Published: 09th January 2020
The history being taught is Delhi-centric: Anand Neelakantan rued about the education system
The author also noted that what history we are teaching is horrible and what we are trying to reach is horrendous
The history being taught today is Delhi-centric, said author Anand Neelakantan — best known for his book The Rise of Sivagami, which released to rave reviews. The bestselling author was speaking on the second and final day of the ThinkEdu Conclave 2020 held in the city on Thursday. Neelakantan was a part of a panel discussion that discussed the topic 'Epic Success: Telling Our Own Stories', alongside fellow authors Anuja Chandramouli, Devi Yesodharan and Nikhil Chandwani.
Referring to the history taught in today’s curriculum, Neelakantan said, “The narrative that is being fed is of India (in its entirety) being under foreign rule for thousands of years. But the question is, whose India are we talking about?” While history dictates that the Maratha king Prithviraj Chauhan lost a major battle that paved the way to the Mughal rule, we would do well to remember that he was the ruler of a mere ‘panchayat’ in Northern India, he said. “This was happening at a time when the Cholas were expanding the world over, after whom came the Vijayanagar empire. The Mughals lived thousands of kilometres away from my ancestors in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Despite this, only half a paragraph is reserved for Cholas in our History books,” he said.
“Nobody knows about Marthanda Varma (ruler of Travancore) who defeated the Dutch. We don’t know the history of the South or the history of the North East, the only history we know is Delhi-centric,” he added.
Devi Yesodharan, author of historical fiction Empire, a book set in the time of Rajendra Chola, said that History textbooks needed an overhaul. Today’s curriculum teaches us a lot about the works of English poets, but does not feature translated versions of our beautiful, regional literature like Sangam poetry, she said.
Nikhil Chandwani, known for establishing the Writers’ Rescue Centre, stated that most of our communities, like the Sindhis and Marwadis, are unaware of their own history.
Neelakantan, known for his retelling of Indian mythology from the point of view of characters who otherwise don’t take centre-stage, called Arjuna — a Pandava from the Mahabharata — a goonda for burning down the Khandava forest. He said, “For me, Ravana and Duryodhana are far more interesting than someone like Arjuna who had to be told what to do by someone.”
Anuja Chandramouli, whose stories are driven by a lust for gods and historical figures, said, “I have been in love with Arjuna since the first time I heard the story (Mahabharata). Also with Karthikeya because the classical songs associated with him are folksy and more accessible. He is also supposed to be a very lovable, good-looking God. This fires up your imagination.”