians, or it should be seen as the destruction of the independently developed three native civilisations by technologically more advanced nations that have an unending lust for looting others’ treasures and making other people subservient.

A South American historian may well say: “It may be a subject of celebrations for Europeans but for us it is a subject of mourning because just in a few years the Europeans destroyed our civilisation developed over several thousands of years!”

Why study history

Questions have often been raised that when there are so many problems and differences of opinions among historians why should we study history at all.

History is all about the past. In almost every country, city, town and village throughout the world, a large number of existing buildings were built in the past to meet the needs and aspirations of people, now dead. This is most obvious in existing temples, churches, mosques, fireplaces, houses, public buildings, and so on. The systems of governments, political ideas, religious beliefs, art, architecture, cultural practices, educational systems, customs and behaviours are all products of the past, recent or remote.

The past is all-pervasive which, indeed, means that we cannot escape from it. The past signifies what actually happened—events that have taken place, societies that have risen and fallen, ideas and institutions, eating habits, dressing habits, etc. History is precisely the study of this human past. The past is our heritage; we are part of it and the past is part of us in all aspects: Be it culture, behaviour, religious faith and practices, be it rituals, be it the tradition of political, social and economic systems. It is reflected in our day-to-day living.

History is also about roots. It provides societies and individuals with a dimension of longitudinal meaning over time which outlives the human life span. It connects us with our past. History also allows us to peep into the future by providing precedents for contemporary actions and forewarning against the repetition of past mistakes. From its sense of continuity, history offers the apparent form and purpose to the past, the present and the future. In the words of E.H. Carr: “The past is intelligible to us only in the light of the present, and we can fully understand the present only in the light of the past.” He further says that history is needed “to enable man to understand the society of the past and to increase his mastery over the society of the present.” There is a need for history. It has a deeper social value and meaning.

The study of history is not a luxury. It is a necessity. This necessity has been best summed up by Arthur Marwick. He writes: “Individuals, communities, societies could scarcely exist if all knowledge of the past is wiped out. As memory is to the individual, so history is to the community or the society. Without memory, individuals find great difficulty in relating to others, in finding their bearings, in taking intelligent decisions—they lose their sense of identity. A society without history would be in a similar condition. … A society without knowledge of its past would be like an individual without memory. … It is only through a sense of history that communities establish their identity, orientate themselves, understand their relationship to the past and to other communities and societies. Without history (knowledge of the past), we, and our communities, would be utterly adrift on an endless and featureless sea of time.”

We all move ahead through the past of our own cultures, own civilisations, and values and it is this accumulation of ideas and experience, transmitted through education and sheer daily living that gives our thoughts meaning and the patterns and purpose of our actions. It is not that we live in the past but we are defined by it, and so the success of even the most forward-looking developments must inevitably rest on their relation to the ideas and practices of the society they are meant to serve. Science may forget its own history, but a society cannot.

History is neither a simple chronicle of the past nor a list of rulers and kings and the narratives of their rules. The past is not simply a collection of distinct ages or a hotchpotch of facts. History is an extremely complex discipline. Another point that needs to be emphasised is that a historian’s job is not that of a cook who prepares dishes as per the liking of his customers and adds spices accordingly. It is not the job of a historian to write politically correct history. His obligation is to write factually correct history.

It will be helpful if all historians remember what Sir Jadunath Sarkar wrote about the job of a historian: “I would not care whether the truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with, or opposed to, current views. I would not mind in the least whether the truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching the truth. But still, I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept the truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian.”

This brief discussion on the nature of history as an academic discipline should make it abundantly clear that history is neither a static discipline nor can the writings on and of history be put into a set mould. Each generation views and writes about the past in the light of its own experience. Therefore, all interpretations and explanations are and must be as temporary and provisional as the descriptions. But in all these endeavours the sanctity of truth and facts should not be forgotten. Unanimity or one’s efforts to make others surrender is a recognisable characteristic of dictatorships, and not that of a free state. Open and continuing discussions and debates are the essence and strength of history and, for that matter, a great strength of an open society of an intellectually vibrant nation.

And now a word of caution! There is a tendency among historians to act as judges and give moral sermons. Historians must write and rewrite history. They are not supposed to be moral judges. Benedetto Crose has rightly said: “Those, who on the plea of narrating history, bustle about as judges, condemning here and giving absolution there, because they think that this is the office of history … are generally recognised as devoid of historical sense.”

Problems in history writing

Historians recognise that they are all culturally and socially influenced in their endeavour to write history but make all efforts to deny that their work is culturally, or socially, determined or constructed. As has been discussed briefly in the Introduction, EH Carr in chapter two of his book What is History provides a useful summary on this aspect of history writing. He quotes Donne Devotion that society and individuals are inseparable. “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Like any other individual, a historian too is a social phenomenon, both the product and the conscious and unconscious spokesperson of the society to which he belongs. It is in this capacity that he approaches the facts of the historical past.

Therefore, we must not forget that we cannot fully understand or appreciate the work of a historian unless we have first grasped the standpoint from which he himself approaches it, and that standpoint is itself rooted in social and historical background. It is, therefore, essential that before we study history, we must study the historian and study his historical and social environment. When some historians claim that they are writing scientific history, or that only their version of history is correct, one must conclude immediately that the historians are not only being untruthful but are also hiding their political agenda under the garb of a “scientific” history. There exists nothing like scientific history. On similar lines, Benedetto Croce also spoke with his characteristic bluntness:

“The historian must have a point of view, … an intimate personal conviction regarding the conception of the facts which he has undertaken to relate. … It suffices to read any book of history to discover at once the point of view of the author if he is a historian worthy of the name and knows his own business. … Absolutely historical historians do not and cannot exist. Can it be said that Thucydidus and Polybius, Livy and Tacitus, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, Giannone and Voltaire were without morals and political views; and in our own time, Guizot or Thiers, Macaulay or Balbo, Renke or Mommson? … If the historian is to escape from this inevitable necessity of taking sides, he must become a political and scientific eunuch; and history is not the business of eunuchs. … Historians who profess to wish to interrogate the facts without adding anything of their own, are not to be believed.”

Karl Marx buried among the crosses of Highgate Cemetery, London.

The problem with Marxist historiography and its relationship with history is much more curious. For Marx and his followers, i.e. Marxist historians, the problem of history is not just understanding “what happened”, “how it happened” and “why it happened”. For them, the problem is “how to change the world” by the use of history. At the core of this view lie two fundamental beliefs. Firstly, the Marxists believe in five universal stages of history.

These five stages are:

  1. Primitive Communism
  2. Slavery
  3. Feudalism
  4. Capitalism
  5. Communism

Secondly, they believe that the society we inhabit is a bad bourgeois society and, fortunately, this society is in a state of crisis. The good society which lies just around the corner can be easily attained if only “we” work systematically to destroy the language, the value, the culture, the ideology of this “bourgeois” society. This necessitates a massive, radical left-wing political programme, and everything the historians write, every criticism they make, is determined by that overriding objective. In this, the post-modernists are exceptions. They are fully convinced of the utterly evil nature of the “bourgeois” society but have lost all hope of change and have fallen back into destructive nihilism. They assert that the only way to achieve Marxism is to destroy society if it cannot be changed.

Marxist historians have failed to understand and appreciate the fact that the society we live in has evolved through a complex historical process, very different from the Marxist formula of the rise of feudalism over slavery and bourgeoisie overthrowing the feudal aristocracy. It is highly complex with respect to the distribution of power, authority, and influence. Just as it was not formed by the simple overthrow of aristocracy by the bourgeoisie, so, in its contemporary form, it does not consist simply of a bourgeois ruling class and a proletariat. The idea that we are now in the final period of the late-capitalist crisis is simply absurd. Marxists have been looking forward to the final capitalistic collapse for over a century—in 1848, 1866, 1918, 1946, 1963 and 1968, to mention just a few dates, but as fate would have it, they are themselves doomed forever.

Statements like “The pursuit of history is, whether practitioners choose to acknowledge it or not, a political occupation,” indeed, is not only exceptional but also far-fetched. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that the experience of colonisation around the world has shown that domination by a more powerful culture—which defines its reality in quite different ways—either totally destroys, or at least drives, the less powerful ones into a subservient role. What was considered culturally “valid” can be rendered “invalid”, and the politically weaker ones are somehow required to modify their reality to fit within the constraints of the new codes.

We, as historians, must learn to recognise: “The past is perceived in different ways by different cultures. Methods of interpreting, recording, managing and protecting the past also differ between cultures. … The way people define their existence, their world view and their creation stories, and how they value, interpret, manage and transmit their past will continue to be handed on from generation to generation.”


Let us remember that no country can become a great nation, a world guru and a world leader on borrowed ideas, borrowed cultures and borrowed systems. The greatness and leaderships are built upon the solid foundations and the pride of the past; deeper the foundations, taller are the superstructures. Even globalisation is built upon this foundation. Many countries are part of globalisation on a much larger scale than India without abandoning their history, culture and heritage. It is on this basis they are able to assert their authority and influence the world order. – Firstpost, 6 January 2022

› Prof. Dr. Makkhan Lal is a historian and the founder director of the Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management.

‘New Nationalism’ and India’s Renaissance – Makarand R. Paranjape

Sri Aurobindo

The new nationalists might differ amongst themselves in their aims and methods but are quite different from the regular Congressmen in that “they are united by … a common faith in India”. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, “is the heart of Nationalism”. – Prof. Makarand R. Paranjape

Not westernised, bourgeois gentlemen, but Samurai—or more appropriate to our civilisation—inspired yogis and dedicated tapasvis, would transform the nation and make India great again. But for this to happen, the spirit of the nation would have to be awakened. This was the message of Sri Aurobindo, whose 150th birth anniversary we are celebrating along with India@75, Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

A posse of armed inspectors and policemen arrested Sri Aurobindo from his modest digs on 48, Grey Street, Calcutta, on May 2, 1908, in what was to become the famous Alipore Bomb Case. He was charged with “conspiracy” and “waging war against the King”, an offence tantamount to high treason, punishable with death by hanging. Among the papers seized were five unpublished essays, intended for Bande Mataram, the periodical he edited. “The New Nationalism”, one of these, was presented as evidence against him by the prosecution during the trial. It has now been republished in Bande Mataram, Vol. 6 and 7 of The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo (1997; 2002).

This extraordinary essay has great bearing on India’s culture wars of today. In fact, some of our current debates bear an uncanny resemblance to the quarrel between the so-called extremists and moderates or the “garam dal” and the “naram dal” of the Indian freedom struggle. Perhaps, no one articulates what the former stood for more forcefully and clearly than Sri Aurobindo. He refutes the idea that the extremists did not respect the law of the land or that they preferred violent methods to peaceful ones. In fact, he preferred to call them nationalists rather than extremists.

But who, according to Sri Aurobindo, were these “new nationalists”? What did they really stand for in contradistinction to what was imputed to them in the derisive, if not dismissive, term “extremists”? To Sri Aurobindo, the new nationalism then sweeping across India, which Mahatma Gandhi also referred to in the opening chapter of Hind Swaraj (1909), was actually the “negation of the old bourgeois ideals of the nineteenth century.” Its aim was to “transform the bourgeois into the Samurai” and “to extend the workings of the Samurai spirit to the whole nation”.

Sri Aurobindo mocks the prevalent misunderstanding of “extremism”, and “the respectable ease and safety of Congress politics”. He states: “The ordinary Congress politician’s ideas of Nationalism are associated with heated discussions in Committee and Congress, altercations at public meetings, unsparing criticisms of successful and eminent respectabilities, sedition trials, national volunteers, East Bengal disturbances, Rawalpindi riots. To him the Nationalist is nothing more than an “Extremist”, a violent, unreasonable, uncomfortable being whom some malign power has raised up to disturb with his Swaraj and Boycott, his lawlessness and his lathies …”

The new nationalists might differ amongst themselves in their aims and methods but are quite different from the regular Congressmen in that “they are united by … a common faith in India”. This, according to Sri Aurobindo, “is the heart of Nationalism”. The new nationalism, in other words, “is an attempt to create a new nation in India by reviving in spirit and action ancient Indian character, the strong, great and lofty spirit of old Aryavarta, and setting it to use, and mould the methods and materials of modernity for the freedom, greatness and well-being of a historic and immortal people”.

The new nationalism does not advocate “unreasoning violence of spirit and the preference of desperate methods”. It does not “advocate lawlessness for its own sake”. But the law that the new nationalists are “called upon to obey” is not the law of the colonial power imposed upon a conquered people but “the law of the nation, an outgrowth of its organic existence and part of its own accepted system of government”.

What, then, is this law of the nation? Sri Aurobindo repeatedly asserts that it is spirituality. In the opening essay of The Renaissance in India, he says, “Spirituality is indeed the master-key of the Indian mind; the sense of the infinite is native to it. India saw from the beginning,—and, even in her ages of reason and her age of increasing ignorance, she never lost hold of the insight,—that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light, cannot be perfectly lived in the sole power of its externalities.”

But what is spirituality? As Sri Aurobindo clarifies in The Life Divine, it is neither the “The Materialist Denial” nor “The Refusal of the Ascetic”. Indeed, it is “not a high intellectuality, not idealism, not an ethical turn of mind or moral purity and austerity, not religiosity or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of all these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faith, an emotional aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical formula are not spiritual achievement and experience”.

Instead, according to Sri Aurobindo, “spirituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature”.

The soul of the triple-bodied Indian nation, with the gross outer body, the subtle body within, and inhabiting “another more deeply hidden” third body, its Shakti, the spirit of the nation, “the source of life and form … unchanging and imperishable”. This great power could be found by a living faith “not in an Anglicised and transmogrified nation” of people “unrecognisable as Indians, but in India of the immemorial past, India of the clouded but fateful present”.

This nation of Sri Aurobindo’s dreams, echoing Bankim’s Durga, was what the Mother was envisioned to be in Anandamath, “India leonine, mighty, crowned with her imperial diadem of the future; a common spirit of enthusiasm, hope, the desire to dare and do all things so that our vision of her future may be fulfilled greatly and soon”.

This, for Sri Aurobindo, is the true meaning and manifestation of the Indian renaissance. – The New Indian Express, 10 October 2022

Prof. Makarand R. Paranjape is a poet and teaches English at JNU. 

Bharat Mata