Why do we idolize Sri Ram? He attacked his rival from behind to kill him. He couldn’t take a stand for his wife in front of his subjects, knowing full well that nothing was wrong.
Why do we idolize the Pandavas, while they twisted and turned every rule of warfare to win their battle against their brothers, the Kauravas. For almost every major kill, they either twisted a loophole, by bringing Shikhandi (a trans person, and therefore considered half a female) in front of Bhishma, the greatest warrior the world had ever known, knowing full well he won’t attack in his direction (because he didn’t attack women), to vile disrespect and infringement of the Laws of warfare. Getting Dronacharya to drop his weapons (making him believe in his son’s death and leaving him to grieve), and beheading him. Hitting Duryodhana below the belt to win, or the killing of a weaponless Karna by Arjuna.
The thing about our folklore is that we believe that in the end, the good side defeats the bad side.
Therefore, the side which won should by default be the good side (remember this, I’ll use this down the line as well). So, we want the people to like them over generations. Therefore, we focus only on what’s positive about them, portraying them as Gods, or as close as we possibly can. We forget to paint the picture with the most prevailing colour of all times, Grey.
The original author gave the characters shades of grey for a purpose. He included these fallacies for a reason. But down the line, we put them up on pedestals, we turned protagonists into ‘Heroes’, someone who could never be wrong, or if they were, it was always justified, because the good needs to defeat the evil, right?
The idea that since good always defeats evil, therefore the victor would definitely be good has jumped from our folklore, which some of us consider “ancient history”, into the storytelling of what we, in the modern world actually call History. Because after all, what is History, but the story of how the world evolved, how mankind began from being a simple group of beings to the ones who discovered the phenomenon of Fire, or how this brain of ours gave us the idea of the wheel. For me, history is the story of how we got to where we find ourselves today.
Jumping from texts written in ancient times to relatively modern times. The world hates Hitler, don’t we all? Well, for what all he did, hatred is a very sophisticated emotion to react to that. But imagine a world where the Nazis won the Second World War. For all we know, saying or propagating anything that portrays the ‘Fuhrer’ immediately leads to death. How would our ‘History’ portray him? As a mass murderer, as we know him today? Or as the man who led the Third Reich into the future? The Supreme Leader who loved dogs?
History has always been written by the victor, usually, because the one defeated is no longer alive to
have his say. I use the past tense because now we live in times of Information overload. The Internet and its’s access everywhere has made it very easy to document everything we see, everything we feel, our own opinion on everything that goes around us. The history, as we know it is quite prone to bias because those who recorded it were very few. With today’s technology, we all write what the future would consider ‘History’, and with so many versions of the same thing, the chance of bias in the recording stage is majorly reduced.
I consider our Epics and modern ‘History’ in the same category because:
a) A big chunk of our people consider our Epics to be actual history
b) I consider them both to be stories, from which I can go through and try to learn stuff.
That being said, should we trust what ‘History’ serves us as it is? If you have the time and can do the efforts, I’d say, read more. Take everything you read with a grain of salt because you didn’t see it happen first-hand. If not, be open to the possibility that what you have heard/known could very well be wrong. Like, some people celebrate Christopher Columbus as the person who discovered America for the Europeans (and supposedly, therefore, the world), whereas some see him as a propagator of Slavery into America. The story is the same, the facts (or the act of hiding them) changes how you see the story and the characters.
Long story short, read your History. Find out where you come from, but take it with a big grain of salt. Because, like every story, History suffers from the author’s bias.
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