Kottayam, 21 January 2012. Historian Romila Thapar has pointed out that ancient India possessed a sense of history and this was contrary to what had been assumed by colonial powers. Inaugurating a three-day national seminar on ‘New History’ at the Mahatma Gandhi University here on Thursday, Prof. Thapar reinterpreted ancient Indian literary sources so as to highlight ancient Indian historical consciousness, historical traditions and historical writings. She also sought to expose the allegation of some Western scholars that ancient Indians were people with no sense of history.
Prof. Thapar said that attempting to derive chronological information and to characterise the nature of societies from the epics of Mahabharata and the Ramayana made little sense. These issues were either ignored or forgotten by some historians who used the epics as source material. It was high time people realised that the epics had many versions.
The epics had to be seen as oral poetry and, therefore, one had to accept that the texts as they were available today had gathered encrustations around them.
Professor Thapar said three aspects of the study of historical traditions merited examination.
These were the widely-held view that Indian civilisation lacked a sense of history, the recognition that historical traditions of diverse cultures will, inevitably, differ and, finally, the nature of the representation of the past in the early Indian historical traditions.
Indian Council of Historical Research Chairman Basudev Chatterji delivered the keynote address. The inaugural session was chaired by Vice-Chancellor Rajan Gurukkal. IUCSSRE Joint Director Radhika Parakkat, and Associate Fellow P. Madhu spoke.