It was around a decade back, when I was working in Bhubaneshwar, a place that is home to some of the most ancient temples in India, gateway to Konark’s Sun Temple and Puri Jagannath Temple. And close by is Dhauli, the place where the Kalinga battle was fought, and the conversion of Emperor Ashoka from a warrior to a pacifist took place. During a break in an otherwise hectic schedule, was just having a talk with one of my colleagues, on the places I had visited around, and their significance. My colleague who was from Odisha himself, explained more in detail, about the historical significance of those places. And what he said in his own words, really struck me “You know it is like History Under your Feet, you are standing on a place, and that could well be the site of some historical event or other”. History Under your feet, yeah that term just stuck in my mind, and it was true in a way. Every place in India, even the smallest village, has some history or other connected to it, dating centuries back. It may not be too well known, but as you dig deeper, you find that there is a connect somewhere or other. You see it sometimes explicitly, you do not see it sometimes, but you feel it, that sense of history when you pass through a place. And that explains the title of this blog too.
Well personally I had a fascination for history, since I was a kid, don’t ask me why, just loved listening to the tales of great kings of yore, the battles they fought, the empires they built. And the love for history, was further whetted by Amar Chitra Katha comics, and those mini encyclopedias, “Do you know” books. While I started with Indian history, my interest veered towards world history too, and that is where I began to read about World War II, American Civil War, French Revolution, Arab-Israel wars, Cold War etc. I was fortunate to have some really good history teachers at school, who whetted my appetite for it, with their narration. Of course as I went to higher classes, I had to deal with teachers who made it sound the most boring subject, just rattling off a series of dates and facts. And this I feel has been the issue with the way History is taught in schools, students are just made to cram dates, and some facts, there is absolutely no connect with the topic. This is the reason why History has become a boring and dry subject for many, and add to that, a feeling that it really has no value whatsoever. I can’t blame people either, like many others I had to do engineering, even though my passion was history, as there were really no opportunities during my time in it.
Though I joined engineering, my passion for history was still alive, and I never lost an opportunity to keep reading and learning, mostly on my own. It helped that I was a regular quizzer in college, and that in a way, helped me to keep touch with history too. Later on when I was preparing for Civil Services, I had no second thoughts in taking History as my subject, and this time I was in closer touch. It was during this period, I learnt more about Indian history, and in much detail, from the Mughals to the Marathas, from the Vijayanagar Empire to the Cholas and Chalukyas, learnt a good deal. While I could not make it through the Civils, that learning experience on Indian History was valuable. In due course of time, like any others, I got into the IT field, but my passion for history was still intact. That was the time the Net came into the picture, and there was something called Google, and later Wikipedia. What these sites did, was made my search for information much more easier. In the pre-Net days, still remember had to sneak into the nearby public library, had to browse through all encyclopedias and books to get the information I wanted.
The main motivation for this blog was the discussions I had been having on social media, with regards to history, or more specifically Indian history. What I found was that many of us were totally ignorant about Indian history, or aware of only some parts of it. I really don’t blame people, it is the way history has been taught in schools that is the culprit. Most of our history books, have an excessive focus on the Mughals, the British Raj, and when it comes to freedom struggle, it is only Gandhi-Nehru all the way. Vijayanagar Empire, one of the greatest kingdoms down South, gets hardly 2-3 pages, even though it’s reign has been praised as a Golden Age. How many history books deal with the Naval Warfare of the Chola dynasty? Or the Ahoms in North East, who reigned over a large area, and effectively checked the Mughal advances? How many are aware that there is a Great Wall of India, which was erected by Rana Kumbha, to keep out invaders? Even in freedom struggle, not much space is given to revolutionaries like the Chapekar Brothers, Bagha Jatin or the numerous freedom movements down South.
We could go on ranting about the way history is taught in schools, but that will achieve pretty little. We are the ones who need to start bringing out that part of the history, which is not too well known to many. Through blogs, through web sites, through our own alternative media. It is not an easy task for sure, unlike in the West, where amateur historians have their own voice and space, in India, the establishment is notoriously snobbish about them. But then the entrenched establishment will always find it difficult to accept a challenge to the status quo. That should not really put us down, as we make our own effort, to spread our views and get our voice heard.
This blog of mine is a very humble effort, to share my own limited knowledge of history, with others, and of course I hope as it goes, more people join in this endeavor. It helps that I have already blogged in detail on Indian history, at my earlier blogs, which I shall be sharing here too. One thing we need to remember, History is not just about kings, kingdoms and battles, it is also about building institutions, laws and Governments. It is not about just the victories of war, it is also about the evolution of arts, culture, heritage and literature. The evolution of the Internet is as much a part of history as is the establishment of any great empire. The making of India’s constitution is as much a part of history as it’s freedoms struggle is. Basically when you touch upon history, you in effect are studying every possible subject out there-philosophy, war, science, architecture, exploration, culture, music, arts. And that is the other purpose of my blog, to move away history from being a dreary factual account into something that is alive, breathing and throbbing with vitality. History should never be a dull recollection of something that has happened in the past, it should be a vibrant narration that connects the past with the present, and also makes us think of the future. So here I begin another blogging journey of mine in Cyberia, and hoping that others join in the caravan too.