‘Historian Romila Thapar’s Dogmas’

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by blank_quest, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    I don't fully agree but this article has some interesting points......:laugh:


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    ‘Historian Romila Thapar’s Dogmas’
    Column by Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

    Romila Thapar has entered her 80s and the favourite historian of Indian Marxist circles and as well the feted and decorated icon of certain sections of the international scholarly jet set is now settling further into her dogmatic world view. This can be readily discerned in the talks that she has been giving in the last two to three years. The old dogmas are carefully swaddled in more attractive clothes (and sometimes not even that, as we shall see) but the basic dogmas of her school of historiography are still there. Although she declined the Padma Bhushan and expressly wrote to India’s President (and preeminent scientist)Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam rejecting it, she did readily accept in 2005 the Kluge Chair at Harvard University. J.W. Kluge was some sort of entrepreneur who made millions and therefore gave endowments to academic institutions and notably the Library of Congress. Dr. Thapar’s words to the Indian President in 2005 were:

    “I only accept awards from academic institutions or those associated with my professional work and not state awards. “

    The Kluge Chair was conferred after much controversy, foremost among the criticisms being that Dr. Thapar was not knowledgeable in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Persian and Arabic and therefore much of her work in ancient Indian history and medieval history suffered from that limitation.

    It might seem ungracious of anyone to criticise this public face of Indian scholarship (whatever its limitations) and yet this task must continue to be undertaken consistently and unhesitatingly by Hindus. Her works are primarily on ancient India and also the medieval period of Indian history. Apart from the fact that Dr. Thapar is not familiar with Sanskrit, surely a must for someone dealing with ancient Indian history, her work is handicapped by her intense partisanship (expressed in sophisticated tones to be sure !) and this can be explained by her Marxist beliefs. While for a Hindu view of Indian history there has been, and continues to be , an ongoing interface of Hinduism with social and economic history, Thapar rejects this. Veda Agama simply does not exist in her world view. And the facts staring in her face are quietly dismissed. The importance given to Veda Agama by Hindus is the result (she claims) of the British study of ancient Hindu texts, and not an ongoing reality ! Veda Agama is not a living reality for this JNU historian. The absurdity of this view, her tunnel vision, is not obvious to her for important reasons.

    As a Marxist historian she is directly influenced both by Marx’s view of religion in general and Hinduism in particular and his materialist interpretation of history. Needless to say, Marx was ignorant of much of the history of the East and certainly of India. While he had some familiarity with Russian history and wrote about it and indeed corresponded with the Russian revolutionaries, especially on the viability of the Russian obschina (the village commune) he was singularly unfitted to pontificate on India, which alas he did. He was well equipped to analyse and critique capitalism, that product of his own society Western Europe, and his 6 volumes of Das Kapital are a testimony to this ; but he was at sea when it came to the older existing cultures and civilisations such as the Hindu culture and civilisation.

    His negative view of Hinduism can best be appreciated in his statement that while Britain exploited India it was also a progressive force in India where MAN who should be the master of Nature falls on his knees before Hanuman the monkey and Sabala the cow (British Rule in India).

    His materialist interpretation of history namely that it was the mode of production that dictated the social, religious and political structures of a society became crytallised into the periodisation of history, namely that history went through successive phases, each successive phase a higher one than the previous. Hence, the primitive communist phase was succeeded by the feudal and then the capitalist phase and thence the proletarian phase and thence to the highest form of communism, where society would be organised according to the principle : from each according to his capacity and to each according to his need.

    This periodisation was ironically a materialist imitation of the Hegelian view of history which outlined a primitive African society followed by the higher Oriental society, then the higher Greek society and finally highest of all, the ideal Christian modern state, which in his time was the European state, specifically Germany. Marx did not outline an Asiatic mode of production and that was Stalin’s contribution. Romila Thapar made a recent mistaken identification of the same with Marx’s name(Hard Talk with Karan Thapar 2012).

    Note Marx’s observation on India :

    “England has to fulfill a double mission in India : one destructive, the other regenerating – the annihilation of the
    old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundation of Western society in Asia “

    ( Karl Marx ‘ New York Daily Tribune ‘, August 8, 1853).

    Apart from her Marxist dogmas Thapar like many other historians of the JNU school, had a political motive in upgrading (and falsifying) Muslim history in India. This was basically the philosophy of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. An intense dislike of Hinduism was propped up by this and hence the amnesia towards Hindu history as predating either Islam or Christianity on the Indian subcontinent. Even on her conservative estimate the Veda which was composed around 1500 B.C.and the Vedic culture and subsequent Vedic Agama culture preceded Islam in India by nearly two millenia ! These facts alone should have told her of the major defining role of Veda Agama in Indian history, not to mention its continuation in present day India.

    While her work on ancient India focussed on social and economic factors, ignoring the impact of Hinduism in shaping Hindu society, her work in the Muslim period mitigates the evils of barbarian invasions and argues that it resulted in an integrated Indian society. The two enterprises, the downgrading of Hinduism and the upgrading of the Muslim ethos go hand in hand. Her defence of Mahmoud Ghazni is well known in her study of his attack on the Somnath temple (‘Somnatha, the many voices of history’, 2005). She dismisses the work of contemporaneous Persian sources which glorified Ghazni’s destruction of Somnath as the work of a true Muslim who destroyed the infidel’s place of worship !

    Instead she argues that this was simply the usual pattern of conquerors and overlords, nothing specific to Ghazni.

    In recent talks she has emphasised that she is a HISTORIAN, with a certain scientific methodology:

    Reliance on facts.
    Use of concrete evidence.
    Use of Analysis/ Interpretation.

    What she means by the above is the use of sources, linguistic,literary, artefacts, inscriptions, anthropological, archaeological etc and their analyses/interpretation. The entire Veda Agama tradition is dismissed as not being significant ‘concrete evidence’. And when asked by the interviewer about the evidence provided by the Archeological Society of India on the Ramajanmabhoomi she said with as straight face that archeological evidence is not reliable since it is an interpretation (Hard Talk with Karan Thapar 2012) !

    Her partisanship is revealed in the way she upheld the Aryan invasion of India theory for many long years even though Indic scholars had in the last three decades done authentic work on the subject disproving it. Along with the debunking of the Aryan invasion of India theory Indic scholars had also undertaken conclusive and definitive work on the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilisation (formerly called the Indus Valley Civilisation) based on the discovery of the famed river Sarasvati (mentioned in the Rig Veda some 78 times and which had disappeared after the Vedic period owing to techtonic shifts) establisheded through a variety of archaeological and satellite photography techniques. The major sites of this civilisation were located on the banks of the Sarasvati river. And since Sindhu was the ancient name of the Indus river (it was mentioned in the Rig Veda), the name Sarasvati Sindhu Civilisation became popular. The word Indus was an Anglicisation of Sindhu.

    In her interview with Karan Thapar (Hard Talk, March 2012) she insisted darkly that the only reason that Hindus favoured the indigenous origin of the Aryans was because they wanted to show that the late coming Muslims and Christians were outsiders, they came from the outside ! Rather an about face for someone who claims that as a historian she is firm about being scientific ! Along with this surprising about face she continues to insist that the Veda Agama is accepted by Hindu historians simply because they were following the British who read only the texts of Hinduism !

    Quite reluctantly and tardily Dr. Thapar has now abandoned her pet Aryan Invasion Theory and now speaks of migrations of peoples into the subcontinent. Ironically, after accusing Hindu scholars and historians of an earlier era of borrowing Western, chiefly British ideas of the Aryan invasion theory, and of Indian history in general, she had herself diligently done the same ! Her motive was clear. From the vehement way in which she blatantly accused Hindu (in her terminology Hindutva) historians of upholding the indigenous origin of Aryans so that they could prove that while Hindus were native to India , the Muslims and Christians were from the outside, her own motive was to malign the Hindus. She did not seem interested in any scientific basis for debunking the Aryan invasion theory. Now that the Aryan invasion theory has been consigned to the dustbin of history she finds a deep motive for this development, even though she herself has now accepted this as scientific fact, as the result of ‘scientific’ investigation.

    Her distrust and dislike of the work of Hindu scholars of Indian history is patently clear. It has become a lifelong habit. It must be viewed critically by Hindus so that the history of Bharat India is not abandoned to such dogmas.

    (The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)
     
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  3. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Romila Thapar is one of the best historians I know of.Her undestanding of caste and how it works is unparlelled in India.She also has the guts to admit her mistakes and recently if we read her book early India she has changed it to Aryan Migration.She wrote the book in 1970s but later she clearly updated itt with new discoveries
     
  4. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    One question .. Plzz tell me that people who "migration" (so called peaceful "Aryans" because they migrated not Invaded :hmm: ) subjugated "Dravids" under "caste-system" and oppressed them ? Why will "migrated" - not invaders- peace loving people "oppress" ,eh ? She is very intelligent ?
     
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  5. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Thapar is an expert at whitewashing Islamic rule. Really relates to Dhimmitude as described in another thread.
     
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  6. Defenceindia2010

    Defenceindia2010 Regular Member

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    Aunty doing overtime:taunt:, she should retire.
     
  7. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Review of Romila Thapar�s
    �Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History�
    (Penguin 2004), Rs. 375

    By Meenakshi Jain
    (Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti, Delhi.)

    The Pioneer 21st March 2004





    Indian Marxists, notwithstanding their claims to originality, have always been faithful followers of Western intellectual trends, often long after these were dated in the west. Thus, well after Western academics expounded upon European feudalism, Indian Marxists continue to search for point-by-point parallels between post-Gupta India and the West. Similarly the once-in-vogue notion of �imagined� communities continues to bewitch our Marxist brethren who remain committed to fitting the history of the subcontinent to this maxim. Only the western rethinking on old patriotisms underpinning the new nationalisms has yet to win the allegiance of Indian Marxists.



    As of now, they continue to argue that the genesis of the Hindu community dates back to only the nineteenth century and is inextricably linked to the competition for middle class employment. For a Hindu community, Marxists allege, became a requisite for political mobilization under colonial rule, when representation by religious community became the key to power and economic resources. Hence, Marxists want us to believe that though the peculiarly Hindu institution of caste existed from early historic times, the Hindu community itself did not then come into being. So, while Brahmins, Rajputs, Vaniks, Chandals and Doms evolved from amorphous entities to identifiable groups, the Hindu community as a whole did not emerge from its parts. The same was true of the Hindu tradition. Shaivites, Vaishnavites, Shaktas, Buddhists and Jains, all stretched back into antiquity. Yet Hinduismitself was claimed to be a nineteenth century western-inspired abstraction.



    Romila Thapar�s �Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History� (Penguin 2004), represents one such attempt to reinvent the past. Inverting remembered history, Thapar dismisses notions of Hindu trauma over Islamic iconoclasm as a later-day fabrication. Rather, she alleges, in medieval times Hindu kings often vandalized temples and images, even if they did not surpass the Muslim record in this respect. Contemporary Hindu sources are silent about Mahmud�s attack on Somanatha, she assert, because �the looting of a temple (was) not such an extraordinary event, given that some Hindu rulers also attacked the temple of those they had conquered, or in order to confiscate the wealth of the temple.�



    Thapar however ignores the pertinent fact that the alleged attacks by Hindu kings on images and temples did not rest upon any shastric commandment. In the few known incidents when images were taken away from enemy kings, the Hindu ruler honoured the idols thus acquired and built stately temples for them. As for the so-called Hindu destruction of Buddhist and Jain places of worship, even the evidence for such acts is vague and unconvincing.



    Strangely for a historian, Thapar takes no cognizance of the Prophet smashing360 idols at Kaba and the Quranic injunction: �Fight them until idolatry is no more and God�s religion is supreme�. Artificially insisting that political and economic motivations superseded iconoclastic compulsions, she never explains why all Muslim (and not just Turk) attacks on temples always resulted in the desecration of idols. Indeed, Arab literature on Sind and Hind is obsessed with idolatry. The Arab rulers of Sind even sent cartloads of idols to Baghdad in lieu of revenue. The Turkish assault on Hindu idols was more thorough, as their Indian encounter was lengthier than that of the Arabs. Iconoclasm, as Thapar well knows, was a feature of Islamic polity till its very end; few rulers were an exception to this rule.



    Mahmud�s assault on Somanatha electrified the Muslim world because it was viewed as a sequel to the Prophet�s action at Kaba. Muslims identified the Somanatha idol as that of Manat, believed to have been ferreted out of Mecca just prior to the Prophet�s attack on its temple. By destroying Somanatha, therefore, Mahmud was virtually completing the Prophet�s work; hence the act was hailed as �the crowing glory of Islam over idolatry�.



    To establish economic motives for iconoclasm, Thapar contends that exaggerated reports of wealth motivated ghazis to join Mahmud�s Indian campaigns. But this ignores the evidence of early migration of Ghazis from Central Asia to eastern Bengal in service of the Crescent. Muinuddin, founder of the Chishti order in India, set up his headquarters in Ajmer, the heartland of the Hindu military aristocracy. Sufis participated in warfare in the Deccan during the 13th and 14th centuries, to extend the frontiers of Islam. The lure of lucre is difficult to discern in these cases.



    Equally awkward is Thapar�s claim that substantial numbers of mercenaries in the Ghaznavid armies �were Indians, and, presumably Hindu.� Surely she does not suggest that the Turkish conquest of India was a Hindu-Turk joint venture?



    Thapar views the construction and destruction of Somanatha as a �counterposed legitimation,� whereby re-consecration gave legitimacy to Hindu kings and destruction validated the Turkish Sultans. Surely this proves the conflicting value systems of the two communities. Marxists must explain why Turkish vandalism was almost always directed at non-Islamic objects, but not against mosques or other sacred architecture associated with rival Muslim kings. For instance, when Mahmud attacked the Ismailis of Multan, he did not destroy their mosque.



    Thapar makes much of the contemporary Hindu silence on Somanatha as if, barring it, the Hindus catalogued every other instance of Islamic iconoclasm. The fact is that the Turkish intolerance of imagery deeply preoccupied Hindus. Medieval Hindu historiographical works, temple hagiographies (mahatmyas), site histories (sthala puranas), dharma nibandhas and even inscriptions, all bear witness to the experience of cultural disruption and desecration of the sacred by the Turks. Islamic iconoclasm layat the heart of the psychological rejection of the Turks (turushkas) and is central to the remembered medieval past of the Hindus.



    Medieval Hindu literature grapples with the searing issues raised by Islamic iconoclasm. In the Ekalinga mahatmaya, the sage Narada enquires of the God Vayu how an image of God could be destroyed by Muslims if it was indeed God himself. Vayu responds that just as the demons had tried to harm Gods, so the Yavanas had a natural tendency to destroy divine images. Though they had the capacity to retaliate, the Gods understood that their conflict with the demons was eternal and that each was fated to suffer setbacks, for periodic dissolution of the world was part of the natural order. The Vimanarcanakalpa, a medieval priestly handbook of the Vaisnava Vaikhanasa school, lays down ritual procedures for burying images in times of danger.



    The rich body of medieval Jain literature is notable for its strident assertion of the power of the faith and images to withstand the Islamic onslaught. Images that had retreated or gone into exile reappear more powerful than ever, and even those mutilated reveal increased ability to perform miracles. Jain literature discusses the entire gamut of problems related to image worship in the medieval era, including the appropriate medium in which to fashion icons in times of Muslim threat, the sufferings of the true faith in an age of declining virtue, the necessity of hiding images for safety, the divine order to unearth images and resume their worship, the smashing of images by �those wicked Muslims� and their final restitution through the agency of a devotee. Thapar overlooks all these concerns and equates Turkish iconoclasm with an imagined Hindu vandalism.



    Notwithstanding her attempts to invoke the class factor, medieval Hindu literature associates all sections of society, viz., kings, saints, and ordinary devotees, with the heartbreaking task of protection and restitution of images in temples. The recovery of buried images invariably follows a divine communication to a humble cowherd. In the case of the Sri Ranganatha image, a female devotee follows the Sultanate army all the way to Delhi and is instrumental in the eventually retrieval of the idol.



    Thapar makes much of a land grant by the Hindus of Somanatha to a trader from Hormuz for constructing a mosque some two centuries after Mahmud�s raid. Yet this Hindu gesture only reinforces the opposing perspectives of the two sides. While the Arab trader wished Somanatha might come to Islam, his Hindu hosts showed no desire to convert him, and facilitated the construction of a mosque so he could properly adhere to his faith. Thapar�s shoddy insistence that the gesture was dictated by the greed of Hindu traders for a share of the Arab trade is typical Marxist drivel. Events in the erstwhile Soviet Union (the former Mecca of those supposedly in the vanguard of the proletariat) prove that man does not live by bread alone. The overt manifestation of Christianity in Mother Russia (briefly the Soviet fatherland) should convince Marxists of the need for deference to the spiritual underpinnings of Indian civilization.



    Going through Thapar�s bibliography, one is struck by a major omission. Though Thapar cites a volume recently edited by Sheldon Pollock, she studiously ignores two of his most seminal articles on the Islamic encounter with India. In the first, Pollock demonstrates that the period between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries represented a special historical juncture in which a Ramayana imagery became predominant in the public political sphere. And the Hindu rulers of the time deliberately styled themselves as Rama incarnates, dedicated to complete his mission against demon forces.



    In the second article, Pollock shows that massive volumes of intellectual works emanated from the courts of Hindu kings around this time. At one level, these dharmanibandhas were digests on social-religious codes of conductfor Hindu society. In essence, however, they were a major reaffirmation of dharma which, for the first time since the writing of the dharmasastras, faced in the persona of the Central Asian Turks, a radically different and resolutely unassimilating social and religious formation. It would have been interesting to know Thapar�s response to such crucial observations.
     
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  8. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Opression did not come in a day paaji.It came in installments first when non-kin labour came into existence.Next when Vaishyas entered the bicchar
     
  9. panduranghari

    panduranghari Senior Member Senior Member

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  10. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Read EH Carr - "What is History" and you will understand why Romilla Thapar and others wrote what they wrote.

    They wrote history with the present shape of political dispensation in view... Thy wrote history as Nehruvians desired.. They wrote history to influence the present and they were totally subjective in that.

    They were reinventing the wheel to fit somewhere.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  11. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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  12. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Same old accusation, that certain historians wrote history as instructed by Nehruvians - a veiled inference of the mythical "Marxist Historian." More codswallop, in my esteemed opinion. Can we get a bit objective here? If there was no Aryan Migration or Invasion, how come India is so diverse? If this diversity is due to ANI and ASI, hailing from two different migrant groups from Africa, why isn't such diversity seen in Europe, Anatolia, Iraq and Iran, the last two of which would have fallen in the line of migration?
     
  13. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Most of her "critics" have not read any of her works and just get their information from blogs and other such resources. I have seen plenty of such people on the Internet. They accuse her of being a "Marxist historian" but they themselves cannot differentiate between Marxist and non-Marxist interpretations of history. Even a foreigner with no prior knowledge of India and Indian history can identify who is the more credible historian between Romila Thapar and people like P.N. Oak, Sitaram Goel, and Koenraad Elst.
     
  14. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    PN Oak :hehe:

    BTW ,What is "Aryan"? A "race" or a "title" for Nobel or a "Tribe" or the "Culture" ? :hmm:
     
  15. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Thapar in her work uses "Aryan" as a purely linguistic label. An "Aryan", in the Indian context, is anyone who speaks the IE languages. My extension, the term can also be used to describe the culture (elite culture in particular) of the IE-speaking peoples.

    The problem is that many people, especially on the right-wing of the spectrum, are still stuck in the colonialist view of history and cannot differentiate between language and culture on the one hand, and "race" or ethnicity on the other.
     
  16. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Pray tell us what defect do you see in the scholarship of Sitaram Goel?
     
  17. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Same defect that I see in the scholarship of the early British colonialist historians. An inability to critically examine historical sources, and use them in the proper context. The fact that he has a blatant, openly-declared agenda doesn't help.
     
  18. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Here is the link for a detailed critique of Thapar's "Early India".

    http://voiceofdharma.org/indology/EarlyIndia.pdf

    I will post the first paragraph:

     
  19. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    Well Thapar is known for her Marxist views which have distorted her perception of history. It all goes to show that history can never be objective. The books I have read by Goel (all available free online) are well referenced.

    Also I do not know what agenda Goel had, he was definitely against Hindutva as his quotes on the RSS show plus he had knowledge of Persian and Sanskrit something which Madame Thapar lacks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013
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  20. Sakal Gharelu Ustad

    Sakal Gharelu Ustad Detests Jholawalas Moderator

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    History is shit, lets discuss Physics!!
     
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  21. Das ka das

    Das ka das Tihar Jail Banned

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    I used to hate history too. I didn't know anything about history until one year ago after I got interested in Indian and Chinese history. Now I can't stop reading history books in my spare time!
     

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