Some Questions

Sanjeev Sanyal (2016): "One is often told that Indians do not care for their history.  This is an odd accusation to hurl at a people who have a fair claim to being the world's oldest continuous civilization.  Millions of Indians start their day with Bronze Age chants and everyday conversations are peppered with allusions to Iron Age epics. . . .  If anything, we Indians are obsessed with history.  Perhaps what we do not really care about is the stuff in the textbooks.  The problem is that the official history contained in our textbooks simply does not ring true to most Indians."

To what extent does India's history still need to be decolonized?  What does that mean?

How would you begin to describe the contemporary debates about the meaning of the Indian past?  How important are these conflicts and what are the stakes?

What is most distinctive about the BJP's interpretation of history?  How does it compare and contrast with the interpretation of the Indian past offered by the nation's most prominent Independence leaders?

What did you learn about ancient Indian history from this week's readings?

Who were the peoples of the Indus Valley Civilization?

How has the relationship between the Indus Valley Civilization and the Vedic era in India been portrayed over recent decades?  Why have Indians historically been at least somewhat sensitive when the issue of Aryan migration has been discussed?  How is this debate connected to larger questions about the cultural, ethnic, and linguistic history of India?

What do BJP leaders say about the relationship between the Indus Valley and Vedic India?  What claims are made about Vedic-era science?  How do you respond to these arguments?

To what degree has recent DNA research contributed to the discussion about who Indians are and where they come from?

How does the BJP portray the Mughal Empire?  How would you compare and contrast the replacement of Anglicized place names (egs.  Bombay to Mumbai; Madras to Chennai; Calcutta to Kolkata; Bangalore to Bengaluru) with the more recent emphasis upon changing Muslim-connected place names such as Allahabad?

Some Terms

Indus Valley/Harappan/Saraswati Civilization

Aryan Invasion Theory




Tipu Sultan

Jawaharlal Nehru


Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Narendra Modi's 2014 Karna-Ganesha Speech

Pythagoras and Baudhayana

Yogi Adityanath

Taj Mahal

Allahabad to Prayagraj

Mughalsarai to Deendayal Upadhayaya

James Mill, History Of British India (1817) -- "two-nation theory"; Hindu, Muslim, British eras

Possible Starting Places

Anand Narayanan, "Re-Arming The Indian History: An Indian Narrative," TedxTalks, November 7, 2018. (19 mins.)

  Sudipta Sen, "Tampering With History: How India's Ruling Party Is Erasing The Muslim Heritage Of The Nation's Cities," Conversation, May 20, 2019.

  "India Is Changing Some Cities' Names, And Muslims Fear Their Heritage Is Being Erased," All Things Considered, NPR, April 23, 2019.

  Vikas Pandey, "Allahabad: The Name Change That Killed My City's Soul," BBC News, November 7, 2018.

Sanjeev Sanyal, "Distortion Or Depreciation: The Problems Facing Indian History Writing," Hindustan Times, August 11, 2016.

Aryan Controversy

  Tony Joseph, "New Reports Clearly Confirm 'Arya' Migration Into India," Hindu, September 13, 2019.

Tony Joseph, "Examining The Evidence For 'Aryan' Migrations Into India: The Story Of Our Ancestors And Where We Came From," Firstpost, December 30, 2018.

  Tony Joseph, "How Ancient DNA May Rewrite Prehistory In India," BBC News, December 30, 2018.

Shirley Abraham And Amit Madheshiya, "A Mythical River Flows Through Indian Politics," New York Times, July 10, 2018.

Razib Khan, "Aryan Wars: Controversy Over New Study Claiming They Came From The West 4,000 Years Ago," India Today (July 28, 2017).

  Akhilesh Pillalamarri, "When History Gets Political: India's Grand 'Aryan' Debate And The Indus Valley Civilization," Diplomat (August 18, 2016).

Mughals In The News

Alok Pandey, "'Did What Felt Right, Will Keep It Up': Yogi Adityanath On Renaming Spree," NDTV, November 11, 2018.

  MIchael Safi, "Hardline Hindu Nationalists Campaign Against Taj Mahal," Guardian, October 30, 2017.

Musab Qazi, "Maharashtra: History Lessons, Maratha Style," Hindustan Times, September 23, 2017.

  Amrit Dhillon, "Taj Mahal Is Muslim Tomb Not Hindu Temple, Indian Court Told," Guardian, August 30, 2017.

"Why A State Wants To Ignore Part Of India's History," BBC News, September 2, 2017.  (2 mins)

Tipu Sultan In The News

Navya Singh, "Chapter On Tipu Sultan Scrapped From Class 7 Textbook In Karnataka: Report," Logical Indian, July 29, 2020.

"Tipu Sultan's Birth Anniversary Observed Amid Protests," Al Jazeera, November 10, 2017.

History In The News

  Vikas Pathak, "Hindutva's Attempt At Rewriting History Is Futile," Hindu, October 24, 2019.

  Romila Thapar, "They Peddle Myths And Call It History," New York Times, May 17, 2019.

Shalini Sharma, "India: How Some Hindu Nationalists Are Rewriting Caste History In The Name Of Decolonisation," Conversation, May 9, 2019.

Sanjay Kumar, "Hindu Nationalists Claim That Ancient Indians Had Airplanes, Stem Cell Technology, And The Internet," Science Magazine (February 13, 2019).

  "Why India's Hindu Hardliners Want To Sideline Mahatma Gandhi," BBC News, January 30, 2017.

The History Wars And Culture

  Sanika Athavale, "Bollywood, A Propaganda Tool: Mughals Were Bad, Hindutva Is Great, But These Movies Are Historically Wrong," Logical Indian, January 13, 2020.

  Sodaba Haidare, "Panipat: The Bollywood Battle Over An 18th Century War," BBC News, December 8, 2019.

  "Padmaavat: Why A Bollywood Epic Has Sparked Fierce Protests," BBC News, January 25, 2018.

  Sudha G. Tilak, "Why A Bollywood Film Has Been Accused Of Distorting History," BBC News, September 6, 2016.

  Sajan Mani, "How Indian Artists Are Fighting Against The Modi-fication Of History," Conversation, February 22, 2016.


  Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed, "Tipu To Be Erased From History Textbooks," Frontline, (October 31, 2019).

  A. G. Noorani, "Politics Of History," Frontline (September 18, 2018).

  Ziya Us Salam, "Rewriting Textbooks: Manufacturing History," Frontline (August 17, 2018).

  Ziya Us Salam, "Myth And Science: Age Of Unreason," Frontline (July 6, 2018).

Ziya Us, Salam, "Controversy: The Past As Present," Frontline (December 8, 2017).

  Ziya Us Salam, "Education: Distorting History," Frontline (August 18, 2017).

  Ziya Us Salam, "Demonising Akbar," Frontline (June 9, 2017).

  Meera Nanda, "Hindutva's Science Envy," Frontline (September 16, 2016).

  "Interview: D.N. Jha, Historian -- 'The Cow Was Neither Unslayable Nor Sacred In The Vedic Period,'" Frontline (October 30, 2015).

N. S. Rajaran, "Decolonizing The Humanities," Indiafacts (September 7, 2015).

Video Sources

"Saffronisation Of History Or Correcting Left Bias?," NDTV, March 8, 2018.  (11 mins.)

"Re'right'ing History," We The People, NDTV, October 30, 2017.  (21 mins.)

"Whose History Is It, Anyway?," NDTV Dialogues, November 13, 2016.  (18 mins.)


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