Bharat by Batra & Co. – Anil Dharker

History Lessons In Gujarati Schools

Anil Dharker“Mr Batra is not the first man to claim that planes were invented in ancient India because our epics refer to them. That’s because people like Mr Batra do not have the imagination to credit our ancient writers with imagination: if a writer described flight hundreds of years ago, it was not because he had witnessed a plane taking off, but because he imagined people in flight. Writers of science fiction take their characters through time and space, not because they have seen this happening, but because they have let their imagination soar. Only the literalists are capable of believing that what is written is proof of having been witnessed.” – Anil Dharker

Dina Nath BatraIf you care about India’s children, prepare to shed a tear now. If you care about Gujarat’s children, prepare to cry buckets now. Because Dinanath Batra, ace scholar, perfervid activist, slayer of Donigers, is a revered figure in the schools of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s motherland.

Mr Batra’s office-cum-residence, however, is not in Gujarat but in Delhi. It is located in Saraswati Bal Mandir, a school affiliated to Bharatiya Vidyapeeth. The lift plays music, but it’s not the usual muzzak or distortions of Mozart, but the Gayatri Mantra. His own room is dominated by portraits of Maharana Pratap, Swami Vivekananda, Chanakya — who are the real heroes of India he says, yet haven’t got their due. He sees it as his mission to correct this. Actually, it’s only part of his mission. He wants to completely overhaul our system of education, which is “distorted by Marx and Macaulay.” This is almost a Modism. (A real Modism would be “mauled by Marx and Macaulay”.) The proposed overhaul of the curriculum embraces every possible subject.

If you remember your days at school, almost the first thing you did in geography class was to learn to draw a map of India. Dinanath Batra’s students would have to relearn the basics, because Mr Batra’s India would not be the truncated version we live in now, but the glorious Bharat of old, the Akhand Bharat of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and unless I am mistaken, even Burma.

Mr Batra’s erudition covers every possible subject:

  • Aeronautics: “Pushpak Viman, a flying chariot used by Lord Rama, was the first aeroplane in the world”.
  • Mathematics: “Vedic maths is the real mathematics and must be taught in schools”.
  • Medicine: “When the royal couple couldn’t produce an heir, they were asked to do gai puja, and their cow devotion helped them beget a son”.

All this stems from his belief that “we must reject English education and revert to our ancient languages.” We should reject Western education because it has not given our ancient wisdom its due. “Our rishis were scientists,” Mr Batra says, “Whose inventions in the fields of technology, medicine, science have been appropriated by the West.” So he doesn’t want children to celebrate birthdays by blowing candles on cakes, an imported idea, but by wearing swadeshi, taking part in a havan, reciting the Gayatri Mantra and feeding cows. The Books of Batra have many such pearls of wisdom. There are nine books, all made supplementary reading for schools in Gujarat, and to encourage the reading of which free copies are being distributed to 35,000 government schools. Mr Batra has his ideas on creating an ideal society, too: “Keeping a good friend circle is not enough. To keep it faultless, a good company is also required. This means a company of saints and learned people. The student that goes to a RSS shakha daily, he finds miraculous change in his life.”

Mr Batra is not the first man to claim that planes were invented in ancient India because our epics refer to them. That’s because people like Mr Batra do not have the imagination to credit our ancient writers with imagination: if a writer described flight hundreds of years ago, it was not because he had witnessed a plane taking off, but because he imagined people in flight. Writers of science fiction take their characters through time and space, not because they have seen this happening, but because they have let their imagination soar. Only the literalists are capable of believing that what is written is proof of having been witnessed.

Batra's BooksTejomay BharatSadly for the student going to Gujarat government schools, Mr Batra is not alone in his looniness. A 125-page book called Tejomay Bharat, not written by him has also been mandated along with Mr Batra’s, as supplementary reading for all government primary and secondary schools. Here are some passages from it: “What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horse, but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra rath, what is today motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this…”

“We know that television was invented by a priest from Scotland called John Logie Baird in 1926. But we want to take you to an even older Doordarshan…. Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti. There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this…. In Mahabharata, Sanjay sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his ‘divya shakti’ would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata … to the blind Dhritarashtra”

“America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…. You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like Sun itself. When Gandhari, who was not conceiving for two years, learnt of this, she underwent hysterectomy. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this he (Matapurkar) realised that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago.”

This book’s content adviser is Harshad Shah, vice-chancellor of Children’s University in Gandhinagar and former Gujarat chairman of Vidya Bharati. By the way, Tejomay Bharat objects to our country being called India. It says, “We should not demean ourselves by calling our beloved Bharatbhoomi by the shudra (lowly) name ‘India’. What right had the British to change the name of this country? … We should not fall for this conspiracy and forget the soul of our country.”

Mr Shah at least is from Gujarat. How does Mr Batra from Delhi exert such a strong influence on that state’s education system? And what are Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s views on this?

Narendra Modi as Gujarat's Chief MinisterCould they be any different from the views expressed in the following two passages?

“It is congratulatory that Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks is publishing writer Dinanath Batraji’s literature. It is hoped that this inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers…. Seeds of values which are sown in the childhood emerge with time like a large banyan tree of idealism. Then it becomes possible to build a citizenship based on character and intelligence”

We should be surprised if the Prime Minister’s views are too different. After all, the two passages above are from the forewords of two books by Mr Batra. The forewords are by Mr Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. – The Asian Age, 30 July 2014

» Anil Dharker serves as head of the National Film Development Corporation and as a film critic and novelist. He is a columnist for many of India’s leading newspapers such as The Times of India, The Economic Times, Mid-day, The Hindu and DNA. At various stages in his life, he has been an engineer, a film critic, a film censor and a promoter of New Cinema. 

7 Responses

  1. ‘NCERT books are dotted with disgraceful words, distorted history’ – Nitin Mahajan – Deccan Chronicle – August 03, 2014

    Dina Nath Batra, chief of Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, who has been causing distress in the academic sphere for his views against the present education system, lives on the second floor of Saraswati Bal Mandir in Delhi’s Naraina Vihar. Hinduism in its Vedic form welcomes you even before you can get to him. The elevator resonates with the Gayatri Mantra. And in case you don’t know the words to chant along, its written version is splashed across the elevator walls as well as outside, on the premises of primary school.

    Batra, a tall 84-year-old in a khadi kurta-pyjama, shares his austere office-cum-residence with several others. It’s from here that they together, with passion, attack all that they feel is anti-India. His own room is dominated by portraits of Maharana Pratap, Swami Vivekananda, Chanakya, men he says are the real heroes of India.

    Batra spoke with Nitin Mahajan on revamping education, inadequacies of Indian school curriculum and how he would like the Narendra Modi government to bring in text books for schools and colleges that have the right “Indian cultural perspective”.

    Batra denies affiliation to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But while the question and answer session was in progress, chanting of Hindu hymns could be heard. A satsang had been organised on the ground floor of the school building after school hours.

    It has been alleged that you are trying to push the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which aims to change the present education curriculum and saffronise it? What is your affiliation with the RSS?

    I am not affiliated with the RSS in any way. I am national president of the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (Trust for the Uplift of Education and Culture). Over the past several years I have written seven books that deal with India’s contribution to the world in the fields of science, mathematics, geometry, philosophy and religion. Books prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) are bereft of Indian cultural values. Books are a mode for instilling cultural values, but NCERT books have failed to percolate the rich cultural landscape of India to children. They are dotted with disgraceful words and distorted history. These books do not acknowledge the contribution made by Indian scientists and mathematicians. For instance, there is no attempt to make it known to students that the Pythagoras theorem was discovered in India or that Aryabhata correctly stated that the Earth rotates on its axis. It is high time the books are revised. Even United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has said that a country should be rooted to its culture and wedded to its growth. Maine isme kya galat kaha? Kya apne desh ke maha-purush, jaise ki Swami Vivekanand ya Chanakya, ko unka yatha sthaan dilana RSS ka agenda follow karna hai? And even if it is RSS agenda, what is wrong if I am promoting nationalism in the country.

    Is this the first time that you have approached the government or the human resource development ministry with your suggestions for changes in syllabus?

    I have been an active person giving suggestions to education ministers over the past several years. This is not the first time that I have offered suggestions to the government. Most of our campaigns were during the United Progressive Alliance regime. During the previous National Democratic Alliance tenure, I had met the then HRD minister, M.M. Joshi, several times and shared my thoughts with him.

    However, I did not receive much support from HRD ministers of Congress-led governments. Arjun Singh had banned my entry to the ministry during his tenure, while Kapil Sibal and M.M. Pallam Raju did not show any interest in these ideas. I have not met the present incumbent Smriti Irani so far. I have only submitted my suggestions to the minister and it is for her to take them or leave them. I do not run after politicians, it is for the government to take them or leave them.

    The foreword to your books — some of which the Gujarat government has made part of school curriculum — has been written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Have you tried to meet him to share your thoughts, suggestions?

    I have no connection with the Prime Minister and have never met him. In fact, he wrote the foreword for these books while he was the chief minister of Gujarat and it was the Gujarat school education department that had arranged for this.

    I think a person of Modiji’s importance needs to concentrate on more pressing issues like improving the country’s image and work culture which had suffered during the two consecutive terms of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. I hope that during Mr Modi’s tenure the country’s education is freed of all political pulls, pressures and leanings.

    Modiji bahut samajhdaar vyakti hain. Ab Prime Minister ban-ne par bahut vyast bhi ho gaye hain. Abhi unke liye zaroori hai ki veh US jayen, Bharat ke padosiyon se sambandh badhiya banayen.

    Has any other state government or political party approached you for the introduction of your books in schools? Do you feel that your books should be introduced in states other than Gujarat?

    So far none have approached me. If any other state, educational organisation or a political party approaches me, I will be more than willing to give my assent. So far Gujarat government is the only one that has sought these books. And I have offered these books free of cost and am not claiming any royalties for them, which is what I would do with other states as well.

    I want Indian cultural values to be propagated through these books. These books put in perspective the contribution of India to the field of science, arts and mathematics. Books in the curriculum should teach a child to live his life. They should help him imbibe positive values and contribute to nation building. I am not against Western culture but I am certainly against materialism being propagated in the name of Western culture. There is a need for universities and schools to adopt villages and promote the spirit of social service amongst their students. I think the government should make it mandatory for students to do mandatory social service of three months each time when they cross an important milestone, like Class X, Class XII or graduation. In fact, I would suggest to the government that it should form bodies like National Innovation Commission and All-India Research Centre. These bodies would help generate new ideas and research in the country which will ensure that we do not add to the unemployment in the country and do not look at the government alone for providing employment.

    You got Penguin India to pulp The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. What caused you to petition the court against the book?

    The book is nothing but an attempt at denigrating Hindu religion and Indian way of life. It devotes too much in portraying that Hindus were obsessed with sex, had many denigrating references like Kunti was raped by Surya Dev. This is all uncalled for and unwarranted. The book implied that Lakshman had illicit relations with Sita, that Rani Lakshmibai was in cohorts with the English, and that Mangal Pandey was an opium addict; that Gandhiji was a strange person who slept with young girls and Swami Vivekananda was a beef eater; that Hindus don’t have a Great Book and the Rig Veda says that women are nothing but child-producing machines. The book is downright divisive. This was the reason that I petitioned the courts and demanded the withdrawal of the book.

    What are your thoughts on the recent agitation by students against Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations? Do you support the cause of students who are fighting for Hindi and other regional languages?

    Repeated governments at the Centre have tried to undermine Hindi and the use of other Indian regional languages while at the same time promoting English. The students are rightly taking up the cause of Indian languages.

    Students from rural background are at a disadvantage due to English language paper being made mandatory at the preliminary stage. In 2012 UPSC results, out of 1,150 candidates selected only 26 candidated had chosen Indian languages, which is a dismal 2.3 per cent of the total.

    I met Jitendra Singh, minister of state, department of personnel and training, and he assured us that the government will definitely take a positive view on the issue and that a committee is expected to submit its finding soon. I have also been told that the Prime Minister is looking at the issue.

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  2. How strange! Indians were once accused of not being history minded. Now, as we see it, we have four schools of history of India: The history that put our colonial masters as people who were merely interested in keeping the native under their parental care, the history that spewed the glory of the Muslim rule, the history that emerged from its willful distortions by the socialists, putting anything in Indian culture and tradition in a poor light, and finally arrived our “official history”! A nation that can own four histories cannot be subjected to downgrading!

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  3. Yes, but the crackpots in the West don’t usually get state government sponsorship.

    Daniken is a well known ‘explainer’ of ancient, mysterious things. He is the P.N. Oak of Switzerland.

    There would be some justice done if a case was filed against Batra and/or the Gujarat government and Batra was forced to withdraw his books from the school curriculum!

    His books are distributed through 42,000 schools in Gujarat (according to one report). He must have made a very big pile of money from this ‘Vedic’ history-writing project! No wonder he can file cases against big league players like Penguin.

    There is some precedent for this nonsense in Gujarat. It comes from the Swami Narayan cult that pervades the state. They promote this kind of ‘scientific’ interpretation of the Vedas and Epics in their temples. Their Akshardham Temple in New Delhi puts on a grand display of these ideas in the form of a series of tableaus. Take the tour in New Delhi and you will be shown a ‘Vedic’ airplane and a ‘Vedic’ atomic bomb and a ‘Vedic’ what have you….

    The Swami Narayan followers are also as literal-minded as Batra. They build these magnificent Krishna temples and when you get inside for darshan, there is a little old man sitting on the altar whom the cult members believe was an incarnation of Sri Krishna. Well, if Swami Narayan was an incarnation of Sri Krishna, why not an image of Sri Krishna on the altar instead of the little old man. It seems the Swami Narayan people have got things backwards—the guru does not displace the God in Vedic Hindu tradition.

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  4. There are plenty of Batras in the West. The one below is interesting.
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xtresu_aliens-and-the-third-reich-full_tech

    Swiss Batra below
    http://www.daniken.com/e/index.html

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  5. “… People like Mr Batra do not have the imagination to credit our ancient writers with imagination: if a writer described flight hundreds of years ago, it was not because he had witnessed a plane taking off, but because he imagined people in flight. Writers of science fiction take their characters through time and space, not because they have seen this happening, but because they have let their imagination soar. Only the literalists are capable of believing that what is written is proof of having been witnessed.”

    Batra may be an Indian born in a Hindu house, but he has got neither a Hindu psyche nor a Hindu perspective. He has internalised Victorian Christian mores and moralising and thinks they are Hindu mores. He acts just like an Evangelical Christian missionary and believes his literal interpretation of the Epics and Puranas are facts.

    Beliefs are not facts! Nor are interpretations of scripture facts! However dearly they may be held, beliefs are only opinions and should not be presented as science.

    Batra is welcome to his opinions. But should they be on the reading list of Indian school children in the 21st century?

    Sita Ram Goel has been proved right again—unfortunately! He said something to this effect to this writer: Don’t let those old fogies—as he called RSS functionaries—near the history books! They will make a fool of all of us! Just like P.N. Oak has done!

    What is so sad about this circumstance is that there is a growing number of Indic scholars here in India who are neither Macaulayist nor Marxist. They do authentic research in the Sanskrit and Tamil sources and write real Indian history according to the known facts. Narendra Modi and his minister Smriti Irani have an obligation to find them out and give them a public platform.


    As for the new ICHR chairman Y. Sudershan Rao, go to his website and read the various bits and pieces available there. Utterly mediocre and for the most part harmless. This editor couldn’t find a single piece worth reproducing here.

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  6. Tejomay Bharat and the Ghee Theory – Chitra Subramaniam – The News Minute – July 28, 2014

    There is widespread concern about the introduction of a compulsory reading list in Gujarat’s government primary and secondary school. Specifically, there are questions about a series of eight books written by Dina Nath Batra and a ninth book called Tejomay Bharat which offers scientific knowledge about stem cells, automobiles and television technology as being first discovered in India, narrated in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and patented by Indians.

    Batra who is the founder of the Siksha Bachao Andolan Samiti has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and made news recently when a civil suit filed led both Penguin and Aleph in India to pull books on Hinduism by the American author Wendy Doniger

    The science explained in Tejomay Bharat is cute, like the immaculate-conception. The other fiddle is the almost unanimous media reports suggesting actively that Batra is also the author of the 125-page Tejomay Bharat. The News Minute has not read Tejomay Bharat, but here’s an excerpt on stem cells published widely in the media.

    “…America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…. You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realised that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago.” — Page 92-93, Tejomay Bharat.

    We all have stem cells. These are undifferentiated biological cells which can give rise to an indefinite number of similar cells and from which other kinds of cells can be developed. Bone marrow, lipid cells and blood from a donor are how stem cells are accessed. The umbilical cord also contains stem cells. Today autologous stem cell transplants (where the patient’s blood is cleaned up and put back) are common and many research projects are close to developing a human heart with stem cells.

    There is no scientific evidence available to validate claims that such a process can occur in ghee-jars where an aborted child and placenta have been stored for over two years, much less to human beings emerging from there. Science typically starts with an observation, followed by a hypothesis based on the observation. The scientist then devises an experiment that either validates or disproves the hypothesis. It is not the other way round, in other words, the experiment cannot validate the hypothesis.

    That is also what some sections of the media seem to have done by generously suggesting that Batra is the author of Tejomay Bharat.

    Thinking outside the box is important and children should be encouraged to read diverse views and opinions because there is no right or wrong in an opinion. Science on the other hand is factual – it is either right or wrong. The ghee-theory belongs to religious study, even theology, not science. And it is important to distinguish between science and fable.

    Historically grand ideas have come from a place where people have challenged norms and accepted theories. As Albert Einstein wrote that intuition is nothing but the outcome of an earlier intellectual experience. Science comes from unwavering logic and unexplained phenomena are not attributed to miracles. Faith in science is important. Blind faith is dangerous.

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  7. 42,000 schools in India will soon teach that stem cell research, cars, and TVs were inspired by ancient texts – Hemant Mehta – Patheos – July 29, 2014

    There’s a new case of religion making its way into public schools, where fiction is taught as fact and mythical beliefs override what academic scholars say.

    Except this case has nothing to do with Christianity or Creationism. It takes place in India, where 42,000 schools across the western state of Gujarat have some new compulsory reading material.

    The 125-page book, Tejomay Bharat, … was recently mandated as supplementary reading by the Gujarat government for all government primary and secondary schools.

    Published by the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB), the book seeks to teach children “facts” about history, science, geography, religion and other “basics”.

    What are some of these “facts”?

    “… America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…. You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata [an ancient epic that includes the Bhagavad Gita].

    “We know that television was invented by a priest from Scotland called John Logie Baird in 1926. But we want to take you to an even older Doordarshan… Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti. There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra”.

    “What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this…”

    “It is better to die for one’s religion. An alien religion is a source of sorrow,” the book says on Page 118. “Guru Gobind Singh had four sons — Ajit Singh, Juzar Singh, Zoravar Singh and Fateh Singh… King’s men tried hard to convince them, but they courageously replied, ‘Our grandfather Guru Tegh Bahadur gave his head for saving Hindu religion and we will also give our lives but will never leave our religion’.”

    Frightening. And just inaccurate in so many ways. Thinking of a hypothetical technology doesn’t mean you created it or necessarily inspired it. And saying it was all predicted in ancient epics misleads students into thinking there’s something more to those ancient texts than there really is.

    The textbook in question — along with several others — is written by Dina Nath Batra (his name is sometimes spelled in other ways), a former teacher who essentially has the same mindset as a Religious Right school board member from Texas. Batra has a history of complaining about the contents of history and science books. In 2007, the government of Madhya Pradesh (a state in India) followed Batra’s advice and replaced sex education with yoga.

    Each book also includes a message from now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former chief minister of Gujarat.

    Despite criticism, the state government says it has no plans to replace or correct the textbooks this year.

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