History is the narration of events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, religions as well as of other great changes which have affected the political, social, cultural and religious landscape of the human race. What happens in the present, and what will happen in the future, is very much governed by what happened in the past. However, it is very obvious that knowledge of the past has not brought justifiable and fair solutions to the problems in, say, Sri Lanka, Palestine and the Balkans. But, what History provides is an identity and sense of pride in terms of who we are and where we belong. If History has this vital importance for society, then it must be as accurate as possible, it must be based on evidence and logical thought, not on specious theory or political and religious ideologies.

I study History, not for career purposes, just for personal enjoyment and almost feel a poetic appeal for religious and Tamil history. My increasing interest in the history of religions is to distinguish between “history” and “the true past”. Most religious histories are a reconstruction of the past, in my mind, including the scriptures of many religions. I am trying to make a firm distinction between history as the “bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians” and “the past” as “everything that actually happened, whether known, or written, about by historians or not”. The production of History is very much a matter of accumulating details and refining nuances and inferences.

History should be the witness that testifies to the passing of time, should illuminate reality and vitalize recorded memories and oral traditions through generations and bring together the tidings of antiquity. The value of history should be that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is. However, History has many cunning passages, and contrived corridors and when in the hands of ultra-nationalistic, racist and dis-honest politicians and religious fanatics deceives innocent masses with political and inquisitory ambitions.

Each age and different periods try to form their own conceptions of the past by writing the history of the past anew, with reference to the conditions uppermost in their own time.


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