History India South Asia · Recommended movies, books etc. · Religion

How the Grand Old Bhandarkar Urged Indian Historians to Rein in Their ‘Glorious Past’ Fantasies

This was published in theWire.in on 14 January 2017. Here is the link. Below is an extract:

In the 1918 speech, Bhandarkar expressed exasperation over “persons who find in the Rgveda allusions to X-rays, railways and what not.” While he urges us not to consider the great epics and the Puranas etc. as strict historical accounts, he says they have historical significance in that “one can gather from them information as to what men and women did and thought in those days.”

He also does not dismiss the natural bias that Indians possess since the literature and the antiquities we examine “are our own”. “We must not cease to read our Sanskrit and vernacular works for the pleasure and instruction they afford to us. Only we must take care that our partiality for them in this respect does not obscure our judgment when we have to examine them critically.”

Bhandarkar too, who had drowned himself completely in India’s ancient Sanskrit past, approached the literature in both these ways. He mentions an incident when he told Professor Buehler that the third act of the ‘Uttararamacharita‘ brought tears to his eyes whenever he read it. The professor was surprised. “This constitutes the difference in the points of view of the Indian and European,” Bhandarkar remarked. The study of India in the late 1700s and 1800s was dominated by Europeans, and Bhandarkar desired that by the successful application of such critical research methods as he championed, Indians must take “our legitimate place among the investigators of the history of the country, and not allow the Germans, the French and the English to monopolise the field.”


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