Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History by Romila Thapar (Verso) An explosive account, drawing together and placing in context the many interpretations of a pivotal moment in Indian history, which dispels the myths and inventions of Hindu nationalism.
In 1026, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided the Hindu temple of Somanatha (Somnath in textbooks of the colonial period). The story of the raid has reverberated in Indian history, but largely during the raj. It was first depicted as a trauma for the Hindu population not in India, but in the House of Commons. The triumphalist accounts of the event in Turko-Persian chronicles became the main source for most eighteenth-century historians. It suited everyone and helped the British to divide and rule a multi-millioned subcontinent.
In her new book, Romila Thapar, the doyenne of Indian historians, reconstructs what took place by studying other sources, including local Sanskrit inscriptions, biographies of kings and merchants of the period, court epics and popular narratives that have survived. The result is astounding and undermines the traditional version of what took place. What makes her findings explosive is the fact that the current Hindu nationalist regime in India constantly utilizes a particular version of history to further its aims. It is a moment in history that has almost been lost. The event in question is the rading of Somanatha Hindu temple by the Sultan of Ghazni in the 11th century. The subsequent accounts of this event lasted all the way to the British colonial rule of India 8 centuries later. The Somanatha raid is a critical topic for post-colonial discourse.
Gandhi's Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi
by Stanley A. Wolpert (Oxford University
More than half a century after his death, Mahatma
Gandhi continues to inspire millions throughout the world. Yet modern
Wolpert resists the temptation toward idealization, showing us not only the selfless mystic, but also the unapproachable father, the unpredictable partisan, and the frustrated visionary. He touches on the fact that Gandhi's transformation alienated his children and wife, whom he married at age 11, even while he expressed an "intensely personal passion" for various Western missionaries and forced some ashram devotees to sleep by him naked. Still, in recounting Gandhi's terrible agony at his failure to transform independent
By revealing Gandhi, the man, rather than the living god depicted by his disciples, Gandhi's Passion provides an unprecedented representation of Gandhi's personality and the complexities that compelled his actions and brought freedom to
In Search of the Cradle of Civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, and David Frawley (Quest Books) For decades, schoolbooks have taught that Sumer was the cradle of civilization. Conventional scholarship has also held that Aryan civilization came to India by way of invasions from the north. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India is a ground-breaking book wherein three renowned scholars show that there was no "Aryan invasion", and that India, not Sumer, was the cradle of civilized humanity. Through exploring the rich symbols, metaphors, and myths of the Vedas, we can examine the wealth of India's spirituality and discover its relevance for today's world.
In Search of the Cradle of Civilization is divided into two parts. In the first we learn that there was no such thing as an 'Aryan invasion' of India. It is a myth based upon a few idle conjectures of Max Muller along with a couple of scraps of misinterpreted evidence, an ideology masquerading as historical 'fact' (as is so much else today) because it fitted in so well with the Imperialist ambitions and racialism of the West.
India has always been multi-racial and multi-cultural, and the 'Aryans' were there all along. The cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro were abandoned, not because of any supposed 'Aryan invasion,' but for the simple reason that the vast and sustaining Sarasvati river dried up c.1900 B.C., and the people of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization had to relocate further East to the region of the Ganges.
The Indians have no memory of an 'Aryan invasion.' There is no evidence of an invasion and no sign of the cultural break that such an invasion would have caused. On the contrary, India exhibits a striking continuity of culture which qualifies it as the world's oldest living continuous civilization, and one that stretches back to at least 6000 B.C, if not much further.
As portrayed by the authors, the rich and highly advanced Indus-Sarasvati civilization - a civilization of sages, priests, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, musicians, astronomers, artists, architects, engineeers, navigators, artisans, farmers and merchants covered an area of over 300,000 square miles (in contrast to Ancient Egypt's 15,000 square miles and Sumer's even smaller area). It held over 2500 settlements, towns, and cities, and conducted an extensive commerce with Arabia, Africa, and the Middle East. Also, where influences can be determined, they flowed, not from West to East but from East to West. In short, pace Sumerian scholar Samuel Noah Kramer, everything did not begin in Sumer. It was neither Sumer nor Egypt that was the cradle of civilization. It was India.
Chapter 9, 'Why the Aryan Invasion Never Happened: Seventeen Arguments,' summarizes and concludes Part I of the book. Part II, 'The Splendor of Ancient India: Its Cultural and Spiritual Legacy' provides a stimulating overview of the spiritual heritage of Ancient India, the birth of science, the astronomical basis of the Vedic myths, the powerful and long-continuing influence of India on the West, and the Vedas and Perennial Wisdom.
We learn that the Vedas are of staggering importance. Far from being a mere collection of myths, they represent a crystallization, in symbolic code, of the incredibly ancient wisdom of a balanced and harmonious civilization in which science and religion were not, as with us, opposed, but were mutually involved in the pursuit of truths which had the aim of bringing both man and society into harmony with the cosmos.Sadly the Vedas, written as they are in a difficult archaic Sanskrit, are little studied even in India, and are even less understood. Given the increasing degeneracy of modern civilization, it is a blessing that a handful of determined scholars have today set about extracting the knowledge from this precious repository that could, if rightly used, help restore us to sanity.
Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi by Katherine Frank (Houghton Mifflin) Here is the first popular biography of one of the most powerful women in the twentieth century, Indira Nehru Gandhi. India’s third prime minister, she was voted “Woman of the Millennium” by the BBC. Now the acclaimed biographer Katherine Frank uncovers the personal Indira, drawing from unpublished sources and more than a hundred interviews with people who knew her. The result is a beautifully drawn, complete, and balanced portrait. Steeped in the volatile history and exotic locale of the world’s largest democracy, IIndira tells a tale of epic proportions about a life marked by surprising contradictions.Wary at first of the political spotlight, Indira eventually played an important role in many of the major events of India’s past century. An Indian who was blunt in English, she rose to power in a country with more than 850 million people who spoke scores of indigenous languages. She was born to a wealthy, westernized family, but her real constituency was the poor of the countryside and the urban slums, the illiterate, the dispossessed. From the powerful influence of her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, to her misguided relationships with her two sons and political heirs, to the fateful decision that led to her assassination, Indira shows us a figure who was brave, shrewd, isolated, sometimes awed, and always fascinating. It is certain to be the definitive biography of this charismatic leader.
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