History books at school and under graduate level generally give us black or white descriptions of historical figures, especially the Mughal period.We are told that Akbar stood for religious tolerance, and Aurangzeb is known for being a pious Muslim and for atrocities against Hindus.Jehangir and Shahjehan are portrayed as art lovers.The Internet has made historical research and collaboration possible between not just University professors and Govt-funded research scholars, but also interested amateurs from various fields.I wish I had the time to do my own research, but other pursuits beckon :)However, I keep trawling the web for new resources and perspectives on World and Indian history.Bharatendu is one such site.Sarvesh Tiwari thinks in 'shuddh' Hindi and translates his thoughts into English, making his style quaint in a readable way.In this multi-part post on Akbar, Sarvesh looks at sources from all sides of the argument, and presents his thesis - that Akbar started as a Ghazi (an Islamic title denoting a warrior of the faith) but became a kaffir (non-believer) by the time of his death.
Observations: 1.Sarvesh is definitely a 'cultural nationalist' and not a 'left nationalist' historian.But he takes care to address not just the readers who are 'Hindutva' types, but also the general, ideology neutral history buff.2.Typical commentors on sites like Bharatendu belong to right wing ideology.But that doesn't mean they agree with each other all the time :) Some of them are virulent in their prejudices, but a large number are just happy arm-chair analysts (like yours truly!) who are scouring the Web for reading material and love to debate with others.You can ignore the comments if you are a staunch 'left of centre' person (I know some of my friends are of such persuasion !), but some times the comments have links to excellent sources of info.3.Is a fresh perspective on historical figures really relevant for India? Yes, I think it is relevant.We need to understand the evolution of the sub-continent's civilisational memory, ethos, and thereby understand ourselves better.Today, India and its neighborhood have become the hubs of globalisation - of flat world economic forces, of divisive and terrorist ideologies, and above all home to hundreds of millions of the very poor.If we are to solve the problems of poverty, inequality and divisiveness, and create a peaceful and just society, an open source truth and reconciliation exercise could form one of the components. I see the work of people like Sarvesh from this angle.But yes, one needs to be a history buff to enjoy these topics.Happy reading (long posts !) and please let me know your thoughts.