Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022

The Othering Of History: India’s History Books Are Heavily North-Centric

Our history books have to do justice to every region of India — but only for the sake of truth and for acquiring a balanced knowledge of our great land

Speaking stones: Inscriptions at the 1,000-year-old Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur. Photo: Shutterstock

His kingdom was not big but his achievements were. He called himself Vichitra Chitta—the ever curious. His interest in music is immortalised in epigraphs. He wrote a rip-roaringly funny farce in Sanskrit. It was he who discarded perishable material such as wood for building temples and introduced rock-cut structures that culminated later in the glory of Mahabalipuram. His name is Mahendra Verman, a Pallava king who prospered in the early years of sixth century CE.  Not many in North India will know his name. To be fair, Romila Thapar manages to bring out his achievements in a brief passage in her book Early India, but they remain buried in the middle of a book of about 500 pages. Rajaraja, who built the wondrous big temple in Thanjavur, and his son Rajendra, whose maritime achievements remain unequalled by any other king of India, are not exactly household names outside Tamil Nadu. The fascinating stories of Vishnuvardhana, who was converted to Vais­hn­avism by Ramanuja and his wife Santala, who rem­ained a devout Jain, are rarely mentioned in textbooks outside Karnataka.  Even the amazing Hampi was relatively unknown in North India until recently, and Krishnadevaraya is just a tongue-twister.

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