Jadunath Sarkar

Bengali historian

Sir Jadunath Sarkar (10 December 1870 - 19 May 1958) was a prominent Indian Bengali aristocrat and historian.

Jadunath Sarkar
See also History of Aurangzib


  • 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.
    • In 1915. Quoted in R.C. Majumdar, The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 7, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1984, pp. xiii (quoted from a Presidential speech given at a historical conference in Bengal, 1915). Also : Quoted in Meenakshi Jain, "Flawed Narratives – History in the old NCERT Textbooks" [1], Also in Majumdar, Historiography in Modern India, 56.. Also in E. Sreedharan - A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000-Orient blackswan (2019)
  • Jadunath wrote to him on 19 November, 1937:, “National history, like every other history worthy of the name and deserving to endure, must be true as regards the facts and reasonable in the interpretation of them. It will be national not in the sense that it will try to suppress or white-wash everything in our country’s past that is disgraceful, but because it will admit them and at the same time point out that there were other and nobler aspects in the stages of our nation’s evolution which offset the former.. . . In this task the historian must be a judge He will not suppress any defect of the national character, but add to his portraiture those higher qualities which, taken together with the former, help to constitute the entire individual.”
    • Quoted in R.C. Majumdar, The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 7, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1984,
  • The Hindus are so divided and so foolishly selfish that their majority does not count in actual politics. The atmosphere can clear only after a thunderstorm— after showers of blood.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, letter on 14 August 1931 to Padam Bhushan Dr. G. S. Sardesai [2] [3]
  • The administration is hopelessly inefficient and dishonest and as no improvement can be expected in the course of things, the future of the Hindus here (Calcutta or Bengal) is unspeakably dark.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, letter on 1946 to Padam Bhushan Dr. G. S. Sardesai [4] [5]
  • “The poison lay in the very core of Islamic theocracy. Under it there can be only one faith, one people, and one all overriding authority. The State is a religious trust administered solely by His people (the Faithful) acting in obedience to the Commander of the Faithful, who was in theory, and very often in practice too, the supreme General of the Army of militant Islam (Janud). There could be no place for non-believers. Even Jews and Christians could not be full citizens of it, though they somewhat approached the Muslims by reason of their being ‘“‘People of the Book” or believers in the Bible, which the Prophet of Islam accepted as revealed.
    “As for the Hindus and Zoroastrians, they had no place in such a political system. If their existence was tolerated, it was only to use them as hewers of wood and drawers of water, as tax-payers, “Khiraj-guzar’’, for the benefit of the dominant sect of the Faithful, They were called Zimmis or people under a contract of protection by the Muslim State on condition of certain service to be rendered by them and certain political and civil disabilities to be borne by them to prevent them from growing strong. The very term Zimmi is an insulting title. It connotes political inferiority and helplessness like the status of a minor proprietor perpetually under a guardian; such protected people could not claim equality with the citizens of the Muslim theocracy.
    “Thus by the basic conception of the Muslim State all non-Muslims are its enemies, and it is the interest of the State to curb their growth in number and power. The ideal aim was to exterminate them totally, as Hindus, Zoroastrians and Christian nationals have been liquidated (sometimes totally, sometimes leaving a negligible remnant behind) in Afghanistan, Persia and the Near East.
    “The Quran (IX.29) calls upon the Muslims ‘to fight those who do not profess the true faith, till they pay jizya with the hand in humility (ham sagkhirun)’. This was a poll-tax payable by Hindus (and also Christians) for permission to live in their ancestral homes under a Muslim sovereign.
    “In addition to the obligation to pay this poll-tax, the Hindu was subjected to many disabilities by the very constitution of the Muslim theocracy. He must distinguish himself from the Muslims by wearing a humble dress, and sometimes adding a label of a certain colour to his coat. He must not ride on horse-back or carry arms, though wearing the sword was a necessary part of the dress of every gentle- man of that age. He must show a generally respectful attitude towards Muslims. The Hindu was also under certain legal disabilities in giving testimony in law-courts, protection under the criminal law, and in marriage. Finally, in the exercise of his religion he must avoid any publicity that may rouse the wrath of the followers of the Prophet. “Under the Canon Law. as followed in Islamic countries, a man who converts a Muslim to some other faith is liable to death at the hands of any private Muslim, and so also is the apostate from Islam.’’
    • Jadunath Sarkar, cited in R.C. Majumdar (ed.), The History of the Indian People and Culture, Volume VI, chapter XVII.C. The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, 1960. also Quoted in S.R.Goel, The Calcutta Quran Petition (1999) ISBN 9788185990583

Shivaji and His Times

  • Shivaji proved, by his example, that the Hindu race could build a nation, found a State, defeat its enemies; they could conduct their own defence; they could protect and promote literature and art, commerce and industry; they could maintain navies and ocean going fleets of their own, and conduct naval battles on equal terms with foreigners. He taught the modern Hindus to rise to the full stature of their growth. He demonstrated that the tree of Hinduism was not dead, and that it could put forth new leaves and branches and once again rise up its head to the skies.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar Shivaji and His Times, 1919, p. 406
  • No peace between Mohammadan king and neighbouring of infidel states : “According to the Quranic law, there can not be peace between a Mohammedan king and his neighbouring infidel states. The latter are Dar-ul-Harb or legitimate stated for war, and it is the Muslim king’s duty to slay and plunder them (non-Muslims) till they accept the true faith (Islam) and become Dar-ul-Islam. (Land of Muslims alone), after which they will become entitled to his (Muslim king’s) protection.
    • Shivaji and his Times, pages 479-480, by Sir Jadunath Sarkar; published by Orient Longman.

House of Shivaji

  • The Historian of Shivaji at the end of a careful study of all the records about him in eight different languages, is bound to admit that Shivaji was not only the maker of the Maratha nation, but also the greatest constructive genius of medieval India . States fall, empires break up, dynasties become extinct, but the memory of a true “hero as King” like Shivaji remains an imperishable historical legacy for the entire human race. – The pillar of people’s hope. The center of a world’s desire, to animate the heart, to kindle the imagination, and to inspire the brain of succeeding ages to the highest endeavors.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, House of Shivaji: Studies and Documents on Maratha History, Royal Period, 1955, p. 115

Fall Of The Mughal Empire

  • The Hindu Bethlehem now lay utterly prostrate before the invaders. Early at dawn on 1st March the Afghan cavalry burst into the unwalled and unsuspecting city of Mathura, and neither by their master’s orders nor from the severe handling they had received in yesterday’s fight, were they in a mood to show mercy. For four hours there was an indiscriminate massacre and rape of the unresisting Hindu population, all of them non-combatants and many of them priests, Even the few Muslim residents could not always save themselves by taking their trousers off and showing that they were really followers of the Prophet. "Idols were broken and kicked about like polo-balls by the Islamic heroes." Houses were demolished in search of plunder and then wantonly set on fire. Glutted with the blood of 3,000 men, Jahin Khan laid a contribution of one lakh on what remained of the population and marched away from the smoking ruins the same night. After the tiger came the jackal. "When after the massacre Ahmad Shah’s troops marched onward from Mathura, Najib and his army remained there for three days, plundered much money and buried treasure, and carried off many beautiful females as captives.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, "Fall Of The Mughal Empire Vol.2" p 118 ff. 'Afghan sack and massacre at Mathura' [6]

A Short History of Aurangzeb

  • “when a class of men is publicly depressed and harassed (as under Muslim rule)… it merely contents itself with dragging on an animal existence. The Hindus could not be expected to produce the utmost of what they were capable… Amidst such social conditions, the human hand and the human mind cannot achieve their best; the human soul cannot soar to its highest pitch.”
    • Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, p.153. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 3
  • Jadunath Sarkar writes: “The prime minister’s grandson, Mirza Tafakhkhur used to sally forth from his mansion in Delhi with his ruffians, plunder the shops in the bazar, kidnap Hindu women passing through the public streets in litters or going to the river, and dishonour them; and yet there was no judge strong enough to punish him, no police to prevent such crimes.”
    • Jadunath Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzeb, p. 452. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 8

‘Anecdotes of Aurangzib and Historical Essays’

  • On 2nd April, 1679, the jazia or polltax on non-Muslims was revived. The poor people who appealed to the Emperor and blocked a road abjectly crying for its remission, were trampled down by elephants at his order and dispersed.”
  • In April, 1669 he ordered the provincial governors to ‘destroy the temples and schools of the Brahmans… and to utterly put down the teachings and religious practices of the infidels….

History of Aurangzib

Main article: History of Aurangzib
  • The life of Aurangzib was one long tragedy, — a story of man battling in vain against an invisible but inexorable Fate, a tale of how the strongest human endeavour was baffled by the forces of the age.

Quotes about Jadunath Sarkar

  • But his voice remained a voice in the wilderness. Fourteen years later, he [R.C. Majumdar] had to return to the theme and give specific instances of falsification. “It is very sad,” he observed, “that the spirit of perverting history to suit political views is no longer confined to politicians, but has definitely spread even among professional historians… It is painful to mention though impossible to ignore, the fact that there is a distinct and conscious attempt to rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards Hindu religion. This was originally prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Musalmans in a common fight against the British but has continued ever since. A history written under the auspices of the Indian National Congress sought to repudiate the charge that the Muslim rulers broke Hindu temples, and asserted that they were the most tolerant in matters of religion. Following in its footsteps, a noted historian has sought to exonerate Mahmud of Ghazni’s bigotry and fanaticism, and several writers in India have come forward to defend Aurangzeb against Jadunath Sarkar’s charge of religious intolerance. It is interesting to note that in the revised edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, one of them, while re-writing the article on Aurangzeb originally written by William Irvine, has expressed the view that the charge of breaking Hindu temples brought against Aurangzeb is a disputed point. Alas for poor Jadunath Sarkar, who must have turned in his grave if he were buried. For, after reading his History of Aurangzib, one would be tempted to ask, if the temple-breaking policy of Aurangzeb is a disputed point, is there a single fact in the whole recorded history of mankind which may be taken as undisputed? A noted historian has sought to prove that the Hindu population was better off under the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers.”
  • Sir Jadunath Sarkar's Aurangzib was avidly read, and also criticised. But those were the days of a different culture not found now among Marxists and progressives. For instance, when there was criticism of some statement of Jadunath Sarkar, it was also acknowledged in and outside the class room (by R.P. Tripathi, for example) that Sarkar was the doyen of Indian historians and "head and shoulders above all of us".
    • Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 7
  • Sir Jadunath Sarkar's History of Aurangzeb ... has rightly earned him the position of the doyen of Indian historians.... Sarkar has been a source of inspiration for hundreds of scholars.... His History of Aurangzeb is almost a classic.
    • Lal, K. S. (2001). Historical essays. New Delhi: Radha
  • Jadunath applied the critical and scientific methodology of Ranke and Mommsen to Indian history and could only cover 150 years of its history in 50 years... his historical works... were examples of 'honest history', an epithet applied by V.A. Smith to his Aurangzeb.
    • Jagdish Narayan Sarkar in Quarterly Review of Historical Studies Vol III. Calcutta 1963-4. p. 57, quoted in Lal, K. S. (2001). Historical essays. New Delhi: Radha
  • Jadunath Sarkar was once a name every educated Indian knew...he was easily the most highly-regarded Indian historian and had a very strong public presence in late colonial India.
    • The Calling of History, Prof Dipesh Chakrabarty. quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • A group of younger scholars at Allahabad, Aligarh and Oxford were conducting research that would ensure that by the time someone like me came into the world of South Asian history as a young novice in Calcutta in the early 1970s, the name of Jadunath Sarkar would be all but forgotten among the prominent historians of India. [...] Our teachers did not teach about emperors, battles and the character of kings anymore. They did not believe in the role of heroes of history. Heroes had been replaced by “causes.” Cause was a code word for institutional analysis.
    • The Calling of History, Prof Dipesh Chakrabarty. quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • In the words of the late British history scholar, J F Richards, Jadunath Sarkar “set the narrative frame for the late Mughal period virtually single-handed.”
    • The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth: Dipesh Chakrabarty. quoted in S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • Historians (of Jadunath Sarkar’s time) who criticized Sarkar’s emphasis on “character” never stopped to ask why someone of Sarkar’s erudition, intelligence and sense of engagement with the politics of his time would be so obsessed with the role of character in political history.”
    • The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth: Dipesh Chakrabarty,
  • [when one surveys Sarkar’s life and work as a historical scholar, one cannot miss the connection between his] “insistence on the cultivation of a certain truthfulness on the part of the historian—the demand that the historian make a sincere attempt to rise above his or her own times and interests—and his ideas about historical truth.” [This also includes] “a certain cultivation of self-denying ethics in the personhood of the historian, a practice of a sense of ascesis, was therefore essential, for without that, the historican could not receive the truths the facts told.” ...[Historical research and writing, for Jadunath Sarkar, was] “a way of preparing oneself for a truth that was beyond partisan interests.” [This was] “a self- denying quality he willingly imposed on himself...It was an inextricable part of his historical method; the man was the method.”
    • The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth: Dipesh Chakrabarty,
  • Naturally, Jadunath Sarkar began to earn the ire of his contemporary academics at a time when the field of historical research was slowly beginning to acquire ideological tinges. Thus, this ire, in the hands of such ideological scholars turned into vicious enmity and single-minded witch hunt. Perhaps the definitive reason for this was Sarkar’s no-holds-barred expose of Aurangzeb in his majestic, History of Aurangzib in five volumes....The subsequent generations of historians and scholars—trained under them— carried forward this slander. Among other big names, this calumnious campaign was led by Irfan Habib, son of the same Muhammad Habib. In his scholarly work titled Agrarian System of Mughal India, Irfan Habib wrote about this subject without any reference to Sarkar’s work as if Sarkar’s volumes did not exist. Irfan Habib calculatedly chose only such themes which allowed him to reject Sarkar’s sources. The result was that he succeeded in breaking Sarkar’s image as a towering historical scholar. Which is consistent with Habib’s credentials as an avowed Marxist as we shall see. With this move, Habib killed two birds with one stone: he deflected attention away from Aurangzeb’s legendary cruelty and Islamic bigotry by presenting the fall of Mughals as rooted in a mere “revenue crisis of the Empire!”
    • S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • His works are characterized by unity of conception, of theme and presentation, and are delivered to the reader in direct, easy flowing language and a charming style free from cant, verbosity and affectation.
  • Before William Irvine and Jadunath Sarkar, scholars working on medieval India had not cared to know of anything beyond the court chronicles in Persian. Sarkar insisted on getting all original contemporary material including letters and diaries in the various languages. Like Ranke, he went on treasure hunts for first-hand original documents. But his long and tedious journeys had also another end in view. To free himself from dependence on written records alone, he would visit the historical site connected with the subject of his study in order to acquaint himself with its topography and terrain.
  • Yet Sarkar had his critics, though none could challenge the factual basis of his historical edifices nor accuse him of distorting facts. Irresponsible fault-finding apart, A.L. Srivastava cites three instances of criticism and tells us how the critics were silenced when facts were revealed to them. 38 1. In assessing Aurangazeb’s religious policy Sarkar omitted to mention the emperor’s Benares firman making a grant of land to the Viswanath temple. Sarkar answered that Aurangazeb issued the specific firman during the war of succession when he was keen on getting Hindu support in capturing Shuja, and that it had nothing to do with his so-called desire to patronize Hindu religious institutions.
  • Jadunath Sarkar may be compared with Ranke and Momsen. He was unquestionably the greatest Indian historian of his time and one of the greatest in the world. His powerful personality and erudite works have established a tradition of honest and scholarly historiography whose tenets have exerted a healthy influence on many an individual historian.
    • E. Sreedharan - A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000-Orient blackswan (2019)
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