New Delhi | Challenging the existing narratives of Indian history written from an ‘inland’ and ‘Western’ points of view, a new book attempts to retell the country’s past from a maritime perspective by shedding light on how the Indian Ocean shaped human history.
Writer, economist and environmentalist Sanjeev Sanyal in his book titled, ‘The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History’ seeks to tell the history of the region, which stretches across East Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent to South East Asia and Australia.
According to Sanyal, almost all of the existing books on the Indian Ocean comprise of histories of the region written from an inland perspective.
“Much of the Indian history is written from an inland perspective. If you take a completely Delhi centric inland world view, then you will miss the point of India in many many ways. India’s history is a very strongly maritime history.
“One of the biggest Indian ports for hundreds of years in the ancient world was Muziris in Kerala and yet it is not there in our narratives because what we all seem to talk about is this very inland perspective of the world,” he says.
The author hopes to show the extent to which the history changes when witnessed from the coastlines rather than from an inland point of view.
The book notes how the continental empires of the Mauryas and the Mughals in India, the Mongols in Central Asia, and the Tang dynasty in China have dominated our history books, mentioning the Cholas, the Majapahit of Indonesia and the Omanis merely as as footnotes.
“It is a limiting way to think about the world. It almost treats the coastal view of history as something peripheral to the real, interesting business of Delhi or Patliputra. The view is distorted because if you do not talk about the Cholas or Pallavas or the Vijaynagar empire, then it is almost like writing European history without speaking about Athens, Venice or the Vikings.