What to read if you don’t want to read Guha

In the podcast with Kushal Mehra he made an offhand comment that it was strange that conservative American intellectual Ben Shapiro was reading India After Gandhi to understand his country. Mehra’s confusion is simply that Shapiro is on the Right, but he is reading from the perspective of Indian Left to understand India. Though probably hyperbolic, perhaps it would be like a Hindu nationalist reading Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States to understand America.

I know there are issues India After Gandhi. My friend Reihan Salam thought that Amardeep Singh was entirely too uncritical when he blogged the book many years ago. Since I have no read the book I will not hazard to offer an opinion.

But, the question then remains: what books on Indian history should an American read to offer up some balance? This is a live issue, as an American conservative friend was himself considering reading  India After Gandhi before being taken aback by Mehra’s comment about Shapiro and his reading habits.

Please leave book recommendations!

37 thoughts on “What to read if you don’t want to read Guha”

  1. Hi Razib,

    What Mr Mehra has said is apt. Reading Guha’s works is akin to viewing the world with tinted glasses.

    To know better about contemporary India, I would suggest the following authors and books over Guha any given day:

    Tavleen Singh – though a liberal, she has been an honest journalist in her writings about the problems India has seen.

    Ratan Sharda’s Inside the RSS – a good primer view on what exactly the RSS is about.

    Jagmohan’s My Frozen Turbulences in Kashmir – this gives a true account of the head of the state. Only book that has dared to point out the Islamist angle to the problem.

    Vivek Kaul’s India Big Government – the book is an excellent diagnosis of the economic mess that India was given over time.

    Hope you find them useful.

  2. I’d like to challenge this impression of Guha as being a man of the Left. I definitely don’t view him as being a Howard Zinn equivalent in India.

    From what I have read and heard of him (there are a lot of YouTube videos out there), the guy is a committed liberal (to be distinguished from a leftie.) He believes in market economics, capitalist economics, and free trade. He isn’t a fan of the state-controlled economy that was prevalent in India until ~1990. (In my book, that’s enough to make him a non-leftist. Most BJP-ites are more populist on economic issues.)

    I think he’s hated by the right because he pulls no punches when he criticizes Hindutva (aka Hindu Nationalism.) He is a critic of Modi, which is enough to trigger every right-winger in India. So it’s easy to ignore his strong criticisms not just of Rahul Gandhi (who he thinks is incompetent), but also Indira Gandhi and the damage she caused to Indian institutions.

    I’m also not sure why his “India after Gandhi” book is panned so much. Already knowing a fair amount of what was covered in the book, I thought it was pretty good. I think people complain about his treatment of Nehru in it? But the book does discuss both the good and the bad that Nehru did. What I think a lot of Indians forget (or take for granted) is the key role Nehru played in stabilizing India, keeping the country united (he was around much longer than Patel), and setting the example of being a liberal democratic leader (few others were capable of that in those days.)

    I’d like to see exactly what criticisms Reihan had of the book. Are there any links, or was this a private conversation between the two of you?

    (Sorry, this turned out to be a longer comment than I intended. But there was no intent to spam.)

    1. I feel the issue is that the distance he seems to claim which exists b/w him and the left is not as great as he makes it out to be(Free markets in India , LOL , its like saying Amartya Sen is a free market-er) , but he is not as left as his critics make him out to be either. India does have centre right economic liberal, the less said about those charlatans the better.

      Its a thankless position to be in. For Hindutva folks everyone who is not them is a leftie, which is true in one sense, since in India the cultural right is the ONLY right, there is no difference other than that. Its like how anyone who is not Pankaj Mishra, according to him, is a Hindu Taliban.

    1. Schlesinger is the PERFECT analogy here.
      Schlesinger was a court historian of the New Deal regime, Guha is a court historian of the Nehru-Gandhi regime.

  3. I’d like to see exactly what criticisms Reihan had of the book. Are there any links, or was this a private conversation between the two of you?

    he mentioned it offhand over dinner. i didn’t follow up because i never planned on reading the book.

  4. The book is a good compendium of history of india since 1947 though it can be viewed as a bit opinionated. I would advice continue reading knowing that bias.
    The problem of the right is that the alternative to Guha from Right is not scholarly enough. Atleast not one which covers the entire 75 years of post independence india

  5. Sitaram Goel (SRG)-Koenraad Elst(KE) are the names that come readily to mind if the idea is a good understanding of history from “Hindu right” viewpoint. Few titles – Perversion of India’s Political Parlance(SRG), Genesis and Growth of Nehruism(SRG), Gandhi and Godse(KE), Saffron Swastika(KE), Decolonizing Hindu Mind(KE). In general the Voice of India-Aditya Prakashan series of publications on these subjects.

  6. I am the American conservative friend Razib. Mentioned. Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I’m going to start with the Ratan Sharda and Koenraad Elst books and go from there.

    1. I think you shouldn’t do that, just keep in mind Guha’s political orientation/biases while reading the book. I mean there is a reason why Shapiro couldn’t get hold of a genuine conservative Indian writer. There is absolutely no writer on the Indian right with that exhaustive work on Gandhi in comparison (Ratan Sharda and Koenraad Elst LOL). India’s right have few writers to speak of, considering all their life has gone into battling the left to establish themselves politically. For whatever its worth, Guha’s book is still an intellectual project where you can agree/disagree on the content.

        1. My bad, perhaps you can tell which topics you want to explore and the readers here can refer specific books written on the topic.

  7. You can read these authors – {Just keep their political leanings in mind to have a balanced view}

    From Right wing – Sanjeev Sanyal, Lokesh Chandra, Dharampal, Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti, RC Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, HC Raychaudhary etc.

    Searching for Right wing historians i came across this interesting thread –

    From Left Wing – Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, Ramchandra Guha, Amartya Sen etc.

    Note – Indian scholars tend to be guilty of playing to the sensibilities of either right or left since there seems to be no center as far as debates about India are concerned. The most center-right or centre-left authors like Sanjeev sanyal & Devdutt Pattanaik have started to gain traction since last few years only.

    The problem is India/Hindu go hand in hand for rest of the world and most of the world has too many blind spots since it’s one of the only non-abrahamic religious region excluding Indigenous cultures.


    For Westerners i would suggest them to read works of these scholars –

    Jesuit Orientalism about East –

    Hinduism {as legal tradition} –

    Orientalism, Academic blind-spots & others –

    Note – I mentioned authors since they cover a lot of areas from ancient to modern India & on their profiles you will get lot of interesting papers for free.

  8. Following are some of the books that I have liked. These are not general purpose history books, but more like narratives of social history. Not sure how others will find them, but here is my take any way.

    1. Punjabi Century by Prakash Tandon
    2. Series of biographical works by Ved Mehta (The stolen light, Daddyji, Mamaji, The red letters etc.).

    To be clear, these are non-fiction books. Real stories. Not like the bulky novels of Naipaul and Vikram Seth depicting fictional lives. These are biographies of bourgeois class Indians set in British period. I found them offering novel insights into the lives of Indians living in Raj.

    Author whom I find overrated – Naipaul. His condescending and alien-observer style is very off putting. I remember in one of his books he constantly refers to MGR as “the film start turned politician” at multiple places without naming him even once. Obviously he wrote just for the western audience.

    Bugles and a Tiger by John Masters – Absolute masterpiece. Your understanding of Gorkhas and British Indian Army just cannot be complete without this.

    These are off the top of my head. Will suggest more when I recall.

  9. It’s laughable to consider Guha as a ‘leftist’ he is a Gandhian and a liberal. His tome “An anthropologist amongst the Marxists” in fact spends a lot of time complaining about the dominance of leftist paradigms in social science research in India.

    I wouldn’t read Elst as it is really closer to propaganda than history; Sanjeev Sanyal is more popular history and riddled with errors – one particular egregious one is when he claims that the Rajputs launches retaliatory raids on the Arabian peninsula. I don’t think you will get a rigorous view of history from here.

    RC Majumdar and Jadunath Sarkar are classic works but these are really dated. Moreover, Guha’s work is really a work modern history per se. I can’t really think of a good conservative equivalent to be honest.

    To get a good understanding of modern India I would recommend Paul Brass’s “Politics of India since Independence” though it’s dry and reads like a textbook it’s exhaustive, covers all major trends and is reasonably objective.

    For a conservative point of view one still can’t bear “India: A million mutinies now” by VS Naipaul. His writing is brilliant and he covers a lot of fissures that are affecting India now and despite have a conservative and basically upper caste Hindu world-view, he doesn’t abuse facts or doctor this subjects words to suit it.

    1. The problem with your suggestions is that many of these authors try to balance their perspective coming from Western ones & try to balance it by putting in small parts of Indian perspective into their over all narratives. This basically retains the overall dominant narrative that is already accepted in academia while only chipping away at some Orientalist views as time moves on.

      For e.g. –
      Everybody loves to talk about ‘Hindu-Muslim composite’ culture but look at the sources carefully & you will find that it was all a game among elites to preserve their power while the rest of the society remain vertically divided as Hindus & Muslims.

      At best they alleviated some restrictions in general interactions but never truly interacted on equal terms. The best they could muster was to preserve some aspects of their practices by mixing them Islamic beliefs locally.

      An example of how this ‘composite culture’ gets invented & imposed in India from ‘The Wire’ & ‘EPW’ – {Check my responses – ‘dsb_dsb’ profile name}

      Unapproved responses from my ‘disqus’ profile –
      My response –
      So one sided Iqbal one who spoke well of both Hindu & Muslims is worth quoting but why not quote his later speeches & later works where he speaks too much from the perspective of Ummah with little regards for Non-Muslims ?

      My response –
      // It is true that Muslims never went into temples and prayed in front of Hindu deities. Still, it should be known that since medieval times, Muslims revered Hindu avatars. Al-Biruni notes that Mahmud Ghaznavi used the Sanskrit term ‘avatar’ for Muhammad on the coins minted by him. Similarly, many Islamic scholars, like Mazhar Jaan-e-Jaan (1689-1781) have argued that Rama, Krishna and other avatars were actually the prophets sent to the subcontinent, and hence their teachings should be respected. For these pre-modern scholars to praise Rama or Krishna was not blasphemous. //

      Isn’t the paragraph in itself is self contradictory & hypocritical when on one side the author acknowledges that Muslims never visited temples & prayed there does that not make the Hindu & Muslim behavior in contradictory to each other ? For how long can unequal relationship sustain ? Why context does not matter in this case but if i were to mention any portion from ‘Abrahamic Theology’ it would always be out of context ?

      Second example where he mentions using of term Avatar on coins by Muhammad why doesn’t it is considered as an administrative choice instead it is presented here as an example of ‘Unity’ among Hindu & Muslims ?

      If few elites engaged with Hindu beliefs & if few of them praised it then does that mean that rest of the history does not matter ? It also shows the power of elites & their knowledge creation and it’s propagation methods which deludes the masses.

      We know that Cow politics started during Islamic rule so does both sides were trying to appropriate each other beliefs from perspectives which they felt would benefit their polity ? We know that Rama became an assertive figure, similarly cow politics allowed Hindu assertion during Islamic empire & the Krishna appropriation by Islamic scholars probably was one part of such strategy {to Justify Islamic Kings & Hindu wives}, who knows, I will wait for scholars to someday come up with well researched book regarding the idea i have mentioned here.

      How they create social divisions – Using new Indentity words to describe social differences to strengthen the differences & there by indirectly strengthening identities.

  10. Few things, apart from the fact that the jitters names like K Elst give to the propaganda camp. Someone trained in the method of history as him, rated down in favor of someone like Guha who is actually an academically sponsored non-historian, can only indicate how intolerant people are of taking a Hindu side, no matter in what terms they try concealing it.

    First, the left-right divide is inapplicable to Hindu society and view of life. So is any other dichotomy like conservative-liberal,
    moderate-extreme if one is to *understand* India. One can project any view which is non-Indian, the way many post-colonial authors do, but that is a projection and not an understanding of India. So to be able to understand what is required is not a choice of which camp to pick a writer from, but a choice of who actually has an understanding of India from an insider view.

    Second, the method of history itself does not mean much in Indian context. India does not see herself in a linear chronological frame, and hence her self-awareness is incapable of being fit into a subject like academic history. The enterprise of History writing is itself a non-Indian projection onto India.

    How then, to understand India? Is there an Indian understanding of past and present, and is it articulated? Answer is disappointing. While Thapar Guha ilk ensured there can be no academic representation to contrary views, the opinions building outside academics, such as Dharampal and Elst more or less follow the method of history and thus only try correcting the story without building the narrative itself. So these definitely help improving over the Guha style prejudices not because they are themselves free of those but simply because they present the other side of the story Guha fans are desperate to prevent from emerging.

    Balagangadhara in “What do Indians Need, history or past” gives a good summary of the problem. There have been a few attempts by the likes of Viswanatha Satyanarayana (sadly not many in English) in building such a narrative that gives an Indian view of India.

    1. Just to add a little bit of probably-not-completely-non-noisy detail to the user Skanda Veera’s comment above, Wikipedia has the following to say about Viswanatha* Satyanarayana’s view of history:

      “Viswanatha was of the view that history is not the story of kings but the narrative that gives one an understanding of the sociological, political, economic, cultural, scientific, spiritual and aesthetic lives of man in a given time, and their evolution.”

      He apparently wrote at least 3 Telugu novels dealing with this topic: purANa vaira granthamAla (‘the garland of books of the enemies of the old’), nEpAla rAjavaMsha caritra and kAshmIra rAjavaMsha caritra.

      There may be more intricate details that I am missing here due to lack of exposure and only very superficial tentative googling. Skanda Veera is requested to outline the important fundamentals if there is no harm in doing so, but the pointers given in the above comment should also be helpful in a big way.

      I consider myself inspired by the above post and I will try to study for personal benefit the Indian methods regarding past-present-viewing and modern Western historic method both fundamentally when I get time. I will also try to read Viswanatha Satyanarayana’s books above as I can fortunately read them in the originals.

      (* – Viswanatha Satyanarayana is a very famous Telugu author and intellectual in the early 20th century. My maternal grandmother who had a very short life period in Vijayavada when her husband was alive apparently caught a glimpse of Viswanatha Satyanarayana once or twice while walking down the street in which his house was located, to get her groceries or something. She described him to me as a very radiant and peaceful-looking man who was apparently reading a newspaper both the times she saw him.)

      1. Magadha Nepala and Kashmira are three series of novels (for want of a better word), with 12, 6 and 6 books.

        While the range of subjects covered is vast, Magadha series covers along with political-religious-social “history” the war between the two forces, the eternal (sanatana) and the unrighteous personified by the re-incarnating Jayadratha. Thus its name purana vaira (the eternal enmity). Majority of the technical subjects are woven in symbols, just the way the traditional recording of knowledge of past happens in India.

        Kashmira series is a bit more intricate in its spiritual subject, upasana, karma etc.

        Nepala series deals exhaustively with Carvaka. Though not in vogue as a school, Carvaka is given importance (even by Vidyaranya) because it helps understand thoroughly the Jerusalemic religions and the various flavors of occidental thought (hedonism, communism, atheism etc).

        Few features of Indian view of time and past –
        1. Time is cyclic and universe is eternal, thus evolution itself happens in cycles and spirals, and is not linear. To record long past requires a choice of what to record and what is important for future generations to know about their past, not what individuals of present feel important.
        2. Persons fade and ideas last, thus only symbols hold value for future. Knowledge conveyed through symbols lasts. Just the way any technical subject has articulation intended for the student and not for the non-student, the symbolism also serves those that are trained and not the untrained.
        3. The above two put together, knowledge is both compressed and condensed in what is called “record of the past” or “what happened”. The more recent the story, the more chances of it being elaborate and the older it is, the higher the symbolism. Records of large time durations of remote past would be found in a more symbolic way, with the essence of permanent knowledge compiled. An easy analogy is how logs/records are maintained with rolling and compression.

        This is how experienced and long living civilizations manage their knowledge, having faced and solved various problems of both quantity and quality.

  11. The role of a historian is not to take sides in a political fight, but neither is it to be “fair and balanced.” A historian should be completely apolitical, and a slave to facts and logic. I realize this is easier said than done, and no one can be completely objective, but people need to understand that just because a historian emphasizes one “side” more than the other in a history book doesn’t (necessarily) mean that he is making a political argument.

    In Guha’s case, he gives the Congress (and Nehru-Gandhi faction) a great deal more attention than their political competitors because they loomed overwhelmingly larger than their contemporaries and had vastly more impact than anyone else. True-blue libertarian that I am, I would love a history that talks up, say, CR’s Swatantra Party a lot more. But that would not be accurate history, as that party had little to no impact on the Indian political scene.

    And to all you right-wingers, like it or not, the Hindu right had virtually no impact in our country between the assassination of Gandhi and the later term of Rajiv Gandhi (Shah Bano case, Ayodhya idol, etc.), so they don’t deserve equal time/space to the Congress. (That’s the period Guha talks about in his history book.) You guys are projecting from recent events, when the Hindu right has become much more significant in the public space than it used to be when I was a child in the ’80s.

    Now, if you are talking about historians like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib, and their attempts at whitewashing the damage the Islamic invaders did, I’d say you are on more solid ground. But don’t bundle historians like Guha with them for no good reason.

    1. You wish

      “A historian should be completely apolitical, and a slave to facts and logic”

      and yet state –

      “But that would not be accurate history, as that party had little to no impact on the Indian political scene.”

      “the Hindu right had virtually no impact in our country between the assassination of Gandhi and the later term of Rajiv Gandhi”

      which is basically a completely political view of India, sans the nation’s own lived experience. Reality is that after 1947 India rose in spite of polity, and Indian past and present have to do with the various social, economic, cultural, religious movements that brought India back on the world map after the massive colonial destruction.

      The problem is not necessarily in being politically partisan, but with the method of history writing itself which makes it a political narrative.

      “But don’t bundle historians like Guha with them for no good reason. ” – the reason was clearly spelt out. All of them hold a non-Indian view of India no matter what the other differences are. For understanding India the only valid reference point is whether one adopts an insider prism or not.

      1. All of them hold a non-Indian view of India no matter what the other differences are. For understanding India the only valid reference point is whether one adopts an insider prism or not.

        Do you mind elaborating on this please? It may be obvious to you, but it isn’t to me. Thanks!

        1. Short answer – British educated folk unless they put a deliberate effort to unlearn the indoctrination in acads, would have a colonial view of India not Indian.

          Is there an Indian view of India, of life, of world? Yes, few of my other comments on this page point to Indian view to past.

          India built around the inner sheaths of knowledge, and looking at India through those sheaths is what gives an insider perspective. This can be seen at four levels – (1) worldview (an understanding of individual, nature, society, world, temporary-permanent, purposes of life and existence etc) (2) ideal/doctrinal/principle level which derives from worldview and forms basis for all collective organizing (3) institutional/structural which creates vehicles for fulfilling the purposes of #1 (4) lived reality where the above is realized.

          Here is a hint to Indian worldview https://swarajyamag.com/analysis/orient-and-occident-iii-structure-knowledge and https://swarajyamag.com/featured/orient-and-occident-iv-principle-of-action-and-righteousness

          Here is an Indian view of nation, state etc http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/idea-of-india-unity-and-national-integration/ http://indiafacts.org/constitution-state-law-nation-critique-models/

          Seen through this lens, the problems of today look very different from what we get to see in discourse. Ex. https://skandaveera.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/corollaries-of-cliche-s-tolerance-and-diversity/ and https://skandaveera.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/articulating-the-caste-problem/

          Hope this helps.

          1. Thanks, I’ll read your links at leisure. But I just wanted to clarify something.

            I agree that Indians have a distinct worldview that can be very different to that held by outsiders. But are you going so far as to say that objective analysis of India’s past and present is impossible (even theoretically, using the most neutral scientific logical tools we have at our disposal), and that the result of such analysis is going to be different, depending on the background of the analyzer?

            Offhand, without having read your links, I’d also say that (1) and (2) are independent, contrary to your assertion that (2) is derived from (1). If anything, I’d hold (2) to be the more basic of the two.

          2. I’ll backtrack a bit from the last part of my comment. I can see how (2) can be derived from (1), but I think they can very likely be independent too.

            (1) itself is a little murky in that you claim it is an “understanding”. Where did such an understanding come from? Revelation? Analysis? I’m just having trouble accepting “worldview” as the most basic thing from which all reasoning begins. (Perhaps that is a limitation of my thought process.)

            Anyway, you’ve given me stuff to think about, thanks!

        2. Replying on this comment since the more recent one does not have reply button.

          “But are you going so far as to say that objective analysis of India’s past and present is impossible (even theoretically, using the most neutral scientific logical tools we have at our disposal), and that the result of such analysis is going to be different, depending on the background of the analyzer?”

          There is no “neutral” analysis, every analysis is with respect to some reference frame, worldview and parameters. Facts could be neutral, but choice of facts and plotting them into a narrative cannot be neutral to a frame, it is done within some frame.

          I do not however claim one cannot be overcoming the conditioning of a frame – one who is aware of a frame can think outside of it. So being aware of what frame the method of history and our current understanding of India is, what an Indian frame would be, is an essential prerequisite in any case.

          “I’m just having trouble accepting “worldview” as the most basic thing from which all reasoning begins.”

          Reasoning does not begin with worldview, but is conditioned by worldview. What one assumes to be universal, what one assumes as “given”, what one takes for granted, comes from worldview. For example, equality is an ideal according to one worldview but not all. One who does not take equality for granted as a sought for ideal but puts it in a tradeoff with justice and fulfillment, comes across as discriminating to the one whose worldview puts equality as a greater ideal. The “discriminating” guy on the other hand, sees the “equal” guy as being dogmatic with the ideal of equality. Their ideals differ, because their worldviews, their understanding the nature of existence and purposes of life are different.

          These differences result in the way one builds his narrative of past and present, the way one attributes positive and negative to individuals, actions, events.

          If the method of history differs from Indian style of narrating the past, the differences will be even more pronounced and would not be limited to the way one looks at facts – what appears an exaggeration to the literalist historian would be a symbol to convey a technical detail for the traditional Indian.

  12. ” True-blue libertarian that I am, I would love a history that talks up, say, CR’s Swatantra Party a lot more. But that would not be accurate history, as that party had little to no impact on the Indian political scene.”

    LOL. What is interesting is that Guha( and a lot of other anti RSS folks) himself thinks that he was some sort of a giant. I see a lot of Guha supporting here which tries to painstakingly push him as some sort of non left. It like saying Swatantra Party was like a right wing party or like Socialist/Communist party are anti Congress party. All of them including Guha are more closer to the Left than they are to the Right. Are they card carrying marxist ? No. But is their worldview closer to Congress/Left worldview ? Of course yes. . As i said its a thankless position Guha is in, In India many consider the Congress a right wing party as well. (No true Scotsman)

    In India the Hindutva worldview is the ONLY right wing/Conservative view, notwithstanding what supposedly economic liberals ,supposed non religious “centrist/Conservative” might try to claim.

    1. I never claimed Guha was right-wing or conservative; I explicitly called him out as a liberal. And I know that “right-wing” in India is pretty much synonymous with Hindu nationalism. If you consider anyone who doesn’t belong to the right as a leftist, then you are entitled to your opinion. I don’t care about the label itself as long as the essence isn’t mischaracterized.

      Personally, I steer clear of partisan politics. I do see things through an ideological lens (basically classical liberal), but not a political one. None of the organized political parties in India hold any appeal for me (the Congress is illiberal in its own way, like the CPM and the BJP are in theirs!)

      Anyway, none of this has anything to do with Guha’s or anyone else’s veracity as a historian. The claim being made by some was that he’s fundamentally partisan and dishonest in his writings, and that’s all I was challenging.

        1. Thanks for the kind offer, Zack, but that comment was made in jest. I’m quite happy with the range of topics we currently discuss.

          Maybe when I have something really interesting and informative to say, I’ll get back to you. But until then, I’d prefer to remain an occasional commenter and retain my privacy.

          1. LOL. Yeah man cricket would be like a bit off, considering India has become the USA of cricket in recent times. It just does not rouse the passion/anxiety of the 90s

      1. Numinous, numerous people (including Kushal) describe India has having two major political blocks:
        —non left (sometimes called Hindutva . . . but all it means in reality is non left)

        Is non left all Hindutva is?

        Most of the free market pro globalization Indians are called Hindutva by their opponents. Most classically liberal Indians are also called Hindutva by their opponents. Classical liberalism is in many ways an offshoot of Chaarvaaka Darshana of Sanathana Dharma, so I guess that is not surprising.

        Is Hindutva mostly a slur that the left uses against anyone who is non left? Including Sufis, Shiites, St. Thomas Christians?

        I don’t know the answers to these questions. I am still trying to find out.

        1. Well, in practice, I think most people who consider themselves classical liberals (e.g., free-market lovers) in India are no fans of Hindutva. There’s also something very un-Indian about classical liberalism in that it privileges individual over family and community. If I had to track a common thread across all factions of Indian society and politics, it would be a belief that individuals’ obligations to their families and communities override their personal rights. I found the podcast with Kushal very informative, but I didn’t get whether Charvakas privilege the individual thus; I suspect not.

          1. Numinous, I have heard this comment about eastern philosophy privileging the individual over the family and community many times.

            In all my readings of eastern text from multiple lineages and traditions I don’t understand why someone might think so.

            Everyone is free to do what they want. Eastern philosophy is freedom. Having said that people love. Dharma is love in action. Not a set of rules and obligations.

            We should remember that Chaarvaaka was taught by the planet Jupitor (Brihaspati–Guru of the Gods) to the Gods as a type of PhD course after their education was almost complete. For this reason Chaarvaaka needs to be deeply respected and honored by the other Darshanas.

            “I think most people who consider themselves classical liberals (e.g., free-market lovers) in India are no fans of Hindutva. ”

            Very interesting. I have found that most business people and free market people are accused of being “Hindutva”.

            Is “Hindutva” more a label people are called by their critics than something people choose to label themselves as?

            Is the reason that there is no “Hindutva” philosophy because it is a loose coalition of many non left forces?

            My understanding is that the ancient world was close to what we would now call free market capitalist classical liberal. This is the world described in the Itihaasas and in the human civilizations described in the Puranas.

            Am I wrong?

  13. I would have recommended people here to watch the talk – Revisiting the religion of India, Romila Thapar but it has been deleted since by uploader.



    What you can gather by reading how she envisions history –
    1. She tries to link present to past thus she also assumes many things which are not proved by sources.
    2. She is willing to change but what about people who have developed a wrong view of Indian history ?

    From latest interview –

    Note – We have to consider the possibility of a multiplicity of cultures and societies, some fairly isolated and others in close contact but possibly functioning under a recognised and similar sociopolitical rubric.

    So basically she is asking historians to go back to drawing board to forge the socio-political structure of those times & the formation of the ‘Indic culture’.

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