The Colonial Paradigm of Indian History

The Steel Frame

It is a tribute to the persistence and tenacity of the colonial overlords that dominated the Indian subcontinent for a relatively short period of 200 years that the prevailing paradigm on the origins and chronology of our civilization is largely constructed by them. Such a paradigm which we shall define as the Colonial Paradigm, while substantially erroneous, is posited on certain assumptions. The key assumption is that the civilization that remains extant has been brought into the area by migrating races such as the Aryans, and in fact some would argue, that such a statement holds also for the so called Dravidians of India. According to such a narrative everything that was worth preserving has been handed down to us over the centuries by migrations, within the last 3 1/2 millennia, into the subcontinent, from somewhere else. It is also true that the history that is taught the children of India today is vastly at variance with the puranic accounts handed down to us over several millennia.

It is to state it without any embellishments, a revised history that is completely at odds with the traditional history of India. Even so great an effort as the History and Culture of the Indian people edited by RC Majumdar, the most famous of Indian historians at the time of Independence accepts the basic framework of the History of India as revised by the British colonialists. Fifty years after independence the narrative has not changed and the banner of the colonial version of history is now borne by the Indian left including the Communists and the rump of the Congress party left behind after successive defections from its fold and whose only common ideology is the adulation of the family of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite the fact that the current generation of that family share neither the scholarship that he exhibited in his writings, not the deep sense of commitment that he felt for the betterment of his people and the democratic principles enshrined in the constitution which he was so keen to preserve.

A substantial percentage of Indians now feel they have a stake in the preservation of this false history and when confronted with the reality of their acquiescence to a false and revised history of their own land by a very recent arrival on the scene, react with irrelevant responses such as “why blame the British” (the issue is not one of blame, for after all we are in great admiration of the British for the extraordinary sagacity they displayed in prolonging their imperial rule by every artifice imaginable) and in any event it is not about the British at all. One possible reason for such a stance by the Indic in our view is the so called Societal Stockholm Syndrome, which we have elaborated upon elsewhere. Another possible explanation is that long centuries of servitude as a Dhimmi in Dar ul Islam have robbed the Indic of the capability to think and reason for himself , with the result that he has internalized the notion that what others say about his history has to be more accurate than the narrative contained in the epics and the Puranas from which we derive our values and culture. We have also dealt with the systematic approach that the British used to remake the weltanschuung of the Indic and to create an international image of the Indic that is much at variance with reality , and the success they achieved in the resulting internalization of these views by the Indic himself in our essay titled the South Asia File.

In this monograph we will study the motivations of 2 classes of individuals. One category belonged to individuals who made it a lifelong passion to study the Indic people and their achievements in sciences and the arts and in the process undertook a dangerous and long journey in order to satisfy their curiosity. The other category belongs to those who were influenced considerably by the work of the Indic ancients. The study is startling in that the current disdain with which the Indic is held in the post colonial era is a development that occurred mainly in the last 200 years and that for most of our recorded history the Indic has been held in high esteem by the denizens of the globe. It appears the British had no small part in assiduously cultivating such a picture of the Indic. We say this because substantial numbers of scholars from Britain have expressed their disdain for the contributions of the Indics in unequivocal terms. But the pattern of spending a lifetime studying the Indics for a lifetime and imbibing their knowledge and then subsequently belittling their achievements was first exhibited by the Afghan scholar Al Biruni ( a very rare instance of such behavior in the ancient and medieval world) is more prevalent in recent times. To the extent that the contributions of the ancient Indics are held in high esteem by the occidentals, after the advent of colonial conquest, it is because it was understood that these were contributions made by the so called Aryans immediately after arrival in the subcontinent and that such a creative and inventive spark was extinguished shortly thereafter . Exemplifying such a viewpoint , we quote W W Rouse Ball, the historian of mathematics [1]

The Arabs had considerable commerce with India, and a knowledge of one or both of the two great Hindoo works on algebra had been obtained in the Caliphate of Al-Mansur (754-775 AD)though it was not until fifty or seventy years later that they attracted much attention. The algebra and arithmetic of the Arabs were largely founded on these treatises, and  I therefore devote this section to the consideration of Hindoo mathematics.The Hindoos like the Chinese have  pretended that they are the most ancient people on the face of the earth, and that to them all sciences owe their creation. But it is probable that these pretensions have no foundation; and in fact no science or useful art (except a rather fantastic  architecture and sculpture) can be definitely traced back to the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula prior to the Aryan invasion. This seems to have taken place at some time in the fifth century or in the sixth century when a tribe of Aryans entered India by  the North West part of their country. Their descendants, wherever they have kept their blood pure, may still be recognized by their superiority over the races they originally conquered; but as is the case with the modern Europeans, they found the climate trying and gradually degenerated

We remind our readers that such an unabashedly racist sentiment was expressed as late as the beginning of the 20th century, after the renaissance and the enlightenment.

We begin our story by turning our attention to the question of why India has been a subject of such intense interest at least over the prolonged period of over 2 millennia.

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