P. N. Oak

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PN Oak, the famous Hindutva historian

Purushottam Nagesh Oak
Born(1917-03-02)2 March 1917
Indore, Indore State, British India
Died4 December 2007(2007-12-04) (aged 90)
Pune, India
OccupationSoldier and writer
Known forHistorical revisionism

Purushottam Nagesh Oak (2 March 1917 – 4 December 2007), commonly referred to as P. N. Oak, was a Hindutva historical revisionist from India.[1]

Among his prominent claims were that Christianity and Islam are both derivatives of Hinduism; that Vatican City, Kaaba, Westminster Abbey and the Taj Mahal were once Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva; and that the Papacy was originally a Vedic Priesthood. Their reception in Indian popular culture have been noted by observers of contemporary Indian society. He ran an 'Institute for Rewriting Indian History' in the 1980s which published a quarterly periodical called Itihas Patrika dedicated to fringe causes; he had also written numerous books, some of which have even lead to court cases in a bid to alter the mainstream history narrative.[2][3][4]

Life[edit]

Oak was born in 1917 in Indore in the erstwhile Princely State of Indore, British India.[citation needed] According to his own account, he completed an M.A. (Agra) and a law degree (LL.B. Mumbai), before being inducted as a Class I Gazetted officer in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting wherein he wrote various journalistic pieces.[5] Before joining the army, he also claims to have worked as an English tutor at Fergusson College in Pune.[5]

In 1964, he founded an organisation called Institute for Rewriting Indian History.[5] He died on 4 December 2007, at 3.30 am at his Pune residence aged 90.[6]

Historical revisionism[edit]

Taj Mahal Theory[edit]

In 2000 India's Supreme Court dismissed Oak's petition to declare that a Hindu king had built the Taj Mahal by saying he had a "bee in his bonnet" about the Taj.[7] Till date, as of 2017, several court cases about Taj Mahal being a Hindu temple have been inspired by Oak's theory.[2][3] In August 2017, Archaeological Survey of India stated there was no evidence to suggest the monument ever housed a temple.[8]

Giles Tillotson calls Oak's claims as a "desperate bid to assign a new meaning to the Taj" and "pseudo-scholarship". He states that Oak interprets the statements of Padshahnama about Shah Jahan's purchase of the land for the Taj from Jai Singh I upon where a mansion built by an ancestor of the Raja earlier existed, to claim that Taj Mahal was a wonder of ancient Hinduism. Tillotson adds that no evidence is offered by Oak to redate it to thirteen centuries earlier. He adds that the technical know-how to construct structural buildings didn't exist in 4th-century India, Oak's original claim, the only surviving architecture being rock-cut or monolithic. Oak later dropped this claim and claimed it to be from the 12th century. He adds that Oak claims Mughals built nothing and only converted Hindu buildings. In relation to similarity with buildings of West Asia, Oak also claims them all to be "products of Hindu architecture".[9]

Kaaba Theory: Vedic origins[edit]

In a 13-page pamphlet titled Was Kaaba a Hindu Temple?, Oak derives a claim of a "Vedic past of Arabia" based on an inscription mentioning the legendary Indian king Vikramāditya that Oak claims was found inside a dish inside the Kaaba. According to Oak, the text of the alleged inscription is taken from the page 315 of an anthology of poetry entitled Sayar-ul-Okul (Se'-arul Oqul meaning the memorable words),[10] compiled in 1742 on the orders of a "Sultan Salim" (the actual Sultan at the time being Mahmud I, sultan Selim III lived from 1761 to 1808) from the earlier work of prophet Muhammed's uncle Amr ibn Hishām (poetic name "Abu al-Ḥakam" (or ابوالحكم) or meaning the "Father of wisdom") who had refused to convert to Islam, and, first modern version published in 1864 in Berlin and a subsequent edition was published in Beirut in 1932.[11] Oak goes on to state that the anthology is kept in the "Makhtab-e-Sultania Library" (Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi or Galatasaray Imperial School) in Istanbul, Turkey which has been now renamed as Galatasaray Lisesi school.[12]

Reception[edit]

Srinivas Aravamudan notes Oak to be a 'mythistorian' whose work resorted to exploiting comparative philology in the generation of delusional etymologies—associating Sanskrit sound-alikes with foreign terms such as Vatican=vatika (hermitage), Christianity=Krishna-niti (the way of Krishna), Abraham as an aberration of Brahma -- to purvey an Islamophobic and anti-Christian agenda under the covers of Hindutva.[13] Edwin Bryant in his work on Indo-Aryan theory describes Oak to be a self-styled historian whose works suffer from an ubiquitous and very poor standard of professionalism and critical methodology and who fit the definition of a crack-pot.[14][15]

Giles Tillotson describes Oak's work on Taj Mahal as a "startling piece of pseudo-scholarship",[16] which was plainly a work of polemical fantasy intended to denigrate Islam and did not merit any serious scholarly attention.[17] Art historian Rebecca Brown described Oak's books as "revisionist history as subtle as Captain Russell's smirk" (referring to a character in the Hindi movie Lagaan).[18]

Oak's theories have been noted to have found a popular following among right-wing Hindu factions in a bid to wage politico-religious battles.[19][20][21] Tapan Raychaudhuri has referred to him as "a 'historian' much respected by the Sangh Parivar."[22] Incidentally, one of his books "Some Blunders in Indian Historical Research" was banned from the Parliament's library by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hardline Hindu nationalists campaign against Taj Mahal". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b Siraj Qureshi, "Another court petition challenges Taj Mahal's story as a symbol of love", India Today, 12 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Is Taj Mahal a mausoleum or a Shiva temple? CIC asks govt to clarify", Hindustan Times, 10 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Plea to rewrite Taj history dismissed". The Hindu. 14 July 2000.
  5. ^ a b c P. N. Oak (November 2017). "About The Author Prof P.N.Oak 19/20". Archived from the original on 19 January 2007.
  6. ^ Paracha, Nadeem F. "How the Taj Mahal became part of the campaign to erase India's Muslim past". Scroll.in. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  7. ^ PTI (14 July 2000). "Plea on Taj history dismissed". The Tribune.
  8. ^ BJP's Vinay Katiyar now calls Taj Mahal a Hindu temple - a 'bee in bonnet' theory that Supreme Court once rejected India Today
  9. ^ Giles Tillotson (2008). Taj Mahal. Harvard University Press. pp. 112–114. ISBN 9780674031869.
  10. ^ Muslim Digest, July to Oct. 1986 pages 23–24;[1] Purushottam Nagesh Oak, Indian Kshatriyas Once Ruled from Bali to Baltic & Korea to Kaba (1966)
  11. ^ "Hindu Vishva", Volume 27, Issues 4-11, pp. 16.
  12. ^ Rabbi Simon Altaf, 2011, World War III - Unmasking the End-Times Beast: Unmasking End Time Beast, African-Israel International Union of Israelite Qahalim, ISBN 1599160528.
  13. ^ Aravamudan, Srinivas (27 June 2011). Guru English: South Asian Religion in a Cosmopolitan Language. Princeton University Press. p. 34. ISBN 9781400826858.
  14. ^ Bryant, Edwin (20 September 2001). "Aryan Origins and Modern Nationalist Discourse". The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. pp. 267–297. doi:10.1093/0195137779.003.0014. ISBN 9780195137774.
  15. ^ Bryant, Edwin (20 September 2001). "Introduction". The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. pp. 3–12. doi:10.1093/0195137779.003.0001. ISBN 9780195137774.
  16. ^ Peter Parker (13 September 2008). "Review: Taj Mahal by Giles Tillotson". The Daily Telegraph.
  17. ^ Giles, Tillotson (12 November 2012). Taj Mahal. Harvard University Press. pp. 112–115, 163. ISBN 9780674063655.
  18. ^ Brown, Rebecca M. (8 July 2004). "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (review)". Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies. 34 (1): 78–80. doi:10.1353/flm.2004.0008. ISSN 1548-9922.
  19. ^ Tillotson, Giles (12 November 2012). Taj Mahal. Harvard University Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780674063655.
  20. ^ Ahmed, Akbar (May 1993). "The Taj Mahal". History Today. 43 (5).
  21. ^ "HRD Ministry - its master's voice". The Hindu. 29 April 2001. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  22. ^ Raychaudhuri, Tapan (April 2000). "Shadows of the Swastika: Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Hindu Communalism". Modern Asian Studies. 34 (2): 259–279. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00003310. ISSN 1469-8099.
  23. ^ Rajeev Dhavan. "Thinning not the answer to PN Oak Speaker's powers". Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2012.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

Further reading[edit]