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The Discovery of India
(Author: Jawaharlal Nehru)
New Delhi: Penguin books, 2002.
Reviewed by Muhammad Fayyaz
The Discovery of India deals with the history of sub-continent since antiquity to present when the author was in jail during 1944. The book covers the whole past development in a single volume. The theoretical framework employed by the author is nationalist perspective. The methodology for the construction of past is based on linear and cyclical theory of historiography.
Jawaharlal Nehru discusses the political and social condition of the Indus valley civilization. For writer, the ruins of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro reflect the glory of Indian past. The writer praised the ruler ship of Chandra Mauria Gupta and Asoka the Great. Both the rulers were responsible for building gigantic and prosperous empire. The Indus civilization was better than other civilizations in term of its rich natural resources and wealth. That was the reason that rulers could afford building large empire. Asoka was tolerant towards all the religions, and he patronized the Buddhism as well. He propagated the Buddhist philosophy during his ruler ship. After the death of Ashoka, there left no such rulers who could sustain power and bring stability in so vast empire. Thus, the empire started to disintegrate and crumbled down under the reign of incapable rulers.
Nehru keep mild attitude towards Islam. For him, the coming of Islam to South Asia enriched the culture of Hindus. He repudiated the claim that Islam had been spread through sword. He praised the Muslim philosopher, historian, sociologist and scientist Abu Rehan Al Beruni. Nehru analyzed how Kitab-ul-Hind of Al Beruni discuss the Indian culture and society in thoughtful manner. For writer, Islam spread in Hindustan through the teaching of Sufi’s. The Sufism played important role in spreading Islam, because the Hindus got impressed from the humble and pious nature of the Sufis. It was the beauty of Hindu civilization that it absorbed the foreigners and assimilates them with its culture. Nehru praised the ruler ship of Akbar the Great. He compared the statesmanship of Akbar with that of Asoka. Akbar revived the spirit of Asoka’s rule by bringing prosperity and stability in the empire through the power of Dharma. Like Asoka, Akbar was tolerant towards all the religious communities. Nehru criticizes the rule of Aurangzeb, because his rule brought anarchy and instability in the empire.
The writer discuss critically the period of British colonialism. For him, the colonizers looked down upon the Indian subjects, and were bent on exploiting the resources for their own political and economic purposes. The colonizers made alliances with landlords and feudal in order to materialize their rule. They supported princes of the states, and won over their favour as a result. The colonizers adopted authoritative attitude in their rule towards the common subjects. The British did not introduce liberal and democratic political system in the colonies. Further, the British sowed a seed of discard on religious lines between Hindus and Muslims. They want to linger their rule through divide and rule policies.
Nehru discusses the role of All India National Congress for its struggle against the colonial masters for rights and freedom. For him, the Congress could only help eliminating the political and economic backwardness of India. It could bring political unity and economic stability in the Hindustan. He also praised the Gandhi role for his struggle for the freedom of masses.
The book is overall a good study for the historians. It covers the past of India in a lucid manner. It discusses the ancient time, medieval age, Mughal era, British colonialism and the struggle Congress for freedom in a systematic way.