Purushottam Nagesh Oak (2 March 1917 – 4 December 2007), commonly referred to as P. N. Oak, was an Indian writer, notable for his Hindu-centric brand of historical revisionism. Oak’s “Institute for Rewriting Indian History” issued a quarterly periodical called Itihas Patrika in the 1980s.
Oak’s claims, e.g. that Christianity and Islam are both derivatives of Hinduism, or that Vatican City, Kaaba, Westminster Abbey and the Taj Mahal were once Hindu temples to Shiva,and their reception in Indian popular culture have been noted by observers of contemporary Indian society. In addition to this Oak again asserted that the Vatican was allegedly originally a Vedic creation called Vatika and that the Papacy was also originally a Vedic Priesthood. He wrote books in three languages.
Oak was born in 1917 at Indore in erstwhile Princely State of Indore, British India. During World War II, he was at first with the army of the British Raj in British Malaya. He joined the Indian National Army after Singapore fell to the Japanese. He acted as an assistant to Subhas Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army and then as an ADC to General J. R. Bhonsle, chief of the Indian National Army. He also worked as a commentator for the Azad Hind Radio.
“From 1947 to 1974 his profession has been mainly journalism having worked on the editorial staffs of the Hindustan Times and The Statesman, as a Class I officer in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India; and as editor in the American Embassy’s Information Service.” In 1964, he started an organisation called ‘Institute for Rewriting Indian History’
Dozens of blogs and websites refer to him as “Professor” P. N. Oak,.However, he was not a professor. According to his own account, he completed an M.A. (Agra) and a law degree (LL.B. Mumbai), and was an official in the Ministry for Information, and wrote various journalistic pieces.
He died on 4 December 2007, at 3.30 am at his Pune residence aged 90.
Intent on rectifying what he believes to be “biased and distorted versions of India’s history produced by the invaders and colonizers”, Oak has written several books and articles on Indian history and founded an “Institute for Rewriting Indian History” in 1964. According to Oak, modern secular and Marxist historians have fabricated “idealized versions” of India’s past and drained it of its “Vedic context and content”. Srinivas Aravamudan noted that Oak’s work typically resorts to “deep punning”– associating Sanskrit sound-alikes with non-Sanskrit religious terms such as Vatican=vatika “hermitage”, Christianity=Krishna-netti or Chrisn-nity “ethics of Krishna or the way of Krishna” Islam=ishalayam “temple of God”, Abraham as an aberration of Brahma, and George as an aberration of Garg. Based on this, Oak claims that both Christianity and Islam allegedly originated as distortions of “Vedic” beliefs. Srinivas Aravamudan concludes that via “deep punning” Oak is “creative in proliferating these delusional etymologies.
Oak finds some mention in passing as trustworthy in academic literature on the Hindutva wing of Hindu nationalism. Aravamudan (2005) calls him a “mythistorian” whose life’s work may be summarised by the title of his work World Vedic Heritage: A History of Histories, Presenting a Unique Unified Field Theory of History that from the Beginning of Time the World Practised Vedic and Spoke Sanskrit. Edwin Bryant writes that most academics would consider him a ‘crackpot’.Giles Tillotson describes his work as a “startling piece of pseudo-scholarship”.
While Oak’s theories have been summarily rejected in academia, they have found a popular following among some members of India’s Hindutvas,(N. Ram, editor of The Hindu, calls him a “Sangh historian”, Indocentrists and the Hare Krishnas mainly but not only represented by author Stephen Knapp. Art historian Rebecca Brown describes Oak’s books as “revisionist history as subtle as Captain Russell’s smirk” (referring to a character in the Hindi movie Lagaan).
Although not anti-government in nature, Oak’s book “Some Blunders in Indian Historical Research” was banned from the Parliament’s library by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (lower House) as noted in news archives. There are also apocryphal claims of government suppression, e.g. “Allegedly, Indira Gandhi’s government tried to ban and some would say the Indian government has been politically motivated in suppressing this theory”.The Indian government has indeed banned a number of bookson the grounds of preventing Hindu-Muslim rioting and/or national security.
Oak claims that Christianity was originally a Vedic religion following Krishna and claims that Christianity was originally known by either the names Chrisn-nity or Krishna-neeti (with Oak alleging these meant “The way of Krishna” or “The Justice of Lord Krishna”) these generally follow in line with Oak’s other theories and claims that the Vatican was allegedly originally called Vatika and that the Papacy was originally a “Vedic Priesthood” until Constantine the Great around 312 A.D killed the “Vedic pontiff” and installed in his place a representative of the tiny Christian sect. Specifically, Oak’s followers make the following claims about what they claim as alleged Krishna-neeti. “Jesus went to India between ages 13 and 30 to learn Krishna-neeti (Christianity) from sages
In his book Taj Mahal: The True Story, Oak claims that the Taj Mahal was originally a Shiva temple and a Rajput palace named Tejo Mahalaya seized by Shah Jahan and adopted as a tomb. He says that Mahal is a word to describe a royal palace and not a tomb and after seizure by Shah Jahan, the name was changed to Taj Mahal.
The Taj, Oak says, is a “typical illustration of how all historic buildings and townships from Kashmir to Cape Comorin though of Hindu origin have been ascribed to this or that Muslim ruler or courtier”.He goes on to propose Hindu origins for the tombs of Humayun, Akbar and I’timād-ud-Daulah and “all historic buildings” in India as well as Vatican City,the Kaaba and Stonehenge.
Oak says that well-known western authorities on architecture including Ernest Binfield Havell, Mrs. Kenoyer and William Wilson Hunter have written that the Taj Mahal is built in the Hindu temple style,asserting that Havel says the plan of the ancient Hindu temple of Java, the Prambanan, is identical with that of the Taj Mahal.Also, he argues out that the octagonal shape of the Taj Mahal has a special Hindu significance, because Hindus alone have special names for the eight directions and the celestial guards assigned to them.He argues that the finial of the Taj Mahal is a trishula with a Kalasha, holding two bent mango leaves and a coconut, which is a sacred Hindu motif.
Oak claims that Hindu ornaments and symbols were effaced from the Taj, whose sealed chambers hold the remnants, including a lingam, of the original temple, and that Mumtaz Mahal was not buried at her cenotaph.
In support of these claims, Oak presents radiocarbon dating results of the wood from the riverside doorway of the Taj, quotes from European travellers’ accounts and the Taj’s Hindu architectural features. Oak further alleges that eyewitness accounts of the Taj Mahal’s construction as well as Shah Jahan’s construction orders and voluminous financial records are elaborate frauds meant to hide its Hindu origin.
Oak petitioned the Indian parliament demanding that the Taj be declared a Hindu monument and that cenotaphs and sealed apartments be opened to determine whether lingams or other remains were hidden in them.According to Oak, the government of India’s refusal to allow him unfettered access amounts to a conspiracy against Hinduism. The Indian government has maintained that out of respect for the dead, unnecessary openings of cenotaphs and sealed rooms cannot be allowed.
Oak’s denial of Islamic architecture in India has been described as one of the “more extreme manifestations of anti-Muslim sentiment” in Maharashtrian popular culture K. N. Panikkar locates Oak’s work in the Hindutva movement’s attempt to foster a communal understanding of Indian history.Raychaudhuri has referred to him as “a ‘historian’ much respected by the Sangh Parivar.”
In 2000 India’s Supreme Court dismissed Oak’s petition to declare that a Hindu king had built the Taj Mahal and reprimanded him for bringing the action, saying he had a “bee in his bonnet” about the Taj.In 2005 a similar petition was dismissed by the Allahabad High Court. This case was brought by Amar Nath Mishra, a social worker and preacher who says that the Taj Mahal was built by the Hindu King Parmar Dev in 1196
In a 13-page pamphlet titled Was Kaaba a Hindu Temple?, Oak derives a claim of a “Vedic past of Arabia” based on an inscription mentioning the legendary Indian king Vikramāditya that Oak claims was found inside a dish inside the Kaaba. According to Oak, the text of the alleged inscription is taken from an anthology of poetry entitled Sayar-ul-Okul,compiled in 1742 on the orders of a “Sultan Salim” (the actual Sultan at the time being Mahmud I), and first edited in 1864 in Berlin. Oak goes on to state that the anthology is kept in the “Makhtab-e-Sultania Library” in Istanbul, Turkey. No one else outside of Oak is known to have mentioned either the alleged inscription or the Ottoman book Oak claims was written in 1742 CE.