Building on History with Purpose – The New Indian Express

Express press service

In 1965, Indian writer Purushottam Nagesh Oak, known for his historical revisionism, self-published a book titled The Taj Mahal Was a Rajput Palace. Oak claimed the Agra-based World Heritage Site “was originally a Rajput palace”.

In 2000, the Supreme Court rejected his claims. However, time and time again, Oak’s theories are used to ground religiously-inspired political agendas. Recently, Dr. Rajneesh Singh, who claimed to be the BJP youth wing media in charge of Ayodhya, filed a motion seeking court instructions from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to open 22 halls closed in the Taj Mahal to see the presence of idols of Hindu deities.

On Thursday, Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and asked the petitioner not to mock the PIL system. The story has contributed to help understand history and deal with the problems of the present.

There is no doubt that a distorted version of the past can create damage. Understanding the importance of documenting the past, N* (*name changed), a history researcher from central Delhi, started “Itihassnama” – an Instagram microblog – in September 2021.

Fighting false narratives
A history buff, N* was furious at how false historical narratives receive immense media attention. “I started ‘Itihassnama’ because I was sad and angry,” she comments. Her goal was to start a blog that shows how history can actually be a way to foster harmony. Explaining how false narratives are often passed on to the masses, N* talks about the 2018 Indian period romance drama film Padmaavat, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

The film tells the story of Rani Padmavati, a 14th century Rajput queen and wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh, whose kingdom was attacked by the Turkish-Afghan Emperor Alauddin Khilji after hearing about her beauty and attempting to enslave. The film was mired in controversy – sets were vandalized by the Karni Sena and crew members accused of hurting religious feelings.

N*, however, points out that many may not know that the film is based on an epic poem called Padmavat, written by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 – Alauddin Khilji died in 1316. “The Sufi poem speaks in makes energy from the soul to the divine. The characters of Padmavati and Khilji represent the extremes of human nature. The epic has no basis in the story but to create the narrative that whatever it is come [in the film] was true is absolutely false,” says N*.

Chronicles of historical facts
After spending hours reading and researching historical evidence, N* tries to encapsulate the information in small captions as well as scenic photographs of heritage sites and monuments. She uploads photographs clicked by other photographers and credits them.

Emphasizing how his work is fact-driven, N* shares, “I never praise or personify any particular entity in history. There should be no hero worship in history. With over 30,000 followers, the page received a good response. N* concludes by speaking about the feeling of responsibility in the face of widespread misinformation: “If I make a difference in the perception of at least one person, I think the investment of all this time was worth it.”

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