At the heart of the Padmavati controversy is a British intelligence officer by the name of James Tod on whose account commissioned by the East India Company rests the entire debate.
Hidden beneath the Padmavati controversy are two very serious problems not just for the Indian society but for civilizations of the world as a whole. First is the British construction of fraudulent Indian history which paves the way for the second problem – the loss of awareness of our place in space-time. Because we have not yet resolved these issues we’re in a mess that we are in today.
The Padmavati controversy threw up many theories and got the entire Indian intelligentsia worked up. Not just the politicians, celebrities or activists it also got historians armed to the teeth into this fray. While there are some historians who have raised questions on the very existence of Padmavati there are other who believe the story but find themselves unable to reconcile it with the timelines of Alauddin Khilji. Finally we are at a situation where the historians are unable to collate all the conflicting information available and agree upon a coherent narrative. When the historians themselves are not able to provide a proper historical account what can we expect from the lay folks?
At the heart of the Padmavati controversy is a British intelligence officer by the name of James Tod on whose account rests the entire debate. Being the latest foreigners to invade India, the British wanted a justification for their own arrival. Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776, the year Britain lost 13 of its colonies in America. A central theme in Gibbon’s work was his quest for historical linkages between Pax Britannica – the period of British-dominated world order – and Pax Romana.
He provided the foundational stone for a theory that sought to legitimize British colonial enterprise and the British conquest of India. By the early 19th century, a new generation of British intelligence officers became scholars of India’s pasts. They imagined themselves as latter-day Alexander the Greats, amassing accounts of geographies, peoples and objects that connected India to the Greeks, and by extension to the Romans, of the past. Alexander Burnes, James Tod, Richard F Burton and Edward B Eastwick were most prominent among them.
So employed by the East India Company, James Tod wrote the Annals and Antiquities of Rajas’hanas part of the British imperial project of excavation of India’s pasts. This published work serves as a very specific marker for the entire controversy as well as for the tinkering of Indian history. Once exported to the capital of British India, Calcutta it was infused into the Bengali narratives and has since been cited by a section of historians even today, inspite of the fact that the work has since been thoroughly proved to be fraudulent.
In his book Serving Empire, Serving Nation: James Tod and the Rajputs of Rajasthan, Jason Freitag his major biographer himself has shed light on James Tod dubious interpretations with insufficient evidence to prove his point and how he is now considered to be unreliable. Another work that exposes James Tod’s deliberate tinkering with Indian history is The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India C. 1500-1900by Ramya Sreenivasan. In her work Ramya demonstrates how James Tod was not just a part of the colonial project for the construction of Rajput identity but how a section of the Indian nationalist movement also was influenced by it.
Even today Tod is revered by those whose ancestors he documented in good light. In 1997, the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation instituted an award named after this British intelligence officer employed by the East India Company, James Tod to be given to modern non-Indian writers who “exemplified Tod’s understanding of the area and its people”. In Mewar Province, a village has been named Todgarh after him and it has even been claimed that Tod was in fact a Rajput as an outcome of the process of karma and rebirth.
Eulogizing British scholars or military strategists comes naturally to present Indian leaders and should not come as a surprise. Even today the infatuation with the British is not lost on the nationalist leadership who even for inspiration on India’s foreign policy matters look up to colonial strategists like Lord Palmerston and Henry Kissinger; Palmerston – whose doctrine is responsible for all the dreadful wars in Central Asia and the eventual fragmentation of India and Kissinger – who during the 1971 war instigated the Chinese from the North and was ready to trisect India with the American Seventh Fleet from the East and the Royal Navy from the West.
This very strategy to cut-off India geographically from the rest of the world was the very reason why the East India Company employed British intelligence officers like James Tod to embark on a Hollywood style production of Indian history. Tod’s initial mission was to survey the mountainous regions of Mewar, Kota, Sirohi, Bundi and later Marwar and Jaisalmer. These areas were considered a strategic buffer zone by the British against the Russo-Indian advances from the north via the Khyber Pass.
For years various Indian Kingdoms have had alliances with the Russians, French and Germans to kick the British out of India and bring down the British Empire. These fears of a combined Indo-Russian, Indo-French or Indo-German force launching an attack from the northern border while simultaneously engineering a revolt within the country haunted the British military hawks until they left India with buffer zones on the western, northern and eastern fronts.
James Tod’s work was aimed at diffusing this threat of a collective uprising from within by driving a wedge between the Rajputana and Mughal Kings and by extension the various Hindu denominations and Muslims. At the same time this Divide and Rule strategy was at play elsewhere in the Empire as well. Just as James Tod was projected as the savior of the Rajputana pride in India, another British intelligence officer Alexander Burnes was dispatched to Afghanistan from India via Kabul to Bokhara disguised as a Muslim to create a rift between Afghans and Russians. When the Afghans discovered Burnes true identity tipped off by the Russians, he was hacked to death with his head on a spike in the local bazaar. James Tod however got lucky.
It was because of such meddling with the Indian history that historian were unable to agree upon a specific narrative owing to the mismatch in historical timelines and sources in the Padmavati story. Historical timelines if not corrected give rise to the loss of awareness of our place in space-time. An example of this problem has been highlighted in my review of the movie The Lost City of Z and explained in depth in our book India in Cognitive Dissonance.
The Lost City of Z is a movie about the real life story of a British Intelligence officer Percy Fawcett who like James Tod was a surveyor for the Royal Geographical Society. In 1906 Fawcett is called to London to meet with officials of the Royal Geographical Society to be sent on a very important mission to Bolivia where he stumbles upon a civilization much older and sophisticated than their own at a place they believed to be inhabited by barbarians and savages.
What Fawcett had discovered was of great importance. Even he might not have grasped the full implications of such a discovery. However Fawcett did understood that they were just scratching the surface of something big. He even recommended the officials at RGS that map-making should be of secondary interest and that they should pursue the archeological findings that he had discovered in the jungle where no white man had ever been before. The officials at RGS were horrified at this suggestion and advised him to keep his findings to himself.
What is it about this discovery that so horrified the RGS officials? What would the acknowledgement of an older civilization that predates their own imply, that too a non-white one? Well, the acknowledgement of such a civilization would set in motion an entire different worldview that would eventually mean the destruction of the Church. To put it in Percy Fawcett’s own words: “Perhaps it is too difficult for some of you to admit. We, who have been steeped in the bigotry of the Church for so long, cannot give much credence to an older civilization, particularly one created by a race the white man has so brutally condemned to slavery and death.”
The problem faced by Fawcett then still haunts the Anthropologists and Historians of India today and the recent Padmavati controversy is just one such example. Like Fawcett when Anthropologists move into the forests of India or the ancient sites for field work they are exposed to information from their findings that they are unable to reconcile working in the system setup by the British created Church dictated worldview. At the root of this is the loss of awareness of space-time and of our location in it caused by the imposition of fraudulent time-and-space.
In order to maintain its dominance and existence the Church in alliance with the British retrofitted the entire time-line of the “Indian” civilization to 2-3000 B.C. That is why when an Anthropologist makes an archeological discovery in the forests of India and finds it to be some 50,000 year old he is confronted with this globally accepted narrative of the Indian civilization being some 3000 to 5000 years old only. The only way left for him is to tweak his findings and go along with the official narrative or challenge it and be discarded from the anthropological community of scholars dominated by the British.
This tinkering with the timeline was done by re-writing the history of India within a new biblical construct of time. The question that no one has asked or rather understood to even ask is: Why does the question of Padmavati being real or fictional arise in the first place? And yet there are numerous native texts that exist that indicate otherwise. What we have here is a mismatch in timeline courtesy of the British pundits. So why haven’t any Mutts of today worth the name challenged this Biblical timeframe in which Indian history is retrofitted? Can these Mutts even today come-up with a timeframe independent of this construct? Why haven’t self-proclaimed nationalists done so yet?
Is our Indian civilization only some 3000 to 5000 odd years old as prescribed by the Church? What about the dating of Mahabharat and Ramayana? If not why haven’t any religious leader from India challenged this timeline? Why are we still following the Roman Catholic Church’s Gregorian calendar? What does it mean when our own current Indian Prime Minister who himself comes from the traditional camp in his recent visit to Russia proclaimed with pride along the British created biblical lines that the Vedas and our Indian knowledge base itself is some 2000 years old?
Padmavati controversy is just one such example. There are numerous such time-bombs set in history waiting to explode. The way to resolve this issue is to develop a system of measuring time and space independent of the biblical construct to determine the actual flow of history. This would be a cumbersome project that would require state resources and collaboration of other nations and great diplomatic insight. A solid and concrete step to take in this direction would be for Indian Physics departments to follow up the course on advanced Classical Hamiltonian Mechanics, where students learn the basics of astronomical planetary orbital calculations with a course on calculation of the Calendar. This should not be too difficult to do at all given that it is already being done!