India's History Goes More Hindu ; Critics Warn This Month's Decision to Replace Texts Will Push Majority Culture at the Expense of Others

By Scott Baldauf writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

India's History Goes More Hindu ; Critics Warn This Month's Decision to Replace Texts Will Push Majority Culture at the Expense of Others


Scott Baldauf writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


For years, Romila Thapar's "History of India" was as much a part of the Indian classroom as a chalkboard and a ceiling fan.

It was not only the primary history textbook for most high schools, it was the world's most-recognized guide to understanding India, the second most-populous country, after China, and one of the world's oldest civilizations.

But this month, the government's National Council of Education Research and Training announced that Dr. Thapar's book would be shelved in favor of a history text that would promote "patriotism," "values education," and "India's contribution to the world civilizations."

Thapar's book, along with others brought in under previous governments, is the product of "Marxist and leftist" thinking, government officials argued, and must be replaced.

While supporters of the move say that teaching values and national pride is the key to an ailing society corrupted by movies and television, opponents say teaching values in a society as diverse as India's raises one key question: Whose values do you teach?

There is broad agreement that the curriculum battles today will reverberate beyond the nation's classrooms: At stake is nothing less than India's place in the world and its experiment with secular democratic governance.

"History is an issue that runs across all cultural boundaries, and it is a very major issue for a multicultural society as diverse as India," says Krishna Kumar, professor of education at Delhi University in New Delhi. "In India specifically, this comes from a conflict between those who want to define India as a Hindu society, and those who think it must be a secular society."

The more than 1 billion population is 80 percent Hindu, 14 percent Muslim, and has significant numbers of Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists (Buddhism originated here), and Jains. In a country just over one-third the size of the US, there are 24 languages spoken by a million or more people, with a multitude of less-spoken languages and dialects.

India is not alone in wrestling with the values taught in public schools. In the US, parents, teachers, and plenty of lawyers are tangling with questions of whether to promote prayer in school. The state of Kansas famously attempted to promote Creationism as a Biblical alternative to the Darwinian theory of evolution.

In Japan, nationalist politicians have attempted to rewrite history textbooks to downplay Japan's role in World War II. And in South Africa, education ministers are trying to decide when African history begins: with the arrival of the Dutch, of the British, or with the ascendance of Nelson Mandela.

Hindu-oriented ideology

The driving force behind the moves by India's current government is the ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu-ness. Embraced by nationalists during the struggle for independence from British rule, and rejected by the nation's founder, Mohandas Gandhi, Hindutva teaches that Indians can take possession of their destiny only if they take more pride in their past.

Relying on this ideology, the current government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has urged a raft of proposals for changing the curriculum taught in India's public schools.

In a summary of proposals released last December, the government has suggested:

* Teaching Hindi as the official language, and the ancient language of Sanskrit "as the language of traditional wisdom and culture." (Sanskrit is rarely spoken outside of university study halls these days, but was the language of the Indo-Aryan tribes who invaded India thousands of years ago.)

* Teaching Vedic mathematics (an archaic form of math with few modern applications), herbal and ayurvedic medicine, and astrology, as examples of India's contribution to world thought.

* Giving Indian students a new set of historic role models, or "heroes," from the famed medieval warrior-king Prithviraj Chauhan to the freedom fighter Shankar Dev, who fought against British rule from his base in the state of Assam.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

India's History Goes More Hindu ; Critics Warn This Month's Decision to Replace Texts Will Push Majority Culture at the Expense of Others
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.