During India’s Independence movement, there was much admiration for ancient India, emphasising the continuity of India as a country and a dharmic civilisation. From Swami Vivekananda’s Yoga-Vedanta revival, to Lokmanya Tilak’s back to the Gita message, to Sri Aurobindo and his honouring of the Vedas, to the Ram Rajya ideal that extended to Mahatma Gandhi, this respect for India’s past was prominent and proud. Images of Bharata Mata, and songs like Vande Mataram expressed such inspiration. The founders of India’s constitution emphasised India as Bharat to show an identity between older and modern India, with no division between the two.
However, after India’s independence occurred, leftists and Marxists, including members of the Communist Party, rewrote the country’s history books. Like leftists everywhere, they deconstructed India’s history and rejected the native religion and culture of the land. They reduced Hinduism to disparate cults and Bharatiya civilisation to a modern myth not reflecting any historical reality. For them, India as a nation was mainly a product of the British and the Mughals that took shape only under Nehru.
In their accounts of history, they turned Islamic invaders, intent on converting the country by force, into secular leaders with a progressive outlook. They gave credence to the British and colonial rule as benefitting the country and its peoples.
New Views Of History
Recently Shashi Tharoor wrote a brilliant book exposing the crimes of the British in India. The British created a colonial narrative that they helped modernise and liberalise India, while in fact they allowed millions to die in famines, engaged in regular brutal atrocities, and suppressed traditional education, learning and culture.
However, similar books as Shashi Tharoor’s exposing British rule in India as tyrannical could also be written about the Mughals and other Islamic invaders. Mughal rule commonly practised genocide of Hindus and destruction of temples, not merely by Aurangzeb. Such studies could be made on Tamerlane’s genocide of north India and on the older Delhi Sultanate overall – notably Alauddin Khilji, who pillaged India north and south. They could be written on many Islamic invaders and rulers in India over the centuries, some of whom are portrayed as heroes in Indian history books today. But most scholars would not dare conduct such research, as political motives override their willingness to tell the truth.
Some scholars have said that these atrocities, even if true, should not be highlighted today because it may cause discrimination against current Muslims in India who had nothing to do with the brutalities of centuries ago. Yet one could just as well say that Tharoor should not have criticised the British as it might cause discrimination against Christians and hatred of westerners in India today.
Yet history should not be denied, even if unpleasant. The history of the Nazis is not denied to protect the sensitivities of Germans or Europeans today. In addition, it should be noted that Pakistan history books glorify these attacks on India as religiously inspired and their leaders as religious heroes, with Hinduism as degenerate, and India without any great pre-Islamic civilisation.
Enter Bollywood Into Historical Debates
Meanwhile, Bollywood has taken up the cause of rewriting India’s history in a way that whitewashes or glorifies the invaders, even turning them into romantic literary figures. Whatever the reasons behind these depictions, they distort history and demean the fierce resistance demonstrated against such attacks. India’s resistance to foreign rule and religious conversion goes back to the eighth century, and is not just a fact of the British era.
The Vijayanagar Empire pushed the Delhi Sultanate of Khilji back from the South, and the Marathas defeated the Mughal empire centuries later. Yet, little is portrayed in a positive light about their courageous efforts.
Similar Religious Wars In Europe
Some scholars go so far to say that the Mughals were secular because they had Hindus in their armies that they fought against other Muslims, and that Hindus were also fighting among each other, so religion should not be made into the main motive of their wars. Let us compare this situation to what was happening in Europe at the same time.
When Turkish armies were at the gates of Vienna in the seventeenth century, boasting that they would make Europe Islamic, and the Christian armies, with the support of the Pope were fighting on the other side, there were also some Christians among the Islamic armies and some Muslims among the Christian armies, and the French were attacking the same Holy Roman Empire’s to the west for their own local advantage. But all this was secondary to the real battle. One cannot doubt that conversion was the prime focus and it was a religious war.
Need For New Historical Research
Today when scholars try to expose the brutality of Muslim rule, they are judged as politically incorrect, biased or uninformed. But the criticism against them is mainly polemical and personal, distorting or ignoring the actual facts that are to the contrary.
Why does this distortion of history occur? Because it is advantageous to certain political persuasions in India in promoting divisive vote bank politics. It is not a matter of historical accuracy, but a drive for power and a lack of regard for India’s dharmic civilisation. This deception must be thoroughly exposed, not to target one group or another, but to reveal the truth. When the truth of history is denied, the future is also put at risk.
By David Frawley
David Frawley is an American Hindu teacher and author. He has written more than 30 books on the Vedas, Hinduism, Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedic astrology.