HISTORY – a borING and trivial subject
Some light on its INTANGIBLE VALUE
Present day youth have an aversion to learn history. They think it is a subject wherein one has to remember a lot of names of kings/queens/dictators/generals, palaces/fort, dates of battles/war and many more. They feel that it is a waste of time to know about the past, a thought of an ignorant and immature mind.
Dictionary defines history as “
Every living being, organization, group, nation scientific development/device product, system, religion, has their own history of origin, development and end or current status giving causes and consequences of various events during their survival period. Critics of history fail to realize that they have their own history.
Study of History was very primitive in India due to absence of documentation culture. The “Sthala Puranam” of temples was more mythological than historical. Sir. William Jones took the initiative in 1781 to explore and bring out the history of India. The Archaeological survey of India was initiated by Alexander Cunningham and the final shape was given by Lord Curzon in 1902. Numerous excavations have taken place in the last 100 years to get a good idea about ancient India.
Concept of Museums, a reminder of the of past history
Western culture is very keen to preserve past history. All the cities in the West will have a museum to speak about the heritage and past history of the country. Huge amount of money is spent on preserving the museums. It is not viewed as a place for pass time. A few facts about world famous museums:
British Museum, London: Founded: 1753, Visitors: 5.93 million (2008/9), Collection: 8 million objects, Area- 75,000 Sq. mtr
Louvre Museum, Paris: Area: 60600 Sq mtr, Visitors: 9.7 million (2012).No. Objects: 35,000
Smithsonian Museum, Washington: Contains 9 different museums and a zoo. 135 million objects displayed. (It is estimated that to view all of Smithsonian will take a few years)
The US library of Congress established in 1800 has 160 million (16 crores) of books, manuscripts, maps and photographs stacked on approximately 1340 KM of book shelves, the distance between Chennai and Mumbai . (https://www.loc.gov/about/fascinating-facts/)
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg: Established in 1890, Area: 120 rooms, Objects displayed: 440,000.
National Museum, Delhi was opened in 1949 and has 200,000 objects on display.
The National Library of India, Kolkata is the largest with 2.2 million books.
The concept of museum is not limited to just exhibition of old sculptures and drawings, it also substantially covers scientific and industrial development. The Natural History Museum of Smithsonian contains 300,000 species of insects collected from all over the world. India has 24 science museums, UK 52, Germany 16 and USA over 100.
Patience, perseverance and mining for information are the three important factors for a successful research. Analyses of the past leads to evaluate the progress to the present which will in turn help plan the future. Museums and libraries provide substantially for the above functions.
Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric said “do not plan your future based on the past.” He was partially correct, a bitter experience may discourage future ventures but it also prevents repeat of same mistake.
People who think more about future will have only dreams. Those who have looked back will be more pragmatic and be able to develop the acumen for a promising and successful future.
The planning chapter of the modern management studies starts with “where we were, where we are now, where we want to be in future and how to get there.” The same principle is to be adopted by a nation and the first step is to understand “how and where it was?
It may be argued that history study will revive the old and forgotten rivalries but in most cases the educated and more civilised descendants of the rivals repent their ancestors’ mistakes.
European nations preserve the record of chronological events of their past for the benefit of the future generations. Indian Newspapers carry a column called “Today in history” where one can find mostly European events which is due to their documentation culture.
Unfortunately, Indians are not only unaware of their past history but also disinterested to know about it. We are ignorant about our past therefore we are confused in the present and fear the future.
The Indian education should project history as an analysis of the past and not just an informative study. A distorted or inadequately projected history may affect the very character and psyche of the future generation. There are controversies in drafting the Indian history. The focus is more on the medieval and European era during which we were subdued. The impact is the still prevailing docility among Indians. Our contributions like Yoga, Artha Sastra, astronomy and our millennium old cultural influence in the Far East should be highlighted to infuse pride and confidence. Wealthy businessmen and politicians (!) should come forward to establish modern and large scale libraries and science museums.
Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam.
Ref: Author’s speech in Sankara Senior School, 2011
(published in Mylapore Club Magazine August 2015)