History, Textbooks and Distortion
In our history text books Hinduism is portrayed as full of superstition, caste system and costly rituals.
Vedic era and Vedic society
The most ancient literary evidence in Indian history is the Veda. The ancient archaeological sites are that of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. Unanimously all history textbooks tell that both of them are distinct. Why they have to be distinct? Nobody knows. There is no primary evidence for the distinction of the two.
In the context of religion of Harappans, the very history textbook says that they worshiped Mother Earth, Shiva, Shiva linga and gods in the form of animals, trees and human beings.(1) I don’t know in what way this is different from Vedic worship. The Vedas too talk about Shiva, Mother Earth and gods in the form of animals, trees and human beings. Taittiriya Brahmana uses the word Shiva linga too.
There is a huge attempt to differentiate Hinduism and Shaivism. This must be due to the discovery of Shiva worship in Harappan civilization. Such attempts to differentiate Hinduism and Shaivism can be noticed in the history textbooks as well. For example, our history textbook says: Early in his life, he (Harsha) was a follower of Hinduism. Later he followed Shaivism and Buddhism.(2)
What does it indicate? A non-existent distinction between Hinduism and Shaivism is being fed into the minds of the students, the children of Hindus, the majority of this nation.
The textbook says: “After the decline of the Indus Civilization, there are evidences of some new inhabitants in north India. These new inhabitants called themselves Arya (called Aryans today) as is known through the Rigveda, the chief source of information on the history of this period”.(3)
Actually in the Rig Veda, Arya means noble. Nowhere in the text there is a reference to any community calling themselves a race named Arya. It is the recent European colonizing historians who invented a particular race named Arya for which there is no evidence of any kind but for their own writings quoting each other (like a blind led by another blind).
Let us see a sample from another textbook: “On the ruins of the Harappan civilization, a new culture developed with the coming of the Aryans. This culture is known as the Vedic culture. Vedic literature constitutes the sole source of information about this culture. Nowadays, of course, archaeology is adding to our knowledge.
“Most historians opine that the Aryans or groups of people who spoke a particular language (possibly Sanskrit) and had particular cultural practices came from central Asia. The Aryans entered India through the Khyber Pass between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE”.(4)
The Vedic literature constitutes the sole source of information. This is a vital statement with which I agree. But can anybody show a single place where Aryan invasion or migration is mentioned in the Vedas? Nowhere. It is never even mentioned in any early Sanskrit and vernacular works of India. It was just concocted by some European colonizing historians. That is all. Later while archaeological sites were found they were seen in the lens of Aryan invasion theory. But certainly we have neither got any evidence from the Vedic literature, nor from archaeology. All the attempts have only been to prove the ‘theory’ concocted already.
“The Aryans came to India in several waves and the earliest wave is represented by the Rigvedic people.” (5) This is in a special box indicating that it is a vital information about Aryan invasion theory. I was informed by TS Narendran that this is a clever response concocted by the historians to ‘refute’ the new finding that goes against the concocted major influx, from regions north and west of India.
Why such a concoction is needed at all? If a Hindu finds fault with the atrocities committed by invading Sultans or Mughals, he should be silenced by telling that Hindus too were invaders. He should understand that he should passively accept Mughal and Sultan invasion as he himself committed this fault. Thus, Aryan invasion theory was concocted by European colonizing historians to permanently defeat the Hindus or Vedic people and to hang their heads. This is still there in our textbooks.
While most of the scholars conclude the minimum date of the composition of Ramayana and Mahabharata as before 2500 years and there are ample evidences to prove it, the date given in the history textbook is 400 AD (CE).(6)
Dronacharya asked Ekalavya to cut his thumb and offer to him as Guru dakshina. This account does not represent the Vedic culture as a whole in any manner. Though Drona is a master of archery who teaches it to the students, he is not taken to be a role model character in Mahabharata. He belongs only to the enemy’s camp fighting against Dharma violating Dharma. Can you expect such a character to represent the Vedic culture as a whole? The account of Dronacharya is given in a box in the textbook and finally two questions are asked to the students. To which period do you think the story belongs to? What do you get to know about the Vedic society through this account?(7) For the first question the students are expected to answer, “Vedic period.”
Two things come to my mind.
- There are thousands of accounts found in our epics representing equality and universal brotherhood like Rama’s friendship with Guha, Rama’s affection to Shabari, or the story of Rantideva in which he offers everything he has, though he is suffering from hunger. Leaving all such accounts why Dronacharya account alone is given in our textbook? This agenda is only to make the Hindus who form the majority of India, feel ashamed of their own scriptures and traditions.
- While the account of Ekalavya is narrated in the context of Vedic culture, why the commands of Jehovah (Christian god) in Bible regarding killing of non-believers’ children and rape of their women not given or why Abraham’s marriage with his sister and Mohammed’s marriage with his daughter in law are not given while dealing with Christianity and Islam? “What do you get to know about the Biblical or Islamic society through this story?” Why such a question is not asked to the students?
Then, the textbook says that in the later Vedic period people worshipped new gods- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.(8) This statement is incorrect as all these three Gods are found in Rig Veda and they were vital too. Vitality of the gods in Rig Veda is not based on how many hymns are dedicated to them, but based on what roles they play. The word ‘new’ is used here with an agenda of making the Hindus, the majority of India, the worshipers of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to hang their heads feeling shame. Why can’t Jesus be called as a recent god as he was not worshiped before two thousand years? Why can’t history textbook call Jehovah as a new god as he was not worshiped in Greek or Roman or Egyptian culture?
Buddhism and Jainism
The textbooks tell our children about the reason for the rise of Buddhism and Jainism.
“The Brahmanas took advantage of people’s ignorance. They interpreted religion for their own convenience, and increased their power and wealth”.(9)
There could be a possibility of some priests interpreting religion for their own convenience. But the above passage implying that the majority of Brahmanas interpreted religion for their own convenience is biased and without basis. Why the author does not talk at all about the atrocities of the Christian priests at the time of Dark Age in Europe? Why she does not talk about the Islamic terrorism? Why only Brahmanas? Did Brahmanas increase their power and wealth? Even if the author possesses a little knowledge of primary sources of history she cannot write like this. Most of the Brahmins belonging to that era lead a life of poverty, except for a few who were associated with the kings. What power they had? Did they rule the Kingdom and make the laws at that era?
Let us see further.
“A little before the emergence of the Janapadas, a strong reaction against priestly domination of cults and rituals was felt. Some thinkers started questioning the need of sacrifices and rituals. Some others were interested in finding answers to questions like what was the relationship between the soul or atman and the creator or Brahma. Eventually these questions became part of the later Vedic literature as Upanishads. These philosophical texts, composed around 600 BC, criticized the rituals, sacrifices and laid stress on the value of right belief and knowledge. They are the basis of Indian philosophy.
“Upanishads were accepted within the brahminic system but during the same period there were other teachings which were against the brahminic system. Of such religious sects Buddhism and Jainism were the most prominent.
“People were forced to follow elaborate and costly rituals as subscribed by the Brahmanas. Instead they wanted a simple religion without unnecessary Vedic rituals”.(10) (13)
Let us examine the above passages-
Let us examine the above passages.
- Rise of Upanishads does not come in the previous chapter which is about the Vedic culture. It comes in the beginning of this lesson, which is named as rise of Buddhism and Jainism. Thus, a Hindu should feel in his unconscious mind that Upanishads come in parallel to Buddhism and Jainism, and Upanishads are contradictory to the Vedic corpus.
- Upanishads did not evolve while need of rituals was questioned. Even to Upanishads, the Kamyakarmas (desire fulfilling rituals) are required to fulfill our desires and they are not needed in the path of liberation. That is all.
- “Upanishads criticized the rituals.” On reading this, a modern reader may think that Upanishads criticized them to be superstitious. But Upanishads did not criticize rituals in that sense. Upanishads too believe that the desires would be fulfilled by rituals. Mundakopanishad criticizes Kamya karma (desire fulfilling rituals) as being limited to fulfilling temporary desires and instead points out that eternal liberation can be attained only through knowledge. But for very few such passages, even Kamya karma was not criticized in the Upanishads. This is not the main subject matter of the Upanishads. Stating Kamya karma as not leading to eternal liberation is wrongly presented to the readers as the condemnation of rituals in general as superstitions.
From the before quoted passages, it also becomes obvious that the author want to portray the Upanishads, Buddhism and Jainism as belonging to the same period. But, many researchers have shown how the Buddhism and Jainism are later to Upanishads. Upanishads never talk of Buddhism and Jainism, while Buddha and Mahavira talk of Upanishadic principles. Then, why does the above passages confirms that they belong to the same period? The answer is simple. There are many common principles in all the three. Therefore, if Buddhism and Jainism are taken to be of later date, their evolution should be considered as being from the Upanishads. But the author does not want to concede that. Instead the author wants to make way for future authors to portray how Upanishads took concepts from Buddhism and Jainism. Having this in mind the author makes the three contemporary of each other.
The author completely ignores how the Vedas are the foundations of Upanishads, which they themselves acknowledge and instead concentrates on imagined contradictions between Vedas and Upanishads.
Now, coming to the assertion that people were forced to follow costly rituals, the less said the better. For one, truly costly rituals like Ashwamedha were limited to particular groups like the rulers and were optional. Rituals like Vajapeya were also optional. On the other hand, obligatory rituals like Sandhyopasana and Aupasana, which were to be performed daily were extremely simple without any cost incurred. This being the case, the assertion saying people were forced to perform costly Vedic rituals is without a basis. Moreover, the author straightway considers Vedic rituals as unnecessary, which is nothing but a subjective moral judgment, which should have no place in a proper history textbook.
Moving on, what is most glaring is the fact that these textbooks make no mention of the lofty values and thoughts found in the Vedas, though they are abundantly available.
Example: May the noble thoughts come to us from all corners (Rig Veda, 1.89.1.). May we see all the beings with the eye of love (Shukla Yajur Veda, 36.18.).One who consumes without sharing is a great sinner (Rig Veda, 10.117.6.). Whatever is mobile in the world is the dwelling place of the Lord. With this attitude of sacrifice may you live the life. Don’t be desirous of anybody’s wealth (Shukla Yajur Veda, 40.1.2.). Let assembly be common. Let the mind be common with psyche for these. Let me plan a common planning for all of you (Rig Veda, 10.191.3.). Salutations to Mother Earth. May I not harm her. May she not harm me (Taittiriya Samhita, 22.214.171.124.).
The Vedas, the repository of values are not mentioned for values anywhere in the history textbooks. What do the Vedas tell us?(11) This is a title in history book. We cannot find a title: what do the Vedas teach us? Can you find a title anywhere in our children’s textbooks “what does Bible tell us?” “What does Buddhism or Dhammapatha tell us?” It can come only as “What does Bible teach us?” You see a detailed description of teachings of Buddha, Jesus, Mahavira and Mohammed in the history textbooks of your children. But what is there about the teachings of the Vedas? Nothing. At least what is there about the teachings from Ramayana and Mahabharata? Let alone the epics be considered historical. Can you find any single moral value culled out from the epics which our ancestors considered to be their life breath and which our grannies taught us while we were children? What did they teach us about Buddha or Mahavira or Mohammed about whom we read pages after pages in our history textbooks? Are we and our children not being uprooted by the history textbooks of our own nation? There is not even a single word of appreciation about the Vedic literature in the history textbooks of our children.
Then, the 6th century BCE is called as intellectual awakening by one textbook as it is believed that Buddhism and Jainism were born in that century. This indicates that before that, people were sleeping in darkness and intellectual awakening was due to Buddhism and Jainism. Were those philosophers and writers before Buddha not intellects? Were not the Rishis of the Vedas intellects? Were Rama and Krishna not intellects? Were Valmiki and Vyasa not intellects? Were the authors of Vedangas and Upavedas not intellects?
The textbook says: “The aim of these religions is to remove the superstitious beliefs, unwanted religious rituals and the caste discrimination.”(14)
I don’t understand why Vedic rituals are stamped as superstitious and unwanted again and again? If they can be stamped as superstitious and unwanted, why not the Christian confession, Islamic Namaz and the rituals found in Buddhism and Jainism including their costly temple worships are called as unwanted or superstitious?
“In order to spread the truth he (Buddha) went from place to place”.
“The world is full of sorrow, dukkha……….this sorrow can be stopped by killing the desire.”(12)
This is the teaching of Buddha. The history textbook says that this is the truth. Why the textbook fails to call teachings of the Vedas as true. Why Buddha’s teaching alone should be called as truth. If the teachings of the Vedas should be taken as belief or superstition, why Buddha’s teaching should not be taken in that way?
The idea that all are equal was new to them (those who listen to Buddha’s talk).(15)
This is what the textbook says. The concept of equality is not new. It is there in the Vedas. The Vedas encourage us to see all classes of people as the manifests of one Divine. This is found in the Vedas in many places. E.g. Salutations to carpenters. Salutations to car makers. Salutations to smiths. Salutations to bird keepers. Salutations to foresters. Salutations to bow and arrow makers. Salutations to hunters. Salutations to hound keepers. Salutations to dogs. Salutations to lords of dogs.
While talking about the causes for the decline of Buddhism, the textbooks never mention the debates between the Vedic people and the Buddhists. It never mentions about the great Kumarila or Prabhakara or Shankara. Nor does it talk about how Buddhism declined due to corruptions in its monasteries. According to the textbook, “Hinduism became purified and reformed under the Gupta kings.” What does it mean? I don’t know in what way Hinduism became purified. Some say that it got reformed through the expansion of its temple worship. This may be true. But purification…..? I don’t understand. Please explain if anybody knows.(16)
Christianity and Islam
Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus, who is acknowledged as the son of God by all Christians. This is the definition of Christianity in the textbook.(17) See the word ‘acknowledged’ carefully. Here the word ‘believed’ is not used. Generally regarding Hinduism wherever some thought of Hinduism is dealt it is stated as a belief. But the Christian belief of the only son of the only God, which is responsible for several genocides and mass murder throughout the history in many places is not considered as a mere ‘belief’ but as an acknowledgment. Acknowledgement means recognizing some existing reality. The word acknowledged is carefully used so that the faith of only son of the only God should enter into the unconscious mind of our children, the Hindu children.
While the textbook talks about the spread of Christianity it just says that the popularity of Christianity was such that eventually almost the whole of Europe adopted Christianity as the state religion. Here there is not even a single mention or even a hint about the forcible conversions and the atrocities committed by Christians for the spread of Christianity, which run page after page in the primary sources of history. All these are brushed aside.
Under the title ‘impact of Monasteries,’ they are glorified to the sky, while ignoring their excesses. For example, it is mentioned that some of these monasteries later developed into famous universities; they provided shelter to travelers and food and clothing to the poor; and how the nuns educated the children, and treated the sick and the wounded.(18) But, there is not even a single hint of atrocities committed by those in these monasteries. Church was responsible for several rapes and genocides. Church was responsible for the persecution of the scientists like Galileo and Copernicus and the philosophers like Bruno. Church was a very great hurdle for the development of great arts and sciences in Europe. Rule of church is called as Dark Age in western history. In the name of the only son of the only God, church committed innumerable blunders in the Dark Age which is an open page in European history. But regarding these things not even a single hint is found in our history textbooks. What is found instead is the below statement:
“In the Medieval period, everything revolved around religion. People were taught not to think about the world, but to concentrate on God. However the Renaissance thinkers believed that human life in this world was of great importance”.(19)
On the other hand, when it comes to the Vedic priests, these very textbooks casually use descriptions like ‘Interpreters of scriptures for their own benefits’, ‘the ignorant people to gain wealth and power’, etc.9 The Vedic rituals are further described as superstitious,14 meaningless,13 unnecessary10 and expensive.10
The textbook says, “Muhammad also forbade idol worship, and stressed the importance of good and kind behavior.”(20) Forbidding idol worship and good and kind behavior are put together, so that the student, a Hindu child, our child should understand in his unconscious mind that idol worship is not a good and kind behavior.
It is well known from the primary sources that Mahmud Ghazni was a terrible mass murderer. He destroyed the temples and looted the riches in temples like anything. People were murdered and temples were plundered and demolished. Even now the remains found in the places like Somnath can tell the story of Ghazni Mahmud. Let us see how he is eulogized in the history textbook that our children are learning.
“He (Mahmud Ghazni) was an efficient administrator and promising statesman.
“Mahmud was a pragmatic ruler………he wanted to build a large and well equipped army to expand his kingdom and also to protect it from enemies in Central Asia. Therefore he invaded Indian temple towns, as their great wealth could fulfill his monetary needs”.(21)
This is what we learn about our invaders, plunderers and rapists. Malik Kafur’s massacres and plunders from the temples like Srirangam and Madhurai in South India were horrible to say the least. Yet no mention of it in the textbooks. Then, in a chapter(22) which details about Akbar for several pages, there is only one line mention about Maharana Pratap Singh who was an embodiment of selflessness and self-sacrifice and who worked hard for this nation throughout his life. That the Rajputs of Mewar rallied behind Maharana Pratap, the valiant son of Udai Singh and the Moghul army defeated the Rajputs, this is the only information we get there.
The textbooks further say that the Bhakti saints preached against rituals and idol worship (23). This is incorrect. Most of the Bhakti saints actually promoted idol worship and rituals. It was they who predominantly protected and propagated idol worship. Most of the Hindus today are connected to one or the other Bhakti Movement. To undermine this, the textbooks try to show Bhakti movement as being contradictory to Vedas, notwithstanding the fact that Bhakti movement itself acknowledges that their base was Vedas! The agenda behind such faulty portrayal appears to be the intention to link Bhakti with Islam and show the former as evolving from the latter, which actually has no basis in reality.
Ancient cultures were demolished. Many temples were destroyed. Many genocides were conducted. Many scientists were killed in the name of religion throughout Europe. The Cultures of Rome, Persia, Egypt and Greece were destroyed by Christianity and Islam. India was overrun by Islamic and European invaders to uprooted Indian life, culture and education system. Yet, there is not even a hint of all these things in our history text books, while the poor Vedic priests alone are targeted. While Hinduism is portrayed as full of superstition, caste system and costly rituals, the textbooks teach about how morality was brought by Buddhism and Jainism, how Islam introduced devotion and brotherhood, and how Christianity taught charity and service!
This is only a sample. I have used only study material from sixth and seventh standard textbooks of history. Just imagine, what an average Hindu child’s mindset will be after learning this kind of history from third standard till tenth? While an average Hindu child will learn to look down upon everything Hindu and look up to everything alien to Indian civilization, an average Christian or a Muslim child will unconsciously imbibe how it is their duty to uplift the poor ‘superstitious’ Hindus by contributing towards making India pan-Christian or pan-Islamic country.
LV- Vipul Singh, Anuradha Mukherjee, Jasmine Dhillon, Social science, History, Geography and Civics, VI standard, Longman Vistas.
FM6- Sucharita Basu, Frank Modern Certificate, History and Civics, VI standard, Frank Bros & Co. Macmillan.
FM7- Sucharita Basu, Frank Modern Certificate, History and Civics, VII standard, Frank Bros & Co. Macmillan.
S.S. et.al, “A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes. Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios.” In proceedings of the National academy of sciences, 24th Jan 2006 vol 103, No 4. Pp. 843-48.
TN6- Mathematics, Science and Social science, Term II, Vol2, VI standard, Tamilnadu textbook and educational services corporation, Department of School Education.
TN7- Mathematics, Science and Social science, Term II, Vol2, VII standard, Tamilnadu textbook and educational services corporation, Department of School Education.
- LV (Page number 23)
- FM6 (P: 121)
- LV (P: 27)
- FM6 (P: 77)
- LV (P: 28) & SS
- LV (P: 28)
- LV (P: 29)
- FM6 (P: 82)
- FM6 (P: 87)
- LV (P: 38)
- LV (P: 28)
- LV (P: 40)
- TN6 (P: 102)
- TN6 (P: 105)
- TN6 (P: 108)
- FM6 (P: 92)
- FM7 (P: 2)
- FM7 (P: 5)
- FM7 (P: 113)
- FM7 (P: 11)
- FM7 (P: 19)
- FM7 (P: 78)
- TN7 (P: 174)