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A Review of

Romila Thapar’s ‘Ancient India, A Textbook of History for Middle Schools’

NCERT: New Delhi (1987)

by Vishal Agarwal

25 November 2002

Opening Remarks -

This review deals with the withdrawn NCERT textbook on history for Std. VI authored by the eminent historian Romila Thapar

When the text of the first edition of the book (published in 1966) is compared with its current edition (July 1987, reprinted 13 times till January 2000), we do not find any significant differences between the two. The changes are primarily cosmetic – sentences added here and there, a word or two changed, and so on. Some errors are corrected here, a subtle shift in emphasis made elsewhere, and so on. This means that in 34 years (1966 – 2000), Thapar does not see the need to revise completely her understanding as well as her presentation of history of ancient India to middle level school children of India.

As indicated in the ‘Foreword’ of this first edition of the book, we find that the Chief Editor is S. Gopal, whereas the other editors of the series are Romila Thapar, S. Nurul Hasan and Satish Chandra. Nurul Hasan is dead, S. Gopal passed away a few months ago, and Thapar, Gopal and Chandra have continued to be authors or editors for NCERT even 35 years later. It appears that India has not produced better or equally good historians who could write history texts for school children, in all these 3½ decades! The hegemony of this small group of Marxist historians (or their fellow travelers) in producing school texts for impressionable schoolchildren in India all these years is quite alarming.

Unless stated otherwise, this review pertains to the 1987 edition of the textbook that continued to be in use till 2001. A few references will however be made to the 1966 edition for various reasons.

Chapter 0: The Study of Indian History –

The introductory chapter alone in the current edition is quite different from the 1966 edition. It stresses the current trends in historiography of ancient India – such as a greater emphasis on the lives of common men rather than on aristocrats and kings alone in older texts of history. It discusses how history of ancient periods is reconstructed, the various sources of information for the same, and how civilization in ancient India could have begun. The chapter as such, makes very dry reading for a 6th Std. student, because there are so few illustrations. Study aids such as well-demarcated sections with section headings are missing in this chapter. A significant omission from the chapter is a map of India, which could have greatly facilitated the understanding of the essay type text.

The book makes no attempt to relate the present with the past, even though the author remarks (page 1) that one of the reasons for studying history is to understand our present.

Chapter I: Early Man –

The chapter opens with a remark of questionable accuracy -

“It took almost 300,000 years for man to change from a food-gatherer to a food-producer.” (page 9)

As even the Marxist historian Irfan Habib’s recent book points out, the Homo erectus had probably started gathering food 700,00 to 500,00 years ago, or even earlier. Since the Neolithic revolution involving large-scale production of food occurred less about 10,000 years before present, it is reasonable to suggest that man took 500,000 years or perhaps a longer time to switch from food-gathering to food-producing, and not a mere 300,000 years as the textbook teaches.

The chapter again makes very boring reading, due to the paucity of illustrations. The text differs from the 1966 edition only in a few sentences here and there. The only significant addition, in my opinion, is a section on the standard anthropological explanation for the rise of religious beliefs in primitive human societies.

Chapter II: Man Takes to City Life -

Chapter II of the book deals with the Harappan culture.

In her 1966 edition, Thapar had made an erroneous remark –

“The earliest city to be discovered in India was Mohenjo-daro on the river Indus in Sind. Further up the Indus valley another ancient city was excavated and this was Harappa near the modern Montgomery.” [THAPAR 1966:30].

This has fortunately been corrected in the latest edition to read [THAPAR 1987:24] –

“The earliest city to be discovered in India was Harappa in Punjab (Presently in Pakistan). Further down in the Indus valley another ancient city was excavated and this was Mohenjo-Daro in Sind.”

The present edition however still states the wrong reason for calling the Indus Valley Civilization as ‘Harappa culture’ –

“The archaeologists called the civilization of these ancient cities the Indus Valley Civilization, because both of these cites and other sites sharing the same culture were found in the Indus valley. But for the last forty years archaeologists have been digging in other parts of northern and western India and have found more cities that resemble those of the Indus valley. Therefore the Indus Valley Civilization is now also called the Harappa culture since the pattern of living in these resembles that of Harappa….” (page 24).

The correct reason for calling the Indus Valley Civilization alternately as the Harappan Culture or Harappan Civilization is the accepted model of naming archaeological cultures after the names of the sites where they are discovered or first identified. In other words, the Indus Valley Civilization is alternately referred to as Harappan Civilization because Harappa was first site belonging to the culture that was discovered.

The paragraph ends with a meaningless statement (page 24) –

“It is also called the Indus Civilization because it spread over areas beyond the Indus valley”.

Perhaps, Thapar intended to provide a rationale for distinguishing the term ‘Indus Civilization’ from the ‘Indus Valley Civilization’. The name ‘Indus Civilization’ was actually the title of the book on Mature Harappan Civilization (with its fully developed urban character), written by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, and first published in 1953 when the dense concentration of Harappan sites along the Hakra-Ghaggar plains and in Gujarat was not appreciated yet. In fact, there is a contemporary view that the name of this civilization should be changed to ‘Indus-Sarasvati Civilization’ or something similar. This view is dismissed by Marxist historians in India as a Hindutva fantasy, but its logic is nevertheless accepted by apolitical, sober American scholars such as Jane McIntosh –

“…Suddenly it became apparent that the “Indus” Civilization was a misnomer – although the Indus had played a major role in the development of the civilization, the “lost Saraswati” River, judging by the density of settlement along its banks, had contributed an equal or greater part to its prosperity. Many people today refer to this early state as the “Indus-Sarswati Civilization” and continuing references to the “Indus Civilization” should be seen as an abbreviation in which the “Saraswati” is implied.”

Listing the civilizations contemporaneous with the Indus Civilization, Thapar remarks (page 26) –

“In the region now called Iraq, there was the Sumerian Civilization.”

The nomenclature is wrong, and needs to be corrected as follows - Mespotamia comprises two parts – the northern part called Assyria, and the southern called Babylonia. The latter itself is subdivided into a northern region called Akkad and the southern remainder known as Sumer. Babylonia is normally taken to mean the flood plain of Tigris and Euphrates. In other words, ‘in the region now called Iraq’, only one of the civilizations was Sumer.

On the storage of surplus food in the Harappan Civilization, she writes (page 26) –

“More grain was grown that was actually eaten by the people in the villages. This extra or surplus grain was taken to the cities to feed the people of the towns and was stored in large granaries or buildings specially made for storing grain.”

Later, in page 27 as well, Thapar speculates the existence of the granary at Harappa. She remarks –

“In the citadel at Harappa, the most impressive buildings were the granaries.”

While Thapar devotes several sentences to a hypothetical description of how grain was transported in boats along the river, the identification of certain structures at Harappa, Lothal etc., as granaries is purely speculative and tentative.

The chapter contains a few pointless statements, which would bore the reader by their flatness. For instance, in discussing the construction of Harappan homes, THAPAR [page 29] says –

“The roofs were flat. There were few windows but plenty of doors which were probably made of wood. The kitchen had a fire-place …..”

The monotonous discussion could have been made a lot more lively and memorable by relating it to modern housing patterns in India. As an example of this approach, let me cite an analogous passage describing Harappan houses –

“Despite the differences in size, the housing in the major Indus settlements was generally of a high standard, suggesting that even the least important individuals led a comfortable existence. There were many features that were common to all or most of the houses. Often, especially in the larger houses, a small janitor’s room faced directly on to the house doorway so that the visitor was first confronted and checked out by a doorkeeper. Once within the house, the visitor would turn immediately left or right into a passage that led into the courtyard, the center of the household, as it is in modern India.”

“A stair led from the courtyard to the upper part of the house – generally one and in some cases two upper stories. The stair probably continued upward to give access to the roof. Constructed of wooden beams covered by matting and plaster, the roof provided an additional space for the family to sit, talk, and sleep, as they do today….In some settlements, namely Kalibangan, Banawali and Lothal, the houses also included a room set apart as a domestic shrine, a feature also common in modern Indian homes, although such shrines have not been found at Mohenjo Daro.”

“Houses of any size at Mohenjo Daro would also have a private well, sturdily constructed of wedge-shaped baked bricks – those without a well of their own, however, were well served by the public water supply…Other cities were less generously provided with wells but also had an excellent drinking water supply in the form of reservoirs and cisterns. The area immediately inside the walls of the great settlement at Dholavira was taken up by enormous reservoirs that covered around a fifth of the enclosed area of the settlement. Water played an important – indeed a vital part in the life of the Indus people, and their management and use of the domestic and urban water supply were way ahead of those of any other civilization of their time. Not for another 2,000- odd years were hydraulic engineers of this caliber to reemerge, with the Romans in the Old World and Chavin in the New.”

“One of the most impressive rooms of the Indus house was the bathroom…Bathing would have followed the custom that still holds today, of pouring water over oneself with a small pot – but in some house-holds there was the refinement of a “shower”: a small stair along one side of the bathroom allowed another person to ascend and pour a steady stream of water over the bather. The bathroom floor, constructed of stone or sawn baked bricks, allowed the water to flow off into the efficient drainage system that served the city; via pottery drainpipes or drainage chutes..Wastewater was collected into small open drains in the lanes and from there flowed into the main drainage system. This ran along the main streets hygienically covered by bricks or stone slabs. At intervals there were inspection covers so that the free flow of the drains could be checked and maintained.”

Understandably, the description above might have been too long for a Std. VI textbook. Nevertheless, the repeated references to the similarity of the Harappan dwellings to modern Indian homes, and how the drainage system in the Harappan cities was well ahead of its times, makes the reading more interesting for students. On the other hand, Thapar’s book is replete with such dry passages which make for a tedious reading, and are difficult for the student to retain in his mind, or relate to his own immediate society and environment.

And on the fall of Harappan culture, she says [1966:40] –

“The Harappa culture lasted for about a thousand years. By 1500 B.C., when the Aryans began to arrive in India, the Harappa culture had collapsed. Why did this happen? The cities may have been destroyed by floods, which came regularly; or there may have been an epidemic or some terrible disease which killed the people. The climate also began to change and the region became more and more dry and like a desert. Or else the cities may have been attacked and were unable to defend themselves.”

The Aryan Migration Theory that Thapar alludes to is also contested. In fact, prominent archaeologists, anthropologists as well as Indologists now dismiss any large-scale migration of the ‘Aryans’ into India. Not only is the concept derived from nineteenth century theories of ‘races’, it is based on the assumption that languages spread only by migration of peoples speaking them, as Thapar seems to hold.

There is no description of various Chalcolithic cultures in the interior of India before she jumps straight to the Aryans.

It is a real pity that Thapar did not revise her book between 1987 and 2000, because the chapter could have greatly benefited from the reports on excavations at several new Harappan sites within India (such as Kunal, Malvan, Surkotada, Dholavira etc.). A prominent omission is the fact that the greatest concentration of these sites is found along the Ghaggar-Hakra river basin, identified by most archaeologists and non-Marxist historians today with the Vedic Sarasvati. Moreover, there is hardly any attempt in this chapter to correlate features of the Harappan culture with the present Indian culture.

Chapter III: Life in the Vedic Age -

It would be interesting to read Romila Thapar’s presentation of the Vedic Aryans, in Chapter III, titled “Life in the Vedic Age”, since historiography of this era has become highly politicized in India.

The very first paragraph of the chapter in the 1966 edition gave misleading information –

“Aryans came from outside India, from north-eastern Iran and the region around the Caspian Sea. Those that came to India are called Indo-Aryans to distinguish them from the other Aryans who went to various parts of western Asia and Europe.” [THAPAR 1966:43].

Fortunately, this has been modified in the present edition (page 37) as –

“It was during this period that a people speaking an Indo-Aryan language (which is the basis of Vedic Sanskrit) emerged in north-western India. We do not know where they came from; perhaps they came from north-eastern Iran or the region near the Caspian Sea or Central Asia.”

The central idea, that there were migrations of Indo-Aryan speakers into India from the North West remains, despite the absence of evidence for any such migration around 1500 BCE. Thapar then discusses the fact that the concept of race as applied to Aryans has been called into question, and so on. However, the entire description of Vedic peoples in her chapter is nothing but a euphemistic version of the colonial-racist Aryan Invasion Theory, showing how the ‘Aryans’ subjugated the ‘indigenous Dasas and Dasyus’.

Thapar continues (page 37)–

“They are called ‘Indo-Aryans’ to distinguish them from others who spoke various Aryan languages and went to western Asia and Europe.”

The statement is pointless, because the use of the word ‘Aryan’ to denote speakers of Indo-European tongues other than Indo-Aryan has been given up several decades ago. In fact, it is now held by scholars of historical linguistics that the ‘Indo-Iranians’ split into ‘Iranians’ and ‘Indo-Aryans’. Moreover, Thapar is completely wrong in asserting that there were no Indo-Aryans in Europe or in western Asia. Trubachev has recently written a book on the Indo-Aryans in Ukraine.

As for Indo-Aryan in western Asia, certain words which clearly belong to some Indo-Aryan dialect, are attested in archaeology even before the chariot driving manual. Even with regard to the Hittite texts, it should be noted that although they were written between the 16th and the 14th centuries BCE by and large, it appears that some of them are copies of the originals that were written between 17th and 16th centuries BCE.

Indo-Aryan names are also found in a tablet dating from the Agade dynastic period (2300 –2100 BCE). HARMATTA reconstructs two of the names in the table as ‘Arisen’ and as ‘Somasen’.

Even R. S. SHARMA, another Marxist historian like herself, has accepted the presence of Indo-Aryans in western Asia in the third millennium BCE.

Therefore, Thapar’s explanation of the term ‘Indo-Aryans’ is wrong.

Romila Thapar continues (page 38) –

“The Aryans at first settled in the Punjab. Gradually they moved south-eastwards into the region just north of Delhi. There used to be a river flowing nearby called Sarasvati but the water of this river has now dried up. Here they remained for many years, and here they prepared the collection of hymns known as the Veda. In the same region is the plain of Kurukshetra where, it is believed, the great battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was fought. Sometime later, the Aryans moved still further eastwards into the Ganga valley, clearing the thick forests as they went along.”

The mention of Sarasvati as a river along whose banks the Aryans dwelt is very noteworthy. Currently, Thapar’s colleagues like Irfan Habib and R S Sharma brand anyone who mentions this river in north India as ‘Communal’, ‘Hindu fascist’ and ‘anti-Dravidian’!

Thapar equates the Painted Grey Ware Culture with the Vedic Age (page 38), and also adds (page 39) –

“Our knowledge of the Aryans is not based, as it is in the case of the Harappa people, mostly on digging up their habitation sites. We know about the Aryans from the hymns and the poems and stories which they composed and which were recited and passed on from generation to generation until they were finally written down. We call this “literary evidence,” and it provides the clues to their history. But recently digging in certain places such as Hastinapur and Atranji-Khera (in western Uttar Pradesh) has also supplied further information about their culture.”

It is clear that the association of Hastinapur and Atranji-Khera with the Aryans was apparently accepted by Thapar herself in 1960’s and right up to 1987 at least, on the basis of excavation reports by archaeologists like B. B. Lal. However, subsequent to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, Thapar has taken a somersault and she spares no efforts to lampoon B. B. Lal for searching for Aryans in archaeological records. Ever since Lal has taken the stand that the Babri mosque did stand atop a pre-existing temple, the entire gang of ‘Secular’ historians has been maligning him to no avail. Thapar’s criticism of Lal should be seen in this context as a subtle, politically motivated attempt to link Lal with the so-called Upper Caste Hindu fantasies of being superior ‘Aryans’. In other words, considering that Thapar herself linked the PGW culture at Hastinapur and Atranji-Khera with the Aryans earlier, even in school textbooks, it is hypocritical and and dishonest on her part to criticize B. B. Lal now on that score.

The sole reason for equating the PGW with late Aryans is the assumption that the late Vedic literature is contemporary with this ware, dated archaeologically in the first half of the first millennium BC. Archaeologists however find nothing particularly ‘Aryan’ about PGW. If PGW represents the Indo-Aryans then, according to accepted theories, similar or antecedent/precursor types of pottery should be located west of the Ganga-Yamuna region on the Iranian Plateau. But, B. K. THAPAR has noted the absence of any PGW antecedent types of pottery anywhere along the route supposedly taken by the Aryans, and he has outlined the chronological problems associated with accounts. Similarly, Dilip CHAKRABARTI points out that the traits of PGW indicates an eastern, rather than a western origin –

“The Painted Grey Ware culture, thus, with its traits of rice cultivation and the use of domestic pig and buffalo seems to suggest a culture distinctly eastern in bias and not a western one as its suggested Aryan authorship would indicate.”

Jim SHAFFER states some additional objections against relating PGW with late Aryans. According to Shireen RATNAGAR, it is even debatable if the PGW constitutes a ‘culture’.

We see here how the failure to revise textbooks in a timely and regular manner has resulted in teaching of outdated theories to students.

Thapar obviously does not fail to mention that Vedic Aryans ate beef, even in her brief discussion on their foot habits (pp. 40-41)–

“The cow held pride of place among the animals because the Aryans were dependent on the produce of the cow. In fact, for special guests beef was served as a mark of honour (although in later centuries, brahmanas were forbidden to eat beef).”

The assertion that only Brahmins were forbidden to eat beef, and not other sections of the Indian society seems to be politically motivated, because it promotes anti-Brahminism, and would tend to discredit any modern day anti-cow-slaughter movements in India as ‘Brahminical’. Thapar has obviously not offered any proof that other sections of the Indian society, the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas for instance, were allowed to eat beef in ‘later centuries’.

And then, Thapar perpetuates this Aryan fantasy of their love for horses (Page 41) –

“The horse is an animal which was not native to India and was brought in by the Aryans from Iran and Central Asia. The horse was used largely for drawing chariots. Chariot racing was a favourite amusement. The chariot-maker was a respected member of the society.”

The notion that the horse was brought to India only by the Aryans has been controverted by archaeology. Remains of horses have been found in several Harappan sites and have been identified as such by competent zoologists at Kuntasi, Shikarpur, Malvan etc.

The statement that the chariot maker was a respectable member of the Vedic society is inaccurate, because by the later Vedic age, his ‘twice-born’ status was certainly brought into question. Clearly, Thapar has confounded the early Vedic Age (i.e., the time of Rigveda) with the later Vedic age.

The assertion that chariot racing was a favorite amusement of the Aryans, is also questionable, despite the fact that many antiquated books mention it. In fact, the impression one gets on reading the mention of chariots in the Vedas is that it was reserved for gods, for the elites and for ritual and military purposes. Its use for recreational chariot races was rather rare.

The author then proceeds to describe the Aryan invasion in a fully blown manner for impressionable young students (page 41)–

The Aryans and the Dasyus – The Aryans, when they settled in various parts of north India, were hostile to the indigenous people whom they referred to as ‘Dasas’ and ‘Dasyus’. The Dasas and Dasyus did not worship the same gods as the Aryans and spoke a language which was different from Vedic Sanskrit. Some Dasa chiefs were treated with great respect, but many of the Dasa people were enslaved so that eventually the word ‘dasa’ came to mean slave. The Dasas who were enslaved had to do the most difficult and lowly work and were not treated kindly. But the Aryans also mixed with local people and married into local families. The word ‘Aryan’ came to refer to any person who was respected.”

In reality, the Vedic texts do not offer any evidence that the Aryans were migrants or invaders in India, nor do they suggest or state that the Dasas were indigenous Indians. Such an inference can be drawn only from the prior assumption of the Aryan Invasion Theory.

There is also no evidence that the Dasa were the native Indians who were enslaved, and forced to do all the menial work. The use of the word ‘slave’ to describe them in the Rigvedic context is most unfortunate, as it creates the impression the economy in the Vedic Age was based on production by enslaved people. Rather, at best, the impression one gets from the Vedic texts is one of dasas being domestic servants. Many Indologists also equate Dasas with earlier Indo-Aryan migrants in India and Iran, or with the old Iranians.

The statement that the Dasas spoke a language that was different from the Vedic Aryans, is also based on tendentious and erroneous interpretations of Rigveda.

Thapar’s description is therefore crude and draws too much on antiquated colonial-racist theories.

It would be interesting to reproduce here the parallel passages of the earlier edition of her book -

The Aryans and the Dasyus When the Aryans first arrived in India, they had to fight for land with the people already living in India. These people were called the Dasyus or Dasas. The Aryans were fair-skinned and the Dasyus are described as being dark-skinned with flat noses. The Dasyus did not worship the same gods as the Aryans. They spoke a language which the Aryans did not understand, because the latter spoke Sanskrit. The Aryans who fought and defeated the Dasyus did not treat them kindly and enslaved many of them. The Dasyus had to work for the Aryans and were made to do the most difficult and lowly work. The Aryans made it a rule that no Aryan could marry a Dasyu.” [THAPAR 1966:48].

The differences between the two versions are too obvious to be repeated here.

According to this older edition of the textbook, the Aryans even practiced apartheid –

Society The Aryans and the Dasyus lived in separate parts of the same village and in the beginning they were not allowed to mix with one another. The Aryans were also divided amongst themselves into three classes. The most powerful people were the king and his warriors who were also called kshatriyas. Equally important were the priests or brahmans; and then came the craftsmen and cultivators or vaishyas. There was in addition a fourth group called the shudras. This consisted of Dasyus and those Aryans who had mixed with the Dasyus and married Dasyus; so they were looked down upon…” [THAPAR 1966:48].

In the current edition, the last sentence is presented in the following edited version (page 42) –

“This consisted of Dasyus and those Aryans who were looked down upon”.

Although this version is more correct, it still relies on the twin equations of ‘Aryans = foreigners’ and ‘Dasyus = indigenous Indians’.

Every possible opportunity is availed of by Thapar to ridicule or mock Vedic learning. For instance, she picks up 1 out of more than 1000 hymns in Rigveda, and then misinterprets it (page 42)

“…Young boys stayed with the priests who taught them how to recite the hymns of the Vedas. There is an amusing description of the pupils in one of the hymns. It is said that the pupils repeating the lesson after the teacher sound like frogs croaking before the coming of the rains.”

The view that Rigveda VII.103, alluded to by Thapar above, is somehow ‘amusing’ is refuted by current scholarship, which sees a fairly serious rain-charm here. In fact, no derision of Veda reciting Brahmins is implied in this hymn at all.

It is unfortunate that as a specialist in ancient Indian history, Thapar is ignorant of the language of the original texts (such as the Vedas) or even of significant secondary literature on them.

The description of the Vedic religion is quite reductionist (page 43-44) and might well have been taken from a Christian Missionary propaganda booklet. There is no attempt to related Vedic religion with modern Hindu religious practices, an omission which contributes to dullness of reading the chapter.

Chapter IV- India: From 600 B.C. to 400 B.C. -

The fourth chapter deals with the rise of the Kingdom of Magadha. Unfortunately, here also we see no description of culture and civilization in Peninsular India and the focus is still the Ganga valley.

Contrasting Vedic religion with Buddhism and Jainism, Thapar (page 57) says –

“Buddhism and Jainism had followers among the craftsmen, traders, peasants and untouchables, because they felt that these religions were not difficult to practice. The brahmans on the other hand had made their religion difficult to practice because of the many ceremonies and rituals…..”

The statement has a subtle bias against the Brahmin community. It could have been ignored as a statement of a historical fact, but alarmingly, the subtle bias appears so often in the text that the student can scarcely miss her emphasis on the Brahminical hegemony. Thus, the Brahmins are mentioned as recorders of laws that promoted casteism and discrimination against lower castes (page 53), they bestowed divine right to rule upon kings only if they submitted to Brahminical ceremonies (page 50), their influence was great because they were king’s advisors and without them the king could not rule (page 50), the king collected taxes for various reasons among with the support of Brahmins is mentioned (page 50), as priests they became messengers between gods and men, and ‘so were naturally powerful’ (page 43), the Brahmins became more important than other castes, and the kshatriyas in particular, by ‘making religion very important’ (page 42), only the Brahmins were forbidden to eat beef in later ages (pages 40-41) and so on.

It is surprising that there is hardly any worthwhile discussion of Upanishadic doctrines in the book although much space is devoted to Jainism and Buddhism. One would expect that after frequent criticisms of Vedic ritual in subtle and not so subtle ways in her textbook, Thapar would have dwelt upon the advantages or the positive aspects of Upanishadic thought. However, any positive presentation of any aspect of Hinduism and Hindu spirituality as such has no place in Indian ‘secularism’, and therefore the omission is not surprising.

Chapter V – The Mauryan Empire:

While discussing the Ashokan edicts, a subtle bias is created in the minds of students by stating that while Prakrit was spoken by the common people, whereas Sanskrit was spoken by the educated upper classes (page 62) where there is actually no need to say so. Thapar’s own ideological and political slant becomes obvious when one notices how she fails to mention that the Buddhists and Jains themselves composed their texts in Sanskrit in later times, even when she could have done so later in Chapter VI.

Rather, in Chapter VIII of the textbook, Thapar does not fail to mention that -

“The Vedic religious texts were in Sanskrit which only the priests and the few who were educated could understand…..Writers such as Dandin wrote in Sanskrit, since they were writing for the court circles and the upper castes.” (page 114)

She never asks how many Buddhists and Jains continued to understand Pali and Prakrit in later centuries, or how many Muslims in India understood Arabic, the language of Koran. This constant linkage of Sanskrit with ‘upper castes’ and ‘Brahmins’ is designed to create hatred against the beautiful language in the impressionable minds of students.

The lengthy description of the rule and policies of Ashoka is inspiring. After all, he along with Emperor Akbar, are the two greatest royal heroes of the ‘secular’ historians. No Hindu ruler even comes close to them in greatness.

Chapter VI: India from 200 B.C. to A.D. 300 –

The chapter has a misleading statement towards its beginning (page 71)–

“India, South of the Vindhya mountain and the Narmada river was known in ancient times as Daksinapatha; now it is called the Deccan. South of the Deccan is the land of the Dravidian speaking people.”

The statement is false because there are crores of speakers of Dravidian languages (Kannanda and Telugu) even on the Deccan plateau. Anyway, it is still an improvement over what she wrote in the first edition, where she seemed to subscribe to the Aryan-Dravidian binary with regard to Indian culture and population. For instance, she said [THAPAR 1966:83] –

“India south of the Vindhya mountains and the Narmada river was known in ancient times as Dakshinapatha; now it is called the Deccan. South of the Deccan is the land of the Dravids or Tamils. Form ancient times these lands were the homes of Indian peoples of non-Aryan origins….”

On page 78, she makes an anachronistic statement –

“The southeast region came to be the land of the Tamils, because Tamil was the language spoken there”.

In reality, Tamil and Malayalam did not become two separate languages till the end of the first millennium A.D., so that even the southwest region was very well a part of the ‘land of Tamils’ in the period of time under discussion.

On page 83, Thapar unnecessarily pays credence to the legend that Christianity arrived in India in the first century A.D. As a historian, she should have been a little more skeptical because competent scholars reject this legend and place the arrival of Christianity into India at least 3 centuries later. Apparently, excessive skepticism must be practiced by secular historians when Hinduism is discussed, but the standards can be relaxed a little for other faiths.

Chapter 7: The Age of the Guptas -

The 1966 edition of the textbook mentioned that the Gupta period has been referred to sometimes as the “Golden Age” because this period saw great achievements of Indian culture [1966:101]. The present edition however omits the phrase, consistent with Marxist historiography of D. D. Kosambi, D. N. Jha and other Marxist historians who find all kinds of pedantic reasons for downgrading the evaluation of this period, and reject the term ‘Golden Age’.

Unlike Jha, Thapar does not discuss in detail why the period should not be termed as the ‘Golden Age’, since this very phrase is missing in the text. Rather, she summarizes some of the reasons against this nomenclature (page 103, last para) that are found in Jha’s books on ancient India. An obvious but unstated reason that prevents Thapar et al from labeling the Gupta Age as the Golden Age is their phobia of Hindu pride and Hindu Nationalism. These historians think that they could promote Hindu fundamentalism in India even by remotely alluding to the greatness and glory of any period of Indian history that could be linked with Hinduism.

Nor surprisingly, Thapar now includes the following ‘disclaimer’ type statement in her textbook, a statement that was absent in the first edition of the book -

“In the Gupta period, Hinduism became a powerful religion. The word ‘Hindu’ was however not used until a later time by the Arabs when they referred to the people of Hind, i.e., India. The Hindus were worshippers of Shiva, Shakti and Vishnu. Since the worship of Shiva and Vishnu became very popular at this time, we refer to it as Hinduism even during the Gupta period.”

Thapar is wrong in sating that the word ‘Hindu’ was used first by Arabs. It was first used by the Persians, and is used to refer to people of India in the inscriptions of the Persian Emperor Darius I as early as 6th century B.C.E. Cognates of ‘Hindu’ and ‘India’ also occur in Chinese and Greek writings several centuries before Arabs used the words.

One wonders why Thapar is so extra- cautious here to point out the anachronistic usage of the word ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’ by her, when her entire textbook is so full of such anachronistic terms? Was the ‘Kashmir valley’ termed as such in prehistoric times (pg. 12)? Did ‘India’ exist as an entity (religious, cultural or political) in pre-Harappan times (pg. 13)? Is there any evidence for the existence of ‘Jainism’ and ‘Buddhism’ before 400 B.C. (chapter 4) more than there is evidence for the existence of ‘Hinduism’ in the Gupta Age? Did the Kushanas arrive from the ‘Chinese Turkestan’ (pg. 85) in the first century A.D.? Did Zoroaster really preach ‘Zoroastrianism’ (pg. 111) in ‘Iran’, ‘sometime before 600 B.C., as the textbook claims?

My point is that the ancient past is necessarily described with the help of modern terms and names, and this is obviously the case with Thapar’s textbook also. However, the selective manner in which Thapar makes a special case of the late nature of the word ‘Hinduism’ clearly indicates that she wishes to indoctrinate the Hindu students that their faith is not as old as they believe it to be and that their religion as such did not exist as such before the Gupta Age.

It is really amusing to see how Thapar and other Marxist historians first accept the hegemony of Protestant Christian terminology in defining religious ‘isms’ and then proceed to declare that the religion ‘Hinduism’ did not exist till recent centuries. From an orthodox Hindu perspective, one could assert even today that the Semitic religions are nothing more than ‘panthas’ or sects in relation to Sanatana Dharma. So why impose Western and Eurocentric concepts on Indian students? One could argue that the very category ‘religion’ is inappropriate to describe the sacred traditions of India and China, just as the category ‘dharma’ may not apply to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Chapter VIII: The Age of Smaller Kingdoms –

Thapar states (page 111) that Zoroaster preached sometime before 600 B.C., a date that is clearly rejected by most Indologists and Iranists. Most now settle for 900 BCE or even a few centuries earlier.

Chapter IX: India and the World -

The 9th chapter, which is the last one in the book, has a 3 page long section on Islam which summarizes the historical evolution of the religion as well as its religious tenets. This was totally unnecessary as it does not have much of a bearing on ancient Indian history. It will be noted that while long sections in the book have been devoted to Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, the references to Hinduism are perfunctory or incidental. There is absolutely no meaningful description of doctrines of the Upanishads, the Gita, the Darshanas, or of the rise of Vedanta. There is not even a mention of Adi-Shankaracharya, who lived in the period covered by the text. Or even a brief summary of the contents of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, except a statement that they are records of battles between Aryan chieftains and that they were redacted in the Gupta period.

Thapar presents the advent of Islam to Indiar singularly as an enriching experiencing. The destruction brought by Islamic armies is totally blacked out. In fact, the advent of Islam to India is balanced with the advent of Buddhism/Hinduism in South East Asia in the following words (page 125) –

“The Arabs not only introduced Islam but also a number of new cultural influences to India, which were to grow and develop in later centuries. Thus, on one side, India was exporting its culture and, on the other side, it was importing a new culture.”

Need I even comment on this false equation?

Closing Remarks –

I would like to end this review with the confession that as a sixth grade student in 1981-82, I too read an earlier version of the textbook at school, because it was mandatory reading. I was a good student, and have a clear recollection that I had found the text boring, verbose, tedious and also difficult to relate to my surroundings. There was practically nothing in the text that enthused me to study more on the subject. The story in the text was quite detached, dispassionate to the extent that it was dejecting, and demotivating. The prose was stilted, and dense. There was just too much material that a student of Std. VI could grasp and retain. When I read the textbook as a much mature person today, I can articulate my impressions much better, and add a critique of the text as well.

When the two editions (1966 and 1987/2000) of the textbook are compared, as I have done here in a partial manner, one is simply amazed to see how similar they are, as if NCERT history is more sanatana than Hinduism. The instances of errors (not all of which are listed in this review) are more in the first edition, but a considerable number continued to exist in the 1987 edition that continued to be used at least till 2000.

The textbooks have a very subtle slant against Brahmins, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Vedas and Hindu Philosophy and religion as such. The bias, which is certainly related to the author’s Marxist affiliations, appears in the form of

· A selective overemphasis of certain aspects of ancient India (such as Brahminical hegemony, or the elitist status of Sanskrit),

· Misrepresentation of certain facts or blatant errors (notably in the treatment of Vedic Aryans), suppression of inconvenient facts (such as the devastation brought by Islamic armies),

· A one sided presentation (such as excessive dwelling on the negative aspects alone of Vedic ritual)

· A lack of discussion on aspects of Hinduism (such as Upanishadic philosophy, or the themes of Ramayana and Mahabharata), other than the sectarian worship of Vishnu and Shiva.

There is no significant attempt in the textbook to relate India’s past with our present. The illustrations in the book are too few, to begin with. They are not chosen judiciously (some instances are pointed out by me in notes on earlier chapters) and are often not referred to directly in the text as such.

These remarks of mine should be considered in the context of the recent controversy over the recall of the old NCERT history textbooks by the NDA government, and their replacement by texts written by a different set of authors. Naturally, the particular set of historians (Thapar, Satish Chandra, Bipin Chandra etc.) whose hegemony lasting over than 3 decades has been terminated thereby, are quite upset and have launched a secular Jihad against the Government of India. In this political controversy however, an important question that needs to be considered is this – “How are the new textbooks?”

As soon as the new textbooks were released by the NCERT, the old authors predictably went on an error finding spree and a media blitzkrieg with the help of their younger Marxist cohorts like D. N. Jha and K. Shrimali, and Communist institutions like SAHMAT. They did manage to find a few errors. Unfortunately for them, the NCERT Director Mr. J. S. Rajput promptly offered to correct them. As I have noted in review above, Thapar’s book has not been free of errors either. In fact, many errors continued to occur all through 34 years (1966-2000). So, we must ask the students how the new textbooks fare, with regard to readability, presentation of the material, the volume of facts presented and so on. In this regard, I will merely reproduce an assessment of the new textbooks that appeared on the Internet soon after they were released –


I borrowed from a friend of mine, two of the new textbooks released by NCERT - "India and the World," Social Sciences Textbook for Class VI and "Contemporary India" for class IX The best part is that I didn't fall asleep while browsing through them! (which was the distinguishing feature of many of the works of our eminent historians).

Thanks mainly to the lively and copious illustrations throughout the books and the straightforward and simple manner in which concepts have been explained.

Glancing through them it will not be difficult to understand why there is such a hue and cry about these new textbooks. Many are busy right now picking as many errors as they can from these textbooks (see for example the recent article in Hindustan Times). There are errors of course, I myself found two significant errors. But who has written a book without having to make a list of errata later?

I am confident that students will welcome these books whole-heartedly, provided our politicians and eminent historians stop sitting over them.

I will leave it to the reader to read the new textbooks, compare them with the old ones, and form his own independent opinion.

Romila Thapar ‘revised’ the textbook assigned to her in 1987 with only a few minor, primarily cosmetic changes to the 1966 edition. This ‘revised’ textbook, already outdated in 1987, was then allowed to continue in thousands of schools without any further revision for at least 14 more years, till the year 2001.

The task of imparting quality education to intermediate school children is a very important building block in the creation of any progressive nation. It is a very important responsibility vested with the authors of these study materials. Textbooks should be revised and updated periodically and regularly, at least once every five years. The revisions should be guided by advances in the field of study concerned, not by one’s political affiliations. The fact that Romila Thapar has failed to revise textbooks authored by her in a timely fashion, and has continued to brainwash generations of impressionable school students with slanted versions of history is a serious dereliction of duty. Writing textbooks for school children in one’s country is a privilege, a privilege that Thapar has abused severely to promote her own political agendas, and to indulge in a subtle hate-mongering against Hindus and their faith.

One hopes therefore, that at the present political dispensation will take the task of educating Indian school- children more seriously, and the new authors will revise their own textbooks more frequently, and keep them free of ideological slants and political propaganda.


1. The textbook was mandatory reading for students of Standard VI in schools affiliated to the CBSE.

2. Dr. Nurul Hasan was a politician, the Education Minister appointed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Concerning him and his protégés, archaeologist Dilip Chakrabarti remarks (on page 13 of Colonial Indology. Munshiram Manoharlal: New Delhi, 1997) – “To thwart the strength of the old Congress party stalwarts, the then Prime Minister of the country, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, came to depend significantly on the support of the ‘left’ political parties, and recruited in the process to her cabinet a History professor, putting him in charge of education. This professor, an Oxford D.Phil with a firm belief in the ‘progressive’, i.e., ‘left’ ideas, was also the son of an important government functionary of British India and related by marriage to one of the powerful ‘native’ princely houses of the north. Till his date in harness as the governor of a left-controlled Indian state, he acted as the patron saint of a wide variety of historians claiming ‘progressive’ political beliefs and hoping for a slice of the establishment cake.”

3. On page 2, there is a chart showing some Indian scripts. Curiously, the 1966 edition of the book omitted the Devanagari script! This omission of the most widely prevalent script of India has been rectified in the current edition.

4. See pgs. 25-27 of HABIB, Irfan. 2001. People’s History of India, vol I (Prehistory). Tulika: New Delhi.

5. See pg. 152 of CHAKRABARTI, Dilip, K. 1999. India- An Archaeological History, Paleolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations. Oxford University Press: New Delhi

6. See pg. 24 of MCINTOSH, Jane R. 2002. A Peaceful Realm- The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization. Westview Press: Boulder (Colorado).

7. See for instance, the following, for the use of this standardized nomenclature - ZARINS, Juris. 1976. The Domestication of Equidae in Third Millennium B.C. Mesopotamia. A Ph.D. thesis submitted to the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago: Chicago

8. One might argue that Sumer is mentioned specifically by Thapar because of its trade relations with Harappan Civilization. Such an argument would be incorrect, because she mentions Egyptian Civilization in the same paragraph, even though this civilization did not trade with the Harappans. Therefore, the sentence mentioning Sumer as a civilization ‘in the region now called Iraq’ is misleading and inaccurate, because it overlooks the presence of Babylonian, Akkadian and other civilizations in that region.

9. In fact, Thapar herself has implied in a recent article [‘The Rgveda-Encapsulating Social Change.’ Pg. 11-40 in PANIKKAR, K. N.; Byres, Terence J., Patnaik, Usha (eds.). 2000. The Making of History – Essays Presented to Irfan Habib. Tulika: New Delhi] that the identification of the structures as granaries is tentative. She says - “Huge storage structures have been identified, possibly as granaries or as warehouses.” (pg. 13) – emphasis mine.

10. Pgs. 100-101 in MCINTOSH, Jane R. 2002. A Peaceful Realm- The Rise and Fall of the Indus Civilization. Westview Press: Boulder (Colorado)

11. For instance, on page 6 of the text, she remarks – “One way of discovering who came from where is by studying the languages of an area. People who move or migrate carry their language with them…”

12. This back-door revival of the Aryan Invasion Theory by Thapar et al even in her earlier publications has not fooled many people. Speaking of an old publication of hers, for instance, Edmund LEACH [LEACH, Edmund. 1990. Aryan Invasions Over Four Millennia. in E. Ohnuki-Tierney (ed.), Culture Through Time, Anthropological Approaches. Stanford University Press: Stanford] remarks – “Why is this sort of thing so attractive? Who finds it attractive? Why has the development of early Sanskrit come to be so dogmatically associated with an Aryan invasion? In some cases, the association seems to be matter of intellectual inertia. Thus, Thapar (1969), who provides a valuable survey of the evidence then available, clearly finds the whole ‘movement of peoples’ argument a nuisance, but at the end of the day she falls into line.”

13. The assertion is certainly wrong, if we hold, as Thapar does, that a migration of peoples is essential for transmission of languages from one part of the world to another.

14. TRUBACHEV, Oleg N., 1999: Indoarica, Nauka, Moscow. The book is in Russian.

15. The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. I, Pt. Ii, 3RD edn., ed.. I. E. S. Edwards et al., Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1971, p. 831

16. J. HARMATTA. 1992 ‘The Emergence of the Indo-Iranians: the Indo-Iranian languages’, in History of Civilizations, I, ed. Dani and Masson, p. 374

17. SHARMA, Ram Sharan. 1995. Looking for the Aryans. Orient Longman: Hyderabad. pp. 36-40

18. The statement also occurs in the 1966 edition of the book, pp. 43-44

19. For instance, she says – “The theory of the Aryan race has not only served cultural nationalism in India but continues to serve Hindu revivalism and, inversely anti-Brahmin movements. At the academic level, the insistence on ascribing Indo-European roots to all aspects of Vedic culture has acted as a restraint on the analysis of mythology, religion and cultural symbols from the historical point of view. The intellectual history of a period as rich as that of Upanishads and early Buddhism, approximately the mid-first millennium BC, has been hemmed in by the constraints of seeing it in terms of an internal movement among dissident Aryans, rather than from the more meaningful perspective of a period of seminal change. The perennial search for ‘the Aryans’ continues apace, with archaeologists still attempting to identify a variety of archaeological cultures as Aryan.” (pg. 18 of the article ‘Ideology and Interpretation of Early Indian History’, pp. 1-22 in Section I of THAPAR, Romila. 2000. History and Beyond. Oxford University Press; New Delhi)

20. B. B. Lal himself has given up his earlier linkage of the PGW with Aryans. In fact, he now is a staunch opponent of the Aryan Invasion Theory or its euphemistic versions these days, which makes him an even greater enemy of Thapar and her fellow Marxist historians.

21. THAPAR, B. K. 1970. The Aryans: A Re-appraisal of the problem, in: India’s Contribution in World Thought and Culture (L. Chandra, S. P. Gupta, D. Swarup, and S. Goel, eds.), Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee, Madras, pp. 147-164

22. Page 353 in CHAKRABARTI, D. K. 1968 The Aryan Hypothesis in Indian Archaeology. In “Indian Studies, Past and Present, 4:333-358

23. Pg. 85 in SHAFFER, Jim G. 1984. The Indo-Aryan Invasions - Cultural Myth and Archaeological Reality. pp. 77-90 in John R. Lukacs (ed.), “The People of South Asia - The Biological Anthropology of India, Pakistan, and Nepal”. Plenum Press: New York and London

24. Page 165 of RATNAGAR, Shireen. 2000. Archaeology and State. The Indian Historical Review, vol. 27.2, pp. 157-166

25. DHAVALIKAR M. K. 1995. Cultural Imperialism (Indus Civilization in Western India). Books & Books: New Delhi, pp. 116-117

26. THOMAS, P.K.; JOGLEKAR, P. P.; DESHPANDE-MUKHERJEE, Arati and PAWANKAR, S. J. 1995 Harappan Subsistence Patterns with Special Reference to Shikarpur, A Harappan Site in Gujarat. Pp. 33-41 in Man and Environment, vol. XX.2 (1995)

27. ALLCHIN F. R. and JOSHI Jagat Pal (eds.), with contributions from A. K. Sharma, K. R. Alur, J. P. Srivastava, K. T. M. Hegde, Vishnu Mittre and D. Shah. 1995. Excavations at Malvan (Memoir of the Archaeological Survey if India no. 92). Published by the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India: New Delhi, page 95

28. Similary, it might be pointed out that PGW is not equated generally with Vedic Age per se, as Thapar has done in the textbook. Rather, it has equated with the ‘Later Vedic Period’. The status of the ‘rathakara’ became so dubious in the later Vedic period that it was debated whether he even has the right to perform the agnyadhana rite.

29. Mercifully, Thapar leaves out the following misleading statement present in the earlier version of her book [1966:48] –“The chariot has been described often in the hymns. It was a light two-wheeled chariot which was exciting to race, and was useful in battle.” The reality is that the Vedic chariot is typically described in hyberbolic terms as a vehicle of the gods with all types of fantastic features. Thus, it is made of gold (Rigveda 1.30.16), the chariot of Ashwins is pulled by three horses (Rigveda 1.34.9 etc.), it is pulled by 10 horses (Rigveda 2.18.4), it carries 67 people (Rigveda 3.6.9). Chariots are even said to be pulled by bullocks (Rigveda 10.131.3) and so on. On the rarity of chariots in the Rigvedic milieu, Edmund LEACH remarks (ibid) – “It is true that the two-wheeled chariot, in a crude form, is likely to have been invented in Central Asia. But the appearance of chariots as grave goods and the pictorial representation of chariots in other contexts suggest that it was a rare object, a ceremonial carriage rather than a piece of normal military equipment. The characters in the Rgveda ride in chariots because they are divine beings.”

30. Interestingly, in her other publications, Thapar even suggests dropping the use of the word ‘Arya’ to denote a race or a group of people – “The notion of an Aryan race identified on the basis of an Aryan language has now been discarded. Language and race are distinctly different categories. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to discard the term ‘Aryan’ as well, using only Indo-Aryan to identify the language, or else staying strictly within the definition of arya from Sanskrit texts where it is a linguistic and social qualifier, without the overlay of nineteenth century theories.” Page 1134 in THAPAR, Romila. 2000. ‘The Theory of Aryan Race in India- History and Politics’, pages 1108 to 1140 in THAPAR, Romila. 2000. Cultural Pasts. Oxford University Press: Delhi [According to the footnote on page 1108, this paper is an expanded version of the text of a lecture delivered at the 40th International Conference of Eastern Studies in Tokyo, 26 May 1995].

31. For instance, on page 410 of her earlier article ‘The Image of the Barbarian in Ancient India’ (Comparative Studies in Society and History, Volume 13.4, October 1971, pp. 408-436) Romila THAPAR says – “In the Rg Veda, the earliest of the Vedic texts, there is no mention of the mleccha as such but there are references to the Dasa or the Dasyu, the local peoples who were subordinated and regarded as alien and barbaric. They are compared with demons, with one reference to being black-skinned (krsna-tvaca) and snub nosed, speaking a strange language or speaking incorrectly (mrdhra-vac) …..”. If this is not the full blown racist-colonial Aryan Invasion Theory, what else is it?

32. The reader must not think that it is impossible to write a history for the Vedic period without invoking the Aryan Invasion Theory or its euphemistic versions. Such works have indeed been written by competent scholars, and as an example, one may refer to CHAKRABARTI, Dilip, K. 1999. India- An Archaeological History, Paleolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations. Oxford University Press: New Delhi

33. See pg. 208 of MAURER, Walter H. 1986. Pinnacles of India’s Past – Selections from the Rgveda. University of Pennsylvania Studies on South Asia, vol. 2. John Benjamin’s Publishing Company: Amsterdam/Philadephia.

34. See the extensive discussion on the purport of this hymn in H. D. VELANKAR’s Rgveda Mandala VII, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan: Bombay (1963).

35. Moreover, the Vedic religion is consistently equated with Brahmins, and therefore gets condemned in the minds of impressionable students ‘by guilt of association’ with the crafty Brahmins.

36. Amongst the various faults of Vedic rituals mentioned by Thapar, bluntly or subtly, are that they made religion difficult to practice, promoted Brahminical hegemony, promoted the theory of the divine right of kings to rule, promoted superstition, were costly and an unnecessary drain on cattle and other wealth, were too lengthy, were a fiction created by crafty Brahmins and so on. Not one positive role of rituals in human life is mentioned. The entire treatment of Vedic ritualism is therefore slanted and makes the student averse towards Vedic religion per se.

37. For a refutation of the thesis of Indian Marxist historians that the Gupta Period was not a Golden Age, refer pp. 74-95 of GOYAK, Shankar. 2000. Marxist Interpretation of Ancient Indian History. Bhandarkar Oriental Research Instute: Pune.

38. The statement is clearly motivated by Thapar’s political considerations, her antipathy towards Hindus and Hinduism and are a subtle form of hate-mongering against Hinduism that permeates the textbook as such. It should be seen in the light of her other political writings in recent years, such as ‘Syndicated Hinduism’, ‘Syndicated Moksha’, ‘Imagined Communities’, ‘The Tyranny of Labels’ and so on. It is really disturbing to see how school children have been subjected to such a subtle propaganda all these years through their history textbooks published by the NCERT.

39. The reader may refer to the following article for additional information – LORENZEN, David N. 1999. ‘Who Invented Hinduism’. In Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 41, No. 4, Oct. 1999, pp. 630-659.

40. One wonders why Thapar did not use some other better name such as ‘Sinkiang’ rather than ‘Chinese Turkestan’, even if she wanted to use modern names of places.

41. This statement is made in the context of the Vedic Age.

42. S. K. GUPTA [1998. The Prejudiced Past, Rewriting Indian History – Some Reflections on Concept. Indus Publishing Company: New Delhi, pg. 20] closes his assessment of Marxist historiography with the following words – “The Marxist historians do lay a lot emphasis on pluralism, nationalities, wide variety of identities, including the autochthonous groups, yet they deny the significance of culture, tradition, religion – regarded by others as a social force – and indulge in shibboleths and rhetoric rooted in their universal framework of historical materialism. Thus, the kind of empathy one requires in mapping the social reality and understanding a people’s past remains largely missing.” This characterization of Marxist historiography in India is definitely applicable to Thapar’s perfunctory treatment of Hinduism in the textbook.

43. See the news item ‘Revised Textbooks for Class VI and IX Ready’, in the Internet Edition of The Pioneer, dt. 31 October 2002.

44. And sometimes, clearly politically motivated.

45. Since I have not examined any intermediate versions or editions of the textbook, I cannot comment in the revisions contained in them. Nevertheless, they could not have been numerous or even significant considering that the 1987 edition is so similar to the very first edition printed in 1966.

46. One can hardly attribute a lack of time on her part for not being able to revise the textbooks in a timely fashion. After all, she has never been found wanting when it came to political propaganda in the form of addressing press conferences hosted by Communist organizations like SAHMAT, or contributing articles to Leftist publications such as ‘Frontline’.