Any attempt to correct this has been derided as rightist or retrograde. Moreover, the entire focus has been on the conquests of Delhi, not on states and regions.
By Manju Kumar
To control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and your history, he needs no prison walls and no chains to hold you—John Henrik Clarke.
Education is the bedrock on which a nation is built. It also determines the tensile strength of its foundations and sustainability of the structure.
As Vivekananda had said, education must lead to “manifestation of perfection already within each person”. He asserted that “education must teach a person self-confidence and self-respect”. He rejected the idea where a “mind is crammed with facts before it knows how to think”, saying “Books are infinite in number and time is short, therefore the secret of knowledge is to take what is essential”.
When I delivered a lecture in Boston on Vivekananda’s vision on education several years ago, I had a hard time explaining how our education fared on this touchstone. It is now heartening that the architecture of India’s New Education Policy 2020—the first after 34 years—seeks to address most of these objectives.
The replacement of the 10+2 structure of school curricula by 5+3+3+4 corresponding to a child’s 3-8 years (foundational stage), 8-11 (preparatory), 11-14 (middle) and 14-18 (secondary), is aligned with Vivekananda’s teachings. The new pedagogical and curricular structure and initial teaching in mother-tongue or regional language will ensure scientific, intellectual development. Extensive Bal-Bhawans will also serve as special daytime boarding schools and for art-related, career-related and play-related activities. Vocational education from class 6 onwards with internships will inculcate right traits, and assessment reforms with 360-degree holistic progress evaluation will eliminate mindless cramming of facts. Vivekananda had laid great stress on girls’ education, it should now be accorded focused attention.
An important element in his vision was the emphasis on building “self-confidence and self-respect”. No child is happy to be taught that her ancestors were weak, losers or traitors. Unfortunately, history is chronicled by the victors. In our case, whether under Mughals or British, there has been an attempt to systematically eliminate our past. Any attempt to correct this has been derided as rightist or retrograde. Moreover, the entire focus has been on the conquests of Delhi, not on states and regions.
Education is a concurrent subject, and, now, when initial learning is to be in mother tongue and regional languages, each state must undertake proper scientific research into their glorious past, identify local heroes and highlight their achievements, based on proven archival or archaeological evidence. Such stories will help build “self-confidence and self-respect”.
Why do we learn so little about the Indus Valley Civilization? Or, about India’s golden age, the vast Mauryan Empire encompassing most of the Indian subcontinent, the Gupta Empire, the spread of Indian culture, Hindu, Jainism and Buddhist influence to Southeast Asia and parts of Middle East and the Mediterranean?
Some of the most significant historical events just got erased from our books. Why are there no details on the rise of Prakrit and Pali literature from 3rd Century BCE in the north and the Tamil Sangam literature in the South, the Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire, Gurjara-Pratihara Empires? We have to search on Google, Wikipedia and look for Western writings to learn about famous imperial powers from the middle of the 5th century, like Chalukya, Chola, Pallava, Chera, Pandyan, Satavahana Dynasty and Western Chalukya empires. The Chola dynasty conquered southern India and successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bengal in the 11th century. Lalitaditya Muktapida, the most powerful ruler of the Karkota dynasty of Kashmir region (724 CE – 760 CE) captured parts of Central Asia, Afghanistan and Punjab and vanquished the Turks, Tibetans, Bhutias, etc. Around 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city (after Beijing) and probably India’s richest at that time. It attracted traders from Persia and Portugal. We know about attacks of Mehmood Ghaznavi on the Somnath temple in 1025 AD, and invasions of Muhammad Ghori in 1192. So, why this lull for 175 years? Few would know that Ghazi Masud, nephew of Mehmood Ghaznavi attacked in June 1033 and was decimated in ferocious battle near Bahraich by Raja Suheldev. In the Battle of Saraighat, in 1671, the Mughal Army was destroyed by the Ahom Army led by Lachit Borphukan. The Ahom dynasty defeated Mughals not once but 17 times!
How many of us have heard of Marthanda Varma, who was the ruler of Travancore and crushed the Dutch East India Company in the battle of Colachel? But for him, the course of history might have been different! Having decimated them, he spared the life of their chief, Capt. De Lenoy, on the condition that he would train his soldiers. After the battle, Marthanda Varma surrendered his power and wealth at the feet of Lord Padmanabhaswamy in 1750. It is believed that the vast treasure in Padmanabhaswamy Temple has offerings of his wealth. There is no dearth of such stories in various states and regions. As Vivekanand said, “Do not believe that you are weak or small, you can do anything and everything”. Let us hope that through NEP 2020, and concerted efforts, our children, can now be taught as per Vivekananda’s vision, making India truly strong, atmanirbhar and a global super-power.
The author is Managing partner, Competition Advisory Services LLP