Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History
In 1026, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided the Hindu temple of Somanatha (Somnath in textbooks of the colonial period). The story of the raid has reverberated in Indian history, but largely during the raj. It was first depicted as a trauma for the Hindu population not in India, but in the House of Commons. The triumphalist accounts of the event in Turko-Persian chronicles became the main source for most eighteenth-century historians. It suited everyone and helped the British to divide and rule a multi-millioned subcontinent.
In her new book, Romila Thapar, the doyenne of Indian historians, reconstructs what took place by studying other sources, including local Sanskrit inscriptions, biographies of kings and merchants of the period, court epics and popular narratives that have survived. The result is astounding and undermines the traditional version of what took place. These findings also contest the current Hindu religious nationalism that constantly utilises the conventional version of this history.
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The book beats about the bush,even when presenting clear facts from arab,afghan and turkish narratives about the destruction of the Jyotirlinga at Somanatha. The fact that jain sources don't disclose a destructive act is not proof of its absence,yet the author ingeniously portrays it as such. The author has poor appreciation of hindu traditions and how traumatic a destructive act of idol breaking by the islamic forces were to Hindu psyche.
The issue is not the wear and tear of the temple documented in Jaina sources,but once the great Jyotirlinga of Somnatha was destroyed by Mahmud, the very purpose of Somnath's existence was questionable. Thereafter, it only survived as a third class temple not worth protecting. A temple is not an emply building but built to house a distinguished idol,in this case,the great swayambhu Jyotirlinga. That enthusiasm waned after Mahmud's destruction is not surprising,to the extent of even tolerating islamic presence, as would a defeated and overcome people as the Hindus were then.
The TurkoPersian Narratives
Sanskrit Inscriptions from Somanatha
Biographies Chronicles and Epics
The Perceptions of Yet Others
Colonial Interpretations and Nationalist Reactions
Constructing Memory Writing Histories