During the last year and a half, I had the privilege and good fortune to spend some time re-reading and editing some parts of a book that was first published in 2003. It is a book on Indian History, written by one of my esteemed teachers, Prof. Kittu Reddy. My husband and I have been studying Sri Aurobindo’s social and cultural thought with Kittuda (as he is known to everyone here) for the last several years.
When Kittuda was getting ready to bring out a new revised and expanded edition of his much-acclaimed book on Indian History, I offered to help him in whatever little ways I could with the text. Of course, no other way would have been better to delve once again into the many important details of Indian history that he meticulously presents in this book.
The book titled, History and Culture of India: A New Approach (Standard Publishers, 2014) is meant for general audience and presents an inner approach to understanding several important events in the Indian history.
In this three-part series, I will be sharing the Introduction and Chapter 1 from the book. This, I believe, will give a good feel of the book.
Interested readers may purchase the book from following online vendors:
SABDA Amazon Indianbooksworldwide
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF INDIA: A NEW APPROACH
Prof. Kittu Reddy
It was in February 1973. Three teachers of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education were having a discussion with the Mother on education. During the discussion the Mother remarked that it was necessary that the books on History, and more particularly, on Indian History be written in the light of Sri Aurobindo. She looked at me and suggested that I could take up this work. That is the genesis of this book.
Many years earlier, Sri Aurobindo had written in The Human Cycle:
“The objective view of society has reigned throughout the historical period of humanity in the West; it has been sufficiently strong though not absolutely engrossing in the East. Rulers, people, and thinkers alike have understood by their national existence a political status, the extent of their borders, their economic well-being and expansion, their laws, institutions and the working of these things. For this reason political and economic motives have everywhere predominated on the surface and history has been a record of their operations and influence. The one subjective and psychological force consciously admitted and with difficulty deniable has been that of the individual. This predominance is so great that most modern historians and some political thinkers have concluded that objective necessities are by law of Nature the only really determining forces; all else is result or superficial accidents of these forces. Scientific history has been conceived as if it must be a record and appreciation of the environmental motives of political action, of the play of economic forces and developments and the course of institutional evolution. The few who still valued the psychological element have kept their eye fixed on individuals and are not far from conceiving of history as a mass of biographies. The truer and more comprehensive science of the future will see that these conditions only apply to the imperfectly self-conscious period of national development. Even then there was always a greater subjective force working behind individuals, policies, economic movements and the change of institutions; but it worked for the most part subconsciously, more as a subliminal self than as a conscious mind”.
This book is an attempt to write the history of India from the subjective viewpoint, without in any way distracting from the external events; on the contrary it will enhance greatly and give meaning to the objective narration of external events that took place. The Indian people are by nature subjective in their approach to life; the stress in India has always been more on the inside than on the outside. This inwardness has been one of the striking features of Indian culture. An India without the great Vedic and Upanishadic scriptures and the spiritual personalities of Rama and Krishna would not be India any more. A study and appreciation of Indian history, therefore, demands more particularly a subjective understanding and appreciation. It may even be said that the study of Indian history demands an approach that values the impact of the highest truths and thought found in India’s greatest scriptures, literature and mythology as well as the influence of the ideals lived and taught by Rama, Krishna, Buddha and a long list of Rishis and Saints. The impact of such inner forces in shaping the outer history of India is thus a key topic of inquiry for this book.
Secondly, it is evident to serious thinkers that all human behaviour, whether on the individual or the collective plane, is the direct consequence of the inner psychological state. In this book an attempt has been made to interpret the events of Indian history from a psychological point of view. This does not mean that external events are any less important; rather they gain greater importance when seen in the light of the inner psychological vision and deeper forces behind them. . The significance of external events lies in the meaning that a true subjectivism and an inward approach to knowledge alone can give.
One of the most powerful subjective forces in history has been that of the individual. There have been times in the history of a nation when events have revolved around an individual personality. This book lays much stress on the impact of individual personalities.
It must be however mentioned that this book does not cover all the details of Indian history; that was not the intention. It gives a general overview of Indian history with emphasis on the subjective element.
It is hoped that this book will help in giving a direction to the study of history from the inner point of view and will lead to a deeper understanding of the role of history.
I take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to Sri Aurobindo’s Action and its editor, Shyamsundar Jhunjunwala, who encouraged me to publish various chapters from this book as separate articles in the journal before bringing them out in a book form.
I also express my profound thanks to Kireet Joshi for the encouragement he gave me and for going through the whole book in great detail and making valuable comments and suggestions. These comments and suggestions have been invaluable in preparing the final draft of the book.
Finally, I would like to convey my thanks to all my friends and well-wishers who have helped in innumerable ways in bringing out this book and been a source of encouragement.
 Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Vol 15, p 30-31
To be continued….
Go to Part 2
This seems to be a very interesting book. A subjective perspective of history is truly required – in fact not only for history, I daresay it is required even for the so-called hard-sciences.
Dates are important, inscriptions are important, coins are important – in other words physical proof is important. But our Indian way of thought tells us to go beyond that. Way beyond that. In the context of history, that would mean that one has to contemplate history, to realize history, to extract the essence of historical traditions (called sara) and reach a chud-mani stage (crest jewel) on a subjective level.
This was reflected in the mathematics of Srinivas Ramanuja – the west simply failed to understand how meditation (dhyana) and devotion (bhakti) and intense contemplation in front of his family deity goddess, could yield equations and supreme mathematical insights. Something happens at higher stages of consciousness to produce amazing insights and realizations, which so-called objective science is not able to understand (and believe) today.
I am so glad that I came across this series. Matriwords truly is a store-house of treasures. 🙂
A line I really liked: “An India without the great Vedic and Upanishadic scriptures and the spiritual personalities of Rama and Krishna would not be India any more.”
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Thank you so much, Subhodeep for this wonderful and insightful comment. I love how you speak of contemplating history and extracting the essence of historical traditions. We just have to remember and recall how our grandmother used to tell us stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata and we know that for them these were not merely ‘mythological’ stories, they were really living histories from which we were supposed to extract the ‘saar’ and learn and grow as human beings. I remember sometime same story would be told in a different way to draw a different lesson or question to contemplate upon. What a living ‘learning from history’ tradition we had!
The example you give of Ramanujan is so relevant when it comes to opening to inspiration at those higher levels of consciousness. Recently a great scholar and sadhak here in Sri Aurobindo Ashram wrote this on FB, I thought you may appreciate it, so sharing it here. “We owe something tremendously great to Hardy who gave us Ramanujan. But did the “Indian in England” lose his contact with the Goddess of Numbers? Namakkal? To quote from the (Sri Aurobindo’s) Life Divine: “… there is not an entire absence of penetration from above into our mental limits. The phenomena of genius are really the result of such a penetration”. Ramanujan had opened out to that flood of knowledge of numbers. But did it get affected by his contact with the analytical approach of the West? Looks to be so.”