The first impactful glimpse into the history of India for many of us is from the history books from school. Most of these episodes have been passed on, generations after generations, and were written by the British, which is the irony.
Francois Gautier, the speaker for the session has travelled across so many countries, to finally settle in India. His journalism and photography, and his keen thirst for knowledge helped him tour India, the torn areas of Kashmir, interacting with the militia, the Indian army, and tens of refugees.
While examining the history of India, he brings in references from that of the Mughal era, and Shivaji, and draws a parallel with Napoleon in France. Although both, Napoleon and Shivaji have been hailed as great warriors, and Shivaji has been attributed to be a respectful, dignified warrior, he is often not celebrated as much as Napoleon is in France, he laments. He is also inconsistently described in books; while some of them speak of him highly, some others do not. Most contributors of Indology are, funnily enough, westerners, he says. It could be Max Muller, or Mortimer Wheeler, the theories have influenced Indology and India negatively, especially with that of the Aryan Invasion, which has only created greater rifts between its people.
Gautier points out at two distinct problems in Indology: one, that it is, and has been in the hands of those in the west, and the second, is Philology and the distance it keeps with the studied.
The supremacy with which the western world has dictated the texts on Indology has become a huge issue. Those in the country are unaware of their cultures and political power because we are made to believe we are just what it is in our books. He also continues to say that studying a country is impossible and unfair if one does not reside in the country itself. From a distance, it is impossible to understand the customs and complexities of the country.
Drawing in from the same thought is the distance that is maintained when studying a country, through philology. While it is alright to do so for a civilization that is dead, such as an Egyptian civilization or similar ones from the past, it is unimaginable for one that is living, like ours. There are so many elements that are still alive and thriving, like the vendantas, he says.
This modern Philology is creating, and specifically picking up the negatives, such as the Caste system or the status of women and the atrocities against them, and blown up beyond what it is in reality, Gautier mentions. The country and its government are trying their best to move past the hurdles of the caste system, or the abject conditions of the woman, and easing the situation, and yet, modern Philology drags it down to say that the condition is dire, even in recent times. The truth, and statistical inferences hardly come under the purview of the study when it is philogical, he chimes.
To break this monopoly of a negative, or poor reflection of the truth, he strongly puts forth two recommendations. One, the country and its people have to claim Indology as their own. To be proud of the heritage, and the country we are is the first step in owning what has been lost to the west. Indians are the closest to Indology than a westerner, and naturally, the stories and the essence of it stays intact and protected. The other, is to change the content of the education. To be able to make the content robust and stop making clones of oneself. The current one hardly takes us to our roots, and is often forgotten.
Gautier certainly brought to the fore an important argument, one that urges Indians to assume responsibility and claim what is theirs to protect what truly is theirs.
About the Author: A believer in the subtlety of magic in everyday living, and Shobhana seeks the same from the books she reads, and the poetry she writes. Immerses herself in music, literature, art, and looking out the window with some coffee. She curates her poetry, and occasional verses in her blog Thinking; inking. She currently writes for Bookstalkist.