Wednesday 22 August 2018

Sister Nivedita on The History of India....


India, as she is, is a problem which can only be read by the light of Indian history. Only by a gradual and loving study of how she came to be, can we grow to understand what our country actually is, what the intention of her evolution, and what her sleeping potentiality may be.

We are often told that Indian literature includes no histories. It is said that the Rajatarangini in Kashmir, the Dipavamsha and Mahavamsha in Ceylon, and the records made after their accession to power by the Mohammedans are the only real works of history which she possesses. Even if this be true—and we shall be better able to discuss the -question in a generation or two—we must remember that India herself is the master-document in this kind. The country is her own record. She is the history that we must learn to read. There are those who say that history as a form of literature can never survive the loss of political power, and that this is the reason why India has not more works of an accurate and dynastic character. Those who urge this believe that at each new epoch in her history vast numbers of chronicles belonging to the past have been destroyed. May be. On the other hand, we may find in our family pedigrees the counterpart and compensation for this feature of other national literatures. The little band of devoted scholars who are already at work on the history of Bengal tell us that their great trouble is to keep pace with their material. It pours in upon them day after day. The difficulty is to keep today's opinion so fluid and receptive that it shall not conflict with, or be antagonistic to, tomorrow's added knowledge. There may not at the moment be in our inheritance from the past many formal works of history. But perhaps the swimmer, who knows the joy of the plunge into deep waters and strong currents, is glad. Such minds feel that they have abundance of material for the writing of history, and are thankful indeed that this has been left for them to do.

It will be from amongst the records of home and family-life that light will be shed upon the complete history of Bengal. It will be by searching into caste-origins and tribal traditions that real data will be gathered for estimating the antiquity of processes. My friend Babu Dinesh Chandra Sen, says that he believes, from a study of pedigrees, that an overwhelming proportion of the higher caste families of Bengal came from Magadha. If this be so, it is necessary to assume that there was at a certain time, a wholesale evacuation of Magadha. This would agree so well with the facts of history—the removal of the capital to Gour, on the destruction of Pataliputra, and the immense cultural potentiality of the Bengali people—that the suggestion cannot fail to form a dominant note in subsequent research. This research will for some time be of a deeply inductive character. That is to say, it will proceed by the accumulation of particulars. This process is the ideal of modern science, and it may be said that so arduous and so against the natural appetite of the human mind is it, that few there be that attain unto it. Yet as an ideal its greatness is unquestionable. Conclusions reached by careful gathering of facts without bias towards one or reaction against another theory, are incontrovertible. For this reason anyone who can bring forward one fact out of the far past, however private or circumscribed may seem its significance, so long as it is unknown and certain, is doing a service to historians. For progress must for some time depend upon this accumulation. We must investigate the elements, in order to come at true concepts of the whole.

....From Footfalls of Indian History....will continue

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