The writer T.R.Jawahar is Group Editor of Chennai-based News Today, Maalai Sudar and Talk Media publications.
Folklore becomes fact, in the modern mind, only with the emergence of hard evidence. As new findings enabled by cutting-edge science and curious seekers confirm ‘beliefs’, the façade of fiction falls off to be firmed up as history. But this is of no consequence to the ordinary people for whom their original beliefs never really needed such ratification. Somewhat like gravity existing even before Newton ‘proved’ it!
The British account of Indian history followed this pattern. Apart from their malignant motive of justifying their rule, they also adopted many mischievous methods to achieve those ends. Much of Bharath’s long held beliefs of their ancestry and culture and the achievements of its icons were dismissed as just gibberish for want of verifiability by tools that the British wielded.
Nehru’s Independent India inherited this colonial vice. And ironically, this imperialist legacy of history writing went into the hands of the very ‘anti-imperialist’ Leftist historians. And worse, they too toed the same line and tragically at that, because they wrote the text books also.
So, India’s midnight’s children and their immediate gen next were faced with a difficult conundrum: a deep disconnect between the histories they learnt at school and grandma’s lap! The reason is obvious. Every land that gained freedom in the mid-20th century shed its colonial shackles and naturally gravitated to its core culture, as validated by its traditional native knowledge and wisdom. But not India. That this did not happen despite a bitter, bloody vivisection based on a wholly religious ‘Two Nation Theory’ is a perennial grouse of the Sangh Parivar.
It is only in the last four decades, coinciding with the rise of BJP, that attempts at writing the history of India, call it ‘real’, ‘alternative’ or whatever, gained traction. As the BJP began to wield power in more and more States (all northern, for sure!) and Centre too, much impetus was given to Bharat’s history of Sangh as against India’s history of the Left, a subtle semantic shift that meant a giant leap in approach. The nations history also had to be nationalist.
From Saraswati and Indus river valley civilisations going deep back in time to the historicity of Ramayana, Mahabharata and associated ‘fiction alias facts’ like Dwaraka, etc., all are subjects of extensive research and studies by Indic scholars, backed by liberal grants, not to mention the numerous publications of the, er, new Indian history.
Needless to add, the last two or more decades have also seen the rewriting or at least, reinterpretation of history, in text books. Clueless students are unwitting victims in the battle of hues between Marxists’ red and BJP’s saffron! As political fortunes shift in Delhi, History repeats alternately. And Historians rebel, consequently!
But how does all this matter to us in South? Practically little, be it pre or post ’80s, Nehru or Vajpayee, Left or Right, Red or Saffron! The Sangh and its northern parivar wax eloquent on Bharathvarsha’s ancientness, its underlying cultural unity and continuity to showcase that it was a unique, single nation always. They summarily reject the argument that India was born on 15 Aug 1947 as a nation, the date being only a milestone in a long, chequered, cherished history. Fair and fine!
But whither South and TN in this exalted equation? Their Cultural nationalism that defines Bharath is a one-way traffic, ever north bound. We here in TN have been brainwashed all through into believing that the history of India is the history of North India! We have been genetically ingrained into accepting the happenings of the north as our own, even when they had no bearing on our lives and when our own fate often hung by thin threads. The travesty however is, it is we who are being blamed solely for ploughing a lone furrow and not being in the national flow!
Here is a reality check, seemingly pedestrian. Mauryas and Chanakya, Ashoka and Kalinga, Harsha and Huien Tsang, Guptas and Kalidasa, Prithviraj and his flame, Rana and Chetak, all, to even some minor dynasties as also the freedom fighters from various northern States are household names in TN. Their tales of glory were all accepted as their own by Tamilians in all zeal, and yes, learned at Tamilian grandmas’ laps too.
Tamilnadu’s perennial pride and the greatest actor ever, V.C.Ganesan, after depicting the Maratha hero Chatrapathi Sivaji with great aplomb, remains immortal as Sivaji Ganesan. As also the long past Chatrapathi himself, thanks to our thespian. Tamil children are routinely given ‘north Indian’ and very nationalist names like Bharath, Ashok, Harsha, Kalidas, Tilak, Tagore, Sarojini, Gandhi, Nehru, Chandrabose, Vivek etc outnumbering even Tamil stalwarts. Pandi Bose is Madurai’s own innovation. This writer himself got his name for being born on the very day PM Jawahar Lal died. I would have preferred a Tamil icon, but my nation-first dad never consulted me in the cradle. All these without including those derived from Sanskrit, the epics, puranas, etc.
North? The RSS’s daily invocation refers to Thiruvalluvar along with savants across india. This casual lip-service apart, ignorance and lack of interest about the south is the natural norm. A good, nationalist ‘bharathiya’ should know or at least try to know, as seekers they claim to be, about their fellow citizens. Such a ‘nationalist’ quid-pro-quo is beyond the ken of the north Indians. Of course, no one expects UPwallas and Biharis to name their children after Kambar or Kulothunga. Nor am I worked up over the absence of a Rajaraja Bachchan or Pallava Kapoor in Bollywood. On the flip, I know Hardik Pandya has nothing to do with Sangam’s Pandiyas.
The common folk up there could be forgiven for their folly of foolishness. Thanks to their cultivated indifference, they know only to look down upon the south, not look down to the south. But what of the northern netas, particularly, the BJP ones who claim to be ambassadors of all of Indian culture? Their knowledge of the heritage-rich south is abominable. More apalling is their absolute absence of enthusiasm to know. Even Central ministers have little clue of a very vital part of their own land that they govern. Sangh-sympathetic scholars in TN often bemoan this painful fact. Indeed, many ‘secular’ north netas of Cong fare better on this count.
The culprit is the so-called authoritative history texts which are all primarily of northern origin. They were of, for and by north Indian pundits and people. The hoary history of South India finds a paltry presence in their works. And this is such a common, consistent feature across their historic time line that it cannot be treated as just a coincidence or accident. Clearly, the element of northern bias staring at the South is deliberate, willful and violates the elementary canon of decency, namely, reciprocity. After all, TN in particular has not only demonstrated abundant, unsolicited, nationalist, intellectual interest at a common man’s level but also been extremely indulgent of the north.
The meanness of the northern scholars and leaders is a measure of their maniacal parochialism vis-à-vis ‘madarasi’ TN. It was not the Vindhyas as they claim, but their own motivated mental blinkers, that rendered the South opaque to them. The BJP cannot ride into TN on the back of such self-serving snootiness!
Tail piece: Pragya and Yogi are the latest neon signs of the shining Bharatiya culture which is supposed to include TN. Show them a standard picture of Thiruvalluvar and the chances are high they will identify it as that of Baba Ramdev!
e-mail the writer at
Click here to read all articles: