Some excerpts from Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s valedictory speech on January 11 at the International Conference on Indian History, Civilisation and Geopolitics 2009 (ICIH-2009) at New Delhi’s India International Centre, titled, “Defalsify India’s history as a first step in national renaissance“. It contains a very interesting account of how some critical dates – based on which ancient Indian History has been re-constructed – may themselves be inaccurate and wrong. Read on.
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…Hindustan represents the continuing history of culture of Hindus. One’s religion may change, but culture does not. Thus, on the agenda for a national renaissance should be the dissemination of the correct perception of what we are. This perception has to be derived from a defalsified history. However, the present history taught in our schools and colleges is the British imperialist-sponsored one, with the intent to destroy our identity.
India as a State is treated as a British-created entity and of only recent origin. The Indian people are portrayed as a heterogeneous lot who are hopelessly divided against themselves. Such a “history” has been deliberately created by the British as a policy. Sir George Hamilton, Secretary of State for India, wrote to the Home Office on March 26, 1888 that “I think the real danger to our rule is not now but say 50 years hence….. We shall (therefore) break Indians into two sections holding widely different views ….. We should so plan the educational text books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened”.
The Imperialist History of India
What is the gist of this British imperialist-tailored Indian history? In this history, India is portrayed as the land “conquered” first by the ‘Dravidians’, then by the ‘Aryans’, later by Muslims, and finally by the British. Otherwise, everything else is mythical.
…For example, even though the Mughal rule from Akbar to Aurangzeb is about 150 years, which is much shorter than the 350 year rule of the Vijayanagaram empire, the history books of today hardly take notice of the latter. In fact the territory under Krishna Devaraya’s rule was much larger than Akbar’s, and yet it is the latter who is called “the Great”. Such a version suited the British rules who had sought to create a legitimacy for their presence in India.
…In this falsified history, it is made out that Hindus capitulated to Islamic invaders. But on the contrary,unlike Iran, Iraq and Egypt where within decades the country capitulated to become 100% Muslims. India despite 800 years of brutal Islamic rule, remained 80% Hindu.
…Just because India did not have a nation state of the present boundaries, exercising control through a unified modern administration, does not mean that there was no India. On the contrary, there was always as India which from north to south, thought of fundamentally as one country.
…on the agenda for National Renaissance has to be a new factual account of our history, focusing on the continuous and unbroken endeavours of a people united as a nation. This history of India must deal with the conscious effort of our people to achieve a civilization, to reach better standards of life, and live a happier and nobler life.
Falsification of Chronology in India’s History
The fabrication of our History begins with the falsification of our chronology.
The customary dates quoted for composition of the Rig Veda (circa 1300 B.C.), Mahabharat (600 B.C.), Buddha’s Nirvana (483 B.C.), Maurya Chandragupta’s coronation (324 B.C.), and Asoka (c.268 B.C.) are entirely wrong. Those dates are directly or indirectly based on a selected reading of Megasthenes’ account of India. In fact, so much so that eminent historians have called if the “sheet anchor of Indian chronology”. The account of Megasthenes and the derived chronology of Indian history have also an important bearing on related derivations such as the two-race (Aryan-Dravidian) theory, and on the pre-Vedic character of the so called Indus Valley Civilization.
Megasthenes was the Greek ambassador sent by Seleucus Nicator in c. 302 B.C. to the court of the Indian king whom he and the Greek called “Sandrocottus”. He was stationed in “Palimbothra”, the capital city of the kingdom. It is not clear how many years Megasthenes stayed in India, but he did write an account of his stay, titled Indika. The manuscript Indika is lost, and there is no copy of it available. However, during the time it was available, many other Greek writers quoted passages from it in their own works. These quotations were meticulously collected by Dr. Schwanbeck in the nineteenth century, and this compilation is also available to us in English (J.M. McCrindle: Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian).
When European indologists were groping to date Indian history during the nineteenth century (after having arbitrarily rejected the various Puranas), the Megasthenes account came in very useful. These scholars simply identified “Sandrocottus” with Chandragupta, and “Palimbothra” with Pataliputra. Since Megasthenes talks of Sandrocottus as being a man not of “noble” birth who essentially usurped the throne from Xandrames and founded a new dynasty, the western writers took it as enough evidence to suggest that Sandrocottus was Maurya Chandragupta, who deposed the Nanda (=Xandrames) dynasty, and founded the Maurya dynasty. This identification, thus places Maurya Chandragupta circa 302 B.C.
However, Megasthenes also notes that Sandrocottus was a contemporary of Alexander, and came to the throne soon after Alexander’s departure. With a little arithmetic on how many days it would have taken Alexander to cross the Indus, etc., the scholars arrive at c.324 B.C. as the date of Chandragupta Maurya’s coronation. It is on this date that every other date of Indian history has been constructed.
The western writers constructed other dates of Indian history by using the data on the number of years between kings given in the Puranas, even though they have generally discredited this source. For instance, the Puranas give the number of years for the reign of Chandgragupta and Bindusara as 62 years. Using this period, Asoka’s coronation year is calculated by them as 324-62 =c 262 B.C. This estimated year is then cross-checked and adjusted with other indicators, such as from the Ceylonese Pali tradition. The point that is being made here is that some of the important dates of Indian history have been directly determined by the identification of Megasthenes’ Sandrocottus with Maurya Chandragupta, and Xandremes with Nanda.
The founder of the Mauryas, however, is not the only Chandragupta in Indian history, who was a king of Magadh and founder of a dynasty. In particular, there is Gupta Chandragupta, a Magadh king and founder of the Gupta dynasty at Patliputra. Chandragupta Gupta was also not of “noble” birth and, in fact, came to power by deposing the Andhra king Chandrasri. That is, Megasthenes’ Sandrocottus may well be Gupta Chandragupta instead of Maurya Chandgragupta (and Xandremes the same as Chandrasri, and Sandrocryptus as Samudragupta).
In order to determine which Chandragupta it is, we need to look further. It is, of course, a trifle silly to build one’s history on this kind of tongue-gymnastics, but I am afraid we have no choice but to pursue the Megasthenes evidence to its end, since the currently acceptable history is based on it.
In order to determine at which Chandragupta’s court Megasthenes was ambassador, we have to look further into his account of India. We find he was at Pataliputra (i.e. Palimbothra in Megasthenes’ account). We know from the Puranas (which are unanimous on this point) that all the Chandravamsa king of Magadh (including the Mauryas) prior to the Guptas, had their capital at Girivraja (or equivalently Rajgrha) and not at Pataliputra. Gupta Chandragupta was the first king to have his capital in Patliputra. This alone should identify Sandrocottos with Gupta Chandragupta. However some 6-11th century A.D. sources call Pataliputra the Maurya capital, e.g., Vishakdatta in Mudrarakshasa, but these are based on secondary sources and not on the Puranas.
Pursuing Megasthenes’ account further, we find most of it impossible to believe. He appears to be quite vague about details and is obviously given to the Greek writers’ weakness in letting his imagination get out of control. For example, “Near a mountain which is called Nulo there live men whose fee are turned back-wards and have eight toes on each foot.” (Solinus 52.36-30 XXX.B.) “Megasthenes says a race of men (exist in India) who neither eat or drink, and in fact have not even mouths, set on fire and burn like incense in order to sustain their existence with odorous fumes…..” (Plutarch, Frag. XXXI). However, Megasthenes appears to have made one precise statement of possible application which was picked up later by Pliny, Solinus, and Arrian. As summarized by Professor K.D. Sethna of Pondicherry, it reads:
“Dionysus was the first who invaded India and was the first of all who triumphed over the vanished Indians. From the days of Dionysus to Alexander the Great, 6451 years reckoned with 3 months additional. From the time of Dionysus to Sandrocottus the Indians reckoned 6452 years, the calculation being made by counting the kings who reigned in the intermediate period to number 153 or 154 years. But among these a republic was thrice established, one extending…..years, another to 300 and another to 120. The Indians also tell us that Dionysus was earlier than Heracles by fifteen generations, and that except for him no one made a hostile invasion of India but that Alexander indeed came and overthrew in war all whom he attacked.”
While there a number of issues raised by this statement including the concoction that Alexander was victorious in battle across the Indus, the exactness with which he states his numbers should lead us to believe that Megasthenes could have received his chronological matters from none else than the Puranic pundits of his time. To be conclusive, we need to determine who are the “Dionysus” and “Heracles” of Megasthenes’ account.
Traditionally, Dionysus (or Father Bachhus) was a Greek God of wine who was created from Zeus’s thigh. Dionysus was also a great king, and was recognized as the first among all kings, a conqueror and constructive leader. Could there be an Indian equivalent of Dionysus whom Megasthenes quickly equated with his God of wine? Looking through the Puranas, one does indeed find such a person. His name is Prithu.
Prithu was the son of King Vena. The latter was considered a wicked man whom the great sages could not tolerate, especially after he told them that the elixir soma should be offered to him in prayer and not to the gods (Bhagavata Purana IV.14.28). The great sages thereafter performed certain rites and killed Vena. But since this could lead immediately to lawlessness and chaos, the rshis decided to rectify it by coronating a strong and honest person. The rshis therefore churned the right arm (or thigh; descriptions vary) of the dead body (of Vena) to give birth to a fully grown Prithu. It was Prithu, under counsel from rshi Atri (father of Soma), who reconstructed society and brought about economic prosperity. Since he became such a great ruler, the Puranas have called him adi-raja (first king) of the world. So did the Satpatha Brahmana (v.3.5 4.).
In the absence of a cult of soma in India, it is perhaps inevitable that Megasthenes and the other Greeks, in translating Indian experiences for Greek audiences, should pick on adi-raja Prithu who is “tinged with Soma” in a number of ways and bears such a close resemblance to Dionysus in the circumstances of his birth, and identify him as Dionysus. If we accept identifying Dionysus with Prithu, then indeed by a calculation based on the Puranas (done by D.R. Mankad, Koti Venkatachelam, K.D. Sethna, and others), it can be conclusively shown that indeed 6451 years had elapsed between Prithu and a famous Chandragupta. This calculation exactly identifies Sandrocottus with Gupta Chandragupta and not with Maurya Chandragupta. The calculation also identifies Heracles with Hari Krishna (Srikrishna) of Dwarka.
…However, on the basis of these calculations we can say that Gupta Chandragupta was “Sandrocottus” c.327 B.C. His son, Samudragupta, was the great king who established a unified kingdom all over India, and obtained from the Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras their recognition of him. He also had defeated Seleucus Nicator, while his father Chandragupta was king. On this calculation we can also place Prithu at 6777 B.C. and Lord Rama before that. Derivation of other dates without discussion may also be briefly mentioned here: Buddha’s Nirvana 1807 B.C., Maurya Chandragupta c. 1534 B.C., Harsha Vikramaditya (Parmar) c. 82 B.C.
The time has come for us to take seriously our Puranic sources and to re-construct a realistic well-founded history of ancient India, a history written by Indians about Indians. Such a history should bring out the amazing continuity of a Hindu nation which asserts its identity again and again. It should focus on the fact that at the centre of our political thought is the concept of the Chakravartin ideal – to defend the nation from external aggression while giving maximum internal autonomy to the janapadas.
A correct, defalsified history would record that Hindustan was one nation in the art of governance, in the style of royal courts, in the methods of warfare, in the maintenance of its agrarian base, and in the dissemination of information. Sanskrit was the language of national communication and discourse.
…Without an accurate history, Hindustan cannot develop on its correct identity. And without a clearly defined identity, Indians will continue to flounder. Defalsification of Indian history is the first step for our renaissance.
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Read it in full here
UPDATE: Many of you will find the link in my comment #51 interesting in the context of attempts to re-write history in other countries. Thanks.