History is the conscience of a nation!
Amidst the raging debate about re-writing the Indian history that is being taught in our schools in India, I often wonder why the hesitation? All of our history and the content being taught in schools is from the pre-colonial era and it has been subject to the influence of the British. It is very unfortunate that we continue to follow the same education system left behind by the British even today after 70 years of our freedom. It is a known fact that the British used the infamous “Macaulayism” policy in the Education system in India. The following excerpt from Wikipedia gives a gist of the objectives of : “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population,”
In the above context, almost all of the Indian education left by the British is still intact and has not changed one bit post independence. We have a large network of Catholic schools across the whole nation who have influenced the psyche of more than a few generations. While one may argue that this has benefited us in becoming successful globally, I question the rationale since ancient India was much more advanced and it was the largest economy in the world until 1000 AD and second largest until before the British rule (Econimic history of India). Ancient Bharat was much more successful globally and had a strong maritime presence to support the economy. Actually, the maritime history dated back to around 4,500 years, since the Indus Valley Civilization. The motivation to develop maritime links was trade (primarily in cotton, pepper and other spices). In fact maritime journeys spread the influence of ancient and medieval Indian civilisation as far as the islands of Indonesia to the east, the islands of Japan to the north, and the east coast of Africa to the west. India’s Ancient and great maritime history is a good reference on this topic.
A few other arguments in favor of the British rule by many of the intellectuals today include – (a) The British unified the princely states of India which otherwise would not be one single Nation and (b) The Railways are the lifeline of India and they were introduced by the British. All of the above arguments either undermine the rich history of Ancient “Bharat” or it reflects the ignorance of our educated class. Is there any other explanation for these arguments? Is it “Stockholm Syndrome“? After centuries of Islamic Invasion followed by the British Invasion, our nation has suffered in all spheres of life – Social, Economic, Cultural, Intellectual and Religious. It must have been a roller coaster ride for our ancestors who were probably forced to “unlearn” ancient knowledge and adopt to a new social order. Forceful conversions, violent killings and political genocide were rampant during the Islamic Invasions, the genocide during the British Invasions and the inquisition in Goa by Portuguese were equally brutal. Our Nation has lived through this horrible phase of history and it may seem like an achievement to continue to thrive today but its time to look at how it has invaded every aspect of our lives.
While we may have studied history of India in school but our memory of history in our subconscious is very recent, merely 300-400 years old. The history we learn in school has a large content on the late Medieval era and British India which tends to leave us with a sense of despondency and overshadows our conscience with inferiority complex. We do not learn much about that part of the history when we were a “Developed” Nation and the time when we were the largest economy in the whole world. We do not learn anything about our ancient knowledge like Vedas, Upanishads, Vedic Math, Yoga, Ayurveda or even our ancient Sanskrit language. Just to repeat an earlier phrase, “History is a conscience of a Nation”! Does it fit into with what we witness today in our nation? Lets take a look …
1. POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE
Ancient Bharat was a very progressive rich nation and our GDP was more than the total GDP of all the European countries not too long ago (until 1200 CE). Every nation in the world especially Europe, China and Southeast Asia sought to establish trade ties with India. At the same time India was a target of invasions and we successfully countered them all for centuries until the Muslim invasion in 1200 CE. We were under the Mughal rule for over 400 years and the British Rule for over 200 years. During this imperial rule, the focus of the invaders was to plunder the riches of our nation and ship it to their respective lands and thus began our downfall. The GDP of India was the highest at 28% of the World GDP in 1000 CE which fell down to 4% in 1950 CE. The British especially plundered all the riches from India shipped it to “Britain” (is it Great Britain?). They set the precedent for our recent day politicians and the plunder did not stop after our independence from the British, the politicians continue to get richer by the day and our Nation poorer. The GDP of India fell down further from 4% of the World GDP in 1950 CE to 3% in 1980 CE. It is only in the last 2-3 decades we have made good progress on the economic front (probably after the liberalization in 1990s).
We had great leaders during our independence struggle who were fearless and sacrificed their lives and careers to fight the British. How then can we explain the degradation of our values right after Independence? Power comes with great responsibility and with due respect to our leaders post independence, they have failed our great nation. They have deceived all the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives and all of our ancestors who worked hard to leave great legacy of “Ancient Bharat”. Many of our leaders post independence were educated in UK and they either had very little knowledge about our “real” history or did not value it. They accepted the history narrated by our colonizers and deliberately chose to continue with the same narrative. They scripted the partition of India as a result of a power struggle and that itself was a start on a wrong footing. The result was a birth of corrupt India alongside the legacy left by the British. Indian National Congress which was formed as a Independence movement turned into a political entity and our key leaders rewarded themselves by corrupt practices or maybe it was a planned career path for them. A nation which has more than thousands of years of history now had a “Father” from the 20th Century and almost all major institutions and programs were “rechristened” after the great Nehru and Gandhi. Are we doing justice to our ancestors from the ancient times who meticulously created knowledge and passed on valuable knowledge through several generations for thousands of years?
We chose to adopt the legacy of the “British” or the “Western” world in Politics/Governance and in the same breath speak with great pride on our ancient concept of “Rama Rajya” and our ancient political thinkers –
- Chanakya Neeti (founder of the Maurayan Empire and author of “Arthashastra”),
- Vidura Neeti (Advisor of King Dhrithirashtra in Mahabharata) or
- Bheeshma Neeti (Shanti parva recites a theory of governance and duties of a leader. This theory is outlined by dying Bhishma to Yudhishthira and his brothers, as well as words from sage Vidura).
This begs the question, why was any of the above not taught or introduced to us in school? Are these topics for students of art and literature only? Are any of the principles applicable or practiced to our nation today? Do you think we should go back to the basics? We owe this to our future generations to continue the practice of our ancestors to create and enhance our own knowledge instead of following the “glamorous and superficial” Western World. If we are seeking allegiance to institutions outside of our own Nation, its time to re-think and question hidden agenda of these institutions (if any). Its time to recognize that we are like a “frog in the western well” and raise ourselves out of the well, rethink our values and beliefs, relearn our history and contribute to our great Nation!
– Girish Mutagi
…. To be continued (Education System)