ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When It Is Time for an Idea

Nodes, Networks and the Shaping of ‘the Idea of India’ in Early Medieval Times

The multicultural enclaves and plurilateral overlaps resulting from constant cultural transactions and change, which defi ne the idea of India today, it is argued, dates back to the early medieval times, spanning the mid-fi rst to the mid-second millennium CE. Flowing from it, the author urges the recognition of “the early medieval origins of India,” replacing earlier constructions, howsoever cherished. The shift in the discursive ground in recent times and emerging consensus needs appreciation.

Inaugural lecture delivered at the Online National Faculty Development Programme (Historiography and Research Methodology, 19–24 April) at the Department of History, Hansraj College, University of Delhi, on 19 April 2021.

Post-independence historiography of premodern India has essentially been a response to what had preceded earlier in the imperialist and nationalist historiographies, which were basically two sides of the same coin. Admittedly, the nationalists modified their positions suitably to address their concerns, but in terms of historiographical shifts there was not much beyond the retrieval of fresh data and reversal of colonial hegemonic assertions. K P Jayaswals Hindu Polity and R K Mookherjees The Fundamental Unity of India are good representatives of this genre of writing (Jayaswal 2005; Mookherjee and Chattopadhyaya 2003). In this battle of ideas, time and change were the causalities. Not surprisingly, therefore, the construction of stages in Indian history and the resultant patterns were addressed as the dominant issues by a generation of historians led by the pioneering works of D D Kosambi and R S Sharma on socio-economic history from the mid-1950s onward (Kosambi 1956; Sharma 1959, 1965, 1966, 1969; Thapar 1995).

No history is written on a blank slate, it is always a response to earlier constructionsin this case the accusations of the absence of history and cultural inheritance in Indias past, largely derived from the forging of the mentality of Indophobia in the early part of the 19th century (Trautmann 1997). The imperialist frames of references were a part of the congealing of national identities, and identities, as should be obvious, can be imagined by representing the other (Berkemer 2001)the native Indian subjects and their pasts filled the necessary requirements in this case.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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