Indian History Textbooks Are Needed To Be Rewritten Now

The debate over rewriting the history textbooks of India has been re-ignited and as usual emotions are running high where most of the people are not even aware about the issues at hand.

The debate over rewriting the history textbooks of India has been re-ignited and as usual emotions are running high where most of the people are not even aware about the issues at hand.

But this has not prevented them from taking partisan stances and firing the usual clichés, without ever properly examining the flaws in our history textbooks. Of course, in the present textbooks there are several factual errors or the deliberate attempts at whitewashing or obscuring the uncomfortable facts but we should be able to see the problem in its totality. The trouble with history textbooks can be seen under six important categories:

The first trouble with the history writing is that of perspective. It’s true that history is multi-faceted and it is not possible to include all the angles in school textbooks. However, history must be written from the perspective of the general reader and not the rulers alone.

It is therefore a tragedy that the history of India is largely written as the history of foreign dynasties entrenched in and around Delhi and the people of India have been reduced to the footnotes. Especially in the medieval era, it is largely about imperial and brutal campaigns of the Turks, Afghans, Mughals etc. rather than the resistance movements by the people against these oppressors.

In fact, it is difficult to find even the reference of the local dynasties and kings and all we have is the sequence of fratricidal wars or the wars between different foreign tribes and dynasties who invaded India at different points of time. The names like Queen Abbaka are unknown to the people. The example of Queen Tarabai (1675) is illustrative. Our youth would be hard-pressed to recall this great Queen who took the command of the Maratha revolution after the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji and the execution of his successor Sambhaji by Aurangzeb.

tarabhaiKhafi Khan (1731) writes that Mughals underestimated this seemingly helpless woman of two young children. But under the indomitable command of Tarabai, the war spread inside the Mughal territory and Maratha power began its ascendance. In battles, she led from the front, mobilized resources and motivated soldiers drawn mostly from the peasantry. Deccan became the graveyard of Mughals with lakhs Mughal soldiers dying every year in the epic 27-year Mughal-Maratha war.

But the narrative of Mughal-Maratha war is skewed in favour of the imperial Mughals who get a sympathetic treatment as against the Maratha ‘rebels.’ The same is the case regarding the narrative of Indian interaction with Western imperialism. The central actors in our books are the British and not the Indian princes and people. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Indians are absent from the history textbooks on India! The second issue is the monolithic narrative of history which progresses from the Harrapan era to the Vedic age then to the Mahajanpadas and the rise of the first empire under Mauryas. It then shifts to the Guptas and then after Harshavardhana, simply jumps to the Delhi Sultanate followed by the Mughals and the British.

What makes it even more troublesome is the dominance of north India, especially the Gangetic plains in the textbooks which fails to reflect the diversity and plurality, diversity and variegated hues of Indian history. The south finds a flimsy mention with Cholas, Satavahanas etc. the Vijayanagar Empire is largely ignored despite it lasting almost as long as the Mughal Empire and its historical importance in shaping the socio-political and economic milieu of large parts of India.

There is also hardly a mention of the Chalukyas, Gurjaras, Pratiharas, Kashmiri dynasties, Kakatiyas, Rastrakutas, and Ahoms. Do we read about the Eastern Gangas and Palas of Bengal who ruled for four centuries each? Or the Western Ganga dynasty, which ruled from 350 C.E to 1000 C.E? Many times, these dynasties and empires ruled areas larger than the largest European countries for centuries. And then we have the bewildering absence of any history of the Northeast in our textbooks.

Then there is the third issue of the exclusion of Dalits and Tribals from these books. Instead, their role and agency in history is simply denied by presenting their culture and religion as the imposition of the ‘Aryan Invaders’, which needs to be abandoned. In a single stroke, the whole Dalit-Bahujan Samaj is robbed of its culture, ingenuity, history and spirituality, and de-humanised as people lacking agency, reduced to the footnotes of history. The rich line of Shudra and even Dalit kings is also conspicuous by its absence in the textbooks.

Even Kings like Raja Suheldev have no place in mainstream history. Raja Suheldev defeated the 100,000 strong Ghazanavid army in Battle of Bahraich, which held back Islamic invasions of India for more than a century after the depredation of the Mahmud of Ghazni.

The immense role played by Dalits in the first war of Independence is also ignored with freedom fighters like Uda Devi, Matadin Bhangi, Vira Pasi, Chetram Jatav etc find no mention at all. The various agrarian movements led by Dalit leaders like Ekka movement of Madari Pasi are reduced to obscure events despite their massive scale and appeal during the British Raj. Tribal history too is ignored. Students passing out of the schools and colleges are ignorant about the rich tribal communities of India apart from the stereotypical image of ‘backward tribals’ who need to be ‘rescued’.

They gain little, if any, knowledge about the tribal society, polity, spiritual systems and the vibrant tribal kingdoms and culture. Also, tribals were the ones who continuously resisted the western imperialism in every part of the country and paid heavy for the same. This fierce and continuous resistance to western imperialism is one of the most intense and glorious in the annals of the world but which finds only passing mention in the textbooks in the half-hearted information on Santhal uprising etc.

Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes constitute nearly 25 per cent of the Indian population and it raises serious question marks on the veracity of history writing which treats them as footnotes of history only to be discussed in the context of caste oppression and even there, they are passive entities in the narrative.

The fourth problem is that the history of India is not only written from the flawed paradigm but is also hopelessly outdated. One can say that there are too many ideological debates and too little of archaeology, facts and data.

This sort of history writing is based on the narrow spectrum of sources of history whereas a large number of significant archaeological and literal discoveries in the past few decades have not been incorporated into the textbooks. We have even failed to produce an authoritative translation of the numerous classical texts not only of Sanskrit but also of Tamil, Kannada, Pali and various other regional languages and dialects.

The state of history writing in India can be gauged from the fact that numerous documents, letters, secret communications, contemporary reports in and around the third battle of Panipat are gathering dust in libraries and private collections and have never been studied. And this is the case with just one important event as close in time as Panipat 1761. Also, India has always been a civilization with strong oral traditions. In fact, much of the local histories and histories of the castes and communities have only been preserved in the oral traditions.

But there has never been any systematic attempt to record and analyze these narratives. Instead, most of our history writing consists of references and cross-references within a small group of English language historians with the premium being placed on references to western historians.

The oral traditions are either simply ignored or just randomly picked up to embellish an ideological narrative. With respect to the subaltern groups like Dalits, tribals etc. we see the wholesale dismissal of their oral traditions as ‘invention of history’ either in the Ambedkarite mould or as attempts at “Sanskritisation.” It is a matter of concern that even the sources of the history are seen with the present day ideological blinkers rather than as an honest objective enquiry.

The fifth issue is that history is much more than mere political history. History writing needs to give greater weightage to various themes like environmental history, social history, economic history, history of technology and knowledge production, arts and literature, production processes, Indian industry etc.

For example, we know that the Pratiharas built a strong and prosperous polity with a powerful military and defended the borders of India for about three hundred years. But what is not elaborated upon is their ingenious and superb water management and irrigation system, which enabled them produce the surplus to sustain such a polity in otherwise arid regions of the western and north-western sub-continent.

There is no reason why history should be a bland political narrative especially of foreign overlords and their shenanigans. History has to be an organic and vibrant entity, which relates to everyday life and India as a living civilization.

The sixth flaw in history writing is India’s interaction with the world down the ages. The strong maritime traditions of India, the spread of its ideas and philosophies across the world and the various influences imported by India are lacking in emphasis.

Human civilizations do not develop in isolation. In fact, interactions with the world is an important part of the history of any country and civilization. It is more so with India, which has exerted tremendous influence on the socio-political and economic development in the Indian Ocean Region and the Central Asia.

India has always had a strong maritime tradition: the world’s first international trading port is Lothal in Gujarat from where Indian ships sailed to Arabia, Iran, Africa and Babylonia, carrying with them not just goods but people and ideas. Harappans maintained trading posts as far as the northern reaches of Afghanistan and as early as 3rd century BCE, Odia sailors were navigating the waters of South-East Asia. These trade relations led to the flowering of the rich tradition of cultural exchange and spread of knowledge systems across Asia.

And in turn, India itself was shaped by such interactions on many occasions. The study of such events cannot be reduced to wars or the accounts of foreign travellers. It has to be a dynamic study involving multiple points of interaction.The textbooks of history, as it stands today, are not only distorted both in content and perspective but also do not present the complete picture of Indian history.Therefore, rewriting history textbooks is a crucial and urgent task if India is to develop a proper historical narrative worthy of its antiquity and to inform its present and guide its future.

(This essay was first published in The Nationalist)

Abhinav Prakash is a research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
  • varunreddy2

    Madari Pasi is presented as a ruffian in the India’s Struggle for Independence–Bipan Chandra’s book.

  • Garry T

    I feel so happy after reading, it’s like getting enlightened. Thank you so much IndiaFacts and Abhinav Prakash.

  • Slasher

    Abhinav is absolutely correct.

    But even he I am sure is unaware of the incredible amount of lies and white-washing that were done in collusion of Invader powers and Desh Drohis in India.

    Our history is so distorted I don’t know where to begin. But here is a sampling of articles that will completely blow your mind:

    On RSS – our History is a complete lie

    On Tipu Sultan – Unmasked – how a Villain became a Hero

    Even Sikhs have not been spared the lies

    How about the lies around B R Ambedkar?

  • Atul B Mamtora

    I agree with main thrust of arguments.What about skewed view created by Upper caste (Brahmans) and suppression of basic human right of lower castes(Shudras) and women through out last thousand years? I am willing to say that mighty have written history at cost of poor and helpless people .


      So true comrade, sooooo true. Look how all these disgusting Hindu Brahmins, not only are they all crorepatis but they also write all the history books in India today. And they are eating at least 5 dalits a day PER HEAD! Soon, we will run out of dalits completely! And then the Brahmins will start eating women, and then other minorities! And then what will we do? Ooooh the sheer terror of it loosens my sphincter, please Arvindji saaaave uuuuus!

      Look at everyone in the media, all professors in universities, the armed forces, all foreign governments – they are all pro-Hindu because they are all controlled by these dastardly Brahmins. In a country where at least 50 billion Muslims, women and dalits are being slaughtered and eaten every day in every village by Brahmins, the media only talks when Hindus get murdered (which we all know they are doing themselves to make Muslims look bad). Why don’t they ever speak about anyone else? Oooh woe is me, these fascist Brahmins are so mighty and we are so weak! If only we seculars, liberals and intellectuals controlled the narrative in this country! Thank Marx for brave comrades like Srimati Srimati 1008 Romila Thaparji who is fighting single handedly against the fascist system. She has the unique ability to tell us what happened throughout history in India even better than the fascists who actually lived through those times, who don’t know what they themselves did, thought or believed! She is wise indeed, Marx protect her.

      One day we will wipe out all the Hindus and then we can all till the fields until our brains explode. May Lord Kejriwal’s holy Socialist moustache give us this power! Keep the faith, comrade!

      • Atul Mamtora

        Although i understand your anger,i am vehemently against any revenge or reprisal of any kind against anyone including Muslim or rss or Brahmans or English rule.History should be only studied to explore truth.If you remove context of time from historical events and view from hindsight everything looks horrible,but they are justifiable at that time of society as existed.Or i will frame this way,e.g.Had i been white man time of coming to America,If native people would have attacked and invaded me,I would go ahead and participate in butchering native Indians.

        • NARAYAN MAO

          Comrade, may everyone in India lose enough braincells to think like you! Lord Kejriwalji will make it so!


    Just ask yourself this fascists – are ANY of the murderers in BJP equipped with a sexy, powerful moustache on par with Lord Arvindji Kejriwal’s? That is proof that only he is fit to be Galactic Overlord of India. AAP roolz.

  • Rama

    “Harrapan era to the Vedic age”
    I am not sure what this means. Vedas are as old as time. Period.


      Veeery fascist statement. Can you prrrrrrrrrroooooooooooooove it? Show me links, books, papers, movies, adverts, supermarket vouchers – anything. As long as it is stamped by someone at JNU I will believe it. It is your job to convince me.


    Such statements are typical of right-wing ‘historians’ and ‘research scholars’ , since opinions are stated as facts :

    India has always had a strong maritime tradition: the world’s first international trading port is Lothal in Gujarat from where Indian ships sailed to Arabia, Iran, Africa and Babylonia, carrying with them not just goods but people and ideas.

    In contrast , look at how real historians and research scholars approach the subject :

    • Krispy K

      Translation: Producing inconvenient truths are typical of those resisting my political agenda, which I will then denounce as “opinion” regardless of the level of evidence or common sense. I don’t have any other tools in my meagre arsenal so will have to continue using the same crude tactics and hope something changes by magic.

      In contrast, look at how “real historians” (i.e. people I have declared as real because they support what I want to project) approach the subject:

      (cue links to people that support what I want to project)

      In the meantime, I will continue to lecture people far, far superior to me in every way about “scholarship” and “evidence” and “historians”, despite the fact that I and my fellow scumbags have corrupted, distorted, and otherwise utterly soiled the very meaning of these words as a matter of policy, in the gormless, witless way we do everything, and without a shred of irony or shame (something I have never experienced in my worthless little life).

      • nairps

        You are absolutely right.

    • nairps

      Have you read Arun Shourie’s book on ’eminent historians’? Please read it before you make any comments about Indian history.


        Oh please fascist. You are referencing some fascist author? Did he go to JNU? Does he have a certificate from Srimati Srimati 1008 Romila Thaparji? No. So please provide some real proof. I’m here to learn, don’t abuse me.

  • subodh1945

    never knew lothal in gujarat was 1st international mari time port so much for twisting history


    Good. P.N. Oak will be overjoyed. It is tragic that when a billion people want India to grow , a few right-wing crackpots want Hinduism to grow.

    • Krispy K

      Translation: It is tragic that Hindus have the audacity to resist when the few remaining self-styled “intellectual” Commie fuckwits want Marxist degeneracy to spread. I know, let’s call them “right-wing” (a phrase I borrowed some time ago from those charming whites, I really must find out what it means) and “crackpots”, that’ll convince them.

    • nairps

      There is absolutely no conflict between Indian and Hinduism, as you seem to imply. In fact, both are the same. Both can and are growing together, however slowly. Right wingers are right thinking people, not crackpots. The only crackpots are the left loonies.

      • Slasher


        Read about a fellow Keralite who is absolutely turning Indian History on its head.

        Punch into Google:


        or “Vadakayil Vedas”

  • Chandra Ravikumar

    You are perfectly right. So let us look at what we have to organize ourselves to do as bullet points. I say “we” because unless we the people get down to doing for ourselves, however pro-active the present government is, the movement will not be successful. We must:

    1. Establish centres for the study of our Charithra from our most ancient past to the oresent day. These centres must work towards,
    dIscovery of sources from which we can unearth our history, This should include archaeological work, collection and recording of manuscripts, etchings, folklore, food – just about everything, even the most unlikely, that will enlighten us.

    2. Collect and save our sources in archives, museums, libraries, at these centres, using both the most excellent traditional and modern technology available.

    3. As our country is vast in size and time-span, and varied in peoples, and cultures, there must be many of these located in different areas. Eg. at least one each per state.

    4. It is the people of the land who via their traditions and tales are the true repository and transferers of history. They must be included as contributers and participants in the recovery, rejuvenation and recording of our history.

    5. Our traditional scholars, the pandits, aachaaryas, mahopadhyayas, and many more living and working in our ancient cities and and towns and villages must be requested to honour these centres and institutions by contributing their knowledge, experience and vision to the recording of our history.

    6. History must not be a dead subject. People of the country must live it to continue to remember it. For which, every family, village, town, city, communities of people, must be encouraged to find out and record their own history. A million stories can be dove-tailed together to construct the most fabulous mosaic of our past.

    7. Every school and college must discover and record the history of its own surrounds, even if it is only a street, a block, or town. Small sign boards with the storiy of the geography, the people who had lived there, the work they did, any special features whether natural or man-made could be erected.

    8. There must be a compulsory activity based project that every school child must do, that is find outt about their own ancestors, their stories, their roots etc. and record them. This will give them a strong sense of where come from, pride in their heritage, and a commitment to their continuity.

    9. Most importantly, we must think on and decide for ourselves what we as a country with the most ancient and continuous past must choose to be our philosophy of our own history. We must think on and choose for ourselves a kind of academia that grows from and suits our own civilization needs.

    All this is achievable if we the people, each one of us as individuals, families and communities decide to recover with absolute honesty and pride our own pasts.


      Instead of recovering our past , can we look to save our future ?

      Is anyone on this forum bothered about the problems that this country really faces ? Or does everyone think that by restoring Hindu pride , all these problems will magically disappear ? Or can these problems be left to the liberals and the seculars ?

      • Krispy K

        Translation: Instead of trying to restore the philosophical pillars of this country’s uniqueness and greatness, can we look to destroy it completely?

        Is anyone on this forum willing to ignore all the problems of the country, largely perpetuated by scum like me and my fellow ideological whores, and sacrifice themselves at the altar of an outmoded Marxist agenda that brings only misery, stagnation and corruption? Or does everyone want to threaten my livelihood by inconveniently fixing these problems and, even *worse*, restoring Hindu pride (not that I’m claiming your pride has been damaged, it’s all in your imagination honest, but if it has, you shouldn’t do anything about it, although it hasn’t, but don’t do anything anyway. Although it hasn’t). Or can the country be left to the fake-liberals and fake-seculars to continue its destruction unimpeded? Pretty please?


        Don’t worry comrade, one day we will destroy every Hindu on the planet and everyone in India will work the fields until their spines dissolve. May Lord Kejriwal’s holy moustache bless us all!

      • nairps

        Let Hindus, the natives of India, worry about their past and future. After all, as a secularist, you have no locus standi on this sacred soil. Don’t worry about any of the problems that India faces today. All of them will go away once the fake secularists are killed and buried.

  • Sibby

    We still follow are western superiors. Our history is mostly leftist with a European touch. We read about MK Gandhi and Nehru and all about Congress leaders but hardly anything about Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev or even Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. He tend to read more about Galileo than Aryabhatta. We still believe in Aryan invasion theory. We tend to read more about French revolution compare to various revolutions by our own country. We owe trigonometry to Eurpeons negleting the fact that It originated in south India. We like Chinese Martial arts ignoring the fact the it originated in south India. We like to speak in foreign language English at the same time oppose Hindi and Tamil. We opposed German as being removed as Third language. We question the logic of teaching Sanskrit in school calling it saffronization. We ignore or condemn ISRO scientists for wasting money on Moon mission but we cheer American Probe landing on Mars. We envy cleanness in the western countries even trying our best to keep it clean but in India we still throw our garbage on road.

    I wonder Did we really got independence from Britishers?


      Britishers gave us railways, manners, taught us how to use forks, showed us how to dress properly, put us firmly in our place, don’t abuse them otherwise you are dalit-abusing Hindu fascist. Anyway independence was won by us progressive liberal secular democratic intellectual etc etc etc types, not you dhoti-wearing minority murderers. If you disagree you must prrrrrrrrrroooooooooooove it. I’m here to teach, don’t abuse me.

  • Dharma Youdha

    The current government is taking steps change the History textbooks. But until now not much has been achieved. I feel that Smriti Irani is not the right person for the job. We need someone more aggressive than her. And plus this promoting Hindi thing is not going to work. Hindi is anytime better than teaching English but its only creating problems , especially in the south. And anyways the Hindi that is usually spoken has a massive Urdu influence. So instead Sanskrit should be made the top priority. Without Sanskrit, the cultural revolution that we talk about is impossible. Aggressive implementation of Sanskrit is required. !

    • Krispy K

      I agree. But the problem is that many of the anti-Hindi crowd (in the South) are also anti-Sanskrit, I guess largely owing to this artificial North-South division and the Aryan invasion myth.

      • nairps

        No, anti-Hindi South Indians are not anti-Sanskrit. In fact, most are pro-Sanskrit, except the DMK types. What irks South Indians the most is the presence of Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu words in colloquial spoken Hindi, as in the so-called ‘Hindi’ (actually Urdu) films. North Indians must make a clean break with these languages of Islamic barbarians and adopt pure Sanskrit. This will bridge the artificial north-south divide.

        • Krispy K

          “many of the anti-Hindi crowd (in the South) are also anti-Sanskrit”

          Key word here is *many*, not *all*.

          And it’s the DMK types I am referring to. They seem to be the ones that pop up the most when any anti-Hindi reference is made.

          • Rohit Raj

            Tamil nadu don’t represent entire south india. in Andhra pradesh, Karnataka, kerala people pray every day to god in sanskrit. telugu has more number of sanskrit than other languages. malayali words end with ‘am’ sound just like sanskrit words. many south movies contain sanskrit songs latest one in Baahubali.

        • अहं ब्रह्म अस्मि

          Actually, Urdu is an artificial construct comprising of Hindi + Arabic,Persian. However, it’s unfortunate that today, most of us in North have mixed it all up. So for instance, there would be Hindi, Arabic/Persian, English words in the same sentence. Example of real Hindi would be something like Vishuddh Manusmriti, by Dr. Surendra Kumar.

      • Rohit Raj

        half of the words of south languages are sanskrit. south languanges are true indian languages unlike hindi which contain persian.

      • Raj Graffiti

        no my friend southern people are not anti sanskrit, everyday they read sanskrit in slokas in there respective languages. So its time to introduce sanskrit instead of hindi.

    • Param

      If you depend on the government for this, you will only regret your choice.


      Veeery fascist comment. Does India want to keep oppressing Dalits and Muslims? If yes, then speak Hindi or Sanskrit or some other communal North Indian Aryan invader language, if no then stop being Hindu and speak a secular language like English, Urdu, Arabic or Mandarin, languages of people who have never oppressed others. O woe is me, my heart bleeeeeeeds for our country, what are we coming to, Hindu fascists are everywhere, many hands make light work, too many cooks spoil the broth etc etc. Arvindji saaaaaave uus!

      • Dharma Youdha

        Is it sarcasm ?? Coz its really funny !!

        • NARAYAN MAO

          Not all all fascist. Arvindji makes women wet just by looking at them, and he will save the woooorld.

      • Rohit Raj

        i like to read your comments

      • Slasher


        Before you take your thoughts on Dalits and Muslims being oppressed too far, may I suggest you read some TRUE History of India rather than the ones that we have all been taught for hundreds of years.

        Our historians and archaeologists have been worthless. Nay, beyond worthless.

        Our Indian History has been twisted beyond recognition by the White Invader and due to our own worthless “intelligentsia”.

        To know our TRUE history, I have some very interesting revelations for you…

        Punch into Google:

        “Ajit Vadakayil Ambedkar”

        or “Vadakayil Vedas”

        You may ask “Vadakyil WHO”?

        I said the same thing a month ago. But after reading his blogs I was stunned.

        He is India’s most prolific blogger and most widely read on the planet.

        He has 310m (million) page views and writes with an uncanny perception. Time for every Indian to be TRULY educated. After reading, spread the word…

  • Krispy K

    This kind of overhaul of Indian history (and education in general) is absolutely, totally critical and it must be done whatever the resistance and whatever the cost. Many were hoping that the current BJP government would be expending effort in determining the best way to do this.


      Any overhaul must be sanctioned by JNU and Srimati Srimati 1008 Romila Thapar. That is our eternal Marx-given right. Get it, Hindu? I’m here to teach, don’t abuse me.

  • Victor

    Today’s narration of History is still controlled by the likes of Romilla Thapar and other “secular” (read as anti-Hindu) historians. The entire narrative is also built around a western narrative. Abhinav’s article is timely and our history has to be retold to give it a wider base and a wider audience and made interesting.
    The Yazdis – about whom we heard only after the ISIS started massacring them – are now mentioned to be descendants of Indian traders who settled down in the Mesopotamia. The tribes name itself is linked with a musical instrument that goes by the name of Yazh in Tamil. I am sure our History classes in school would have been much more interesting if our books were full of such facts and those brought out by the author – instead of the standard “He built hospitals, roads and ….” in our school history books.


      Please don’t take our Goddess Srimati Srimati 1008 Romila Thapar’s name in vain. She has sacrificed her working life, gained 200lb in weight, and grown a moustache that puts Lord Kejriwal’s to shame, all to educate all you dhoti-wearing fanatics, and you spit in her face. Also white people are the best, so yes their narrative should be accepted without question. Stop being a dirty Hindu fascist. I’m here to learn, don’t abuse me.