Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Aryabhata & the Historical Background of The Aryabhata Clan

We don’t hear much about Aryabhata, apart from… you have a satellite (first unmanned Earth satellite built by India and launched in 1975). So, I thought that… it makes [for] a very interesting personality to use in a fiction. His life is also shrouded in mystery. Nobody even knows where he was born. Roughly, people say that he was born in a place which is close to Patna. And then there is another theory which says that he was born in Kerala. But again, there is [some evidence] … With certain certainty we can say that he used to work in Ujjain (Ujjaini), because Ujjain comes in his works a number of times. Ujjain is again the place where Kalidasa used to stay (It’s believed to be one of his probable birth-places). Kalidasa and Aryabhata were [perhaps] contemporaries (though there are contradicting views about this among researchers). In one of Kalidasa’s writings, he very obliquely refers to a mathematician, who [some] people believe to be Aryabhata. (This is again not unanimously accepted by all). His life is entirely shrouded in mystery. What I did [is that], I used one of his verses as a cryptic code [in The Aryabhata Clan]. So that’s the connection to Aryabhata. 

You have a scenario [in The Aryabhata Clan], where this Islamic State, ISIS or IS, whatever – they have spread across a large number of places in the world other than Iraq and Syria. A part of that has come to India… and they are trying to do some mischief in India in a very big way. They are there, and there are other fundamentalist groups [too]. Not only the Islamic fundamentalist, but there’s also a parallel narrative of [a] Hindu fundamentalist group. Overall, it talks about the danger of any fundamentalist group or fundamentalist mentality. The historical background is like that: few fundamentalist groups – they are trying to create a havoc and they are trying to infringe into the academics, into the history; they are trying to rewrite history. We’ve heard [of] lot of instances where any political power, who’s at the center, is trying to change the narrative of Indian history. 

Indian history as such has been very poorly written, and also very poorly read. Here the premise is something like that, where somebody is trying to manipulate [the] history and how that can be used in a very volatile [manner]… and [how that] can be used in a very explosive manner. 

If you see, lot of the mischief which happened in India over the [past] twenty-thirty years, were actually due to some historical facts which were narrated in some explosive manner. The Babri Masjid, even this entire Dravidian movement, the North India – South India divide, everything was done with [the help of] some historical background – somebody has narrated the history in a way which becomes explosive. So, [with] history, based on the narrative, you can do lot of things – you can create riots; you can create religious divide; you can create ethnical divide. One is [the] divide on the basis of religion, [and] in India, if you see, there are [also] lot of clashes based on ethnicity. This entire Sri Lankan movement – [the] Tamilians and Sri Lankans both were Hindus [and Buddhists], but still the entire clash between them was ethnic, [based on] ethnicity. And it was based on some history that they are ethnically different and that they have different cultures. 

Though this Tamil and Sri Lankan conflict is not [a] part of my narrative [in The Aryabhata Clan], but then just to [tell you], as a reference, when I was doing the research for this book, [I learned] there is some good amount of [credible] history which says that in Sri Lanka, whether the Tamilians, either [from] India or Sri Lanka, or the Sri Lankans, the Sinhalese – though they speak two different languages, but ethnically, they all belong to the same flock. There’s a very complicated history – how it [really] happened and who are the original Tamilians and who are the original Sinhalese. But, at some point of time – it’s not very old, it’s around 2000 years old – they were [same], they actually came from the same group of peoples. But this entire divide [presently] is based on some historical concoction. [The Aryabhata Clan has some interesting insight into the Sinhalese-Tamil shared ancestry]

Here also [in The Aryabhata Clan] I [have] recreated a scenario, where some medieval history – and some history where Aryabhata plays a big role – has been concocted and has been manipulated by a fundamentalist group just to create a havoc… and create some political mischief, just before the election, because [we’re approaching] 2019 – it’s the next general election, and most of the mischief in India happen around elections.

A lot of inspiration for this book and also the first one [The Ekkos Clan] came from, especially, more Indiana Jones than Da Vinci Code, because when I was in [engineering] college, that’s where I first saw one of the movies of Indiana Jones. [In] all the Indian Jones stories, they have lot of adventure, but they [also] have a very strong historical component, archaeology symbols. So, here also I try to recreate a similar thing, but on an Indian background, and mainly ancient Indian history. The previous book was on very old, ancient Indian history, where the age, [period], was during the Rig Veda, the times around Rig Veda. Who created the Rig Veda, where they came from – that was the historical background [in my last book]. And in Aryabhata Clan, it’s much more later – it’s the medieval time where you have Kalidasa, Aryabhata…

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