The illustrious Twistorian Scholarship of Grand Ma’am Romila Thapar #YoRomilaSoTwistorian

27/09/2019

It is true that whenever, anyone brings up the topic of substandard, unscholarly historians(!) with a morbid agenda, it really raises the hackles in me. And so it happened, yet again. :-(

A ‘learned’ friend  (and a reasonable, trained medieval historian 🙄 to boot!) responds to my above tweet, in a text message, saying “Romila Thapar is a stellar, well respected, celebrated Historian, how dare you comment on her like this!

​Okay, b​ut I diss-agree, and bring up some of the unadulterated hogwash that she wrote in her book – Somanatha: The many voices of a history. And add that, “She should be more like a Cele-berated Twistorian, yes.

He says, “I am tired of the same Somanatha story, so what if she has said things like that, may be they are off-tangent and even wrong, but she was writing for a popular audience in that book and so may be she oversimplified, but is there any other scholarly goof-up that she has done? Is there any documentary evidence? Even a single one? Has she published incorrect, non-evidence based takes in Archival Quality Journals?

Of course I do NOT agree with him that, just because something is written for a popular audience, a text has a right to be mediocre and inconsistent – but, I say, “YES! I can quote a huge number of them, but let me give just one example of the random nonsense that Romila Thapar spewed forth, and then how she went to extraordinary lengths to support her untenable and unscholarly stance…

Well, the following are the background details, with references, evidences, citations etc etc. You judge.

-0-0-0-0-0-0-

Some background details of Romila Thapar:

Romila Thapar is a towering infernal figurehead of Indian History. I agree. So let me spend the next few sentences exploring that idea.

What Romila Thapar has by way of qualifications: She has a Bachelors in English Literature + another Bachelor’s + Doctorate in Indian History from SOAS, London. Incredible support base from Left-liberal cabals. Her ability to nurture & leverage connections & media management – because her primary strengths are all there, not in Historical Research.

Other relevant qualifications because of which she has become such a prominent and celebrated Historian etc etc:

  • No deep or even a working knowledge of Ancient Indian languages such as Sanskrit, Tamil, Pali or Prakrit or any Apabramsha.
  • No specific depth in any area concerning History, excepting polemics of it
  • No depth in knowledge/linguistics of Indic scripts/tongues.
  • Insufficient familiarity with the growing body of primary sources, because she only relies on translated versions – and old unupdated indices
  • No knowledge of Epigraphy or Paleography or Paleobotany or Paleoradiology etc whatever (Au contraire, she has even twisted primary sources from Epigraphica Indica!)
  • Incompetence in Archaeology, because of non-training and refusal to learn from two minor excavations that she participated in, some 50 years ago.

Evidence exists for all the above additional relevant qualifications which makes it all the more interesting, as to right down to how she came to occupy the prestigious Kluge Chair (in 2003) for being a ‘pre-eminent interpreter of ancient Indian history.’

Since exalted firangis themselves recognized her worth as above, therefore she is of course, a pre-eminent Historian. Thanks so much!

Anyway, for the purposes of suitably satisfying my friendly gent, let me focus on just one case of the continuing spins of Romila Thapar(RT).

-0-0-0-0-0-

This is a story, IMO, which has not been ‘covered’ properly so far. So here goes.
 
Now, for a little, therefore simplistic background. Before Common Era, or BC times if you will. Meluhha is/was an ancient Sumerian trade post; Dilmun is/was essentially a Persian civilization that was trading with Mesopotamia and others; There have been significant findings of Cuneiform tablets, and some more Sumerian/Assyrian sources. Some artifacts from the Sindhu Saraswati civiliation have been found. For quite a while, the efforts had been on to figure out as to what exactly are the current locations of these three places – Meluhha, Dilmun and Makan.
 
[A] 1975: RT publishes ‘A Possible Identification of Meluḫḫa, Dilmun and Makan’ in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1975), pp. 1-42; JSTOR link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3632219

Here, the Twistorian ​with her considerable background of being a consistent half-baker, dished out a  theory based on her tenuous grasp of background knowledge, abysmal evidence, and giant leaps of pole vaulting, long jump and logical gymnastics – that, Meluhha Dilmun & Makan have Dravidian underpinnings. This great research happened, in spite of the fact that there is no separate such thing as Dravidian Culture or a Race or whatever; it had merely been used in the past for signifying a group of languages, and then politically leveraged, that’s all!

Leave alone those contentious ‘Dravidian’ issues, Romila Thapar used ‘deciphering hijinx’ to give a the whole thing an Aryan-Dravidian twist. This, in spite of her NOT knowing ANY Tamil whatsoever. Instead, she merely relied on the funny scholarship of the Lemurians as also, her own febrile imagination about her Tamil scholarship.

Honestly, when I first read this paper in the late 1980s, I must admit that I was truly shocked and awed by her erudition. It was 40+ pages of ‘Creative Writing!’ Oh my.

[B] 1978: Elisabeth C. I. During Caspers & A. Govindankutty publish ‘R. Thapar’s Dravidian Hypothesis for the Locations of Meluḫḫa, Dilmun and Makan: A Critical Reconsideration’ in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 21, No. 2 (May, 1978), pp. 113-145 JSTOR link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3632122

Elisabeth During Caspers, was a legend; a seasoned Historian and a very good, trained, experienced Interpretative Archaeologist. Her foci included Sindhu Saraswati/Harappa and relevant parts of West Asia.

 
 
A Govindankutty, now known as Dr A G Menon, is a fine & knowledgeable professor of Linguistics, with special reference to Tamil and Malayalam, worked with During Caspars, and when last I knew about him, he was with Amrita University, Coimbatore, India – 2009 or thereabouts. His bio. Please note that, when Dr Menon makes a statement about ‘Dravidian’ matters or Linguistics, he has the relevant background and has done painstaking research.
 
So, Dr Menon and Prof During Caspers, in about 30+ pages, completely and competently RIPPED the ENTIRE 1975 narrative of Romila Thapar – even as they focused only on the linguistics and interpretative aspects of excavations/inscriptions; in fact, even a tyro like I, could zero in on so many inconsistencies and abysmal scholarship of the Twistorian – considering I am a Tamil, with a reasonable knowledge of its history, linguistics and politics.

I read, savored this very scholarly paper. And I thought (and still think) this is how a serious criticism should be – 1) based on facts which are independently verifiable, 2) connections based on deep analysis and synthesis 3) unsparing in honesty…

-0-0-0-0-0-

Finally, the Twistorian responds – after some 5 years or so, in a rather leisurely manner; and one would have hoped that, in the so many intervening years, she would have done some decent research/work and would come up with a measured, reasonable response to the excoriation…

[C] 1983: RT publishes ‘The Dravidian Hypothesis for the Identification of Meluḫḫa, Dilmun and Makan’ in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 26, No. 2 (1983), pp. 178-190; JSTOR link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3631801 

Note: She first wrote the rejoinder in 1979 itself, but it had to go through many cycles of edits/reviews etc etc during which she has had enormous scope to correct all her mistakes and leaps… But then

Oh, my! :-(

But, AFAIK, nobody has responded formally to the Twistorian about this so far, as I think, all real scholars have given up on her, During Caspers also moved on in the early 1990s. End of story. I wrote up a very detailed rejoinder, in 1997 or thereabouts, and I sent it to the same journal JESHO, but it has been only 22 years and I hope to hear from them anytime now… Thanks! (May be the 1983 article of the Twistorian was already time-barred? Or the fact that yours truly doesn’t have any formal qualification, automatically disqualified him from even writing some kind of ‘Letter to the Editor?’)

Ok. I would now comment on just one of the many, many goof-ups, linguistic leaps and whitewashings in that article. This Twistorian was actually helped by many many ‘scholars’ to put together this response, and the

Ashurbanipal, was an Assyrian king who lived during the mid seventh century BCE, that is BC, NOT AD! Okay, nobody including many ‘scholars’ from JNU and at JESHO noticed it, may be it was a genuine typo. Or Sumerians had their own Time Machines. Whatever.

Am not even talking about how Hundaru very conveniently becomes Andhra; or Kuppi becomes Kupaka! Or, how ‘Pade’ becomes Pandya (even the Ashokan inscriptions wherein the first reference to Pandyas have been sort of found as ‘Pada’ – happened only circa mid second century BCE! That is, approximately five centuries later!) or even how Hazmane becomes Ceylon etc etc…

But it is about Tamilakam’s Irumporai being equated with raamitte!

During Caspars and Menon correctly questioned all these Linguistic Leaps, very eloquently.

But, our lady Twistorian’s ONLY defense in her ‘response’ is that… wait… “consonants are in the same order!” while knowing next to nothing about Linguistics or lacking even a basic knowledge of Cuneiform or Tamil or… or…  even a passing idea of Assyriology… oh, what to do!

Anyway, therefore, via inductive reasoning like our scholarly Twistorian herself, with a little bit of RTlike imagination and extrapolation and turning the tables on her own ideas etc etc — —

Romila Thapar = Xanadu Mandrake.

Ta Da!

Thanks for that unbelievable nonsense, dear Twistorian! Thanks so, so much!

#YoRomilaSoTwistorian

 

5 Responses to “The illustrious Twistorian Scholarship of Grand Ma’am Romila Thapar #YoRomilaSoTwistorian”

  1. Sridhar Says:

    More of a Kludge Scholar?


    • Yup. She may even say that Kludge is actually Kludal So Kludalnagar or… Cluedel nagar — whatever

      Or Kludge -> Kodige -> Puduke -> Pouduke -> Puducherry

      Please do not give her any more ideas than are absolutely necessary… Please understand my distress… thanks! :-(

  2. dagalti Says:

    /But it is about Tamilakam’s Irumporai being equated with raamitte!/

    This is O(pAvANar)


  3. […] …One of my pet peeves and laments (only for the past 35 years or so!)  is, the fact that, we as typical Tamils and as Bharatiyas, do not know much of our own history at all. Not even the ‘handed down’ histories authored by Western and those of the rather mediocre & substandard Indian Coconut Twistorians such as the ‘celebrated’ Romila Thapar. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s