The richness of Indian history lies in its vastness and diversity. India has a long and complex history spanning thousands of years. Precisely speaking, the Indus valley Civilization, which is believed to be the beginning of Indian history, was 8000 years ago.
Each era of Indian history has its own unique characteristics, ranging from the Indus Valley Civilization and the Vedic period to the Mauryan and Gupta empires, the Mughal era, and the British colonial period.
As difficult as it is to encompass Indian history in all its splendour, our history textbooks do a pretty good job at it. We have read about all the glorious kings that rose and fell, leaving behind a legacy to last for generations to come. In fact, many of the socio-political aspects of modern man’s society are built largely on the foundation laid by Indian monarchies. It is reasonable to question however, whether there is a bias in our history books. Topics like the Mughal Empire, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mauryan and the Gupta Empires, the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire take up nearly half of the syllabus in our highschools. We study them extensively and in the due course, the textbooks tend to sideline many South Indian dynasties worthy of acknowledgement.
Of course, this disparity does not exist to the same extent in the different streams of education we have in India. It might be more evident in some than in others, but it is a fair argument that North Indian centric history is favoured regardless. It is understandable that covering minute details of every dynasty that ever ruled India would be an insurmountable challenge. This is why the responsibility of filling these voids that currently exist in the syllabus falls upon parents and teachers.
For example, I’m sure not many of you will be aware of the system of succession known as the "Brahmadeya" that the Chalukyas followed during their reign. Under this system, the Chalukya throne was not necessarily passed down from father to son. Instead, the current king could nominate his successor from among his relatives, provided that the nominee was of royal birth and had the support of the nobles and the people. The Brahmadeya system allowed for a degree of flexibility in the Chalukya succession and helped ensure that the most capable and popular candidate would ascend to the throne.
Another instance of a historical figure that our children never hear about in schools is the prince Kumara Rama, the inspiration for the establishment of the Vijayanagar Empire. In his short lifespan of only 27 years (1300 CE - 1327 CE), his glory reached high and beyond, to the point where even today, seven centuries after his death, he is worshipped in temples in certain parts of Karnataka. He defeated Allaudin Khilji and Malik Kafur three times in battle before sending the Delhi Sultan Mohammed Bin Tughluq chasing his own tail after Kumara Rama subdued him twice - a feat no other king ever achieved. He stood as a mountain against the Sultanate taking full control of south India. His battle strategies and morals were unparalleled. This can still be witnessed today in the village of Kummata Durga, through the remains of forts and obstacles he put in place around them to protect his people.
It is important to note that kings were not the only ones who had the political prowess and bravery it took to rule kingdoms. An excellent example is Shantala, the Hoysala Queen and wife of King Vishnuvardhana. History states that she was equally good at all the sixty four ‘kalas’ or performing arts. She was a dancer, a singer, an architect, a scholar, a mathematician and a skilled debater. She used to be such a good dancer that the Chalukya king threatened the Hoysala kingdom with a war, just to see her dance.
She played an active role in the King’s administration and designed numerous temples that stand tall in the city of Belur, their capital. Despite her beauty, knowledge and title, she was as grounded and humble as they come.
Sangolli Rayanna was a prominent freedom fighter and warrior from the state of Karnataka, India, who played a key role in the Indian freedom struggle against British rule. In 1824, the British sent a large army to crush the freedom fighters in the region. Sangolli Rayanna led the resistance and fought bravely in the Battle of Sholapur. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, he managed to inflict heavy losses on the British army and forced them to retreat.
The story of the vaccination of the Wodeyar king, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV is a remarkable example of the early adoption of vaccination in India. In 1802, the British physician Dr. John Murray arrived in Mysore with the cowpox vaccine. The vaccine had been recently developed by English physician Edward Jenner and was being used to prevent smallpox, which was a major public health threat at the time. Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV's decision to get vaccinated was a testament to his forward-thinking and progressive outlook. He was not afraid to embrace new ideas and was willing to take risks in the pursuit of public health. His example helped to pave the way for the widespread adoption of vaccination in India and had a positive impact on the health of the people of Mysore.
Nadaprabhu Kempegowda was a prominent ruler and founder of Bangalore city in Karnataka, India. He was a member of the Yelahanka Nadu dynasty and was known for his administrative skills, political acumen, and vision for urban development. was a visionary leader who understood the importance of infrastructure development for the growth of the city. He built several temples, tanks, and water supply systems in the city to provide for the needs of the people. He is celebrated for his contributions to urban development, trade and commerce, and administration and governance. His legacy continues to inspire people in Karnataka and beyond.
These are just a few instances of historical legends that our history textbooks tell us so little about. If I try to name all the others, the list would be endless. If we cannot appreciate the value and beauty of our own history, be curious to know more and recognise the morals of our historical figures, there is something fundamental we lose out on.
Learning does not need to happen within the four walls of a classroom with the end goal of scoring an A grade. I believe that if parents and teachers take active interest and vigilantly expose students to such inspirations outside the scope of their syllabus, the mentality and outlook of citizens we raise will go up a notch. And so, I extend your formal invitation - let our students learn less about how invaders plundered India and more about the brave souls that stood up to them. Together let us ensure that our children grow up to respect and be proud of the land they come from.
Written by - Shruthi V Rao