The first five Volumes of the 11 volume series on ‘History of Ancient India’ being prepared under the aegis of the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) were released by former Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Opposition National Democratic Alliance, Shri L.K. Advani on 23rd December 2013 at an impressive ceremony at the VIF Auditorium. The Editors of the 11 volumes series are Prof. Dilip K. Chakrabarti (Professor Emeritus of South Asian Archaeology at Cambridge University) and Prof. Makkhan Lal (noted historian and archaeologist).
In his address, Shri Advani said though he has released a large number of books over the years, this series has a special place in his heart since it has not only enhanced his pride as an Indian but as people at large would get to know about the nation’s true history.
Speaking on the occasion, VIF Director Shri Ajit Doval outlined the aims and objectives of the entire project and its importance. Describing the monumental project as a “brain child” of noted columnist and thinker Shri S Gurumurthy, he explained how it was conceived and took shape over the years.
Prof. Dilip K. Chakrabarti outlined the details of each volume and pointed out that since the country attained independence many multi-volume projects on history and archaeology were undertaken by many governmental and non- governmental agencies but except for one (i.e. the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan series) no other project could proceed beyond a few initial volumes. In fact, most of them could not go even beyond the planning stage.
Explaining the mammoth task involved in the publication of the five volumes running into about 3,500 double column printed pages within a short span of two years and seven months, he said the rest of the six volumes will also be released as per schedule. Over 80 leading scholars from various universities from India and abroad and Government departments contributed chapters on different aspects of ancient Indian history in these volumes.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri S. Gurumurthy, who is also a renowned economist, said the idea for this project on ancient Indian history came to him while searching the meaning of the so called “Hindu rate of growth” in economics. He spoke in detail on how India and China dominated the world economics for well over two thousand years; contributing more than 60 percent of the total world GDP. The economy gradually declined and was finally destroyed once India came under the British rule. He hoped that these volumes will clear-up lots of myths perpetuated by wrong approaches and misrepresentation of facts.
Shri Arun Shourie, noted journalist and author and Prof Kapil Kumar, noted historian spoke at length about the distortions deliberately perpetuated by the colonial historians and continued more vigorously after independence by the Marxist historians.
Proposing a vote thanks, Prof Makkhan Lal said history is all about identity of the people and therefore it is important they should be vigilant as to what is being written and what is being taught. There should not be a conflict between what is written in the textbooks and people’s religious beliefs. He said that it should not happen that what is being viewed as sacred and very revered at home is denigrated in the school textbooks. He further emphasized that history need not be written by winners alone but also the defeated ones. To illustrate his point, he cited the two streams of histories regarding the discovery of the New World i.e. the Americas. The European version views that discovery of the New World opened new natural resources, amazing reserves of gold and more land for their colonization but completely ignored the fact that within a decade or so after the Europeans discovered the New World, three major civilizations – Inca, Aztec and Maya -- developed over two millennia, were destroyed. The same can be said about the other countries conquered by those who projected themselves as missionaries of Christianity and Islam.
The event saw the participation of many eminent persons including Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Shri Arif Mohammad Khan, Shri K.N Govindacharya, Shri Subhash Kashyap, Shri Vijai Kapoor, Gen. N.C. Vij, Adm. K.K. Nayyar, Shri Prabhat Shukla and Prof Lokesh Chandra.