The new Ashutosh Gowariker movie Mohenjo Daro may be bombing on the box office, but let that not prevent you from getting a history lesson from it. In a 30-min FaceBook Live broadcast today (below), Rajiv Malhotra effectively gave a lesson on the Indus-Saraswati civilization – what is known, what needs more research and what is, but ought not to be, controversial. This is the kind of lesson that ought to be in our school history textbooks.
The controversy is about the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) – perhaps the single most toxic idea proposed by Western indologists. It started with Max Mueller, got strengthened during the British Raj and, amazingly, continued to gain strength post-Independence, lately due to leftist historians like Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib.
Rajiv Malhotra carefully explains the symbolism embedded in the movie in support of the AIT. The most egregious for me was the lack of any mention of Sanskrit. He also explains the implications of AIT today – the whole Dravidian politics of Tamil Nadu is built upon AIT, it also feeds into the dalit issue and demonization of Hinduism. By the way, he also responds to the common reaction – chill dude, it is just a movie! I agree with his response. Also, elsewhere in this blog, I have addressed the common cop-out argument – history is always biased. Basically there is no excuse to not watch and think about the issues that RM raises!
I would say that AIT hits at the very heart of the Indian national identity. From what I have read (some references below), the evidence against the AIT or any sort of foreign origin of Indian civilization is very strong. It is a travesty that 70 years after independence this is still a matter of debate. Anyone propounding AIT should be treated just like anyone denying the holocaust – as fringe. I would like the Indian government to take this up as a matter of national importance and greatly increase the funding for research in this area. Of course, unbiased and indigenous research, not by the likes of Mark Kenoyer, Michael Witzel and their Indian sepoys.
This movie illustrates a number of red flags that Rajiv Malhotra has been raising over the years. AIT started in the obscure circles of Indology research but, being unchallenged for nearly two centuries, has now permeated the popular culture to an extent that Ashutosh Gowariker is making a Rs 100+ crore bollywood extravaganza propagating it. Just like the case of Sheldon Pollock and the Murty Classics Library, this movie is another example of the sad and ironic situation where the experts on India tend to be found only in the western universities. The wikipedia entry on the movie says that “.. after much reading of published archaeological reports on his [Ashutosh Gowariker] own, he brought in the American archaeologist Professor Jonathan Mark Kenoyer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ..”. So, now I can add one more character to the haloed group of Sheldon Pollock, Michael Witzel, Wendy Doniger and, of course, her child Devdutt Patanaik! This is why what goes on in universities like JNU and Jadhavpur matters and why we need Swadeshi Indology. Again, HRD ministry should take note.
So, watch the movie and the review and seek the right history. It matters .. here and now.
Additional material on the Aryan Invasion Theory
- Dr. N S Rajaraman – Let us BURY the Aryan Theory (video)
- Shrikant Talageri – The Myth of the Aryan Invasion(video)
- Rajiv Malhotra – Breaking India (book)