The Importance of History

Indian history does not get talked about enough (the what-actually-happened-and-was-recorded part of it and NOT the flying spaceships, anti-gravity stones, and our prescient discovery of head transplants kind).  History school books generally emphasize a select few empires and dynasties, relegating the rest of our vast history to a footnote or a paragraph.  Like shining a torchlight on one spot in your room for a few seconds and attempting to learn all about your house and its members. It is understandable, as Indian history could never be a monolith. Indian society or India as we now know it never existed until so recently in the past (brief moments achieved by great conquerors excluded).  For an overwhelming majority of our subcontinent’s history, it has seen dozens and scores of kingdoms at any given point. However:

  • A vast majority is taught keeping in mind the current political and social power structures.
  • History as it is taught in schools focuses on the great conquerors of the subcontinent- the Maurya empire, the Gupta empire, the Mughals, and the British.
  • Some briefly mention the regional stabilizers and empires such as the Marathas, Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas.
  • The empires of Gurjara-Pratiharas in the west and Gondwanas in central India are hardly given any credit, and are reflective of the general social status of their respective communities (Gurjars and Gonds) today. 
  • The Rashtrakuta empire is extremely underrated in my view, as it was one of the biggest empires in India never talked about. 
  • The Rashtrakuta empire held the Deccan Plateau for almost 250 years, and at one point extended from the Himalayas to the Malabar coast.  

Point being- Indian history is a blast, much like world history and any history that is not just the retelling of facts, but an attempt to understand ourselves and our journey to where we now are. The importance of history in one’s life cannot be understated.  History is not a dry transcript of what happened in a disconnected and irrelevant past. It is a connection from the past to the present, with lessons for the future.  History teaches us how thoughts and ideas have shaped our societies, and continue to shape us. 

History gives us perspective.  The prevalent political, cultural and societal issues of yesterday that shaped our society explain the issues and injustices of today.  History allows us to examine feats of great love, creativity, honor, strength, devotion and intelligence.  Understanding the past also helps us to introspect and learn from failures through ignorance, underestimation, misfortune and betrayal. A well-rounded education of today demands a lesson recap of the past. 

Moreover, it is so much fun! The past is a repository of amazing stories, truths stranger than fiction, sources of inspiration and awe-inspiring perspective of our small part to play in the grand theatre of life.  The past has the ability to astound, move and touch us. By connecting to our past, we also connect to what perennially stays human, our strengths, frailties, failings, our ability to struggle, and our indefatigable thirst for recovery.

Last year I had started writing poetry and the occasional piece here. In 2021, my goal is to write more about history, bringing to light little pockets of forgotten episodes from our past. Do let me know what you think of it!

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