If India itself be the book of Indian history, it follows that travel is the true means of reading that history. The truth of this statement, especially while the published renderings of our history remain so inadequate and so distorted, ought never to be forgotten. Travel, as a mode of study, is of infinite importance. Yet it is not everything. It is quite possible to travel the world over and see nothing, or only what is not true. We see, after all, only what we are prepared to see. How to develop the mind of the taught, so that it shall see, not what its teacher has led it to expect, but the fact that actually passes before the eyes is the problem of all right scientific education. In history also, we want to be able to see, not the thing that would be pleasant, but the thing that is true. For this we have to go through a strenuous preparation.
With a few of the counters of the game, as it were, we take it for granted that one is already familiar. The great names of Indian history—Buddhism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Islam—mean something to one. Gradually each student makes for himself his own scale of signs by which to compare the degrees of this or that quality that interests him. He chooses his own episode, and begins to see it in its proper setting. Bihar, from its geographical and ethnological position, cannot fail to be one of the most complex and historically interesting provinces in India. In studying Bihar, then, we early learn the truth of the dictum of the late Purna Chandra Mukherji, and whenever we find a tamarind tree mentally substitute by way of experiment, a Bo or when we come across a rounded hillock with the grave of a Pir on the top, convert it into a Stupa, and make it a Buddhist centre. If we do this, and cultivate the habit of summing up our impressions, we shall be led to many wonderful and unexpected conclusions about the distribution of population at the, Mohammedan invasion, the strength and forms of Buddhism, and so on.
But one of the master-facts in Indian history, a fact borne in upon us more deeply with every hour of study, is that India is and always has been a synthesis. No amount of analysis, racial, lingual, or territorial, will ever amount in the sum to the study of India. Perhaps the axioms of Euclid are not axioms after all. Perhaps all the parts of a whole are not equal to the whole. At any rate, apart from and above, all the fragments which must be added together to make India, we have to recognize India herself, all-containing, all-dominating, moulding and shaping the destinies and the very nature of the elements out of which she is composed. The Indian people may be defective in the methods of mechanical organisation, but they have been lacking, as a people, in none of the essentials of organic synthesis. No Indian province has lived unto itself, pursuing its own development, following its own path, going its way unchallenged and alone. On the contrary, the same tides have swept the land from end to end. A single impulse has bound province to province at the same period, in architecture, in religion, in ethical striving. The provincial life has been rich and individual, yet over and above it all India has known how to constitute herself a unity, consciously possessed of common hopes and common loves. Thus in the pursuit of epochs and parts we must never forget the Mother and the Motherland, behind them all. In remembering her and turning to her, again and again we shall find the explanation that had baffled us, discover the link that we required.
....From Footfalls of Indian History...contd