Prime Minister Narendra Modi's grasp of Indian history seems to be getting him into trouble regularly.
On Monday, at a ceremony in Washington DC to mark the repatriation of ancient Indian cultural artifacts, Modi took the opportunity to expound on India's heritage.
"Konark ke Sun Temple mei 2000 saal pehle uss samay ke kalakaro ne aaj ki modern fashionable girl, jo skirt pehenti hai, aur haath mei purse rakhti hai, unki murtiyan bhi banayi hui hai. Matlab us samay bhi ye cheeze maujood hongi. (In Konark Sun Temple, over 2000 years ago, artists made sculptures akin to the modern fashionable girl who wears skirts and holds a purse in her hand. This means such things were there in those times also," the Prime Minister said.
With this observation, Modi proved yet again that history is not his strong point.
The Sun Temple at Konark, Odisha, according to the Archaeological Survey of India, was built in the 13th-century CE or 700 years ago. The temple is more known for its erotic sculptures, though it also does have images of women wearing heels and garments akin to skirts sculpted on its walls.
According to The Telegraph, this wasn't first time the Prime Minister thought the Konark temple is 2000 years old. In 2004, at the inauguration of a new campus of the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Gandhinagar, Modi had said, "The 2000-year-old engraved idols on the walls of the Sun Temple in Konark are shown wearing mini-skirts and holding a purse. This proves that we have a legacy of fashion technology since times immemorial."
Twitter didn't lose much time in giving Modi history lessons and making mirthful references to his observations on the sartorial style of Indian women of yore.
Rare sculpture from Konark temple from 4000 years ago showing hipster Modi doing standup comedy with a straight face pic.twitter.com/xKShplyiFr— TooMuchDemocracy (@atlasdanced) June 7, 2016
Modi has a history of getting history wrong.
In 2013, while campaigning for the BJP, prime ministerial candidate Modi called Mahatma Gandhi--Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi instead of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
"Towards the end of his life, Mahatma Gandhi had a wish which was not fulfilled. Would you fulfill that wish? Would you fulfill Gandhi's wish? Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi..." he said, while addressing a rally in Rajasthan.
Days before the Gandhi goof-up, Modi mixed up the Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookerji with the revolutionary, Shyamji Krishna Verma.
"Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was a revolutionist. He died in 1930. His last wish was that his ashes be brought to India after independence. The Congress governments didn't get them back. It was I who got the ashes back to India in 2003," Modi had said in Kheda while confusing Mookerjee with Verma.
He apologised for the error after it was brought to his notice, and clarified that he had meant Shyamji Krishna Verma.
At BJP's "Hunkar rally" in Patna in 2013, Modi made several goof-ups during his speech. In the fiery oration that was telecast live by several television channels, the Prime Minister said, "When we think of the Gupta dynasty, we remember Chandragupta Maurya."
Chandragupta Maurya, as is evident from his name, was the founder of the Maurya Empire and the first emperor to unify large parts of the Indian subcontinent under one state. Modi, in all likelihood, confused him with Chandragupta Vikramaditya of the Gupta dynasty.
According to reports, Modi also said that Porus was defeated on the bank of the Ganga, thus getting both his history and geography wrong.
In 326 BC, Alexander the Great fought against King Porus of the Paurava kingdom on the banks of the river Hydaspes (now known as the Jhelum), at a spot that is now in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
He also said that the ancient learning centre of Takshashila, situated in present day Pakistan, was in Bihar. Perhaps Modi had Vikramshila in mind, which indeed is situated in Bihar.
Soon after his speech, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar called Modi's knowledge of history "amazing"
In October 2013, at the inauguration of a museum in Ahmedabad dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Modi said that Sardar Patel had proposed reservations for women in 1919. As the Congress leader Dinshaw Patel reminded him later, Patel had made this statement in 1926.
After his Bihar rally speech, Youth Congress workers had sent him a package containing history textbooks from the 5th to the 10th standard as a Diwali gift, saying it was meant to help him "improve his knowledge" of the subject.
In the age of the Internet and social media, you are not allowed to forget your mistakes easily. Certainly not if you are the leader of a country like India. It probably wont be a bad idea for our Prime Minister, and his speech writers, to brush up on Indian history and save himself from further embarrassment.
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