India’s history rediscovered?

RUPA GUPTA AND Gautam Gupta have written a fascinating book with an intriguing title: “Forgotten Civilisations. The Rediscovery of India’s Lost History”. It describes 15 British men, who came to India during the British colonial era, which ended on the 15th of August 1947 and explored the Subcontinent’s early history.

The authors have written short biographies of these interesting men, highlighting the contributions they made to documenting India’s long history. The book seems to be making the case that before the arrival of these men, filled with a great enthusiasm for unearthing the past, India’s history prior to the Mughals had been largely forgotten.

Now, I am not qualified to comment on whether or not Indians had forgotten about their early ancestors, but wonder whether this history had really been lost before the arrival of the men described in the book. In many cases, these men were reliant on help from pandits who could read ancient scripts such as Sanskrit. Understanding these texts was the key to many of the ‘discoveries’ made by the subjects of the book. The existence of these texts suggests that long before the arrival of the British, early Indian history had been preserved, but maybe not as systematically as modern European historians would have preferred.

Despite my reservations about whether India had really lost or forgotten its ancient past, the book by the Guptas is fascinating (even though I have some reservations about its rather repetitive formulaic style).

Suggesting that a country had forgotten its own history might pander to readers who still harbour patronising or colonialist ideas about India. Although I have not yet seen this book on sale in British bookshops, I suspect it would might well appeal to readers, who seem to have forgotten that Britannia no longer rules the waves. I doubt that it was the Gupta’s intention that their interesting text might possibly appeal to readers who still believe that Britain is superior to other nations.

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