The scars that 200 years of Western Colonization left behind in India are many. One of those many scars is the loss of our history. Our educational system teaches the students about the Greeks, Romans, Holy Roman Empire and the British Empire. We learn about heroes from Alexander to Napoleon. The History we learn, that we know, is Euro-Centric. There is no doubt that the “Great Empires” of India- the Mauryas, Guptas and Mughals- have been covered in our history lessons, but an average student is clueless about large swathes of Indian History. We neglect to protect our history, and as a result, our identity. History shapes our thoughts, our beliefs. It is a sad reality, however, that we have lost our local history.
The colourful history that each place had, has been subsumed by the Euro-centric History we have been taught. Be it the names of places and the story of its origin or the bravery of our kings, all have been replaced with the knowledge of West European History. Do not mistake my argument- I am not arguing we should not know the history of Europe- but at the cost of not getting to know our own history?
“Oh we do!” you might argue, since we learnt about the “Doctrine of Lapse” and the “Ryotwari system” and all that. These were in the Early 19th Century- just 200 years ago. Our History dates way back, to 1000s of years starting from the Indus Valley Civilization.
Forget Local Kings and Lords, we forget whole Empires: The Maratha Empire, for example, at its greatest extent controlled Peshawar in the West, Andaman and Bengal in the east, and Tamil Nadu in the south. We remain painfully ignorant of its size and contribution to History. The most we learn is Shivaji’s Bravery and efforts against Aurangzeb. That is a mere fragment of the whole picture- there were many Martha Leaders, Administrators and Generals that should be revered as Heroes of India. Films like “Bajirao Mastani” are drawing attention to some of these Heroes- but the film overdramatizes the contribution of Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I.
Coming to South India, we have ignored the immense contribution the Chola Kingdom, which was once the most dominant forces in South West Asia, controlling all places from the modern areas of Myanmar to the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia. The empire even sent diplomats to China to negotiate on their behalf. The influence of Indian Culture in our history is limited to the Angkor Wat- while the contributions remain much, much more than that. Take for example Bali- an Island in predominantly Muslim Indonesia- almost 90% of the island practices Hinduism, and even deities like Hanuman and Vishnu acquire Local characteristics. We remain unaware, ignorant even, of the full extent of our contributions. Mere knowledge is not enough- if we are to form our identity in 21st Century, we are to know our History intimately.
Few know the Story of the Pandya Princes and Cheras who fought against the ‘Chola yoke’ as they would characterise it. The Story and heroism of Chera Kings like Ramavarma Kulasekharan- who ‘liberated’ Kerala from the Later Chola Kingdom and eventually leading to its decline- is ignored and forgotten by us.
But history is not only that of Kings and Empires, but also of our own Family History- Our family lineage is forgotten along with our wider History.
My argument is simple- if we are to preserve our History and our Identity, it is essential that we know our History. If we are to tell our children the story of our motherland, to remind them of how great our contributions were, knowing just about the Mauryans, Guptas or the Mughals is certainly not enough. We must know exactly where we fell short, and were we stood tall.
Edited by: Theyjusivini S.
First Posted here.