The last weekend three of my friends and I happened to go to a quiz competition and the question put to us happened to be: ‘Name Shivaji’s sword?’ Stunned silence followed as no one from my team had any inkling of the answer. The eyes of my team-mates turned to me, expecting an answer out of me as I happened to be from Mumbai.
“Bhavani”, I blurted out.
The quiz master allotted us the marks for getting the question correct and what followed was a round of applause from the audience and a swirling vortex of thoughts in my mind.
Would the reaction of my team-mates be the same had the question been about the Taj Mahal or the Peacock throne or the Red Fort or the Kohinoor diamond or the India Gate? Most likely not.
And its not the ignorance of my friends to blame when it comes to lack of their knowledge about the legendary Maratha Emperor Shivaji Maharaj. The blame lies fair and square at the door of our education system.
Something is deeply wrong with the way we are taught social studies in general and history in specific (what better testimony to this than the fact that most students are dead bored with social studies and rote learn it for exams out of fear rather than study it with interest).
I can bet Israel does not devote textbooks full of pages glorifying Adolf Hitler or the Arab states to the Christian crusaders. But most of our NCERT textbooks of History upto class X are full to the brim with the glories of the Mughals.
For instance I quote directly from the class VII NCERT History textbook (pages 45-46, Chapter 4: The Mughal Empire):
‘Ruling as large a territory as the Indian subcontinent with such a diversity of people and cultures was an extremely difficult task for any ruler to accomplish in the Middle Ages. Quite in contrast to their predecessors, the Mughals created an empire and accomplished what had hitherto seemed possible for only short periods of time. From the latter half of the sixteenth century they expanded their kingdom from Agra and Delhi, until in the seventeenth century they controlled nearly all of the subcontinent. They imposed structures of administration and ideas of governance that outlasted their rule, leaving a political legacy that succeeding rulers of the subcontinent could not ignore. Today the Prime Minister of India addresses the nation on Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, the residence of the Mughal emperors.
Who were the Mughals? The Mughals were descendants of two great lineages of rulers. From their mother’s side they were descendants of Genghis Khan (died 1227), ruler of the Mongol tribes, China and Central Asia. From their father’s side they were the successors of Timur (died 1404), the ruler of Iran, Iraq and modern-day Turkey.’
Note the use of the words: descendants of two great lineages of rulers. What better an example of whitewashing the history to suit the needs of the left wing, pseudo secular pseudo intellectuals who largely have governed our academic institutions than to call the two of the cruelest mass murderers in history as ‘great rulers’?
Contrast this to the treatment meted out to the likes of Shivaji, Maharana Pratap and Ranjeet Singhji by our historians. At best they are relegated to a stray paragraph or two in some corner of a chapter which focuses on the Delhi Sultans and Mughals. If someone was indeed a great ruler it was Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who started from being a dependant of Adil Shah to carve out an empire extending from the Godavari to the Yamuna. But not in the eyes of those who govern our history syllabus. No wonder few know much about Shivaji outside of Maharashtra and about Ranjeet Singhji outside of Punjab.
I am not for one moment stating that history be airbrushed in totality of the several invasions that India bore over the centuries. That they happened is a fact and one cannot deny that India and its culture of today is a result of assimilation of several cultures brought alongside the invaders.
After all I myself can’t imagine today’s India without Samosas or Biryanis (both brought to India from the middle East). All I say is that get rid of the bias. If Mughals contributed to the India of today then so did Mahrana Pratap and Shivaji, so give them their due as well.
Moreover, calling Genghis Khan or Taimur as great rulers for instance while conveniently sweeping the massacres they ordered under the carpet is a great dis-service to history and also to the future as our students grow up learning such distorted versions of the past.
A thorough over view of our history textbooks is long overdue. Let us hope the present dispensation under Shri Prakash Javadekar dares to bell the cat and free our history textbooks from the clutches of the distorted worldview of the leftist pseudo intellectuals.