Friday, October 5, 2012

The Plot in Indian Chronology

I came across this book a few months ago when I was planning my big trip to the Himalayas, and was astounded that my quest to learn about the history of the places I was going to visit en-route to the Valley of Flowers were steeped in inconsistencies. And then, I came across this critically acclaimed book by Kota Venkatachalam, and I think it is really unfortunate that some one like him who has rendered a great service to the Indian society and dedicated his life to it is little known and little loved.

I was hooked to the book, and I can give merit to the arguments that he has presented, not simply because I don't love the British enough to put it past them to do something like this, but also because I find his arguments extremely rational and very mathematical in quality. Of course, he is very passionate, and makes recurring scathing remarks about the European historians in India, particularly Max Mueller and Sir William Jones which may seem to lend an emotional touch to what is supposed to be a scholarly work of decades of research, and may not go down well in academic circles. But, I am sold.

I also think that every Indian at least owes it to himself to give it a read, and to be at least aware that there are some incontrovertible flaws with the version of History that we are used to reading.

The book challenges the claim of the "sheet anchor of Indian history" as formulated by the British. Their whole concoction is based on: 1: Placing King Chandragupta Maurya as the contemporary of Alexander based on the accounts of Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador, and working their way backwards and forwards from that point. Sri Venkatachalam starts with simple logical arguments based on the names quoted by Megasthenes on why this supposition is incorrect, and proceeds to actually substantiate his claims. A brief summary of his evidences are presented here. 2: According to the Bible, the first man lived in 4th century BC! I urge you to read the book from the link that I have uploaded here, because that explains in detail what I have just summarized.

1. Mathematical calculations of time and events based on positions of stars and planets that have been quoted in not one, but a number of puranas have been presented in tedious detail. The accusation of the British when they arbitrarily set the date of Maurya dynasty was that Indian history was written in a very unscientific manner. Venkatachalam goes on to prove that detailed descriptions of astronomical positions are in fact the most scientific way of setting the time to something, because they can always be back calculated to very precise dates.

2. He delves into the work by Megasthenes, particularly his descriptions of the royal court in Pataliputra, and of the achievements of the king, his predecessor and his son, the successor. None of it matches up with the well known tales of the Maurya dynasty. In fact, an ardent history buff would know that Pataliputra was not even a part of the Maurya dynasty!!!

3. Megasthenes work is very detailed in his description of people and policies and administration in the kingdom. It seems very remiss of him to never once mention the most powerful person in Maurya's court, who was in fact the scheming architect of the rule, and was a pseudo king for all practical purposes - neither Chanakya nor Arthashastra merit a place in the very detailed book of Megasthenes.

4. Arthashastra is a document penned by Chanakya on the administrative policies in the Maurya rule, and descriptions of offices held by various people, and tenets of law and order. Megasthenes's work also contains a detailed description of the administrative procedures and descriptions of various offices. When Kota Venktachalam proceeds to quote them both, somehow you would no longer be surprised that the two accounts have absolutely no similarities.

5. Megasthenes also gives insight into the condition of the society during his time in Pataliputra, and there are several interesting conclusions that can be drawn. For example, he extolled the society for being completely free of slave labor and equality of all classes. For no logical reason then Arthashastra goes into some depth giving directions on the evils of slave labor and how people practicing them must be punished. Chanakya actually sanctions slave labor as a punishment to sinners or those who have been found to be guilty of unpardonable crimes in the kings court, believing that the Dharmashastras consider such men as dead men anyway.

While also giving sound arguments, he in a similar mathematical fashion constructs his version of the Indian history and chronology, and urges people to give it rational consideration.
The link below will direct you to the ebook.