Here is a collection of posts related to Indian history from the blogosphere.
- At varnam, we had a book review of Michel Danino’s new book The Lost River on the river Sarasvati.
- In a post titled The Arab conquest of Sind, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Hari quotes V S Naipaul on the Arab conquest of the Hindu-Buddhist Sindh.
- What was behind the rise of English power in India? How did few English soldiers manage to control India? Disillusioned by the answers provided by Indian historians, Anuraag provides his explanation
- In the 19th century, there was a rumor that the owners of Irani restaurants in Bombay were adding opium to tea and the British Govt. got involved to sort out the issue. Maddy has that story
- Following the Chauri Chaura incident in February, 1922, Mahatma Gandhi called off the Non-Cooperation movement. But Gandhiji did not feel the same following the Wagon Tragedy of 1921. Calicut Heritage writes
In The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture (2004), Prof. Edwin Bryant writes that till recently most scholars in the West were unaware that there was an Aryan debate: the issue was considered settled. With exceptions like A Survey of Hinduism (2007) by Klaus K. Klostermaier and An Introduction to Hinduism (1996) by Gavin Flood, very few books mention the debate. But even among those books which mention this debate, Sarasvati, which challenges the normative view, has not got a fair hearing. In Prof. Bryant’s book, Sarasvati gets less than 5 pages; Thomas Trautmann’s The Aryan Debate (2008) has a 50 page abridged version of S.P.Gupta’s article on the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. Thus it is commendable that Danino has expanded on a rarely mentioned topic.
The Chachnama shows the Arabs of the seventh century as a people stimulated and enlightened by the discipline of Islam, developing fast, picking up learning and new ways and new weapons (catapults, Greek fire) from the people they conquer, intelligently curious about the people they intend to conquer. The current fundamentalist wish in Pakistan [Naipaul was writing in 1979] to go back to that pure Islamic time has nothing to do with a historical understanding of the Arab expansion. The fundamentalists feel that to be like those early Arabs they need only one tool: the Koran. Islam, which made seventh-century Arabs world conquerors, now clouds the minds of their successors or pretended successors.
The usual answers trotted out are:-
Military superiority (better trained and motivated English soldiers)
Technological superiority (Indians had bows and arrows versus English guns and cannons)
Political unity (united English vs a divided India)
Historical evidence completely contradicts these three constructs during the 1600-1850 period, the phase of English ascent. For real answers we will need to look somewhere else.
By the 1820s a large number of Parsis, Marwaris, Gujarati Banias and Konkani Muslims had moved into the opium trade at Mumbai. Of the 42 foreign firms operating in China at the end of the 1830s, 20 were fully owned by Parsis. This effect was evident in the geographical make up of the city. It was the Parsis, many of them beneficiaries of opium’s huge profits, who developed South Bombay. It was primarily opium that linked Bombay to the international capitalist economy and the western Indian hinterland in the nineteenth century.
What history does not tell us is how Gandhiji was suddenly jolted into action after the loss of 23 lives in Chauri Chaura and called off the movement when six months before this event, many more innocent lives had been lost in Malabar on the same Khilafat cause? As Gandhi wrote, explaining his decision to call off the non-cooperation movement, ‘God spoke clearly through Chauri Chaura’. Perhaps, God was less coherent in Malabar! Sir C. Sankaran Nair wrote about Gandhi in his book Gandhi and Anarchy (1922 ) : Mr. Gandhi, to take him at his best is indifferent to facts. Facts must submit to the dictates of his theories.
The next Carnival will be up on September 15th. You can send the nominations by e-mail to varnam dot blog (gmail) or as a tweet to @varnam_blog