For those unfamiliar with Dharampal and his works, he pioneered trawling through the British and Indian archives of the 18th and 19th centuries and proving that the picture of Indian society of the period was misrepresented
As Bharat celebrates 75 years of independence from British colonial rule, this is also an opportune moment to delve deeper into systemic destruction and demonization Bharatiya British social institutions.
This truth is revealed through the writings of Dharampal, a Gandhian philosopher and historian. Like Sita Ram Goel, Ram Swarup and many other nationalists, Dharampal’s writings have yet to receive the recognition they deserve.
For those unfamiliar with Dharampal and his works, he pioneered the British and Indian archives of the 18thth and 19th Century and proved that the picture of the Indian society at that time was painted wrong.
Dharampal’s body of work is enormous in both depth and scope in terms of rediscovering Bharat’s past. However, for beginners, reading Rediscover India could be the first step if you decide to take this journey to discover India’s true past.
Rediscover India is a collection of prominent essays and speeches by Dharampal from 1956-1998. This title was first published in 2003. The same title was updated and re-released in 2022 by the Bhopal-based Dharampal Shodhpeeth and the Mussoorie-based Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH).
An egalitarian society, more advanced than Britain
The first chapter of the book India Must Rediscover Herself is an eye opener as it tells you that Bharat was a very progressive and egalitarian society and caste discrimination was probably only an exception and not the norm as was misrepresented in the colonial ones Chroniclers and their Intellectual Heirs.
In this chapter, in answering the specific question from Dr. GSR Krishnan (for an interview published in Deccan Herald, Bengaluru in March 1983), whether India was ahead of Britain around 1750, and the status of the common people at that time, says Dharampal: “I am not sure that, based on the available data, one can compare the two societies. But there are certain facts that give us a very different picture of Indian society. For example, in Britain, the issue of agricultural productivity and wages in India was discussed Edinburgh review dated July 1804. By comparison, productivity in India was found to be many times greater than in Britain. What surprised the British even more was that the real wages of the Indian farm worker were significantly higher than those of his British counterpart.”
Dharampal cites very interesting data that destroys the myth of widespread discrimination in Bharatiya society. “In Tanjore, in 1805, the number of mirasdars (those with permanent rights on land) was put at 62,000, of which 42,000 were owned Sudras and castes among them…Alexander Read, who founded the Madras land revenue system, said that the only discernible difference between the nobility and servants in Hyderabad about 1780 was that the clothing of the former was cleaner.”
In an interesting take on the caste system, one that overturns all notions of ‘caste’ as a discriminatory social institution, Dharampal says: ‘Contrary to accepted assumptions, and perhaps to Manusmritian When the British began conquering India, the majority of the Rajas were from Sudravarna… It can also be argued that the existence of caste contributed to the toughness of Indian society, its ability to survive and rise again … For the British, caste was a major obstacle, an absolute evil not because they adhered to the castelessness or a non-hierarchical system, but because it got in the way of their fractured Indian society. I think caste has hindered the process of atomization of Indian society and made the task of conquest and government more difficult. So the current anger and theoretical formulation against the organization of Indian society into castes, whatever, today’s justification or not, begins with British rule.”
Bharat’s achievements in science and technology
Dharampal has written a separate book on how advanced Bharat was in the field of science and technology when British colonization began here. However inside Rediscover India You’ll also get some interesting details that may inspire you to read more about this less-discussed topic.
Speaking of how advanced Bharat was in the fields of mathematics and astronomy, Dharampal cites specific examples: There is an interesting paper by Sir Robert Barker, the British Commander-in-Chief in Bengal and later a Member of the British Parliament. at the famous observatory of Benares. Actually the Encyclopedia Britannica Until its 1823 edition, this observatory was considered one of the five most famous observatories in the world. There is a work published in 1790 by John Playfair, FRS and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh. Playfair’s treatise is actually a detailed review of a book on Indian astronomy written by the famous French astronomy historian Bailly.”
“About the same year, an article by Ruben Burrow on the binomial theorem was published. Then we have the account of Le Gentil, who was an assistant to the famous Cassini, of how the Tamils calculated the eclipse, without pen and pencil, by calculating with shells on the basis of memorized tables. In terms of technology, there are many articles that speak of our excellent farming techniques.”
“There is a great account by Colonel Alexander Walker written about 1820 on agriculture in Malabar and Gujarat. There is a very interesting treatise on vaccination against smallpox by Holwell, who was himself a medical doctor and was for a short time Governor of Bengal. He detailed the practice of vaccination in Bengal and other areas. The British banned the Indian method of vaccination against smallpox in 1802-1803.”
There is a treatise by Captain Halcott on the bored plow used in southern India. He said he never thought a power plow, considered a modern European invention, would be in use in remote villages in India. He also described the construction of the drill plow as very simple and clean. There are accounts of the Indian process of steelmaking referred to as “wootz‘. The British experts samples of ‘Wootz’ which you from Dr. Helenus Scott commented that it is decidedly superior compared to any other steel they have seen. There are also accounts of ice making, paper making, and mortar making.”
Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar aptly summed up the essence of this book in a foreword he wrote for the 2003 edition: “British historians have tried to portray us as backward, ignorant and uncivilized people. It was a calculated bluff to establish their central authority, destroying our old institutions of local self-government in the process.”
Incidentally, Dharampal’s research that produced all these facts began some six decades ago when he was studying the institutions of self-government at the village level. His original research has provided facts about Bharat’s past, particularly in the late 18th centuryth and 19th century that could leave readers completely stunned!
(‘Rediscovery of India’ by Dharampal; Edited by SIDH & Dharampal Shodhpeeth, Swaraj Sansthan Sanchalaya)
The reviewer has authored several books. The views expressed are personal.
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