Myths About Indian Culture

I’d like to debunk three myths about the history of Indian culture.

The first is the idea of a single unified Indian culture in historic times. Till the Indian Rebellion of 1857, India was the area between the Indus river, the Himalayas and the Vindhyas. Most people were of Indo-Aryan descent, and Dravidian and Mongoloid prople did not have any significant numbers in this area. The British controlled the Deccan peninsula, with its predominantly Dravidian population, and Northeast India, with its predominantly Mongoloid population, as well. They merged these three areas to form modern India. These three cultures—Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Mongoloid—are distinct cultures, from genetic, archaeological, and linguistic perspectives. Apart from these three, there are tiny groups that have almost no visibility. Modern discourse on Indian history mistakenly represents these together as a single “Indian” culture.

The second is the importance of the scientific contributions of historic Indian culture to the world. Indian media propagate the idea that India was the center of ancient science. While the scientific contributions of Indian culture are substantial, claims that Indian contributions were substantially more important than any of Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and China individually, are exaggeration.

The third is the basis of current Indian culture. The British imposed Victorian culture on India, and this drastically altered Indian culture. Most Indians mistakenly believe that current Indian culture is a continuation of historic Indian culture. But historic Indian culture was, for instance, generally more liberal than current Indian culture. Current Indian culture has more in common with Victorian culture than with historic Indian culture.

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