Why focus on Indian History and Culture?

For the past two months, I have embarked on an experiment to create videos on Indian History and Culture on YouTube. Many viewers asked my motivation to do this, so I thought I’d write about it.

I grew up listening to my grandparents tell wonderful stories of our rich mythology. Being a Telugu, I also grew up on the fascinating historical period movies that brought so much to the screen and popular discourse.

While they make for good stories, I felt that our cultural identity is quite distorted. We have immense pride in our civilizational history but total ignorance of our real achievements in science, maths, engineering, arts, and literature. These are commendable scientific achievements by real people in our past.

The problem is, mostly we see our past from the lens of history and mythology that does not have currency in modern times. We do not see it from the lens of science and arts that is relevant and applicable to our lives today. We don’t learn our ancient temple and building architecture principles from Vastu shastra in our engineering education. We do not learn Shilpa shastras in our fine arts class. We do not learn Aryabhatta, Pingala, Hemchandra in our math class, Shushruta in our medicine, and the list goes on.

Because, if we did, we wouldn’t be locking up our history in a closet. We’d be living it, we’d be celebrating it, we’d be propagating it. And it would become part of our identity that we’d happily and proudly carry with us.

Our past defines our future!

But what happens today? We stop with a shallow statement like “Look we invented zero!” and don’t go beyond it. We don’t even know that Hemchandra documented what we now call as “Fibonacci” series 50 years before. We do not know that he did it in the context of literary prosody (at least I didn’t until now!). Indian approach to mathematics was very different from the west which has technical merit even today. When we can speak so many languages, eat different cuisines, why can’t our schools include ancient mathematics along side the western methods?

Our history books over emphasize the colonial period – we know even the dietary preferences of every Mughal ruler and British officer – who spanned just 200 years each. Granted that during this tiny period of our history, we went from 25% of world’ GDP to 3%. But we end up relegating kingdoms like Chola (over 1000 years), Vijayanagara (300 years) to a few paragraphs. A trip to Hampi (in Karnataka) will prove to anyone that they were not some minor kingdoms. They had legendary vision and administrative prowess. Similarly, a trip to Bali will show that India’s influence reached beyond our shores.

If we really want to be respected in the world, we need to learn and respect our own cultural identity. If we aspire to become a super power, we need to revive our and live it ourselves. There is a responsibility for each of us to understand our past for oneself and then for the world.

We need to that that step. I need to take that step for myself.

Hence this journey – to go beyond our glorious myths to understanding our fascinating accomplishments of science/arts/literature in India – so that it can show us our path to our destiny.

As I read and learn, I want to document it in the form of YouTube videos for three reasons – a) retelling reinforces my own understanding, b) by sharing it with others, they don’t have to go through the pain of reading and researching and c) I will get challenged and people will add to my knowledge and keep me balanced.

So, if you are interested in learning about India’s heritage (you don’t have to be an Indian to be interested :-)), join me in this journey – subscribe to my channel on YouTube. If you prefer getting notifications by email, you can head to my website and signup through email. I plan to post a video each week – about 25 – 30 min each (sometimes I cheat and post longer videos) – with lots of visual aids, where we’ll chat about interesting topics like poets, literature, prosody, maths, temples, treatises etc – a curation of interesting and pivotal events, personalities and works from Indian History and Culture that is relevant to our modern lives.

I am not a researcher – just a curator. I do not have political or a religious bent. My videos will not be comprehensive and I might gloss over few things – its hard to cover a lot of ground in 25 min. So, I break up the topics into digestible parts, ignore few details, paint a broad brush on few angles. But the goal is to develop more appreciation of our history that is relevant to our lives today.

Thanks for reading this post!

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