The history of India has been written and rewritten several times, each time with a different context. Historical narratives act as a powerful vehicle of culture and tradition from generation to generation. Therefore it is essential to give an authentic narrative of India’s past using all the new evidence which has surfaced through archaeological excavation in the Indus-Sarasvati region.
Researches in the field of ecology, natural history and genetics have given us enough pointers enabling us to write a fairly accurate history of Ancient India. This book ties up all this new evidence with the assumptions, it focuses attention on the contributions of Indian civilization and culture to mankind. It is a comprehensive work highlighting those historical events and developments which left significant impact on the heritage of mankind.
Presented in a non invasionist model, this book attempts to reclaim the accurate chronology of Ancient Indian history and do away with many myths and prevailing misconceptions surrounding it. Supplemented by numerous photographs and illustrations of ancient relics, inscriptions and maps, it makes an interesting read meant for students and general readers.
Kamlesh Kapur, an educator and researcher, has a Masters in Economics from Punjab University, and a Masters in Education from St. John’s University, USA. She has was among the first twenty women to be directly selected in the Indian Central Services.
Kamlesh Kapur has had a long association with secondary school students. For over twenty years she taught World History and Global cultures using various prescribed textbooks. After completing a comprehensive review of the Indian history section of these textbooks, she found numerous inaccuracies and outdated theories. She spearheaded the movement for correcting the content and developing an appropriate program of study based on recent discoveries emanating from various field of research.
She has a long commitment for preparing young students for multiethnic demography in all the countries. She has also prepared lessons and techniques for teaching subjects such as Cultural Diversity, Pluralism and Multiculturalism.
Yesterdays are indestructible. They remain subtly present in today d have an inevitable impact on tomorrow It is this indestructibility 0 yesterdays that has made history an important discipline all over the world. Being a sizable segment of collective memory and a part and parcel of effective social psyche, history acts as a powerful vehicle of culture and tradition from generation to generation. History shapes and defines the social identity of a people in course of its process. It teaches men lessons to learn from the past. It acts as a source of morale in times of distress. This is why we must learn and teach history. Imparting education of historical knowledge should, therefore, aim at developing positive collective memory and healthy social psyche. In fact, historical knowledge is of use only when it contributes to our wisdom.
Equally worth keeping in mind is the point that pertains to historians. The historian’s job is akin to that of a judge who judiciously scrutinizes the available evidence before reaching any conclusions. Like a judge, his aim is to further justice and social welfare. He is not expected to behave as an advocate who pleads the case of his client by highlighting facts that are favorable and suppressing facts that are inconvenient.
I am happy to note that Mrs. Kamlesh Kapur has in her mind the above basic considerations about history and historians while writing the present book. And this is something creditable in view of the fact that most of the works on Ancient Indian History lack not only a positive but also a judicious approach to history.
The distortions created in Indian history by biased attitudes and approaches — Eurocentric, colonial, missionary, and ideological, etc. — are too well-known to be repeated here. Mention may however; be made of two false notions about Ancient Indian History and historiography perpetuated for over a century and a half.
One relates to the belief that ‘no kind of man originated on the soil India, all her human inhabitants having arrived originally from other lands’. Repeatedly asserted since the nineteenth century, this belief has become an article of faith, not to be doubted or challenged. Even today several scholars vigorously plead that ancestors of all major linguistic groups in India, whether speaking Indo—Aryan, Dravidian, Austro—Asiatic or Tibeto—Burmese, are aliens. Not only that, it is being argued that agriculture (that is, the art of cultivation) of the major crops being grown in the country today has reached here from outside: wheat and barley from the northwest and rice from the east. And all this is being said despite the recent human and non—human genetic researches proving the contrary!
Another equally false notion, created and perpetuated since long, has lead to the general perception that ancient Indians had no sense of history The epics and the Purans, in this perception, contain mythology not history But, the reality is just the opposite. Ancient Indians had a deep and profound sense of history They distinguished various literary genres of a graded historical nature like Gaathaa, Naaraashamsi, Aakhyaana, Purana, and Itihaasa, ranging from story to history.
Even otherwise, it is wrong to discard any type of literature as a source of contemporary history Even a fiction may be a valid source of history Consider this example: The poet says that ‘The flower is smiling? A trained historian would infer two facts from this purely imaginative statement: one that there is a thing like ‘flower’, and the other that there is an action like ‘smiling’! Mrs. Kapur is, therefore, perfectly justified in taking the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as a genuine source of a time span of Ancient Indian History.
Stylistically the book is of a very high order. Ms. Kapur has fully utilized her talent and experience to make it attractive to young minds for which it is meant. I would like to congratulate her for this welcome contribution.
‘The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down.’”
The vast literature of India describes events of historical value. In the past several centuries, invaders and visitors came from all different countries. Some tourist such as Megasthenese came from Greece. Searching for knowledge, Fa—Hien and Hieun-Tsang came from China. The accounts of all these visitors’ invaders tell us much about India of yester years. All through the ages, history of India has been written and rewritten several times—each time with a different context. For example, the British wrote and interpreted historical events in the context of subjugation and colonialism. After the Second World War, Americans wrote Indian History in the context of Cold War with officially neutral India leaning towards Soviet Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the context has shifted to globalization with a new threat from world wide terrorist outfits. The historical accounts have been affected by all these political developments.
George Orwell wisely points out, "Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future."
Thus, historical narratives act as a powerful vehicle of culture and tradition from generation to generation shaping and defining social identity Ignorance of past events is detrimental to the society as well as to an individual. In the words of historian Daniel Boorstin, "Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers." In the last three centuries historical accounts relating to Indian history were written by people from the departments of theology, social sciences and linguistics. They had to overcome difficulties arising from the following factors:
• Inadequate understanding of ancient languages of India such as, San- skrit, Mleccha, Prakrit and Pali,
• Dependence on the translators with inadequate understanding of the texts,
• Gaps in the narratives,
• Many of the European historical accounts prior to the 15th century were flawed, because these were based on erroneous ideas about the size, shape and position of the earth.
• Nineteenth century ‘race science’ and colonial anthropological theories had an immense negative impact on the writing of Indian history.
• Grasping the accounts with the help of European experience, these writers used a large number of assumptions and gave us theories which are now untenable.
The Need for a New Book
There are many compilations already available on the subject, but most of them have been compiled from the perspective of non-Indian experience. This book will correct this problem.
In the last seven decades a wealth of new information has been constantly coming from researchers and scholars belonging to different fields of knowledge. Research in physical sciences and genetics, fossil studies, study of ecology of the ancient times have helped geologists, archeologists, marine archeologists and natural historians to bring forth valuable information about the origin and evolution of early civilizations and the-development of languages and cultures. History is no longer in the domain of social sciences.
The task ahead for the compilers of history books is:
a. To embrace all available evidence,
b. To evaluate and include all evidence resulting from the discoveries of non-social scientists,
c. To treat the beginnings of human civilization as a part of natural history
d. To drop inaccurate information based on assumptions, hypothesis and untenable theories,
e. To drop insignificant episodes and stray incidents,
f. To consider historical accuracy as the most important task and not political or ideological goals of those in power,
g. To examine, corroborate and interpret historical data with intellectual honesty
h. To use the new technology of satellite imaging and determine the age of artifacts by using carbon-dating methods.
How This Book was Written to Meet These New Challenges
In the past six decades, new archeological and geological finds have surfaced, demanding revisions of earlier versions of Indian history In the last one hundred years, a better understanding of the Vedas, Purans, and other post—Vedic texts has emerged. This literary evidence needs to be considered. Many historians, researchers and scholars from various disciplines are challenging the old hypothesis and exploding the old myths. This new evidence points to the fact that the Rig Veda——the oldest human document—was created on the banks of River Sarasvati and in the Sapta Sindhu region. Extensive research has been done to evaluate internal evidence emerging from the Rig Veda itself. Based on all this new information, Bhishma Publications has compiled 18 volumes on the Sian} of Indian History and Culture. Many historians such as GR Singh, Dilip Chakraborty Shiva Bajpai, R.L. Bhargava, Shivaji Singh, S. Talageri, and Michel Danino have included this new information in their books. During several conferences, the World Association of Vedic Studies has focused on the latest researches of historians, researchers, mathematicians, scientists, archeologists, geologists, cosmologists, linguists and marine archeologists.2 Most of this research work is focusing on various aspects of Indian culture and civilization threadbare and when such work is finished, we will have those fine details of beautiful threads that make the tapestry However this type of micro—study does not provide freshers with an overall picture, the quality, the texture and beauty of the cloth. These works are for the advanced students of Indian history A need is felt to produce a simple book for freshers and high school students — highlighting facts as they are continually emerging from various sources.
This book is an attempt to create an authentic narrative of India’s past — significant events, achievements, milestones, upheavals and misfortunes. All of this material is taken from primary sources and from the research material prepared by historians while evaluating multiple sources. In this book, a concerted effort is made to emphasize events which left a significant impact on the heritage of mankind and evolution of human civilization. Every attempt is made to reformulate historical information by dropping myths and assumptions used in the last three centuries. This narration attempts to reclaim the accurate chronology of Ancient Indian History on the basis of the currently available evidence.
How to Read This Book
The book gives a comprehensive overview of about 6000 years of India’s history. Students interested in knowing about India’s diverse culture, pluralistic society and religions would like to focus on section 2, chapters 8-10, 12-13 and section 3, chapters 25-26.
Those students interested in the narration of sociopolitical events may like to concentrate on the topics related to the emergence of dynasties, formation of kingdoms, evolution of political system and institutions. These epoch events are given in the chapters related to the rise and fall of empires, as well as the intrusion and influx of people from other regions of the world.
Each topic includes key concepts and a brief introduction for the teachers. Extensive list of links and books are given in the footnotes and in the bibliography Where Hindi or Sanskrit words are used, meaning is given in the parentheses. A separate list of those words is also given in the glossary those interested in further research on each topic will find useful exercises and enrichment activities at the end of the chapters. A number of pages are devoted to the history of Southern India. The rich history of this region helps us understand the significant ways in which the people of the south have maintained the continuity of Indian cultural traditions.
Finally both students and teachers will find an interesting discussion about historiography and sources of Indian history given in section one.
Format of the Book
In each chapter, the text is followed by the summary, key concepts to understand, questions that students are asked and enrichment material activities. Reference to source material is given at the end of the book as also with some important topics.
A bibliography is included along with a list of articles and internet links which may be recommended for enrichment activities. The book is not just a chronicle of events. Written in the global context, it helps students build skill in relating past to the present, make global connections and analyze facts based on the primary evidence. The book also enables the students and the general readers in separating bias from the evidence.
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