A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly

A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly
Published on October 7th, 2007 In Uncategorized | Views 813 <!– by Vedaprakash –>

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A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly—————————————————————————————–

The above EPW version of Romila Thapar has been “ideological” specifically and with explicit “comments” differing from the opinion as appearing in “The Hindu”.

As for the points raised in “The Hindu” have already been dealt with, the points which are not appearing in “The Hindu”, but here alone are taken up and commented upon. First such portions are reproduced for convenience in red colour and then comments / response are given.

“The location of both is uncertain.

It has been argued that the present-day location of Ayodhya may not have been the same as in early times. Buddhist sources locate it on the
Ganga and some argue for a different Ayodhya on the Sarayu. When excavations at Ayodhya were started as part of the project on “Ramayana Archaeology” this question was raised and there was some discussion among archaeologists. Was it a confusion on the part of the authors? Could it have been another place with the same name?

Site names are often relocated in history sometimes as a wish to retain a memory and sometimes to legitimise a new settlement. Or even sometimes when it is ecologically necessary to move elsewhere and the name accompanies the migration. This difference in locating Ayodhya was pointed out by historians at the time of the Ramjanmabhumi movement, but it was dismissed as the distortion of Marxist historians! One does not have to be a Marxist to see common sense. The location of Lanka has been disputed by scholars for the past century and remains unidentified with any certainty. For a variety of reasons many scholars such as Hiralal, Raikrishandas, Paramasiva Iyer, U P Shah and H D Sankalia, locate it in the Vindhyas – in Amarkantak or in Chhota Nagpur – and others locate it in the lower Mahanadi valley in Orissa. The identification with present-day
Sri Lanka is problematic – as has often been pointed out – since Lanka was not the early name for Ceylon.

One of the chronicles of the island, the Mahavamsa, written in the mid-first millennium AD lists a number of early names, possibly imaginary, such as Ojadipa, Varadipa, Mandadipa. But the names more commonly used in a variety of sources are different. The earliest name of the island judging by Indian and Greek and Latin references of the Mauryan and post-Mauryan period was Tamraparni / Tambapanni (Taprobane in Greek). Ashoka in the third century BC in one of his edicts mentions Tamraparni as being at the frontier. Most scholars have identified this with Ceylon as it comes together with a reference to the Cholas, Pandyas and Keralaputtas of south India. A few have suggested that it might refer to the river Tamraparni in the extreme south.

Subsequent to this, the name Sinhala or Sinhala-dvipa was more frequent and rendered in Greco-Latin sources as Silam or Sieledib. The island is also frequently referred to in these sources as Palai Simoundou, the derivation of which is unclear. These references continue into the first millennium AD. At this early stage the name Lanka seems not to be associated with
Ceylon. Perhaps the name Lanka came into usage later”.

Historians have started telling lies, that too suppressing the facts, which are not favourable to them. That Romila is doing that is surprising, perplexing and intriguing. For the argument sake, she puts the half-baked hypotheses as established facts fit for her hypothesis. It is not worth for historians, who swear in the name of “historical method”, “methodology”, “reliability of evidences” and “historical generalizations”. As she has been arguing with the available opinion of the existing and non-existing (i.e, who are no longer with us, say H. D. Sankalia about whom she has referred to), it is responded quoting only from H. D. Sankalia – from his books “Ramayana Myth or Reality, 1973 (mentioned as RMR) and The Ramayana in Historical Perspective, 1982 (mentioned as RHP) without adding anything as follows:

About the location of “Lanka” in Madyapradesh: “Some light on the antiquity of these and other aboriginal tribes can only be thrown if excavations, even on a small scale, are carried out in the present tribal areas. These would show whether the various tribes are comparatively recent migrations in their present habitat or they have been staying there from early Neolithic or chalcolithic times, if not from the earlier Stone Age. This is not an impossible task. First, we have to discover archaeological deposits and then test their antiquity,. Pending this enquiry, we shall conclude, on the evidence of three epigraphical references………from the fifth century AD to the seventeenth century AD…..Gonds…………songs refer to Lanka as the residence of their chief King Ravana” (RHP, p.164).

In mentioning about the hypotheses and theories about the Location of Ramayana Lanka”, she mentions scholars, who deal with the Central Indian-MP hypothesis. Actually, the present opinion is divided into three taking opinion of all scholars locating “Lanka” in the following places:

  1.   Somewhere in Central India.
  2.  The Present Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
  3.  On a submerged area / island on the equator.

But she sticks to one group that is not correct, as she decides side with one group. For taking such sided-stand, she does not give any archaeological excavations taken place after 1973.
That there have been “Ayodhyas” and “Lankas” in South East Asian countries also proves the strong tradition of Ramayama spread beyond present India. In fact, the biggest temple for Vishnu with the largest depiction of Ramayana in sculpture has been there in Ankorwat. Can anybody say that Ramayana evolved there and then spread to
India from the south?

6      In fact, the north-Indian scholars do not know Tamil and Tamil tradition about Ramayana’s impact in the Sangam literature. The third group indirectly point to the existed of land mass long ago. They stoutly deny the hypotheses and theories of Kumarikkandam and purposely objected to and even prohibited papers presented on “Kumarikkandam”.

What archaeology says about Ramayana – its limitations: H. D. Sankalia summarized his version in 1973 (RMR, p.62) as follows:

SUMMARY

(i) There is no doubt that the existence of Ayodhya and other cities mentioned in the Ramayana such as Kausambi, Mithila, Kanyakuja at least by 1000 B.C;

(ii) whether these cities, now called by these names, were at that time respectively known by their names and were ruled by dynasties called Iksvaku and others is very likely, but can be proved when the sites of these cities are excavated;

(iii) the core of the Ramayana story viz Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and the exile of Rama with Sita and her being kidnapped by Ravana – was true and was known at this time (i.e, 1000 BC).

(iv) Ravana belonged very probably to the Gond tribe;(v) Lanka of this Ravana was in Chota Nagpur plateau in East M.P. and probably near
Jabalpur.

All this area, Ramayana expressly tells us, was included in Rama’s kingdom, i.e, (Southern Kosala);(vi)Rama and Lakshmana and the Gonds fought with bows, arrows, and swords, and spears, whereas the Vanaras who were other aboriginals tribes fought with missiles like trees and stones;(vii)All the places occurring in the Dandakaranya can be satisfactorily identified in this region, south of Dandakaranya, south of Prayag. Thus in the original Ramayana, the entire episode took place in a compact geographical area. There is nothing unnatural about it – either the persons or the places.

Thus, it is evident that in his locating Ramayana in a “compact geographical area”, he came to such conclusions with the above conclusions. However, he clearly warned that without excavations nothing could be final. He already pointed out that there were no evidences for Asoka, Chandragupta Maurya etc., as no horizontal excavations had been done (RMR, p.46), historians did not worry and search for Asoka or Chandragupta or questioning their historicity!

“Questions of identifying location and chronology do bother archaeologists and historians, but they need not be of consequence to those whose concern is only with faith, and the distinction has to be reiterated.

Keeping the distance might help in defending historical research. The notion of questioning what is believed is not alien to Indian tradition. When we assess our cultural heritage we often tend to forget or we downplay the fact that rationality and scepticism were very much a part of early Indian thought. This was not limited to the Carvaka / Lokayata thinkers but is also clear from some other schools of philosophy, as indeed it is noticeable in Buddhist and Jaina thought. We have inherited a tradition of questioning, which was not limited to philosophical thought but is apparent in popular literature as well. It would be as well to nurture that tradition.

The description of Ayodhya in the Valmiki Ramayana as an opulent, welldeveloped, extensive urban centre would suggest to the historian a comparison with the urban centres of the Ganga plain in about the sixth-fifth centuries BC, known from texts and from archaeology. The extensive excavations at Ayodhya carried out on different occasions in the last 40 years make it clear that Ayodhya as a city cannot go back much earlier than the mid-first millennium BC. Unlike the textual description, the archaeological evidence does not suggest opulence. This contrast is apparent at more than one site. But allowance has to be made for poetic licence in a text that is acclaimed, and rightly so, as the ‘adi-kavya’, the first of the great poems. The first urban experience of settlements in the Ganga plain doubtless evoked a new vision of the world, certainly one that brought in ideas and activities very different from the previous village settlements. Why poets exaggerated this experience has to be understood. Other kinds of pre-urban habitation in the area go back by a few centuries, but do not reflect the urban life of the Ayodhya of the text.

The existence of habitation by itself is not enough to argue that such locations, occupied by hunter-gatherers, pastoralists and peasants, is evidence enough to identify the site with a city-centre of an epic, even allowing for the normal fantasies of epic poetry. There has to be a detailed co-relation between the textual description and what is excavated – although many archaeologists and historians would still hesitate to accept this as the basis for identification. The correlation can only be clinched when inscribed objects are found common to both textual and archaeological sources. This is one reason why despite extensive excavation, so much of Homer still remains uncertain.

Variants of Rama”

Here, her arguments are grouped specifically as follows and responded:

Locating places and associated chronology: Archaeologists and historians know very well that when the popularity of “historical myths” spread, such myth carrying people after settling at a particular place try to localize the “carried myth”. That is why “Ayodhyas” and “Lankas” are located at many places, not because of archaeological evidences. A pointed out by H. D. Sankalaia, through “historical myths” only, archaeologists try to locate the places and dig. After getting the stratriographcal material evidences, they try to date based o  the exiting belief on the secondary dating methdology. Even if C-14, TL and other primary dating come and they go beyond Asokan period, they are rejected as “pre-historical”. There have been thousands of such archaeological evidences neglected and ignored by the historians, as they live in limited and controlled chronology of history only after Asoka. Is it faith or history? How fusion works here? Who instructed historians not to go before Asoka?

Questioning the belief: “Keeping the distance might help in defending historical research. The notion of questioning what is believed is not alien to Indian tradition. When we assess our cultural heritage we often tend to forget or we downplay the fact that rationality and scepticism were very much a part of early Indian thought. This was not limited to the Carvaka / Lokayata thinkers but is also clear from some other schools of philosophy, as indeed it is noticeable in Buddhist and Jaina thought. We have inherited a tradition of questioning, which was not limited to philosophical thought but is apparent in popular literature as well. It would be as well to nurture that tradition.”

  •  Yes, questioning belief is not at all new in Indian tradition. Similarly, ordinary Indians too have right to question historians, if they go on stand their stand or use their profession with dishonesty.
  •      Historians should tell Indians about the unhistoricity or ahistorical of so-many things printed and circulated in text books meant for schools and colleges, as they are in your name.
  •      You mentioned in your interview to rediff.com:
  • “The point that I have been making all along in the issue that was being discussed during the period of the BJP government about NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) textbooks is the difference between textbooks and research. Textbooks are never at the cutting edge of knowledge because the main purpose of a textbook is to encapsulate the mainstream of accepted knowledge. Those on the frontiers of knowledge, propounding new theories, do not include these in textbooks. Maybe some years from now, when this knowledge becomes part of the mainstream knowledge, it will become part of textbooks”.N     How can you say that, “Textbooks are never at the cutting edge of knowledge because the main purpose of a textbook is to encapsulate the mainstream of accepted knowledge.” How and why then such trash is taught to them? Who decide the mainstream of accepted knowledge in history textbooks? Why can’t the Indian students have the best to appreciate the facts. Historians know very well only “provisional dates”, “hypothesized narrations of the British” and other stories are circulated as “Indian history” for the last 60 to 100 years, even though, majority of Indians do not accept it as “accepted knowledge”. Before that we know very well that we never read such histories in India. Why then it is thrusted on them?
  •      Those on the frontiers of knowledge, propounding new theories, do not include these in textbooks” – who are you to decide? According to Dalton atomic theory, the atoms were indivisible. That is why he named as a+tom=atom (that cannot be divided into broken). But, after the breaking of the Atom, “atom” is retained, but science developed fast. But using the word “fusion”, you try to impose the trash / your own myth rather you faith on the Indian students in the name of ah-history! Is it correct Romila?
  •      Maybe some years from now, when this knowledge becomes part of the mainstream knowledge, it will become part of textbooks”- Well you want some time to decide to know when it would become “part of the mainstream of knowledge”? What are that “knowledge”, “main stream knowledge etc? Do not you have faith or history in making it “part of the mainstream of knowledge”? Or you should have more conviction, belief or somethingele is required to accept it? Really, it is interesting, do not you feel you are becoming part of what you accuse!
  •      There is difference between the questioning of faith by historians and by opposing ideologists and atheists. Now, Romila Thapar expresses views of Karunanidhi as already pointed out. Karunanidhi repeats the unhistorical Aryan-Dravidian myths, Nehru’s lies circulated in the name of history. Romila never declares that Nehru’s “discovery of India” (all his writings cirulasted as history) has become outdated or obsolete to be consigned to dustbin.

Human settlement, habitation: Archaeologists have their methods of “horizontal excavation” and “vertical excavation” depending upon the area of selection.

  • ó  H. D. Saknalia had pointed out that there were no evidences for Asoka, Chandragupta Maurya etc., as no horizontal excavations had been done (RMR, p.46), historians did not worry and search for Asoka or Chandragupta or questioning their historicity, and students believe that they lived and walked on the roads!
  • ó  Is it faith or history? ó  There have been pictures of “Mahavira”, “Budha”, “Asoka”, “Jesus Christ”, “Mohammed” etc., can you swear that they appeared exactly like that during their existence?ó  Do such-single story-line biographed heroes posed before the sculptors and painters to be carved so or painted so?
  • ó  Or at least, can you prove from your so-called “single story-line” biographies of them?ó  Have you evidences for all you talk about based on “conducted horizontal excavations”? ó  Without such excavations and proofs, why you jump to conclusions, that too, selectively and thrust on Indians as final?

“Those that claim to speak in the name of faith in order to confront and beat down knowledge have so far been careful in India not to tangle with scientists. Scientific knowledge is beyond the ken of politicians. Yet scientists in their work do confront issues tied to questions of faith. Where does Indian society stand in relation to these confrontations? Other times and other places have seen fierce conflict as for example, between the Catholic Church and Galileo, and more currently between Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Political lobbies elsewhere opposing scientists have been and are extremely powerful, but nevertheless they do fall short – although only just – of seriously damaging scientific knowledge through seeking the sanction of the state to oppose this knowledge. Part of the reason for this can be attributed to some societies allowing the relative independence of knowledge systems, be it archaeology, history or astrophysics. That this does not seem to be so in India is a qualitative disadvantage.“

Indian scientists have never been involved in “faith or history”, but now they are dragged in proves that politicization has taken place because of the ruling combination in which Sonia-Communists-Dravidiologists have say.

NASA too played a double role by mentioning it as “mythical bridge” 20 years back and now as “man-made bridge”.

I quote the following, which is self-explanatory:

“Do the NASA Photos Depict Ravana’s Lanka? The NASA photo of the “man-made bridge” connecting Rameswaram and Sri Lanka with the note that it was built about 17,50,000 YBP published recently in newspapers is not new one many think. Similar photo was published in 1993 itself (Indian Express March25, 1993) with a report under the caption ‘Rama’s bridge on NASA photo’ (Indian Express, March 24, 1993). In fact, the report was based on two photographs displayed at the Pragati Maidan, New Delhi at that time one that of NASA taken September 14, 1966 displayed with the caption “the mythological land bridge between India and Sri Lanka through Rameswaram and Jaffna” and the other one taken by IRS-IA and enlarged read “Computer-altered image shows the mytrhological land bridge between India and Sri Lanka through Rameswaram and Jaffna”. Therefore, it is evident that after 36 years, USA or the persons behind have decided to change “the mythological land bridge between India and Sri Lanka through Rameswaram and Jaffna” to “man-made bridge” implying that Ramayana period is not 5 millenium BCE, but perhaps goes back to Tretayuga (17,28,000 YBP), as has been held by the Puranas. Anyway, now, it has to be decided historically with the astronomical methods.” (K. V. Ramakrishna Rao, Jurassic Park in Valmiki Ramayana!, Proceedings of the 20th International Ramayana Conference, Tirupathi, Vol.II, 2006).

N     Gionardo Bruno was burned alive, Galileo was jailed. And many other scientisys were tortured and killed. Why even in modern times, Bertrand Russell, the great mathematician was prevented from teaching! Here, of course, the TEMPLE does not do that, as Indians have enough politicians supported by ideologists. In India, it is actually, the virus of “ideology” that erodes every walk of life, perhaps, only next to corruption. They do! Note the fate of historians, archaeologists and others connected with Indian history. Why Romila-type become very “romantic” in “eminent category” where as the others is ignored?

S. R. Rao – Oh, that communal marine-archeologist in spite of his professional excellence always talks about “Dwaraka”, so he is out of IHC, ICHR, etc.

B. B. Lal – Oh another communal element. He always talks about “Ramayana archaeology”, that we do not want! So brand him as RSS-MAN!

Hiralal Gupta – Oh, the old man. Nowadays, he became highly communal. Ignore him (During his presidential address at the Rabindra Sadhan on December 28th, 1990, students shouted and raised slogans accusing his as RSS-wala). For his full speech see, IHC proceeding volume, Calcutta 51st session, pp.1-20).“   Makkanlal – a RSS-wala.“   K. L. Tuteja, Kapilkumar etc – perhaps sabotaged the “Kurukshetra session”!

Grover – Oh, he was the only historian who was always questioning us during the General Body Meeting of IHC, ICHR etc. Any way, he is dead now. So Romila could come out (see the news report that she was attending IHC 2006 with the tag that Grover was no more!).

N. S. Rajaram – Oh, the person who twisted the “horse”. He is a dangerous scientist from NASA, but engaged here for “saffronization of history”. So attack him for Computergraphic manipulation. Suppress all “horse evidences” from IVC.

N     Karunanidhi has already confessed that he has “remote control”. T. R. Balu has exceeded his limits in gate-crashing Saraswati Mahal library, threatened the staff to produce all palm-leaves, manuscripts old and rare books and maps to prove his stand. He took photocopy of them without any care. Staff complained that many of the old documents were broken into pieces because of his handling and forced phocopying. “   At that time no manuscriptologist objected to his barbaric act of handling documents! “   No historian objected to the way the atheist Minister interfering with the Library that have valuable research and historical documents. “   Eminent Historians did not issue any statement. “   Sahmat kept silence! “   Secular harmony slept well!

But, the moment news came that there would be general elections in next year, because of the “Communist treachery”, immediately, Congress started playing RAM-CARD. Now, it is the Congress who started first and Karunanidhi second with all his mouthful stinking abuses spreading all the sides. Ironiclly, after 20 years, you only joined the fray first as a HISTORIAN! And as usual, it is THE HINDU which accommodated you! Of course, there is nothing new that EPW has come out with the full version what you wrote, as THE HINDU itself duly announced!“   So what Indians have to think about all of you? “   Are you historians with real worthiness or politicians or communalists or secularists or retired persons expecting some posting or more than Padbabhushan etc (as you rejected twice)?“   Or what exactly you want?

It is evident that highly controversial portions are edited and published in “the Hindu”, as otherwise, it would be more unhistorical arguments coming from a historian, which perfectly matches with Karunanidhi, Annadurai or E. V. Ramasami Naicker or all put together in “Romila Thapar”.

The last portion of the EPW version is avoided, wherein Romila has dealt with the “financial” and “economic” aspects of the Ramasethu-project, which are highly controversial. Anyway, that she knows that aspect proves that historians, that too, eminent historians of her stature know more about other things in India than Indian history.

VEDAPRAKASH

07-10-2007.

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3 Responses to “A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly”

  1. Ramajanmabhumi-Babarimasjid, evidences and Court or Hisorians as witnesses and Sunni Wakf Board Experts! « Indology Says:

    […] Vedaprakash, A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly , https://indiainteracts.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/a-rejoinder-to-romila-thapar-for-her-another-version-… […]

  2. பிரபல சரித்திர ஆசிரியர்கள் சுன்னி வக்ஃப் போர்டின் நிபுணர்களாக செயல்பட்ட விதம்! « இஸ்லாம்-இந Says:

    […] Vedaprakash, A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly , https://indiainteracts.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/a-rejoinder-to-romila-thapar-for-her-another-version-… […]

  3. பிரபல சரித்திர ஆசிரியர்கள் சுன்னி வக்ஃப் போர்டின் நிபுணர்களாக செயல்பட்ட விதம்! « இஸ்லாம்-இந Says:

    […] Vedaprakash, A rejoinder to Romila Thapar for her another version appearing under the caption, “Historical Memory without History” Economic and Political Weekly , https://indiainteracts.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/a-rejoinder-to-romila-thapar-for-her-another-version-… […]

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