On our History Books

Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid – Valary Legasov

History was one of the most disliked topics during my school days, and it was a prevalent opinion. It was one of the most pointless subjects with its only aim to test my memorization skills. The chapters were absolute bullshit with highly incoherent storylines filled with unnecessary detailing on who ate, who fought and who died and most irritatingly “When”. Chapters had too many inconsistencies, excessive propaganda of few dynasties and of course two supermassive black holes right in the middle!.

Let me summarize 12 years of History textbooks in one paragraph. It started with Harappa who are supposedly aliens with no connection to Indian civilization. (Then comes the first black hole of 10 centuries). History then restarts during the Mauryan period, Alexander, Kushans, Guptas and then a break! (The second black hole of about 10 more centuries). During this period, Indians sat on the beach, yawned and waited for someone to make their life enjoyable. Apparently, our history wasn’t worth reading till few bigoted crazies from Afghanistan conquered “north” of India and installed slave dynasties to Rule Delhi. From here, it gets more detailed reads as if you are reading the dairies of Sultans, Mughal and British-Raj.

I am not kidding you. There was a full-page description on “Montagu Chelmsford” reforms – and I still remember the horror of memorizing several such good stuff colonial rulers brought as part of their civilization mission to India.

Imagine this

  • There was Ashoka the Great and Akbar the Great, but Chola was a paragraph. Chola’s ruled for 1500 years and had kingdom all the way till Java, Malaya and Sumatra. But that’s not good enough for them to be called the Great!
  • Absolutely no mention of Indianized kingdoms of South-east Asia and how India influenced the cultures around the world.
  • Most importantly, downplaying Indian contribution for World War I & II

I am sure you have many many more such examples. It’s definitely not a secret that our History book writers did a very sloppy job there. 

Once I graduated, I leaned towards liking History, and I have dozens of books in my library. I binge-read them (if that is a thing). History gets more and more interesting with every book I read. Now, I can literally list hundreds of inconsistencies, prejudice, and bias our official versions have. With this context, let me introduce you to two of the fantastic books I came across. Both of these books are by Sanjeev Sanyal.

I highly recommend you to read both of them in a sequence. History of India is split into two books and that by design. They complement each other. The  “Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography” explains India from the perspective of ‘Land’ and “Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History” from the perspective of oceans.

I am not giving up any more spoilers. Please go read them end to end, and they are really worth it. You can read a few sample pages below.

17 thoughts on “On our History Books

    1. Every time I read a obvious lie on history I remember the quote from TV series Chernobyl “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid”

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