(This opinion piece was published in the editorial section of the local daily-Orissapost. The op-ed received high praises from academicians ,bureaucrats and politicians)


History books with a rationalised syllabus have been introduced in schools around the country with the start of the new academic session from April. In this rationalisation process, which aims at easing the burden on students due to Covid-19, some portions of chapters of history textbooks have been deleted by the NCERT. This includes two of the chapters on Mughal history in Std-12 history book. The history of the Mughals or the Gurkanis to be accurate, hasn’t been entirely removed from textbooks as alleged by few and is still taught to students. Whether this rationalisation is appropriate or not, will be decided in the years to come.

While rationalisation of textbooks isn’t a new thing in the country, there have been different reactions from the intelligentsia. Some historians and social activists have been quite critical of making ‘selective’ changes, while some people have lauded the NCERT and the government for removing unnecessary content & thus relieving the pressure of overburdened syllabus on students.

However, as a history enthusiast, I feel this debate is more of a tempest in a teapot and we are missing some main pointers. Rather than getting into the hullabaloo of social media outrage, we should ponder about the structure and content of history taught to the young minds in our schools. The Mughals & the Sultans of Delhi are a part of the medieval history of India, and rightfully deserve to be in the history textbooks. But our textbooks give an impression that history of certain kingdoms and regions have been over-represented, and some regions miss their fair share despite having a glorious history. In the recent times, people have raised concerns over lack of fair representation of different regional kingdoms of India. However, there is little noise when it comes to the representation of history of Odisha (also known by names such as Utkala or Kalinga in ancient times) in text books.

Besides a few lines on the Kalinga War, the Jagannath Temple and Paika rebellion, there is not much on Odisha in NCERT text books till Std 10 .The textbooks of ancient history don’t talk about the glorious maritime trade , Odisha had with South East Asia. While the famous Jagannath temple of Puri has been provided as example in the context of regional identity, the temples of Ekamrakshetra (in Bhubaneswar) and the temples on Mahendragiri hill of Gajapati district don’t make it to the chapters of the medieval history textbook. Should our children stay unacquainted with the exquisite sculptures of Odishan temples and of the finesse of the idols made of muguni stones (black granite)? Certainly not.

The political history of Odisha hasn’t been given sufficient attention. The mighty Emperor Kharavela, who took Kalinga to its heights, doesn’t find a place in the ancient history books. The medieval history of Odisha is a story of unparalleled valour and resistance against multifront invasive forces .The Eastern Ganga dynasty, which ruled Odisha and regions beyond for many centuries, had produced valiant rulers like Anangabhima deva-III, Narasinghadeva-I (the builder of Konark  Sun Temple), but their military achievements aren’t highlighted in the books. The heroics of Narasinghadeva’s  army in the battle of Lakhnauti and the battle of  Katasin, against the forces of the Delhi Sultanate’s Governor at Bengal needs to be discussed alongside famous battles of India, such as the Battle of Tarrain. Eastern Ganga rulers like Anantavarman Chodaganga & Anangabhima-III are just scant one liner mentions in a small sub topic on Lord Jagannath. The Eastern Gangas were ruling Odisha & nearby regions for three centuries & thus deserve to be a part of the narrative in textbooks just like the Mughals, who ruled most of Hindustan for two centuries, were enjoying a major coverage till a month back.

In 15th century, some powerful kingdoms dominated in South India such as Bahmani Sultanate and the Vijayanagara kingdom. And along with them was the most illustrious Gajapati Empire of Kapilendradeva, whose writs ran from the river Ganga in Bengal till the southernmost point of the country. It’s really unfortunate that one of the greatest rulers of medieval India, Kapilendra deva, and his exploits don’t find a spot in the medieval history text book of Std-7 . A few lines on the history of Rajas of Khordha, could be added in the case study section of ‘Paika rebellion of 1817’ in Std 8 textbook

The proper approach of selective downsizing and subsequent refilling of the gap by unsung heroes & untold stories, which are backed by historical sources, is the need of the hour.  But at the same time we have to take care that history classes don’t become a yawning session for the students. History, if taught through smart learning medium and trips to historical places, could enhance the learning experience and create an interest for the subject.

The NCERT director Prof Dinesh Prasad Saklani said in a statement on 6th April that new revised textbooks under NEP 2020 will be out in the near future. I hope the esteemed members of the NCERT Textbook Committee and other stakeholders will take the necessary measures and do justice with the history of Odisha and other regions.

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