Thursday, 23 August 2018

Sister Niveidta on The History of India

When we have reached a new fact, the next effort should be to relate it to known central events. We know for instance that capitals changed in Bengal from Pataliputra to Gour, and from Gour to Vikrampur. These transitions could not take place without immense social consequences. The ruins of Bihar mark the long struggle of Bengal against invasion. This fact belongs to her military history. But another record is found in her industrial development. The transfer of government from the old Hindu centre of Vikrampur to the Mohammedan capitals of Dacca and Murshidabad, meant, in its turn, great changes in the direction of arts and crafts. It would be marked by new tendencies in the matter of taste, the old artistic power exerting itself to meet new standards. We must accustom ourselves to the psychological analysis of ornament, and the historical and geographical placing of works of art, in order to understand the immense influence of great political events upon private life and interests.

Architecture, music, and poetry are things higher than the concrete industrial crafts of home and household life, yet marked, no less surely, with the era to which they belong. By learning to refer everything to its own time, and to the state of mind that gave it birth, we build up in ourselves a wonderful readiness for the graver and more serious aspects of history. We learn too that lesson which botanists, zoologists and geologists have had during the last century to learn and teach, namely, that things which are found together may have taken wide distances of space and time to produce. The poems of Vidyapati and Ram Mohan Roy may stand side by side in our hymn-books, but what travail of the human spirit lies between the making of the two! In ages of normal growth, a new mode in building, or graving, or thinking is born but slowly and goes much deeper than we can imagine in these degenerate days of trumpery and passing fashions. No one who has been in the Fort of Agra and noted the styles of using black and white marble against red sandstone, distinctive of the reigns of Akbar, Jehangir, and Shah Jehan, could afterwards make a mistake as to which of these a particular pattern must be assigned to. The designs appear side by side at Agra, yet it took three reigns to make them possible.

The year, as we go through it, constitutes another kind of historical record. The festivals of the old village life which follow each other in such quick and delightful succession throughout the twelve or thirteen moons of the solar year, are not all effects of some single cause. On the contrary, the Car-festival of July hails from Buddhism and has the great metropolis of its observance at Puri on the Orissa coast. But Janmashtami belongs to the Vaishnavism of Krishna and turns our eyes in a very different direction, to Mathura and Brindavana. The Divali puja, again, connects us on the one side with the famous Japanese Feast of Lanterns, and on the other with Latin and Celtic anniversaries of the souls of the dead. How different are the thought-worlds out of which spring inspirations so various as all these! How long a period must each have had, in order to win its present depth and extent of influence.  The very year as it passes, then, this a record of the changing ideas that have swept in succession across the Indian mind.

.....From Footfalls of Indian History....to continue