Updated: Jul 17, 2021
The following rebuttal is made to an article posted by The Atlantic on the Amar Chitra Katha (ACK)
Link is as Follows:
Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) or Immortal Stories are a popular brand of comic illustrations for children. The comic book's objective is to enrich or make the children accustomed to the rich heritage and culture of India. Ananat Pai who is popularly known as Uncle Pai founded the publication in 1960’s. The idea came to him after he had seen a reality show where participants could not answer basic questions about The Ramayana. As of today, Amar Chitra Katha has sold over 100+ million copies and is one of the most celebrated books for children.
The author of this article had read the comic books as a child. He grew up in the United States of America and was quite unaware about the rich cultural heritage his ancestral home India inhabited. He mentions reading C.S Lewis as a child (who’s books, popularly Chronicles Of Narnia, are based on values and beliefs of the Bible). He mentions that the comic books have been ‘sanitized through a distinctively Hindu lens’. Amar Chitra Katha has comic books based on folklore and the epics of Hindu Mythology. Additionally,the comic books cover the virtuous Rajputs, Scientists, Gods and Demi-gods and even stories of Mughal rulers through its run.
The Mughals just like the British, French and the Dutch had invaded India- which is a historical fact. If the author had parsed through Indian History books (which I don't expect him to know as his point of view is biased against the Ancient Indian Heritage and is captivated by Western ideas) and not make statements on his narrow and agenda based judgement his perception about the comic books would have been different.
The color discrimination between the good characters and bad characters have been highlighted in the article- which to me is a baseless argument. Lord Krishna for example had fought snakes in Bhagwat because of which his skin was of a darker complexion and sometimes a darker shade was used to differentiate between the two main characters so the angle of casteism and racial discrimination is of no sense. For example in Mahabharata, Arjuna who was the son of Indra was shown purple in the series and Lord Krishna was blue. This was just done so that the readers don't get confused between two characters.
The choice of words have been poorly used. Rani Padmini (known as Padmaavati) performed Jauhar and not Sati. Jauhar and Sati are entirely different. Jauhar was a practice followed by the Rajput/Kshatriya women. When the territory was invaded by groups like the Mughals and their husbands were killed by the hands of the enemy, the women of the palace would self-immolate. Sati, on the other hand, was a practice that involved only a single woman whose husband had passed away. In the case of Rani Padmani, Jauhar was performed to protect themselves from falling in the hands of the enemy and protecting their honour.
Even though the Queens were equally skilled as the men in ancient India, how would they even escape to any neighbouring kingdom without falling in the hands of the enemy who is approaching with a gigantic ocean of men? How safe would they be in the neighbouring kingdoms? Would the kings and their noble men help them at all?
The author also calls the comic books ‘authoritative, spreading ‘dangerous assumptions of religion, caste and gender’. As a reader, I don't see how children's comic books can be authoritative. When I was reading the comic books, I realised they were essentially talking about how one should lead a virtuous life and the stories were constructed in a way from which children could learn life lessons. Religion is not the main focus of the publication and nowhere brings up in the comic book stripes.
Another set of questions arises as to why there is a need to include a political and agenda driven perspective into children novels. In the world where we are striving for diversity I personally believe that Amar Chitra Katha has done enough to celebrate iconic lives of individuals from all walks of life. In the recent editions of Valamaki’s Ramayana the caricature appears to be straight out of modern comic books. All the characters are more structurally designed and in detail. Moreover, there are sections of information on ancient India and how life was back in the day.
I personally believe that certain people of Indian Subcontinent living in the US get certain kinds of motivation and rewards by spreading false notions against ancient Indian culture.
Therefore, this article should not be taken seriously and best be ignored.
You may not agree with my point of view but I would like to protect your right to knowing another point of view by expressing my opposite point of view on this subject.
Amar Chitra Katha: https://www.amarchitrakatha.com/
The Great Mughals: https://www.amazon.in/Great-Mughals-Amar-Chitra-Katha/dp/8184824017
The template has been taken from Canva.
About The Author:
The author of the above article, Mehak Mathur, is pursuing the Bachelor Of Strategic Communication and Journalism degree at Mumbai University.
“My main motive is to provide people with factual and relevant information and hope to ignite their passions, help them connect with one another conducting insightful discussions and see the bigger picture.”