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Saffron Swords – A Tribute to 52 Bravehearts


Which is the first open battle lost by the Mughals at the hands of a Hindu Army? It occurred in 1672 where Salher Marathas numbering 20,000 defeated 40,000 Mughals.

We know Taimur, Mahmud Ghazni, Akbar, Lord Curzon, Lord Dalhousie. We know nothing about Rampyari Gurjar who defeated Taimur, Kapaya Nayaka who defeated the Turks, Uda Devi who killed 32 Britishers, Avantibai who defeated the British.

Lakhs of our women during British rule faced brutal atrocities. They were raped n forced into prostitution; British set up brothel houses in 350 cities where they were kept captive. Winston Churchill killed more Indians than the total people killed by Hitler.

The Twitter handle of 8-book-author Manoshi Sinha veritably documents every atrocity piled upon India. Saffron Swords, her latest book, is at the top of most Bestseller lists. Saffron Swords revolves around the chronicles of the valour of 52 warriors from 8th century to 1947 from every corner of Bharat. The focus is on their role for the motherland, especially the resistance they offered, victories they won, and their sacrifices – their fight till their last breath to save the land, to save Dharma.

In this interview, Manoshi Sinha, who was born on Janmashtami day in a Bishnupriya Manipuri family, talks about Saffron Swords, her love for Krishna and her commitment to India.

Which story in Saffron Swords moved you the most?

While I love all the warriors, the valour of Kuyili of Tamil Nadu and Raja Prithu of Assam moved me the most. While Kuyili sacrificed her life bursting herself into flames at the ammunition store of the British, thus destroying their weaponry and facilitating her queen Velu Nacchiyar win the battle against the British, Raja Prithu defeated and wounded Bakhtiyar Khilji a barbaric plunderer. No one could defeat Khilji, who destroyed Nalanda University and Vikramshila University. Khilji had set fire to the three multi-storey libraries of Nalanda Universities; according to Persian historian Min-haj-e-Siraj, these libraries, that accommodated lakhs of manuscripts, burnt for over three months! Such a vast loss of our knowledge heritage!!

How did you research the Saffron Swords stories?

My husband Yogaditya Singh Rawal and I have been visiting historical sites (forts, ruins), ancient and medieval temple sites across India since the last 11 years. We explored each and every detail related to the historicity of the sites. And then there was a lot of reading of books, research papers, listening to folklore and ballads, listening to oral narrations, and noting narrations by locals and guides on the historicity of the sites we visited. And then we studied the carvings. We took the help of interpreters to understand the inscriptions. The list goes on. The regular historical site visits are all funded by Yogaditya. 

We have a Mahindra Thar 4X4 vehicle for the research purpose. We both drive in turns; once we drove for 21 hours at a stretch with small meal/coffee breaks in between. For very long destinations such as in Kerala, Northeast, Andhra Pradesh, we take the air route. We did drive the Thar to far off destinations too. We drove till Raigad of Maharashtra and the Kutch of Gujarat from Ghaziabad! 

‘Saffron Swords’ is based on all of these research factors. Few tales of valor in Saffron Swords are contributed by Yogaditya Singh Rawal.

While we do know about the different Hindu periods and Kings, why is there no greater detail? For instance about the Mauryas and Satavahanas?

Our academic History books snub out anything pertaining to the glory of the local warriors of the soil. To project us as ‘losers’ and as ‘defeated’, history, especially the period from Babur to 1947, is prominently highlighted. Ancient Indian History is full of anecdotes of valour, of glory, of affluence, of prosperity, of how rulers followed rules of Dharma in statehood and even warfare. So if the Mauryas, who ruled almost 90% of Bharat, or the Shungas, Satvahahanas, Guptas, and other prosperous dynasties are highlighted in our History books, won’t the invaders’ and plunderers’ narrative be sidelined? Cholas ruled from the Vedic period and they left a mark in foreign lands, but do we get to read about them except a line or two? No! 

Of late, a fake narrative is being created that Mughals made India rich and British civilized India. How will this narrative run if a glorious Indian narrative is projected? And when we discuss the Mauryas, the name Chanakya robotically comes to our mind. If British civilized India, how will history books show the true story that Chanakya studied in Takshashila University, some 3500 plus years ago (According to the book The Chronology of Ancient India – Victim of Concoctions and Distortions by Vedveer Arya, the Maurya dynasty flourished in 16th century BCE)? The same university where Sanskrit linguist and grammarian Panini; physician Charaka; Surgeon Jivaka Komarabhacca; author Vishnu Sharma; Maurya emperor Chandragupta, and many prominent ancient Indians also studied! How will the historians of the one-sided narrative show that ancient India was home to a number of universities where students from across the world came and studied? 

Mughals did not rule the whole of India. The Vijaynagara empire was larger in area than the area Mughals ruled. Yet there are long dedicated chapters on every Mughal ruler including their ministers. Glory of the Vijaynagara Empire is left as a footnote. Pre-Mughal Islamic rulers could not rule for a longer duration in many parts of India. Hindu rulers regained back their kingdoms and re-established Hindu supremacy.

The gravest injustice has been done to our warrior ancestors, especially from 8th century to Independence. There have been hundreds and thousands of instances of victory and resistance. But these tales of valor have been completely sidelined. Around 99% of Indians haven’t even heard their names. Isn’t it unfortunate that we Bharatiyas know nothing about our warrior ancestors, who saved our great great great grandparents, saved the land, saved our Dharma because of whom we are here, carrying forward the legacy of our thousands of years old civilizational identity?  

Many buyers of Saffron Swords have mentioned that they are buying the book for children. How can we get Indians to be proud of our history and our heroes?

It is compulsory in school, for students at least up to Standard VII, to read History. School children are like clay. Their thoughts can be moulded to a particular ideology by feeding them thoughts of that ideology. But our academic history books snub out anything great about our warrior ancestors, which could lead to national pride and a nationalist bent of mind. India is probably the only country where History books teach only about the glory of invaders, plunderers, and looters! And we do not know if academic history books will ever be rewritten. If yes, when?

Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born political leader and social activist, has rightly said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” In the true sense of the term, we have almost forgotten our roots.

So, books like Saffron Swords should be included in the school syllabus as reference books. This can happen only under a government initiative. Besides, there should be mass awareness amongst citizens themselves. Parents should imbibe values of pride from our past, especially drawing examples from the valour of our warrior ancestors. Parents should be interested to buy such books. They should read and ask their children to read them. They should spread the word in their circles. 

Which Hindu rulers in your mind have contributed the most to India’s civilizational greatness? 

It will not be justified if I take the names of a few Hindu warriors. There are hundreds and thousands of them. And collective efforts were fighting the common enemy too. Our minds have been fed with the false narrative that Indian rulers did not unite against the common enemy. There were numerous united attempts, which were successful. For example, Nagbhat I, the Gurjar Pratihar king along with a confederation of several rulers from the North and the South including the Rashtrakutas defeated the Arab army led by Emir Junaid in the 8th century. The Arabs were so badly defeated that they did not think of attacking India for the next 100 plus years otherwise Islamic rule would have started in India from the 8th century onwards. Nagbhat I’s tale of valour is included in Saffron Swords.

We rarely get regional/vernacular perspectives of India in English. How do we come to know about the history of, say the North East, or the South which is not covered in detail in our history books?

Our history books, as aforementioned cover in detail only about the invaders, looters, and plunderers. At the regional level, through local history, we get to know little, very little about the local warriors. For example, few from Maharashtra will know about Bajiprabhu Deshpande, Morapant Pingle, Kanhoji Angre, but they will know nothing about Rani Karnavati of Garhwal, Raja Prithu of Assam, Narasimhadeva of Odisha or Naiki Devi of Gujarat and vice versa though all of these warriors fought against invaders glorified in our academic history books. These warriors have been described in Saffron Swords. If we go by statistics, the majority of the population of India know how to speak English and Hindi. Many readers, comprising of different age groups including high school level students and those who studied in vernacular medium gave their feedback on Saffron Swords that they easily understood, given the simple English used to describe the tales. Books written in simple English can reach a wider audience, including those who are not well versed in English and those who studied in the vernacular medium.

Getting the book translated in Hindi, the national language and the vernacular languages, will add to the awareness about knowledge on History at the regional level. But it is again a challenge. Not all publishers will come forward to put in money to get a book published in several vernacular languages.

How do we get more cultural products related to our history – for instance, how do we create more museums/movies/songs/poetry to be appreciated by the public?

The digital revolution, especially through social media, has helped a lot in getting Bharatiyas from every corner of Bharat not only get connected to one another but also know about the various community traditions, rituals, historicity, heritage, and related paraphernalia.

And platforms like Indic Academy has further eased the process, by making literature easily available and through the facilitation of workshops, seminars, scholarship programs, creating videos on temples and traditions, etc. pertaining to the Indic perspective. Their initiative in promoting authors, poets, movie directors, artists focused on Indic narratives and perspectives is highly appreciable. This can go a long way in getting people to appreciate what culturally belongs to them irrespective of the various mediums.

Religious mythology and historical writing – in India the two are interwoven. How do you deal with both?

Indeed, religious and historical writing are interwoven. Unfortunately, most of our mindsets have been fed to look at things the interwoven way. And it may take decades for that mindset to change even if we portray things objectively. This is because we have a very bad past wherein we were looted, plundered, our temples destroyed, our womenfolk raped and taken as sex slaves and the list of atrocities goes on. Many temple ruins are standing evidence today. So when we write about the enemy, for example, Bakhtiyar Khilji, who not only plundered kingdoms, looted wealth but also destroyed two of our ancient universities – Nalanda and Vikramshila – it is but robotic to read and talk about him with contempt. And the religious angle, without we wanting to, robotically crops up too.

When we speak or write on History, truth should always prevail. And whatever we write should be based on evidence, both literary and also archaeological at times. And when we portray the truth, like Saffron Swords is based on, it depends on how the readers react, whether the interwoven way or objectively. Besides, the time has come for us to stop being apologetic and call a spade a spade.

In your work have you written about the Indus Valley civilisation and the Vedic Janapadas? 

I have also been researching about ancient India, visiting sites of archaeological excavations, museums, caves, ancient temples besides reading books pertaining to the same since the last 11 years. I am planning to come up with a book once the research is complete. I have written several blog articles on ancient India in various aspects, especially based on my research.

You were born on Janmashtami day. You have written books on Krishna. How and why does Krishna inspire you?

I have written the first two books on Krishn trilogy series – The Eighth Avatar and Blue Vanquisher. Born in a Bishnupriya Manipuri family (Bishnupriya Manipuris are ardent devotees of Krishn), I grew up worshipping Him every morn and evening. The turning point in my life came in 2003 end. It was the first time I felt the presence of Krishn. My tryst with Krishn happened two more times.

The Krishn portrayed in many a book and the Krishn we know about and worship is not the real Krishn. His noble character has been stigmatized for long, portraying him as a lover, indulging in love-affairs with Radha and gopis, having 16000 plus wives, which is all false. Krishn was a Yogpurush, a saviour, protector, an efficient ruler, a doting son and the list goes on. I wrote the series to counter the false narratives. My Krishn Trilogy series depicts the story of Krishn from birth to death, delving on every aspect of his life besides refuting the many myths associated with Him. 

 


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