Romila Thapar Saying 'Ashoka Inspired Yudhisthira' Sparks Controversy, Fury On Twitter

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 22 September 2019, 11:51 AM
Many took to Twitter to criticise Romila Thapar for her comment (Image: File)
Many took to Twitter to criticise Romila Thapar for her comment (Image: File)

After the controversy over related to her position as Professor Emerita in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), historian Romila Thapar is trending again. This time an old video of Romila Thapar allegedly claiming that Yudhisthira, of the epic Mahabharata, was inspired by ‘Ashoka’ has caused quite a stir on social media.

A one-minute extract from an hour-long video surfaced on Twitter recently and gained attention on Saturday.

In the clip, Thapar is heard saying, ".. when Yudhishthira was asked to take over the kingship and he says no I won't.. he says I want to be a renouncer. I am going away. He is then persuaded slowly and gradually.

And the whole discourse is on kingship and renunciation which is of course a fundamental discourse in Buddhism... And there are some historians who are today saying that may be Yudhishthira had a (in) mind the image of Ashoka when he said I don't want to be king...." (sic)"

Many took to Twitter to criticise Thapar for her comment. Many pointed out the disparity in the timeline of the two events. Several social media users mocked Thapar for her 'mistake'.

However, some came out in her support saying the discussion was not about the historical figure Yudhishthira but about the character 'Yudhishthira' written in the epic.

Soon after the clipp went viral, the full video of Thapar’s talk surfaced online. The video, posted on Youtube in 2010, is titled ‘Romila Thapar - India's Past and Present: How History Informs Contemporary Narrative.’

Thapar is actually speaking about the changing perception of Ashoka and Buddhist ideas. She says that in Buddhist texts, Ashoka is celebrated as an emblem of peace, non-violence and tolerance. She points out how some historians in the recent past have been arguing for the presence of Buddhist ideas in epics. Thapar then highlights Yudhisthira’s struggle can be traced to the Buddhist idea of power vs renunciation.

In September, Romila Thapar was in news after JNU administration had asked her to submit her CV for 'assessment'. Thapar holds the position of Professor emeritus in the history department of the University, a post usually designated for life. She had refused to send her CV to JNU administration. Thapar, who taught at JNU between 1970 and 1991, was appointed to the post in 1993.

First Published: Sunday, September 22, 2019 11:37 AM
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