Square pegs, round holes: What ails our History curriculum?

History is one of the most fascinating subjects, yet it is one which isn’t so popular with students in particular and people in general. Come to think of it, what could make the reading of people, culture, lifestyle and occupations of those who lived before us so dull, drab and boring? The present and future always take birth from the womb of the past. In fact, the present is the umbilical cord that connects the womb (past) to the baby (future). This may or may not be a precise analogy, yet I hope it conveys the message. History is not only important in helping us understand our past but it is also a window into the lives of those who lived before us and the methodologies they used to solve issues that we may very well be facing today.

One of the biggest challenges before us is to reconstruct the past without bias and on scientific basis. In post-independence India leftists have dominated the sphere of education and hence it doesn’t come as a surprise that much of our history has been distorted to suit the ‘secular palate’. Another issue is that we have simply adopted what the colonial rulers and European writers passed off as ‘Indian History’ without so much as questioning them. Make no mistake; there were certainly biases when Europeans wrote Indian history. This is so because understanding Indian culture and ethos was difficult for someone who came from a very different cultural background. It was also the aim of the British to make Indians feel ashamed of their own culture and therefore the distortions were also deliberate. Once the time came for them to leave, they made sure they left behind enough slaves who would continue their work.

Apart from textbooks not being regularly updated, we have to deal with the issue of religious and political bias creeping in. The best example of this is portrayal of Mughal kings in our textbooks. Their tyranny has conveniently been swept under the carpet. Any mention of Hindu emperors and their achievements is mostly avoided so that it may not disturb the so called secular fabric. Children, therefore, grow up with little or even worse, a warped knowledge of history. As they say half-knowledge is even more dangerous than no knowledge at all. Aryan-Dravidian myth, which has now taken a political turn, stands testimony to the fact that history can be distorted at will even if evidences state the contrary. Making history an interesting subject for the students is the job of the teachers. Instead what we find is emphasis is laid not on the story but just mugging up of events and dates.

The need of the hour is to integrate our scriptures and archaeological findings to debunk long held myths that have been passed off as history. It is usually believed that ‘Indians lack a sense of history’. Well, it is just that our ancestors presented history in a different format. Itihasa has been a part of our scriptures since times immemorial. Some truths, no matter how bitter they are, simply need to be told and now is the time to revise history so that future generations learn the correct history. History is more than just tales of war and other events, it is the story of a people who were present in flesh and blood and who continue to inspire us through their deeds and warn us through their mistakes.