Romilayana: How Romila Thapar Lied her Way to Historical Eminence

A new series tracking the dubious career of Romila Thapar, the foremost member of the cabal of the so-called Marxist historians
Romilayana: How Romila Thapar Lied her Way to Historical Eminence

LET US CAST A CRITICAL GLANCE at the Marxist historians overlooking their fame and eminence. For all their pretensions to academic scholarship, for all their use of high-sounding and technical phraseology, the Marxists typically addressed their writings to the general public. Therefore, a general and critical evaluation of the overall tenor and content of Marxist scholarship is both relevant and timely.

It is noteworthy that despite frequently commenting on religion – especially targeting what they call Brahminism, Indian Marxists have not produced a systematic study of any religion.

To be more specific, Marxist scholars never handled Sanatana Dharma as a subject for serious and thorough study. The once renowned work, A Dictionary of Marxist Thought has a bibliography of Marxist studies on Hinduism, which is a pitiable exhibition of Marxist thought[i]. It prominently includes the following: Nehru’s Autobiography, Romila Thapar’s A History of India, Rahula Sankrityayan’s novel, From Volga to Ganga, and E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s The National Question in Kerala.

In the aforementioned ­Dictionary, whatever attempt is made to present a Marxist understanding of Hinduism is based on the basis of Romila Thapar’s History of India, Ram Sharan Sharma’s Political Thoughts in Ancient India and D.P. Chattopadhyaya’s Indian Atheism.

Thus, true to their genre, the meaning of Hinduism has been explained with the help of such gems as the ‘exploitative character of Brahmins’, ‘atrocities on lower castes’ and ‘temples as a means to acquire position and wealth’.

In this backdrop, let’s briefly examine the alleged scholarship of the biggest name of them all: the Eminent Historian, Romila Thapar.

The most glaring feature of all such Marxist “historians” is their fundamental inability to understand or interpret Hinduism. Yet, this disability does not deter our Marxist historians from making inaccurate, irrelevant, wild and frequent comments on Hindu philosophy, thought and spirituality.

In her 1969 article Communalism and the writing the Ancient Indian History, Romila Thapar has made innumerable comments on religion, culture, literature, art, spirituality etc., which no serious scholar can ever make. Romila Thapar was just a young academic then. It is unlikely she had already studied the vast Indian history along with Hindu sastras and even a representative sample of the great body of Sanskrit literature. All her all comments, therefore, was just wild comments and guess-work.

A real scholar first of all, knows the limit of his or her knowledge and, therefore, desists from making general comments on any subject. But Indian Marxist historians have always commented and spoken with authority without doing a serious study on any topic or in any field of knowledge. In her foregoing article as well as in her other articles, books and speeches, Thapar has tried to convey that all the glory, fame and achievements of ancient India and Hinduism are exaggerated or false. According to her, all the good things in Hinduism exist in other religions as well, but the ugly and revolting aspects of Hinduism is seldom noticed.

Romila Thapar went to the extent of suggesting that there was nothing like Hinduism in India. If she had meant only the term ‘Hindu,’ there was nothing wrong to an extent. However, her intent is suspect. It becomes clear when she does not recognize or even mention Sanatana Dharma, as if it were non-existent.

On the contrary, she has stated that “religious sects and groups in pre-Islamic India did not identify themselves as Hindus and as a unified religion.” It is obvious that she either confuses Dharma with religion or deliberately equates the two to deny the existence of Sanatana Dharma and Hindus as a very distinct community living according to it.

The word Dharma occurs in the oldest shastras, scriptures and folklore of India. Nobody can claim that there was no religion in India two-three thousand years ago in the past. But just as Itihasa is not ‘history’ or Namaskara is not ‘good morning’, the Indian concept of ‘Dharma’ is not ‘religion.’

Serious scholars are aware that in Western languages, not only the word but even a concept equivalent to ‘Dharma’ does not exist. Rta, Leela and Karma are other such concepts non-existent in the Western lexicon or philosophies. ‘Religion’ simply cannot explain Dharma. That is why Christian missionaries and Muslim Tablighis call Hindus as a community ‘without religion’, to whom a faith or religion is yet to be given (which they consider is their job)! Hinduism is indeed not a ‘religion’ or a confined creed like Islam or Christianity.

And Romila Thapar adopted the Christian missionary outlook about the non-existence of a ‘unified religion’ in India. Only this can explain her wild postulations about Hindu Dharma in what she prefers to call the ‘pre-Islamic’ period.

Why is there no reference to Sanatana Dharma in her writing? Both the term and the system as a whole is so prominent in Indian thinking, treatises, folklore and tradition since time immemorial. Instead, there is repeated reference to some ‘Brahmin dharma’ or ‘Brahminism’ in the writings of the Marxist historians, which according to them was exploitative, cunning and full of class-selfishness.

Marxist historians simply forget what even Gautama Buddha had said so famously: “Esso Dhammo Sanantano” meaning ‘this has been the sanatana dharma’. The word ‘sanatana’ also means ‘that which always was and always will remain’.

Thus, even by Buddha’s words, there was a ‘Sanatana Dharma’ existing since ancient times in India, and this was his assertion made 2500 years ago. It is, therefore, startling to see the Marxists dismiss all this summarily and insist that Hinduism is a creation of the last two centuries by foreigners at that. All Marxist scholars love this formulation, irrespective of their subject. Incidentally, a Marxist professor of any field of knowledge is also considered an authority on history and Hinduism.   

Romila Thapar has repeatedly uttered several deprecations about Hindu culture, philosophy and tradition without quoting any source or giving references. For instance, she claims that “Vedic thought was not uniquely and in genesis Indian.” In the same breath, she also says that “the culture represented in the Vedic literature was largely indigenous.”

Referring to ‘Aryan culture’ and ‘Aryan way of life,’ she wrote just this much: “on certain occasions the Aryans ate beef and drank alcohol.” In another place she asserted, “In ancient India beef was consumed for many centuries.” This is a clever by half assertion because Thapar and her Marxist colleagues have never even once mentioned whether the Aryans used to eat anything else apart from beef. They haven’t stated what general food items were included in the Aryan diet. If one goes by the umpteen repetitions of this theme by the Marxist school, it appears that the Aryans spent their whole life eating beef and drinking alcohol.

The repeated references to beef and liquor indicates the Marxist historians’ visceral hatred towards Hinduism. The references to ‘beef eating’ is only to deride Hinduism and not to improve our knowledge about ancient India.

To be continued

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