Faithful History: The Perils of Hindutva Historiography


The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


The articles that make up this discussion map are a response to efforts to carve out a "Hindutva historiography" that, in the name of decolonisation, seeks to eschew the study of history and instead promotes the return to sacred Hindu texts such as the Rāmayana, Mahābhārata and the Puranas. The discussion sheds light on what it means for historians to reconstruct the “original” historical past. 

In his article titled "A Blindness about India," Rajan Gurukkal responds to these efforts—that he perceives as an attack on history and Indian historians—through a critique of the work of the philosopher S N Balagangadhara, a professor of philosophy at Ghent University, Belgium. He points out that Balagangadhara uses “decolonisation” to justify the rejection of the study of the past through the disciplines of history and social science in favour Hindu scriptures. Gurukkal demonstrates that Balagangadhara’s valorisation of a "Hindu past" is ignorant of India’s past, of Indian history, of the historian’s craft as well as of the fact that his proposed approach is itself an uncritical acceptance of Western categories. 

Romila Thapar, in her article “Fallacies of Hindutva Historiography”, addresses the two criticisms highlighted by Gurukkal that are often levied by Hindutva historians, namely “that Indian historians merely collect factoids, and that their historical explanations draw on a Protestant Christian understanding of the past.” She argues that these criticisms have not held true for half a century since they fell out of fashion and have been discarded even by European historiography. She points out that these criticisms betray an ignorance of the historiographical changes that have taken place in the study of Indian history. She also notes that their recommendation to turn to the Rāmayana, Mahābhārata and the Puranas would immediately turn up certain problems such as choosing from among varied and contradicting versions of these texts. Finally she points out that there has been a concerted effort to undermine the work of historians and social sciences, especially when it questions the Hindutva version of Indian history and where earlier it was dismissed as being ‘Marxist’ now it is dismissed as imitations of western historiography. 



For more on this theme please see the discussion map on

The Question of Communalism in the Writing of Indian History



Back to Top