Dialogue  April-June, 2012, Volume 13 No. 4

The Problem of Indian History

Michel Danino


Varying interpretations, even controversies, are common in the history of every nation, but India seems to have more than a fair share of them. In fact, Indian history appears to be as much a battlefield as the bygone wars it describes. In a 1942 article entitled " ‘Histories’ of India," K.M. Munshi wrote, "Most of our histories of India suffer from a lack of perspective. They deal with certain events and periods not from the Indian point of view, but from that of some source to which they are partial and which by its very nature is loaded against India."1

Paradoxically, this statement, which refers to colonial readings of Indian history, remains largely true today. There are different reasons for this peculiar situation, among them:

1. India is a country of unparalleled complexity, with a bewildering social, linguistic and spiritual diversity, and an ancient cultural heritage acting as overall cement. It is, as has often been said, a civilization more than a nation. This diversity naturally allows a variety of historical perspectives.

2. The destruction of centres of learning (such as Nalanda, other universities and numerous temples) erased important indigenous sources of Indian history. Such gaps in our sources have naturally increased dependence on Greek, Chinese, Arabic and European sources, creating a pattern for Indian history to be seen through foreign eyes.

3. Indians have often been accused of having no historical sense. This colonial prejudice has been ably refuted, recently by Arvind Sharma,2 but it remains true that the Indian mind is more interested in a multidimensional reading of the past, in which what we call "facts" and "myths" are free to mix and enrich each other. This makes historical interpretations of Indian texts, such as the two Epics, a complex and delicate exercise, which has so far yielded widely divergent results.

4. Archaeology in Independent India has not received the attention it deserves, both as regards exploration and conservation. Excavations have been few in comparison with the number of potential sites, and often limited in scope; besides, they have often relied on outdated techniques, with little access to modern techniques of physics and chemistry that are now standard in the West for purposes of dating (not just Carbon 14 or thermoluminescence) or non-invasive exploration (ground penetrating radar, etc.).

5. Epigraphy presents a still more pathetic picture, with over one lakh inscriptions and millions of manuscripts3 from all parts of India waiting to be read and published. Injuries of time coupled with human neglect are relentlessly erasing what should have been carefully documented decades ago. With fewer and fewer young Indians opting for the laborious and ill-paid career of epigraphist, the profession is in its last throes.

6. Even as Indian philosophy, spirituality and literature enthralled many nineteenth-century Western thinkers, poets and writers, India’s colonial powers and a whole class of scholars and missionaries strove to belittle Indian civilization in order to legitimize the colonial rule (the "white man’s burden"). India was stereotyped as barbaric, stagnant, idolatrous, or at best otherworldly and therefore effete. This imprint persists subconsciously among some Indologists in the West, but also in India where Macaulayan education has effectively colonized the Indian mind and produced a class of scholars and academics who are either ignorant of or hostile to the idea and fundamentals of Indian civilization.4

One way to understand the depth of the issue is to look at important distortions in the standard reading of Indian history. By "standard" is meant here the reading found, for instance, in most textbooks at school and college levels. It soon becomes clear that distortions are of two kinds: factual distortions in what is claimed to have happened, or what is claimed not to have happened; more subtle and underlying them are model distortions, which affect our way of looking at Indian history, and ultimately at India.

Seven major factual distortions in Indian history

From earliest to recent times, let us use as illustrations seven major factual distortions in Indian history.

(1) The Aryan invasion theory: This now discredited theory attempted to place the origin of India civilization outside the subcontinent and to divide North and South Indians, high and low castes etc. According to it, Aryans entered India around 1500 bce and subjugated the "indigenous" inhabitants, including the Harappans or their descendants (since the Indus-Sarasvati civilization had collapsed around 1900 bce), often assumed to have been Dravidians. The conquering Aryans, in horse-drawn chariots, then imposed their Vedic culture, caste system and Sanskrit language on all of India in stages.

In reality, this nineteenth-century theory was put forth in the background of triumphant colonialism. But as archaeology developed in the twentieth century, especially in the Indus and Sarasvati valleys, it became clear that no people invaded or migrated to India around the proposed date: the picture that emerged was one of transition in continuity, with no external disruption. Anthropology, too, through the examination of hundreds of skeletons, rejected the possibility of a new human type entering India around 1500 BCE, a conclusion more recently endorsed by several international genetics study.5 Many elements of Harappan culture (arbitrarily supposed to be "pre-Aryan") turned out to be quite compatible with Vedic culture: worship of fire, mother-goddess, trees and animals, the use of oil lamps, red pigment, conch shells, ritual purification through water, and most importantly, yoga and meditation. Therefore, there was also no cultural break of the sort implied by the Aryan invasion theory. Finally, the Sarasvati river was shown to have dried up around 1900 bce, at least 400 years before the supposed arrival of the Aryans, even though their Vedic hymns lavishly worship the Sarasvati as a "mighty, impetuous river flowing from the mountain to the sea"!6

Despite such overwhelming material evidence, most Indian textbooks continue to teach this divisive theory. Worse, various ideologies and political groups (self-styled Dalit leaders, Christian missionaries, Marxists, "Dravidian" parties, etc.) have made the theory one of their pillars, and are naturally unwilling to let go of it: rather than look straight at the evidence, they prefer to continue playing the game of "divide and rule" in new scholarly and academic garbs.7

(2) The myth of "Dravidian," Dalit or tribal separateness: A consequence of the Aryan invasion theory was the myth of a "separate" Dravidian identity and culture. While the South and especially the Tamil land does have a stamp of its own, from the beginning we see it wholly harmonized with Vedic and Puranic elements.8 Nowhere in the Sangam literature (the most ancient in Tamil) do we find a hint of a cultural clash with the North or with Vedic culture. On the contrary, Vedic gods such as Indra and Agni and all major gods of the Hindu pantheon figure in Tamil poems and epics, along with many concepts and legends drawn from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavatam etc. Archaeological and numismatic evidence also supports an ancient integration of Vedic culture in the South, as is visible from cultural artefacts found in the earliest cities (about the third century bce).

Nowhere can we spot a separate "Dravidian" culture, much less civilization. On the other hand, the South has contributed much of great value to Indian culture in terms of music, dance and literature; the Bhakti movement, for instance, arose there. The South forms an integral part of India’s cultural continuum in time and space: distinctiveness is not separateness.9

In much the same way, the so-called "Dalits" are sought to be separated from the overall stream of Indian culture, although even today many of them are more staunchly Hindu than many Brahmins; indeed if Hinduism has survived at all in India, it is not only thanks to the remarkable transmission of scriptures and other texts by Brahmins, but also to the deep attachment to the Hindu religion found in the lowest strata of Indian society, a fact which can easily be noted even today through the mushrooming of village temples, rural and tribal pilgrimages and festivals.

A third prong consists in claiming that India’s tribes never had anything to do with Hinduism until it was "imposed" upon them by Brahmin "missionaries." Not only is there no trace of any such "imposition," what is loosely called Hinduism is in reality the result of a long and fruitful interaction and interchange between Vedic culture and tribal cults, with tribal deities enriching the Hindu pantheon and tribal practices, rituals and art forms getting absorbed.10

(3) St. Thomas’s visit to India and martyrdom: In order to push back Christianity’s presence in India and create an "Indian martyr," the legend of St. Thomas’s visit to India was created, for which there is no actual historical evidence. The only text on which the legend is based, the apocryphal Acts of Thomas, written in Syriac in the third century ce, points to Parthia (near the Caspian Sea) and to Bactria, not to India.12 This is confirmed by Persian and Bactrian names of kings (e.g., "Mazdai") and other characters (Iuzanes, Charisius, Mygdonia, Narcia, Siphor ...), also by physical features such as a "desert land" or a lion. None of this applies to south India, yet, by dint of sheer repetition, the legend has wormed its way from missionary tracts and tourist guidebooks into respectable reference books. As early as in 1773, Voltaire pointed out that it was another Thomas, a Syrian trader, who led his group of refugees to Kerala’s shores in the sixth century ce. Voltaire, in fact, ridiculed the legend of Thomas the Apostle being pursued by spear-brandishing Brahmans, they "who never speared anyone."11

Let us also point out that St. Thomas is reported in many other parts of the world, so that we can count, in all, twelve graves for this ubiquitous apostle: six between Kerala and Tamil Nadu and six outside India, from Brazil to Tibet to Japan—surely a feat that makes Thomas a greater miracle worker than Jesus himself. Such major problems with the traditional (rather, neo-traditional) account is what made several historians of Christianity, such as Rev. James Hough, depict it as "most improbable ... unsupported by the faintest vestige of authentic history".12

While this imagined martyrdom is actively propagated, the documented killing of Hindu priests and devotees and the demolition of temples by Jesuits and others (especially in Goa and Pondicherry) are not considered important enough to be remembered.13 This inversion is an integral part of the process of humiliation: the natural right to historical truth is denied, while the victim is made to look like an aggressor.

(4) Negationism of Islamic record: Similarly, the actual record of Islamic rulers in India has been eclipsed. Whether it is Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur or Aurangzeb, Islamic sources recorded the slaughter of lakhs of Hindus, forcible conversions, massive captures of slaves inflicted on Indian population for several centuries, besides great plunder and the demolition of thousands of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, universities etc. Historians from Will Durant, Alain Daniélou or Koenraad Elst14 in the West to K.S. Lal15 or Sita Ram Goel16in India have documented this blood-soaked period of Indian history. Durant, for instance, wrote, "The Mohammedan Conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within."18

But it was not merely a matter of "slaughtering the idolaters" or "ending the conceit of the infidels by means of the sword and the spear,"19 as Firuz Shah Tughlaq put it in the fourteenth century; it was also the imposition of a tax (jizya) on the survivors and the practice of public humiliations: desecrating "idols", burying them "in front of the mosques" so that they may be "trampled by the shoes on the feet of the Muslims."20 Islamic chronicles faithfully record such practices and worse ones, and it would be all too easy to fill page after grisly page with excerpts from them.21

There is a watertight case for wide-scale victimization of Hindus by Islamic invaders and rulers, and no more reason to sweep it under the carpet than to conceal the genocide of American Indians by the Spanish, Portuguese and British, or that of the Jews by Hitler. While Timur’s conquest of Baghdad in August 1401 and the 120 pyramids he built with 90,000 severed heads of its inhabitants are not the object of any controversy, all hell breaks loose if mention is made of similar slaughters by him on his way to Delhi, by Mahmud of Ghazni at Bhimnagar, Mathura, Somnath and in Kashmir, by Alauddin and Tughlaq in Delhi, by Firuz Shah in Orissa, Rohilkhand and Kumaon, by Aurangzeb in much of north India, by many sultans and their governors in various regions—all deeds, again, carefully recorded by the perpetrators of those atrocities or their chroniclers, with vivid phrases such as "the sword of Islam being washed in the blood of the infidels."22 Inexplicably, drawing attention to such chapters of Indian history instantly raises colourful labels of "Hindu communalism", "chauvinism" or even "hatred mongering": other nations, it appears, have a right to know facts of their history, pleasant or repellent, but not India.

Muslim invasions of India are often glorified by Marxist scholars, such as M.N. Roy who claimed that Islam brought a welcome "message of hope and freedom."23 If at all a few instances of destruction are acknowledged, we are told that temples were plundered only because they were centres of wealth, or sometimes for "political motives."24 A clumsy excuse to avoid facing the real driving force behind the above depredations, apparently for fear of offending today’s Muslim Indians—who are, however, no more responsible for them than today’s Germans are responsible for Nazi atrocities. The difference is that Germany has fully accepted this dark phase of its history (and made reparations for it). Indeed, it is only by acknowledging the past, however unpleasant it may be, that it can be healed; clumsily trying to deny it will only ensure that wounds continue to fester. No self-respecting nation would want its victims to be denied remembrance.

(5) British rule – denigration of Indian civilization: To legitimize her "civilizing mission", Britain needed to portray India as barbaric and uncivilized—a standard colonial practice from America to Africa and Asia. Ancient accomplishments were therefore obscured or, as in the case of science and technology, portrayed as the result of Mesopotamian, Persian or Greek influences. Even more recent, pre-colonial advances, such as India’s remarkably developed indigenous system of schooling,25 extensive medical traditions or efficient village administration, were systematically eclipsed.

Indian academia has not been able to fully shake off this framework, despite the accumulation of much valuable material from the early historical to the pre-colonial era. In particular, India’s socioeconomic stability, her contributions to world civilization in science, technology, art, philosophy, religion, spirituality, literature, scripts, and much else continue to be underemphasized: the average Indian student, for instance, learns almost nothing of them, and so is unable to form a proper estimate of Indian civilization and its place in the history of humanity.26

(6) British rule – concealment of colonial barbarity: In the early nineteenth century, Britain declared that "India must be bled" and inflicted a more severe wealth drain than even Islamic invaders had. Europe’s industrial revolution was largely fuelled by India’s wealth (the "Bengal plunder"). But taxes were imposed so cruelly that, according to British sources, 30 to 50 million deaths were caused by famines between the late 18th century and the 1940s, mostly in the peasantry. Respected Indian figures such as Dadabhai Naoroji,27 Romesh Dutt28 or S.G. Deuskar29 added their voices to British historians like William Digby30 in recording this large-scale tragedy. Its full extent, however, finds no place in our textbooks, despite more recent studies, such as those by Mike Davis31 or Madhushree Mukerjee32.

Similarly, the systematic destruction by the British of India’s crafts and her indigenous systems of education, administration and medicine, is overlooked, despite its enormous consequences.

Why Independent India should be so shy in projecting the atrocities and ravages perpetrated during the colonial rule is hard to understand, unless it is due to the continued colonization of the Indian mind. Here too, the objective is clearly not in order to nurture any hatred for today’s Britain, but simply to record history as it happened, and to form a better assessment of the impact of the colonial rule on India’s psyche and society.

(7) Freedom struggle: Official and mainstream histories of the freedom movement lay emphasis mostly on Gandhi and the Congress, at the expense of those who really prepared the ground. Among other glaring omissions from Indian textbooks, we must mention Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Maratha leader who ignited the Independence movement late in the nineteenth century, Lala Lajpat Rai, the powerful Punjabi leader, Bipin Chandra Pal, the inspiring Bengali orator, and Sri Aurobindo, the Bengali leader whose incisive pen and high vision of India’s destiny wielded so much influence in the first decade of the twentieth century that India’s Viceroy, Lord Minto, regarded him as "the most dangerous man we have to deal with at present".33

Strangely, most books continue to use the terminology coined by the British master for such leaders: they are still "extremists", while some of their followers, who advocated violence to overthrow the British rulers, continue to be "terrorists."34 Of course, there is no excuse for using this term in a modern textbook without a suitable explanation: India’s freedom fighters did not explode bombs in public places with a view to causing as many deaths as possible, did not take hostages or use suicide bombers—the current implications of the word "terrorist".

On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi’s blunders, such as the Khilafat movement which in effect strengthened Muslim demands, including the first calls for India’s partition, have been sanitized, or are sometimes portrayed as great successes. This amounts to saying that the numerous Hindu lives lost in the process (for instance in Kerala’s Moplah rebellion) must be disregarded to avoiding critiquing Gandhi.

Historians such as R.C. Majumdar,35 who showed in a glaring light the considerable shortcomings of Gandhi and the Congress and attempted to give due place to other freedom fighters, suffered discrimination and were labelled "communal." Historical truth once again became a casualty. As a result, India’s Communists, who actually collaborated with the British, now claim to have been at the forefront of the struggle for Independence. The Congress, which fiercely opposed early demands for independence (made by Tilak and Sri Aurobindo36 before anyone else between 1905 and 1907) has of late been building a new myth that Nehru was the first, in 1929, to voice such a demand. Worse, the whole spirit of the Independence movement, which was to restore India’s greatness and revivify Indian culture on a spiritual basis, is obscured and the fight for freedom "secularised": looking at India as the Mother, which was initially regarded as a supreme virtue, is now portrayed as unacceptably "communal"37 —of course by ideologies that opposed the very idea of Independence in the first place.

Model distortions in Indian History

By now, it should be clear that such factual distortions do not follow a random pattern; they stem from a flawed approach to Indian history. There is probably no better summary of the issue than this anguished statement penned by Rabindranath Tagore in a brilliant essay titled The History of Bharatavarsha:

Our real ties are with the Bharatavarsha that lies outside our textbooks. If the history of this tie for a substantially long period gets lost, our soul loses its anchorage. After all, we are no weeds or parasitical plants in India. Over many hundreds of years, it is our roots, hundreds and thousands of them, that have occupied the very heart of Bharatavarsha. But, unfortunately, we are obliged to learn a brand of history that makes our children forget this very fact. It appears as if we are nobody in India; as if those who came from outside alone matter.38

Among the features of this "brand of history", we find:

1) Misleading terminologies: The division of Indian history into Vedic / Buddhist / Hindu / Muslim / British periods, still followed in most textbooks, ignores considerable overlapping. Moreover, nearly as little is known today about a "Vedic period" as two centuries ago. Buddhism and Hinduism were much less compartmentalized than we are told, and their interplay was rarely a power game. And there was never a time when Muslims ruled over the whole of India without a few Hindu kingdoms putting up some resistance. Finally, if we name the first four "periods" after religions, should we call the last a "Christian period"?

In fact, the phrase "Muslim period" is now often replaced by "medieval period," but that is hardly better as it implies the same pre-rational, pre-scientific mind as in medieval Europe: there, the Middle Ages, sometimes referred to as the "Dark Ages," were an era afflicted by much obscurantism, intellectual and cultural stagnation deriving from the dogmatism and cruelty of Christianity. We have no such situation in India, no "Dark Ages" or pre-rational phase: India used reason long before the Greek and has had a long tradition of debate, free inquiry and criticism. Indeed, unlike the Semitic religions, India’s thought systems have always been compatible with the principles of science, promoting scientific inquiry rather than shackling it as happened in "medieval" Europe.

Other terms such "barbarism" and "feudalism," often used in the context of ancient or "medieval" Indian society, were also introduced by Marxist scholars to make Indian history appear to follow the same phases as Europe. Ancient Indian society, as any other, might not have been perfect, but it reached enviable heights in many fields and was certainly not "barbaric." Several scholars (such as U.S. historian André Wink recently) have also objected to the insistence by Marxist historians on finding "feudalism" in the pre-Muslim period (seventh to tenth centuries ce) and shown how they bungled their data to reach foregone conclusions.39

2) Eclipse of India’s achievements: I have already pointed to the eclipse of India’s considerable achievements and contributions to world culture. But India’s greatest feat is certainly her cultural integration, made possible by a long organic interaction between Vedic culture and local traditions, based on mutual respect, the syncretic result of which is Hinduism as we know it. In fact, this cultural cement went beyond India and shaped much of Asia into one broad cultural entity. It is this cement, and not some haphazard "compositeness", that made possible the unity in diversity we are fond of mouthing—while turning our eyes away from what constitutes this unity. Similarly the unparalleled cultural continuity of Indian civilization, going back to pre-Harappan times, is not acknowledged.

Most Western scholars have no problem with India’s cultural integration and continuity, without which India could not survive as a nation; it is only in India that we hesitate to call a spade a spade. Cultural nationalism is increasingly demonized here instead of being seen as the natural foundation of the Indian identity—India’s historical strength and her best hope for the future.

3) Marxist models of Indian history: The current models of Indian history, responsible for most of the above distortions, are broadly Marxist40 and tend to look upon India’s history as nothing but a history of invasions, which was Marx’s express view:

India could not escape the fate of being conquered [by England], and the whole of her past history, if it be anything, is the history of the successive conquests she has undergone. Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society.41

In such a perspective, the invaders thus receive more attention than the invaded, or than the military and sociocultural ways in which India resisted the invasions sufficiently to preserve something of her original identity.

Moreover, the Marxist view is based on a purely materialistic, social and economic definition of man. The Vedic religion thus becomes "primitive animism" (Romila Thapar42), the Gita promotes "feudalism"43 (again!) and its "fundamental defect" is to attempt "to reconcile the irreconcilable" (D. D. Kosambi44). Here, Marxist dialectics simply belittles what it cannot comprehend: the supra-intellectual synthetic spirituality peculiar to the Indian genius. It omits all deeper cultural and spiritual elements, replacing them at best by psychoanalysis (e.g. recently of Sri Ramakrishna or Lord Ganesha), or giving a grotesque overemphasis to caste: Indian history is worth studying only to understand the "gross social injustice" of the caste system and to stop those who "clamour for the restoration of ancient culture and civilization" because they want "to prevent [India’s] progress," a progress based of course on "the achievements of modern science and technology."45

This simply erases the inherent progressiveness and adaptability of the Hindu worldview. Moreover, while the dark side of Christianity’s and Islam’s historical record is dealt with indulgently, defects of Indian society are magnified and invariably put down to Hinduism—even as the more serious defects of Western society are not imputed to Christianity or Islam.

The result is a de-Indianized academic teaching of Indian history, from which the foundations of Indian civilization are simply missing. Indian society is presented as basically retrograde, afflicted by a constant "class struggle" between castes, with no binding cement and no common identity: the logical outcome can only be the atomization of India, which some Marxist historians occasionally predict publicly.46

Marxist historiography of India claims be "objective" and to follow a "scientific" approach based on the writings of Karl Marx—but it has never established the suitability of Marx’s theories to India in the first place, including dialectical materialism, the class struggle, the supremacy of economic forces etc. It is in many ways the inheritor and continuer of the colonial, Eurocentric view of India, although in a new garb. Some of its contributions to India’s social conditions have been valuable, but like its predecessor, it finds no intrinsic or enduring value in Indian civilization or in its contributions to humanity. It wants to study a skeleton, or at best a corpse, and is upset to find it alive.

Towards an Indian view of Indian History

An Indian view of Indian history should not only be factual but also let "the world catch a glimpse of India’s soul as Indians see it." In K.M. Munshi’s words,

The central purpose of a history must be to investigate and unfold the values which age after age have inspired the inhabitants of a country to develop their collective will and to express it through the manifold activities of their life. Such a history of India is still to be written.47

R.C. Majumdar’s 11-volume series, The History and Culture of the Indian People, published a few decades ago by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan under Munshi’s impulsion, is what came closest to this goal, but has long been in need of extensive revision in view of much new material. There have been, meanwhile, a number of recent publications by fine historians, such as Upinder Singh,48 Himanshu Prabha Ray or Nayanjot Lahiri, to name only a few, who have been careful to avoid both extremes: the Marxist perspective at one end, and the excessively nationalist at the other, which views everything in ancient India as glorious and is obsessed with a high antiquity (usually a result of a literalist reading of the Epics or Puranas).

Neither perspective is acceptable: a new historiography for India must reintegrate old-fashioned values such as objectivity (to the extent possible) and honesty in handling material, and seek to build as true a picture as possible, neither embellished nor dirtied. It must rest on a mastery of sources, including scriptures and other texts and a sound knowledge of archaeological and epigraphic material. While critically inquiring into India’s past, it must accept cultural elements that give it a special stamp; a materialistic and reductionist perspective cannot, for example, explain the presence of yoga and spirituality in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, the country-wide enthusiastic acceptance of Vedic culture and of the two Epics, Ashoka’s conversion, the peaceful spread of Buddhism and Hinduism outside India, the Bhakti movement or bursts of great artistic or literary efflorescence seen in India at different times.

In other words, while remaining as much objectivity as possible, a genuine historian of India needs be in sympathy with the wellsprings of India’s cultural heritage. As Sister Nivedita once put it:

India, as she is, is a problem which can only be read by the light of Indian history. Only by a gradual and loving study of how she came to be, can we grow to understand what the country actually is, what the intention of her evolution, and what her sleeping potentiality may be.49

References & Notes

* More correctly, the prevailing school of historiography in India may be said to be a fusion of post-Marxist and postmodernist models. Let me add that I use the word "Marxist" here not in any derogatory sense, but in the manner those historians and scholars use it to describe their own school of thought. D.D. Kosambi ’s Introduction to the Study of Indian History (1956) set the tone, declaring its intent to use "dialectical materialism, also called Marxism" to read the evolution of Indian society, complete with a "proletariat" and class war. My use of the term "Marxist" is the same as Romila Thapar’s in her Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300, Penguin Books, New Delhi 2003, pp. 22 ff.


1 K.M. Munshi, Akhand Hindustan, New Book Co., Bombay, 1942, p. 113.

2 Arvind Sharma, Hinduism and Its Sense of History, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003.

3 The National Mission for Manuscripts has 2.2 million manuscripts in its database, see www.namami.org/manuscriptdatabase.htm (accessed 15 May 2012). The historian of science David Pingree estimated that India held some 30 million manuscripts altogether, see Dominik Wujastyk, "Indian Manuscripts", pre-publication, pre-edited draft, to appear in Jörg Quenzer and Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (eds.), Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field (Berlin: De Gruyter, scheduled for November 2012). Studies in Manuscript Cultures, vol. 1, online at www.docstoc.com/docs/103482531/Indian-Manuscripts-(Dominik-Wujastyk-2011) (accessed 15 May 2012).

4 Dilip K. Chakrabarti, Colonial Indology: Sociopolitics of the Ancient Indian Past , Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1997; The Battle for Ancient India: An Essay in the Sociopolitics of Indian Archaeology, Aryan Books International, New Delhi, 2008.

5 For a summary of the genetic evidence, see Michel Danino, "Genetics and the Aryan Debate," Puratattva, No. 36, 2005–06, pp. 146–154, available online at: www.omilosmeleton.gr/pdf/en/indology/Genetics_and_the_Aryan_Debate.pdf.

6 On the Aryan invasion issue, see Koenraad Elst, Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999; Edwin Bryant, The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002; Nicholas Kazanas, Indo-Aryan Origins and Other Vedic Issues, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 2009; Michel Danino, The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2010.

7 This is well documented in Rajiv Malhotra & Aravindan Neelakandan, Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, Amaryllis, New Delhi, 2011.

8 R. Nagaswamy, Mirror of Tamil and Sanskrit, Tamil Arts Academy, Chennai, 2012.

9 For a more developed discussion of this point and some important references, see Michel Danino, "Vedic Roots of Early Tamil Culture" in Saundaryashri: Studies of Indian History, Archaeology, Literature and Philosophy (Festschrift to Professor Anantha Adiga Sundara), P. Chenna Reddy, ed., Sharada Publishing House, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 19–30, available online at: www.omilosmeleton.gr/pdf/en/indology/Vedic_Roots_of_Early_Tamil_Culture.pdf.

10 G.N. Dash, Hindus and Tribals: Quest for Co-existence, Decent Books, New Delhi, 1998; Sandhya Jain, Adi Deo Arya Devata: a Panoramic View of Tribal-Hindu Cultural Interface, Rupa, New Delhi, 2004.

11 The Acts of Thomas, extracted from The Apocryphal New Testament, tr. M.R. James, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1924, can be read online at www.gnosis.org/library/actthom.htm (retrieved 19.11.2009).

12 Voltaire, Fragments historiques sur l’Inde (first published Geneva: 1773), in Œuvres Complètes, Hachette, Paris, 1893, vol. 29, p. 410.

13 Rev. James Hough, History of Christianity, 1839, vol. 1, p. 40, quoted in K.V. Raman, The Early History of the Madras Region, 1959, 2nd edn, C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, Chennai, 2008, p. 29.

14 See Ishwar Sharan, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, Voice of India, New Delhi, 3rd ed., 2010; and A.K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition, Bombay, 1961, republished Voice of India, New Delhi, 1991.

15 See Koenraad Elst, Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1993.

16 See his Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1992, Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1995, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1999.

17 See in particular Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1998, 2 vols.

18 Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, part I, Our Oriental Heritage, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1954, p. 459.

19 Firuz Shah Tughlag, Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, quoted by Arun Shourie, Eminent Historians, ASA, New Delhi, 1998, p. 109.

20 R.C. Majumdar, "Firuz Shah", in The Delhi Sultanate, vol. 6 in The History and Culture of the Indian People°, pp. 105–6.

21 Arun Shourie offers a selection of such quotations from Islamic chronicles in Chapter 12 of his Eminent Historians, op. cit.

22 From Timur’s autobiography, quoted in Meenakshi Jain’s Medieval India, textbook for Class XI, NCERT, New Delhi, 2002, p. 100.

23 Quoted by Ram Swarup in "Historians Versus History," in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, ed. Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1998, vol. 1, p. 286.

24 Satish Chandra, Medieval India, textbook for Class XI, NCERT, New Delhi, 1990 (9 reprints till 2001), p. 231. See also Romila Thapar, Medieval India, textbook for Class VII, NCERT, New Delhi, 1989 (13 reprints till 2001), p. 108.

25 Dharampal, The Beautiful Tree, Other India Press, Mapusa, 2000, and Joseph Dibona, One Teacher One School: The Adam Reports on Indigenous Education in 19th Century India, Biblia Impex, New Delhi, 1983.

26 See Lokesh Chandra et al., eds, India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee Madras, 1970, repr. 2003; D.P. Singhal, India and World Civilization, Michigan State University Press, 1969.

27 Dadabhai Naoroji, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, London, 1901, republ. Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi, 1962 & 1996.

28 Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India under Early British Rule, London, 1901, 2nd revised ed. 1906, and The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age, London, 1903, 3rd revised ed. 1908.

29 Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar, Desher Katha, 1904, in Bengali.

30 William Digby, ‘Prosperous’ British India, London, 1901.

31 Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño and the Making of the Third World, Verso, London & New York, 2001

32 Madhushree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during WWII, Tranquebar, Chennai, 2010.

33 Lord Minto, quoted by Manoj Das in Sri Aurobindo in the First Decade of the Century, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1972, p. 137.

34 See for instance Marxist historian Bipin Chandra, Modern India – A History Textbook for Class XII, NCERT, New Delhi, 1990-2000, p. 200, 201, 207.

35 R.C. Majumdar, History of the Freedom Movement in India, Firma KLM, Calcutta, 1971, 3 vols. See in the preface and appendix to vol. 1 and the preface to vol. 3 the edifying tale of how Independent India’s first government withdrew from R.C. Majumdar the direction of the project in an attempt to stifle its publication.

36 See India’s Rebirth, a compilation from Sri Aurobindo’s works, Mira Aditi, Mysore, 3rd ed., 2000.

37 Bipin Chandra, in his textbook on Modern India, op. cit., p. 207, held Sri Aurobindo’s "concept of India as mother and nationalism as religion" to be a "step back" because it had "a strong religious and Hindu tinge." In 1972, India’s Minister for Education, Nurul Hasan, described Sri Aurobindo as "communal." Clearly, any Hindu concept of India is unacceptable.

38 The full text of this remarkable essay is available on the website of the International Forum for India’s Heritage at http://www.ifih.org/articles/bharatavarsha.html.

39 See Sandhya Jain, "A history of impotent rage", The Daily Pioneer, 4th December 2001.

40 Karl Marx, "The Future Results of the British Rule in India", The New York Daily Tribune, 8 August 1853, reproduced in Marx–Engels, The First Indian War of Independence, 1857–1859, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1959, p. 29.

41 Romila Thapar, A History of India, Penguin Books, London, 1987, vol. 1, p. 43.

42 D.D. Kosambi, quoted by Romila Thapar in Interpreting Early India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1992, p. 93.

43 Kunal Chakrabarti, "Recent Approaches to the History of Religion in Ancient India," in Romila Thapar, ed., Recent Perspectives of Early Indian History, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1998, p. 193.

44 The last few quotes are from R.S. Sharma, Ancient India– A History Textbook for Class XI, NCERT, New Delhi, 1999, p. 3-6.

45 For instance Romila Thapar in an interview in Le Monde, 11 May 1993: "[In India’s case] what one can foresee, perhaps, for the end of the next century [i.e. the twenty-first], is a series of small states federated within a more viable single economic space on the scale of the subcontinent."

46 K.M. Munshi quoted by himself in the Foreword to R.C. Majumdar, ed., The Vedic Age, vol. 1 in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1951, p. 8.

47 Upinder Singh, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson, New Delhi, 2008.

             48 Sister Nivedita, Footfalls in Indian History (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1990), p. 6.

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