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“The Myth of Islamic Contribution to India” – Excerpts

8 November 2012 449 views 6 Comments

Excerpts from a well-researched post by Shankara that appeared on CentreRight.in:

*** “The myth about Islamic contribution to India” - by Shankara ***

Is it ignorance or agenda that drives Indian history narrative? 

…Let us clear the air on the Islamic contributions to India and Hindu society at large. Lets look at some broad categories that can be used as a framework to measure them.

Universities and colleges

Before the advent of Islam on Indian soil, India has as many as 20 large universities some of them which were international in nature, some of the prominent ones were Takshashila, Nalanda, Sharada Peeth, Varanasi, Kanchipuram, Valabhi, Vikramshila, Jagaddala, Lalitgiri, Phuphagiri, Udayagiri, Odantapuri, Ratnagiri (Odisha) etc where student from across the world studied Mathematics, Algebra, Astronomy Physics, Alchemy, Medicine, Anatomy, Surgery, Literature and whole lot of other topicsAs Muslim invaders progressed east across India, these Universities were extinguished one by one starting with Takshashila the largest and the oldest to the brutal destruction and burning of Nalanda by Bhaktiyar Khilji in the 1193 AD. In turn none of these benign invaders from Bin Qasim to Kutub-udin-Aibak to Babur to Aurangzeb to Nadir Shah instituted a new University or center of learning. I invite apologists like William Dalrymple, Romila Thappar, Girish Karnad etc to cite examples where these invaders and conquerors promoted science, education and learning and institutionalized learning.

Farming and Irrigation

Girish Karnad takes great pleasure in belittling the Vijaynagar Empire, its achievements and rejoices in its destruction by blaming it on fictitious decadence theory. Little does he know that Vijaynagar was probably one of the first welfare states in the world if not the first? The kingdom paid from its treasury for empire wide water works to ensure running water for its subjects. Even today we can see remnants of aqueducts in southern India from that era. The kingdom paid for irrigation tank building projects to harvest rain water some of which are still in use today for farming. The kings of Vijaynagar especially Krishnadeva Raya personally engineered and supervised the building of a damn across the Tungabhadra still in use today. Similar irrigation works and canal building were undertaken by Hindu kings all across India. Indian farmers had perfected the irrigation using a system called Phad (river water diverted into fields) and Baadh (overflowing river, tank or lake is breached to irrigate fields) besides other mechanical methods still used today. In and around Bhopal huge natural lakes were maintained by Hindu kings for fish farming and as a source of irrigation for farmers, which were drained by Mughal’s to play polo. Compare this to lack of any such projects during the Mughal era or earlier Delhi Sultanate.

I would also like to point the blatant lie of Marxist historians to credit the revenue and taxation system to the Mughals especially Akbar. The system of revenue collection and taxation existed from time immemorial instituted by Hindu kings based on Hindu ‘Shashtras’ which the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughals institutionalized it for brutal oppression. It was unimaginable that barbarian tribal warlords who roamed the central Asian dust bowl had any knowledge about taxation and revenue collection that they could impart onto others.

Health care

Fa-Hian, writing about Magadhain 400 AD, has mentioned that a well-organised health care system existed in India. According to him…

Nobles and householders of this country had founded hospitals within the city to which the poor of all countries, the destitute, the crippled and the diseased may repair. They receive every kind of requisite help. Physicians inspect their diseases, and according to their cases, order them food and drink, medicines or decoctions, everything in fact that contributes to their ease. When cured they depart at their ease.

Fa-Hians account coupled with Charaka’s treatise on medicine and hospitals shows that India may have been one of the first countries to institutionalize public health care. Earlier during the Mauryan’s under Ashoka (300 BC) had institutionalized hospitals and veterinary clinics were established in towns and villages and even on busy highways.

Closer to our times the Maratha’s had built a series of ‘Chattrams’ as rest and recovery places for travelers and pilgrims.

Chatrams were not mere boarding places. They provided food, health facilities and space for the animals that accompanied travellers. Eachchatram was separated from the other by a day’s travel. Old resting places for travellers are found in other countries, but what makes these chatramsdifferent from the caravanserais is that they cater to all kinds of travellers — not merely traders. In South India, trade and pilgrim routes coexisted and the inns served both pilgrims and travellers. Endowing pilgrims and pilgrimage was considered important and special care and facilities were provided. The most important pilgrimage route in South India was the one that led to Rameswaram. Along this route, 18 chatrams were built and patronised by the Maratha Kings in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The most elaborate and ornate of them are the Mukthambal Chatram at Orathanadu and Yamunambal Chatram at Needamangalam.

The Chatram were built by the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur, Maharaja Serfojee who wrote the British to continue the services…

Chatrams have Doctors, skillful in the cure of diseases, swellings and the poison of reptiles. Travellers who fall sick at the Chetram or before their arrival, receive medicines, and the diet proper for them, and are attended with respect and kindliness until their recovery’.

This letter of Sarfojee Maharaj is reproduced in full in Annam Bahu Kurvita: Recollecting the Indian Discipline of Growing and Sharing Food in Plenty.

..People interested in reading more about Indian medicine and health care in ancient India can refer to this paper

*** End of Excerpts ***

Read it in full here.

6 Comments »

  • 1. Amitabh Soni said:

    “Is it ignorance or agenda that drives Indian history narrative”…very well said…cant decide if people like Karnaad are stupid or slimy

  • 2. Prakash said:

    Thinking of Islamic contribution, one must remember that almost all the cavalries (those with King Shivaji, Queen of Zanshi etc if I remember correctly) were manned by Muslims. In music, there has been a significant contribution although some of the great music maestros had converted (alladiya khan, for just one example) for one or other reason.

    One cannot say the same for science, or for justice, or for law and order. The muslim countries themselves are pretty unhappy that there aren’t many nobel prize winners amongst them and they do debate this issue.

    Artists like Girish Karnad, it would seem, behave more like salesmen. They don’t really have any values to protect, they merely sell thoughts where there is a market. Those of the kind who would go to Kremlin and shout slogans against the US president (because they can) and go to Washington and shout slogans against – you guessed it – US president (because they can).

  • 3. RC said:

    Its amazing that the Islamic rule and effects of it is considered “our culture” but for some reason the British rule’s effects are not. The English rule and the effects of it on India are just as much “Indian culture” as the music and other effects of the Islamic rule.

    But what about the detrimental effects, and there were countless of the muslim rule on India? Why isnt there a scholarly study of it? Naipaul points out the obvious thing and Girish Karnad loses his marbles!!! First of all Karnaad ranting against Naipaul is like an ant trying to kick an elephent.

    We seriously lack the understanding of what the society was like before Islamic rule and what was the effects of Islamic rule on India.

  • 4. manas vijayan said:

    anyone knows anything about mukhthambal chatram in tanjavore, it would be really helpful for our projects.

  • 5. Vishwajeet S. Bhati said:

    With all due respect, I do not get the point of this article- linking up Islam, as a religion, to its contribution to the Indian society (of which it is now a part).
    To me, it seems that a lot of examples, which support your point of view have been compiled and presented in order to prove it. There can be, and would be (though I’m not aware of them) examples which would say that Islam contributed a lot to India. Architecture is one. That is not the point though.
    The whole premise, that Islam did not contribute anything to India, seems completely redundant to me. It is not the faith in my view which did not contribute, it could be a set of other factors.

  • 6. B Shantanu (author) said:

    Linking this here: http://folks.co.in/blog/2012/09/05/myth-of-islamic-science-were-there-any-great-muslim-scientists/
    and http://www.viewpointonline.net/were-there-any-great-muslim-scientists.html “Were there any great Muslim scientists?”
    by Waseem Altaf.

    Grateful if someone can post excerpts. Thanks

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