De-saffronising Indian history

When Hindu nationalists ran the government in India, they rewrote the history textbooks to deny non-Hindu influence on India’s culture. Now that they’re out of power, the textbooks are being re-rewritten, reports the Guardian.

The “saffronisation” of history, say critics of the last government, depicted India’s Muslim rulers as barbarous invaders and the medieval period as a dark age of Islamic colonial rule which snuffed out the glories of the Hindu empire that preceded it.

Memorably, one textbook claimed that the Taj Mahal, the Qu’tb Minar and the Red Fort, three of India’s outstanding examples of Islamic architecture, were designed and commissioned by Hindus.

The books denied India’s history of migration, downplayed the evils of the caste system and even neglected to mention that a Hindu nationalist assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

Via Brian, who includes a bonus photo of the Taj Mahal. I must learn how to do photos on the blog. Some day.

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  1. “Saffronising” is a symptom of Hindutva (Hinducentrism). It’s the local version of Afrocentrism. The Hindutva claim that drives me up the wall as a linguist is the belief that Sanskrit is indigenous to India. Never mind that if true, the consequences of this (e.g., Sanskrit travelling westward and mutating into Greek, Latin, etc.) require tossing Occam’s Razor out the window. Some hardcore reading on this topic is here:

    The Hindutva take on Harappa is in second place:

  2. India’s Muslims rulers were barbaric rulers. They butchered Hindus en-masse, destroyed temples etc. Is writing about this called saffronization ? I would call it the truth.

    The present Secular rulers (Congress ruling with the communal Muslim League) and butchers of Sikhs (when Indira Gandhi was murdered) are repeating the word “saffronization” and creating an impression as if the BJP Govt did something bad.

    Please read more about India history before blindly doing a cut and paste.

  3. Richard Brandshaft says:

    The weirdest thing about being old is seeing history I am old enough to remember erased or altered before my eyes.

    In some countries, a Ministry of Education or whatever sets the policy explicitly. In this country, it’s a more subtle consensus among commentators.

    Forgotten footnotes to American history, one conservative, one liberal, one undefined:

    In 1969, when Dan Quayle jointed the Indiana National Guard and Bill Clinton engaged in more subtle maneuvers, it was obvious the war was lost, and people were dying to save Nixon the embarrassment of saying so. When this was discussed decades later, no commentator thought to tell people too young to remember that Quayle and Clinton were just avoiding being cannon fodder in a lost cause.

    In the South during the violent years of the civil rights struggle, many civil rights workers kept guns in their homes. Some people who were there say this prevented massacres.

    I was born in 1941. The social consensus I absorbed when I was old enough to understand such things was that the European part of WW II happened because the allies stuck their heads in the sand and refused to recognize the German threat until it was too late. According to Isaac Asimov, who was a amateur historian and old enough to remember WW II, there was an other factor. The allies were reluctant to weaken Hitler, whom the saw as a bulwark against Communism.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    Rohit, if you really don’t think the BJP-inspired massacres of Muslims in Gujarat were “something bad”, I can only shake my head at your moral corruption.

  5. Steve LaBonne says:

    And speaking of history, Babur and Akbar were exceptionally humane rulers for their time and place.

  6. theAmericanist says:

    Oh, RB, it’s worse than that: the Allies had a conscious strategy of pushing Hitler to attack Stalin. That’s what Munich was for.

    India is fascinating, especially if you think of Pakistan and Bangladesh as all part of the subcontinent. It’s intriguing that the world’s largest democracy is having troubles like this — and there are lessons in it for us to learn, respectfully.

    For one thing, one reason why there are madrassahs in Pakistan that teach people crazy stuff is that they HAD been models for cosmopolitan learning — until the Brits took all the students who could afford it, out, and left the madrassahs broke and rigid.

    For another, India’s educational system aims at producing more skilled professionals than they can use at home: essentially, they’re an export. But India generally does not want to LOSE them forever.

    This ideology is now the primary threat to U.S. citizenship, ya know.

    (grin) In case folks don’t think education policy s important.

  7. Rohit, if you really don’t think the BJP-inspired massacres of Muslims in Gujarat were “something bad”, I can only shake my head at your moral corruption.


    The Gujarat stuff is no more BJP-inspired than the Pacific war of WWII was FDR-inspired. In the case of Gujarat, the killings were “inspired” by Godhra – you know the burning of a train coach full of Hindu women and children, that you neglect to mention.

    And I can only shake my head sadly at your moral corruption in discounting the most horrific genocides by the Islamic rulers in India, while beating up even feeble attempts by Hindus at defending themselves.

    Akbar, btw, also put up a pyramid of skulls of Hindus early in his reign. Read about his war on Chittor. It was only after he founded his new religion that he moderated somewhat. What does that say about Islam’s attitudes towards Hindus?

    Oh and regarding Babar, he explicitly said that he was killing Hindus because Allah commanded him to kill kafirs. He praised himself as a Ghazi (killer of infidels) and boasted about converting dar-ul-harb to dar-ul-Islam.