Book Review : What India Should Know {Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan}


Dr V Lakshmikanthan is HOD of Mathematical Sciences at Florida Tech. He is the editor of 5 international mathematical journals; Dr J Vasundhara Devi is a mathematician and a professor. 
  1. When was Ashok really born? 4th Century BC - or more than a 1000 years before that?
  2. When was the Buddha really born? 6th Century BC - or more than a 1000 years before that?
  3. Who wrote the history that we know as gospel truth today?
  4. What were the motives behind writing this history?
  5. What were the other viewpoints considered when our {Indian} history was being written by the western scholars?
  6. When was the Mahabharat era?
  7. Who were the 2 ChandraGuptas?
  8.  Is the Aryan Invasion the truth - or a complete fabrication?
  9. What were the mental attitudes of the people who wrote our history?
  10. And much, much more…
This is a book that I set about reviewing with some trepidation, since some of the contents are explosive, to say the least - as also seemingly fantastic and unbelievable even on the second reading. That is not to state that the contents are inaccurate; just that the mind refuses to accept what is being presented... it could be in-built prejudice, it could be a mental block... but that is the way it is.I shall not attempt to steal the thunder of the book, neither shall I attempt to hide its flaws. I will only give a small glimpse at some of the more fantastic-sounding parts of the book, and give an overall glimpse of the plot in its entirety. 

The book's approach is beyond reproach : it begins with an overall examination of society as it existed in the 1600s to 1800s, presenting the various political and religious factors that determined history in a short and succinct first few chapters - effortlessly tracing the entire period in short but hard-hitting chapters, based on facts rather than on passion. This tends to lend authority to the tome, as the tone is distinctly critical yet sufficiently subdued to let the reasoning behind the critique shine through. It is here that its first flaw creeps in : it is heavily critical of Christianity and Islam both, for their bloody history and the misery they have spread. Regardless of the accuracy of their observations regarding the bloodshed {I am no expert, so cannot comment further}, this could have been avoided in a book on India. Further, there are people of both faiths in India as well; this needless scraping of the contentious past - which has no relation to the topic at hand - is regrettable in an otherwise excellent work. Fine, call me a secularist - but that is the way I see it. 

The book moves on from this into the main phase : the distortion of our history during the colonial phase, with a detailed examination of the sequence of events, and a presentation of point and counter-point both, again lending some weight to the work; this is essential, since what is to come is explosive, to say the least - at least to the English-trained, or should I use the derogatory term, Macaulayist mentality that is so prevalent, and to which I was myself a victim in my teenage years. It is here that the second - and biggest flaw of the book creeps in; one of bad presentation. The lack of a proper Bibliography, and annotations that can help the avid follower to cross-check. The references are all clubbed into one at the end, and leave a lot to be desired for. With a proper presentation, annotations, links to proofs for the period evidences and minutes of letters mentioned would have lent irrefutability to the arguments presented therein. Sadly, this is lacking. 

That distortion has happened is now an established fact in innumerable areas; that the Europeans had tried to extinguish our culture is also a known fact, so this should not come as a surprise. The White Man’s total disdain for eastern culture is also a truism even in the modern day, so again this is not a surprise. What does come as a surprise is the existence of a society intended to destroy Sanatan Dharma. The book gives its aims and its charter in detail. As does the intent to translate the Gospel and Isaiah into Sanskrit. This I can believe, as I have read in another work – to be reviewed – of intentions to populate India with the White Man; an intention that was destroyed by 1857. That is why 1857 is the First War Of Independence – we won back our culture, our lifestyle. But I get ahead of myself. 

The book moves onto the more explosive revelations or call them hypotheses, if you will - supported by copious calculations of dynasties, years, times, eras and historical references to prove the points mentioned. Also present in the book is an exhaustive list of kings stretching back across 153 generations, till 3000 BC and beyond, as corroborative proof of the timelines suggested. This is further supported by mention of international references from outside India. Here again, the absence of annotations and end-notes rankles a lot; the book would be far, far more hard-hitting with a proper finishing and presentation. In its current form, it comes across as half-baked, to be honest. 

The last section of the book is a veritable treasure trove of our literary history, with a succinct presentation of our Vedic Literature, The Concepts of Sanatan Dharma, and Vedic Society. This section is the piece de resistance of the book, as one wonders at the level of development and thought processes of our ancestors. At least in my case, this section has kindled a desire to know more, and to learn more. The last 4-5 chapters deal exclusively with Vedic Society and Literature, and will take your breath away in the simplicity of their concepts, and of the clarity of their thoughts. Any description from my side would be superfluous, as also wholly inadequate.

All in all, this is not a book aimed at fueling a misplaced pride, as some might believe - it is a book {some of the  more  fantastic presentations notwithstanding} that attempts to understand clarify and explain Vedic Culture and some distorted aspects of our history. It is a book that is both a class in Vedic Culture and Society, as well as an attempt to place an alternative timeline and sequence of events in front of the reader's eyes. That this timeline does not tally with Western-written history does not necessarily mean it is inaccurate; it only means that questions still remain, unanswered questions - especially since the logic presented is not so easy to dismiss. A must read, in my opinion.


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