• “History can never be used to justify faith”: Romila Thapar

    ICF Team

    June 13, 2019

    Written by Valay Singh and published by Aleph (2018), Ayodhya: City of Faith, City of Discord is a biography of the city Ayodhya. Over thousands of years, Ayodhya has been a place of reverence for many faiths; but it has also been a place of violence, bloodshed and ill-will. Going back almost 3,300 years to the time Ayodhya is first mentioned, Valay Singh traces Ayodhya's history, showing its transformation from an insignificant outpost to a place sought out by kings, fakirs, renouncers and reformers and, later, becoming the centre-stage in Indian politics and the political imagination.

    But what is the history of Ram, whose janmabhumi Ayodhya is claimed to be? 

    A panel of speakers that included Romila Thapar, Kunal Chakrabarti, Zoya Hasan, and Valay Singh, discussed this and other questions at the book launch of Ayodhya: City of Faith, City of Discord in New Delhi. Veteran historian Romila Thapar talked about the necessity of maintaining a distinction between history and belief and congratulated Singh on  separating the historical narrative from the narrative that emerges out of faith. Talking about Ram, she said, "Speaking as a historian, there is no cross-evidence for the historicity of the person of Ram." She also talked about how communities of all kinds have appropriated Valmiki's Ramayana and given it a distinctive identity: "The worshipper of Ram can believe whichever of these many versions of Ram he or she chooses to because this is a matter of faith and belief. It doesn't impinge on historicity or history."

    Read More:
    The Rāmāyaṇa: Theme and Variation
    We Can Not Turn into a Society Where Freedom of Expression Is Denied: Romila Thapar
    “Do we want to teach our children falsehoods or what constitutes knowledge?”: Romila Thapar

    Video courtesy Aleph.

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