Free Press Journal

Indian Cultures as Heritage: Contemporary Pasts by Romila Thapar-Review


Title: Indian Culture As Heritage

Author: Romila Thapar

Publisher: Aleph

Price: Rs 599

Pages: 222


Indian cultures as heritage is a compilation of papers and essays by controversial author Romila Thapar who claims to be a historian. Romila Thapar, projected as an expert on ancient India knows no Sanskrit; her work on ancient India is based entirely on colonial-era translations. This book is no exception. In the eight chapters, she has given reference of 110 works out of which only 36 belong to Indian authors and not a single work in Sanskrit. All the referred works are translated works.

Chapter 3 of the book is on time, titled as ‘Time before Time’. The world accepts India not only as the oldest surviving civilisation but also as the first civilisation who understood astronomy, time and calendar. Jantar Mantar is living testimony to the same. It is a documented fact that the Gregorian calendar evolved to its current format after copying from Indian calendars. But, surprisingly, Chapter 3 has not a single reference to the works of Indian authors. In modern time any work on time is incomplete without reference to the work of Subhash Kak, but somehow the author seems to be not aware of it. Naturally, the chapter fails in its arguments.
In the fourth chapter, Science as Culture, author states, “Many Indian scientists, competent in their fields of specialization, know less about science as a form of knowledge, or the kind of reasoning involved in the scientific method that can also be applied to other forms of knowledge.” In one sentence the author has put a question mark on all the works of Homi Bhabha, and Vikram Sarabhai, who applied nuclear science for common mans benefit to A P J Abdul Kalam and Satish Dhawan who saw to it that space program benefited the last man standing in the row of social order. Chapter raises many questions on veracity of ancient Indian science, but the author forgot to note how turmeric was patented by USA and India had to fight it out. Author has raised many questions in this chapter which have been resolved ages ago. Only if the author would have read Sanskrit or Indian authors, the chapter would have been more meaningful and constructive.

In the fifth Chapter, ‘Women Decoding Cultures’, the author writes: “Teaching the Vedas to women was any way forbidden.” It is surprising that one can even write a sentence like this. Vedas are full of hymns from women rishis. And there has never been dearth of women vedic scholars from ancient time till date.

It is shocking that in a 21-page chapter on Indian women and culture there is not a single mention of Muslim women. India is home to crores of Muslim women from centuries and they have suffered enormously in the name of culture. Just to name a few practices like polygamy, burqa, triple talaq, halala, etc. Even the Arab world is coming forward to give more freedom to women. Except this chapter, every chapter has a mention of Islam and it exposes the hypocrisy of the author. It is sad that in India the female author prefers to keep mum on the issues of women liberation when it comes to Islam.

The author is known to propagate the Aryan invasion theory even when it has been accepted by historians across the world to be a fake theory. And even though this book an attempt has been made to paddle a lot of lies. Just to sight an example, the author writes following about Qutab Minar “the site was that of a Hindu temple converted into a mosque and the remains of the temple were parts of the courtyard of the mosque”. While it is a known fact that 27 Hindu temples were plundered to make Qutab Minar. Sanskrit inscriptions are still visible on the walls and stones dislodged from the minar have Hindu images. One wonders how one can write such blatant lie and get away with it?

This brings one to a bigger question. Question is beyond the book. Do the editors, do the publishers have any onus of what they are publishing. It is not about legality, it is about morality.