SV: ICHR controversey

Sundeep Dougal holden at GIASDL01.VSNL.NET.IN
Thu Mar 2 20:06:43 UTC 2000

I have long been a lurker on this list, and much as I realise
this is the wrong forum for it, heartened by the interjections
of Vidyasankar Sundaresan & Lars Martin Fosse, I am
tempted to post some quick responses to Mr. Vishal
Aggarwal's message:

    "Jha and R S Sharma upto 1998 and 1999 if the listmaster
    permits). The EMINENT HISTORIANS's only response
    to Shourie's books have been abuses..."

Has  Mr. Aggarwal perhaps read _Investigative Journalism
or Slander: Do you have more Questions Mr. Shourie?_
by one Vishwa Mohan Jha, brought out by Sahmat in 1998?

     "...For that matter, why doesn't Ms. Srinivas herself ..."

Why conclude that it is "Ms." Srinivas? Perhaps one needs
to at least enquire before jumping to a conclusion? Couldn't
it be a "Mr."? In any case, based only on this, I wouldn't like
to imply that Mr. Agarwal is being very judgemental.

    "...the book with an open mind and points out 5 blatant
    errors in the work of Shourie where he has criticized these
    eminent Historians, rather than making clearly non relevant

Only 5? Laxmi Srinivas, I am sure, is capable of making many
relevant retorts and pointing out far too many errors - but for now,
given the constraints of space and time, let me just sequentially
run through the above Sahmat book and not try to decide what is
more blatant than the other:

1. Kosambi's _Myth & Reality_

Shourie starts by accusing in Chapter 15, that Lord Indra
has been called ' "rowdy and amoral" ' without evidence (p. 156)

Perhaps Shourie was in too much of a hurry to have missed out
the details on pp 19 & 24 of _M&R_? C'mon, even good old
Amar Chitra Kathas used to say that, and Kosambi gives more
than adequate evidence on the pages cited above. I am sure you
would corroborate after checking the same?

Let me admit that I am at present only going by this Sahmat book
(p 6) but of course anybody is free to counter, as the purpose is
to examine one criticism made of Shourie's eminent book.

2. Kalidasa (see pg 6&7 of the Sahmat booklet)

Shourie argues while that the Soviet historians appreciated the
Indian Civilization in full measure, the Indian Marxists exerted to
belittle them as much as they could, that while, e.g. K.Anatova,
G.Bongard-Levin & G.Kotovsky recognised Kalidasa as 'one
of the pearls of ancient Indian Literature' etc. the Indians _in
contrast_ did not.

(Pg 174-177 where he discusses D.N.Jha's work)

One may justifiably, and only incidentally wonder why he doesn't
discuss the 'other eminence' R.S. Sharma on Kalidasa. Could it be
that because his _Ancient India_ states, inter alia: 'Kalidasa wrote
_Abhijnananshakuntalam_ which is considered to be one of the
best hundred literary works in the world'? (Ancient India, Pg

Maybe Shourie could also quote from Pg 113 from Jha's book
instead of the quote from Pg 114?  It is only for the sake of
a shortage of time that I am being brief for now, but I am sure
you'd be able to verify for yourself. (and Shourie does say that
he is discussing Pg 112-115, so perhaps it is only fair that we also
look at the quote):

'The poems of Kalidasa remain unequaled in their metrical and
verbal perfection. His most famous work, the play
_Abhijnanashakuntalam_, ... remains the supreme achievement
of early Indian literature and stagecraft.'

It is possible that Jha and Sharma may be found lacking in their
panegyrics, or their prose may not be as florid as the Soviets',
but surely they do not do Kalidasa any disservice?

3. The Extended Phallus (Pg 8 of the booklet)

On Pg 159 of his eminent book, for Jha, he asserts 'Lord Shiva
is just a "development of phallic cults" ' (citing from Jha, op
p.90). Now this 'just' is just Shourie's imputation, not a part of
the quote. I hope you'd pardon my referring to the Shiv Lingam
as above, but that is what Shourie claims Jha sees in Lord Shiva
unlike the effulgence that 'even a foreigner - Stella Kramrisch -
is able to see.

On this page, 90 (nor for that matter in any of the 8 pages
mentioned for the entry 'Shiva') of Jha's book, this quote is
(surprise surprise) not there. It would take too long to reproduce
what IS there on this page, though - and I am sure you would be
kind enough to check and confirm the same to us?

As the Sahmat booklet puts it: "the onus on Shourie here is
twofold; he must both show where Jha has written the alleged thing
and admit that he did not read or understand the above quote from
Jha's book. Failing either he stands accused of lying.

4. The Theory (pg 9 of the booklet)

Please refer to Pg 228-232 of Shourie's book where he
disparages Kosambi & Jha of following & propagating
as a gang (giroha), what he describes as, The Theory as
"revealed to" Marx & Engeles ..that bhakti was no more
than a product of feudalism...

Perhaps Shourie forgets that Marx had pointedly rejected
Kovalevsky's view that there was a feudal period in Indian
history, that Kosambi firmly rejected Marx's views on Indian
history, and that the concept of feudalism and its applications
have been a most complex and contentious issue among these
very historians?

5. Disappearance of Buddhism (pg 10-11 of the booklet)

Here's a quotation from Shourie citing J.S. Sharma's
_Ancient India_, p 78 [p 90 of Eminent Historians]:

<begin quote>

'We find that in the beginning every religion is inspired
by the spirit of reform', this historian [i.e. Sharma] tells
us, 'but eventually it succumbs to rituals and ceremonies
it originally denounced. Buddhism ..._became a victim
to the evils of brahmanism against which it had fought in
the beginning_.' Hence: the original seed of evil is in
'brahmanism', indeed it is evil _per se_; and  Buddhism
lost out because it fell back into that cesspool.

</end quote>

But is Sharma calling brahmanism itself evil, a cesspool?
Or is he speaking of the evils present in brahmanism.
Let's see the same page 78 of Sharma's book:


It [i.e. Buddhism] became a victim to the evils of brahmanism
against which it had fought in the beginning. To meet the
buddhist challenge the brahmans reformed their religion. They
stressed the need for preserving the cattle wealth and assured
women and shudras of admission to heaven. Buddhism, on
the other hand, changed for the worse."


Distortion? Selective quotation? Spin? Miscomprehension?

I am only on page 11 of this booklet and I have reached the 5
points required by you, omitting many, randomly picking in
page-sequence those which might be easily condensable,
though you may like to read the rest for temple destruction
figures, and of course Aurangjeb & Jaziya & what a muslim
actually is & other such gems.

Despite all this, all I'd say for now is that let's be fair. Let's
not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let's discriminate
& leave it for professionals to sort out the details.

I hope Mr. Aggarwal will agree.

Excuse me as this is rushed & seeing the heat generated by
this book, did wish to post in at least a hurried response before
this thread was declared off-limits.

Warm regards,

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