The study of history educates, excites, and motivates—this is why so many young people take a liking to history after they have started their careers. Additionally in India, the history textbooks, written in my time under left-wing supervision, were so dull and uninspiring that we used them as sleeping pills during the evening prep!
The alternative to the leftist whitewashing was what we read in the illustrated stories of the Amar Chitra Katha series or what we learned from our elders. Now with the gradual whittling down of the Congress hegemony, the expansion and diversity in the media business, and the explosion of free information on the Internet, the alternative view on Indian History should be widely available and open to discussion.
This is the case with the periods dealing with ancient and modern histories of India—it is NOT the case with the medieval periods, particularly those dealing with the confrontation/interaction between India and Islam. True, there are several right-wing websites and books that rip-off the leftist mask and present in graphic detail all the relentless wars, the attacks on religion, the looting and vicious taxation, and the endless bloodbaths of this period.
But even the right-wing is confused on how to present this period? Should it be a mournful saga of Hindu defeats caused by lack of unity, inferior military technology, and the caste system? Or should it be an inspiring tale of unbending resistance carried on by successive generations till the formation of the British Raj? All available information can be moulded to buttress either viewpoint but there are other questions to consider. Should the modern Indian youth be galvanized and angered by past atrocities or should they be inspired by the heroism and valour of their forefathers? Most of the rightists appear to favour the former approach but they must realize how difficult it is to harness and direct such anger.
Should the medieval period be criticized for the clear lack of material or economic development, or should it be praised for maintaining India’s economic primacy until the ruin brought on by the industrial revolution? In other words, should we whitewash the medieval atrocities and focus our energy against the colonial policies of the British Empire? This has been the leftist approach but it has robbed us of the ability to engage and deal constructively with world powers for our strategic interests.
Both the left and the right have ignored military history in all their writings—this would explain their inability to understand or explain the rise of new powers that excelled in the use of a particular military technology. By way of example heavy cavalry (Turks, Afghans), light cavalry (Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs), infantry (Ahoms, Purbias, Jats, Ruhelas, Berads, Telingas), and artillery (Europeans).
Moreover, the right-wing websites while describing with relish the victories gained by the Rajputs, the Marathas, and the Sikhs, add the qualifier that despite these triumphs “ the invaders and their followers were not driven out or converted back to their ancestral faith .” What effect does this have on the diverse Indian Muslim population of today?
It would be impossible to answer such questions in a single article or even in a single book! On this blog, such issues relating to medieval periods will be examined from the perspective of military history. And instead of getting bogged down in the same stories of Indian History it would be interesting to study the outside world and its impact on our history——Beginning with the Mongol Cataclysm
Credits: As posted on Military History of India blog, by Airavat Singh