“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

~Will Durant

Image: Bidar Fort, Bidar, Karnataka


“I asked of Time for whom those temples rose,
That prostrate by his hand in silence lie:
His lips disdained the myst’ry to disclose,
And, borne on swifter wing, he hurried by!
The broken columns whose? I asked of Fame;
(Her kindling breath gives life to works sublime 😉
With downcast looks of mingled grief and shame,
She heaved the uncertain sigh, and followed Time.
Wrapt in amazement, o’er the mouldering pile
I saw Oblivion pass with giant stride;
And while his visage wore Pride’s scornful smile,
‘Haply thou know’st, then tell me, whose,’ I cried, ‘
Whose these vast domes that ev’n in ruins shine?’
’I reck not whose.” he said, ‘ they now are mine.’”

~ Alfonso Petrucci (c. 1490 – July 16, 1517)

Image: Ali Barid Shah Tomb, Bidar, Karnataka

The past provides the justification for the present, and we are inclined to find causes and destinies in past events. We often excuse ourselves when we commit a mistake that turns out, in retrospect, to have been preventable but we unfairly tend to hold people in history to account for not knowing something they could not have possibly known. Knowledge of the past is important for us to make sense of the world around us, but by the same token we interpret the past through the present-day world.

~ Arthur Dudney, Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History

On Cultivation of Culture

“The bringing about of an intellectual unity in India is, I am told, difficult to the verge of impossibility owing to the fact that India has so many different languages.


But every people in the world, in order to attain its greatness, must solve some great problem for itself, or accept defeat and degradation. All true civilizations have been built upon the bedrock of difficulties. Those who have rivers for their water supply are to be envied, but those who have not must dig wells and find water from the difficult depth of their own soil. But let us never imagine that dust can be made to do the duty of the water simply because it is more easily available. We must bravely accept the inconvenient fact of the diversity of our languages, and at the same time know that a foreign language, like foreign soil, may be good for pot culture, but not for that cultivation which is widely and permanently necessary for the maintenance of life. ”

― Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, in The Centre of Indian Culture

Of Power

“What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? Power is the sum total of wills transferred to one person. On what condition are the wills of the masses transferred to one person? On condition that the person express the will of the whole people. That is, power is power. That is, power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand. ”

― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Of Tradition

Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.

~ Alice Albinia, in “Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River.”

The Historian’s Resolve

I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would not mind in the least whether truth is, or is not, a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian.

~ Sir Jadunath Sarkar, at a Historical Conference in 1915. Quoted by RC Majumdar in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 7, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1984, pp. xiii

Gifts to Civilisation

Each race contributes something essential to the world’s civilization in the course of its own self-expression and self-realization. The character built up in solving its own problems, in the experience of its own misfortunes, is itself a gift which each offers to the world.

~ Coomaraswamy, Ananda. “What has India Contributed to Human Welfare?” The Dance of Śiva. New York: The Sunwise Turn Inc., 1918. 1. Print

On Historical Facts

History consists of a corpus of ascertained facts. The facts are available to the historian in documents, inscriptions and so on, like fish on the fishmonger’s slab. The historian collects them, takes them home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him.

~ Carr, Edward Hallett. “The Historian and His Facts.” What Is History? New York: Vintage, 1961. 9. Print.

On Historiography

Obviously historiography cannot be a science. It can only be an industry, an art, and a philosophy—an industry by ferreting out the facts, an art by establishing a meaningful order in the chaos of mate­rials, a philosophy by seeking perspective and enlightenment.

~ Durant, Will, and  Durant, Ariel. “Hesitations.” The Lessons of History. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968. 12. Print.