Popularising History: Revisiting the Importance of Peering into our Past

The second day of the Symbiosis Lit Fest saw an engaging Panel Discussion highlighting the revival of  interest in Indian history and its popularity by three distinguished veterans of the subject.

The discussion was started off by Dr. Radhika Seshan, historian and visiting faculty at Symbiosis, who posed the question “Why should history be made popular?” to the panelists. Esteemed diplomat TCA Raghavan responded by explaining our inherent inclination towards understanding our past. He asserted that “the core of history is not only to study the past but also to use it as a key to understand our present”, a statement that the other panelists wholly agreed to.

The members also held a discussion over popular vs. populist history and how it can be made more inclusive. Historian and author of the award-winning book “Ivory Tower”, Manu Pillai rationalized how historians tend to have their own flaws and biases. He emphasized that in order to diversify history, it is necessary to include more stories from different types of people and places. He also spoke about the unrecognized contribution of women in history by taking Mirabai, Tarabai and Bahinabai as examples.

The panel members also debated over the frequent fixation of Post 16th Century history, and the additional skills required to study events preceding that era. Parvati Sharma, author of “The story of Babur” also brought to attention, the regional bias of chroniclers in our history, since it has systematically been focused on that of the Gangatic Plains over other regions.

The other members followed Ms. Sharma and discussed at length, the need for exploring the more unknown and undiscovered aspects of our rich ancient Indian history. After an engaging Q&A round, to which the panelists responded with relevant and satisfying answers, Dr. Radhika Seshan closed the session with a question for the Panelists as well as the audience to ruminate on: “Why do we have such an issue around history as an identity and contested identity?”


Ishita Madiwale
(Batch 2023)