I really had high hopes with this documentary film, when I came to know that it would be broadcast on PBS. For one, this was a BBC production. The second was that it is a fairly recent production – and a lot of water has flown through the Ganga, Sindhu and Kaveri since the first time they came across the ruins at Mohenjodaro and Harappa.
Although Michael Wood has put in a lot of effort to present ‘The Story of India’, and the documentary is beautifully filmed, it leaves much to be desired. I am sure it is quite hard to encapsulate the six thousand years of Indian history in a six hour documentary. But Michael Wood has not tried to consider and mention alternative views; there are gross omissions, and serious factual errors, some of which I list below. (These are not in any specific order):
1. The film does not even mention about the alternatives to Aryan Invasion Theory (Well, it does mildly call it the Aryan Migration Theory) – Same old wine in a new bottle. It does not say that AMT is one of the different possibilities, and talks as though it is a proven fact and set in stone.
2. The film tells about the discovery of a large number of Indus civilization sites on the bed of Ghaggar, it falls short of saying Ghaggar is nothing but the dried up Saraswati river.
3. It does not mention anything about the role of Saraswati river in the vedas – I guess if he did, Michael had to contradict himself, because most of the sites on Ghaggar had ceased to exist by 1800 BC, but the AIT/AMT assigns a time of 1500 BC for Rg Veda.
4. The film mentions that most of the Indus cities were vacated because of dwindling water resources. So what Michel has employed is selective blindness; take newer research whenever it suits and just drop those that seem inconvenient.
5. Vast tracts of history, both in time and space have been neglected – For example there is no mention of kingdoms such as Chalukya, Rashtrakoota, and Pallava dynasties, that have left treasures such as Ajanta, Ellora, Badami and Kanchipuram.
6. Wood says that Chola kings(10th century) started recording deeds on stone, and copper plates. But copper plates inscriptions are found all the way from gangas (5th century) and through the reign of Chalukyas and Rashtrakootas ( upto 11 centuries) in other parts of India. And as for as stone inscriptions are concerned, there a plenty of them all the way from Kadamba, Pallava and Chalukya times (starting in 5th century).
7. Among preachers, Buddha makes is presence felt, but for whatever reason, the likes of Mahaveera, or Sankara are not even mentioned. Then no hope for the likes of Basvanna, or Purandara dasa. Sigh!
8. Michael Wood says Indian’s did not know where the city of Ayodhya was till the 4th century! This I find hard to believe, but I do not have a firm argument as yet.
9. This one takes the cake – Michael Wood interview’s the current Maratha prince of Tanjavoor, (or call him descendent of the Maratha kings, if you like), and tells us that he comes from the family of Rajaraja Chola!
10. The biggest blunder is the series does not even mention the kindgom of Vijaya Nagara – Arguably the best city in 16th century as per European traveler’s records!
Well, I can go on – But I thought it would be OK I will stop at number 10 – until I remembered the next one. which I should really mention!
11. Wood speaks to a woman at Belagola, and based on her story, say that the statue of Bahubali at Sravana beLagoLa (Gommata) was built by none other than Chandragupta Maurya in the 3rd century BC! Chavundaraya must be crying, wherever he is.
So much for authenticity, and research.