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Early Indian History and Beyond (Essays in Honour of B.D. Chattopadhyaya)

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Item Code: NAT396
Author: Osmund Bopearachchi and Suchandra Ghosh
Publisher: Primus Books, Delhi
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9789352905973
Pages: 592
Other Details 9.50 X 6.50 inch
Weight 840 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Early Indian History and Beyond is a tribute to Professor B.D. Chattopadhyaya's profound scholarship by a community of well-known scholars, his former colleagues, and students sharing his enthusiasm in the field of Early Indian history. The first section of the book is devoted to a personal reminiscence, write ups on his contributions and a list of books and papers published by him. Stimulated by Chattopadhyaya's areas of scientific interests, the second section is a bouquet of twenty-six essays, arranged in five subthemes: Historical Perspectives from Texts; Looking through the Epigraphic Lens; Art and Religion; City, Trade and Markets; and History and Historiography. Through these outstanding essays, tribute is paid to Chattopadhyaya's remarkable effort to develop a distinctive historiography in the studies of Indian history. This collection reflects the sincerity and respect of his admirers.

About the Author

Osmund Bopearachchi is Adjunct Professor of Central and South Asian Art, Archaeology, and Numismatics at the University of California, Berkeley, and Emeritus Director of Research - at the National Centre for Scientific-Research (CNRS-ENS Paris). He has also been Visiting Professor and Member of the Doctoral School VI of the Paris IV-Sorbonne University. He has published 11 books, edited 6 others, and published 150 articles in reputed international journals.

Suchandra Ghosh is Professor in the Department of Ancient Indian History & Culture, University of Calcutta. She takes a broad interest in the politico-cultural history of North-West India, south-eastern Bengal's links with early South-East Asia, and the Indian Ocean Buddhist and trade network. She is the author of From the Oxus to the Indus: A Political and Cultural Study (c. 300 BCE to c. 100 BCE) (2017) and Exploring Connectivity: South Eastern Bengal and Beyond (2014). She is one. of the editors of Issues in Agraria History of India: Essays in Memo of D.C. Sircar (2017) and Subversive Sovereigns across the Seas, Indian Ocean Ports-of-Trade from Early Historic Times to Late Colonialism (2017). She also edited two volumes of Journal of Ancient Indian History.


IT WAS A SUMMER evening in Paris, way back in 2011, when the editors of this volume were walking towards the metro after an inspiring and thought-provoking discussion with Professor B.D. Chattopadhyaya, the idea of offering him a bouquet of essays celebrating his scholarship dawned in. Though we never sat in his class, we were enriched each time we engaged with him on various issues of historical concern or even otherwise. He makes us think afresh and, thus, our intellectual debt to him is immense.

We approached his students, colleagues, and some researchers like us who were involved in regular academic exchanges with him in his post-retirement phase in Kolkata. The response was instantaneous. We set out on this venture in 2012. Most of the essays were received by late 2014 or early 2015. Nevertheless it took us four long years to give the book final shape for some reasons which were at times beyond our control. Our authors have shown immense patience all these years waiting for this publication to see the light of the day. Their respect and love for Professor Chattopadhyaya is reflected here. We are grateful to them for bearing with us and we sincerely apologize for this delay. This might result in non-inclusion of latest data/evidence in a few of the essays. The onus lies on the editors.

This volume would not have been possible without the support of a few persons. We sincerely thank Professors Ranabir Chakravarti and Kumkum Roy for their guidance while the volume was in progress. Professor Romila Thapar and Dr Gouriswar Bhattacharya have beholden us by responding immediately to our request. We are thankful to Dr Digvijay Singh and Mr Dev Kumar Jhanjh for preparing the bibliography of Professor Chattopadhyaya's writings. We have not incorporated here his essays written in Bengali. Professors Kunal Chakrabarti, Bhairabi Prasad Sahu and Dr Manu Devadevan helped us on various occasions. We are indeed grateful to them.

The photograph of Professor Chattopadhyaya used in the jacket was kindly given to us by Mrs Archana Chattopadhyaya. We are grateful to her. This was taken during Professor Chattopadhyaya's stint as head of the department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology at visva bharati, Santiniketan (1978-80). The picture credit goes to Professor Arun Nag of the same department.


IT IS A GREAT HONOUR for US to offer this volume Early Indian History and Beyond to Professor Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya, eminent historian of early India, as a token of our immense gratitude to his scholarship. His friends, colleagues and former students have accepted our invitation to celebrate the life and scholarship of Professor Chattopadhyaya. For the sake of convenience we have divided the volume into two sections. The first section focuses on personal reminiscences, his life and works. It opens with a personal note by Gouriswar Bhattacharya who recalls his memorable moments with Professor Chattopadhyaya. Romila Thapar, his colleague and friend, evokes her souvenirs from the time young Chattopadhyaya joined the then newly found Centre for Historical Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1971. Who else, apart from Professor Thapar, could write so well about the erudite contributions of the great scholar we honour today? As she has well emphasized, Chattopadhyaya's contributions to early Indian history have opened many horizons to his contemporaries and successors. In the last bit of this section, Suchandra Ghosh traverses through his major contributions and gives an overview of his works.

The second section is devoted entirely to the scholarly articles written in his honour. Looking at the quality of the contributions we realize the diversity of ongoing research inspired by his guidance. Scholars have often not restricted themselves to the time bracket of early India and went much beyond 1300 CE, which justifies the title of this book, inspired by Romila Thapar's book History & Beyond. It is in this context we would like to introduce the contents of this volume in honour of Professor Chattopadhyaya. Although each individual piece can be read on its own, we clubbed them thematically to situate the essays in wider contexts. The themes correspond to the research interests of our honoured scholar. The sections are arranged as Historical Perspectives from Texts; Looking through the Epigraphic Lens; Art and Religion; City, Trade and Markets; and History and Historiography. In this introduction our intention is to go a little beyond the contents page and give an overview of what the readers could expect from the book. Essays in each section are arranged chronologically.

The first section focuses on textual sources. Phyllis Granoffdelves into the world of Buddhist story literature and explores the way of thinking of traditional Buddhists a propos this genre in her essay 'Birds, Babes, and Bodhisattvas: Truth and Fiction in the Life of the Buddha'. For them these stories were either true or false. She cites examples from Jataka stories, other genre of texts like Milinda Pdhho, Mahayanasatrdlaradra, and stories from Sanskrit Buddhist sources. She argues for teasing out new meanings in a passage by going beyond the literal meaning. A reading of a variety of texts finally leads her to conclude 'these stories suggest that doctrine, with the strategies that were developed to read texts for their implicit as well as explicit meanings, may have been much more easily modified than a popular story could be discarded or interpreted away'. The next essay by Patrick Olivelle takes us to the world of entertainment. The essay entitled 'Showbiz in Ancient India: Data from the Artha.sastra' takes off from a simple question 'How did the ancient Indians entertain themselves?' Using Artha.sastra as the source he explores the various ways people were entertained. Olivelle argues that the two major events, at which a range of entertainers performed, were sarnaja (much critiqued by Agoka) and preksa. There are also at least four other similar events bearing specific names: utsava, prahavana, and yiltra. Through a reading of the Harsacharita, Kumkum Roy in her essay 'The Antelope, the Yak, and Other Things: An Exploration of Banabhatta's Harsacarita' examines the relationship between the courtly/ brahmanical tradition and the wild/less sedentary populations. By going beyond the binaries between the natural and the cultural, the wild and the domestic, she argues that elements of the natural/wild are woven into the understanding of the cultural in almost inextricable ways. Roy brings to focus a set of transactions, exchanges and relations between forest dwellers/coastal people and those who claimed to be at the apex of society, such transactions remained more or less invisible in earlier studies. In her essay 'Kingship in Early Kashmir: New Perspectives from the Rajataranginr, Shonaleeka Kaul views kingship through the perspectives of the twelfth century royal chronicle from Kashmir, the Rajatarangini by Kalhana. Scouring through the text, citing numerous examples, the author shows how Rajatarangini is a lavya in form and spirit but draws heavily in content, slant/perspective, and even form on several other texts and textual traditions. Departing from the usual approach of reading Rajatarangini for events and records, Kaul tries to understand what the text intended to articulate. She demonstrates how monarchy was critiqued in the text as an unreliable and fickle institution. This was a common feature of ledvya literature and must be seen as kthiya's important intervention in the discourse of artha and rajadharma. She argues that Rajatarangini's explicit position was to integrate the political with the righteous'. Bhairabi Prasad Sahu's Literary Representations of a Regional Society' is a case study of the making of the regional identity of Odisha as articulated in Sarala Dasa's Mahabharata written in Odia between the mid-fifteenth and mid-sixteenth century. Sahu demonstrates how the content and context of the text provided us with insights into contemporary socio-cultural patterns and practices of the Odia society. He argues that in constituting consciousness about one's own region there had to be a necessary and persistent connection between the spatial segment and its cultural ingredients, including language, script and literature. Sarala's Mahandrata with its valorization of an early Odia identity provided the context for Odia consciousness in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

From texts we move on to inscriptions in the next section. We begin this section with P.K. Basant's 'Seeing the State: A Study of the Visuals and Inscriptions at Sanchi'. Here Basant juxtaposes visuals and epigraphy of Sanchi to view the State. Through both visuals and epigraphy he argues that beyond the formal state there is an informal one. He brings in Chattopadhyaya's formulation of 'autonomous spaces' to argue from his sources that village communities, corporate institutions and guilds were not alternative but parallel centres of authority. The notion of kingship and kinship are beautifully explained here. Masahiko Mita in his essay 'The Formats of Grant Charters and the Stratified Royalty under the Pratihara Rule' takes up the format of copperplate charters issued by the sdmantas taking the stratified rulers under the Pratiharas as a case study. He questions the emphasis given by scholars on the uniformity of the format and style of copperplate documents. He argues that changes could be perceived with changing dynasties. The format also differs depending on whether it was issued by an overlord or a samanta. There is a gap in historical studies related to the charters of the samanta and this essay is an attempt to make a comparative study between the charters of the overlord and samanta in the Pratihara realm with a specific thrust on stratified power relations. In accordance with Chattopadhyaya's critique of the urban decay phenomenon Ryosuke Furui's essay 'Agrarian Expansion and Rural Commercialization in Early Medieval North Bengal' contests the model of urban decay andmakes a case for the commercialization of rural society accompanying the expansion of sedentary agriculture and agrarian settlements all of which saw another phase of progress from the ninth century onwards in north Bengal. He explores the possibility of interconnections between agrarian expansion and commercialization of rural society concurrent with it. Through his study Furui demonstrates possible demand oflanded magnates for market both as consumers and providers of commodities. This demand necessitated circulation of imported cowries-shells as a medium facilitating vigorous exchanges. Rajat Sanyal's essay `Archaeology of Early Medieval Rural Settlements in Western Bengal: The Case of the Malla Sarul Copperplate' explores a way to examine the validity of epigraphic database on early medieval rural settlements for understanding the spatial dimensions and evolutionary patterns of early medieval settlements within a given geographical frame. On the basis of the Malla Sarul copperplate inscription, he analyses the archaeology of early medieval rural settlements in western Bengal. This inscription provides valuable information on the nature of material cultural implications of early medieval settlements, above all the aspects of local historical geographies within given geographical territories. Sanyal further argues that the epigraphic evidence combined with archaeological reality gives a wide-ranging picture of the varying patterns of genesis of early medieval rural settlements in the pan-Indian context. This section ends with Shyam Narayan Lal's essay entitled `Nature of Land Control in Early Medieval Deccan'. The essay aims to study the pattern of land ownership in early medieval Deccan. The inscriptions of the various branches of the Rastrakiita family who controlled different parts of the Deccan, with different authority status from fifth to eleventh centuries are the main source of his work. In this essay, Lal demonstrates how various social groups, state and the differential authorities accessed land and how the land rights enjoyed by them operated in relation to each other in the larger agrarian setup of the early medieval Deccan. He argues for the need to look at the issue of land rights in terms of the hierarchy of rights rather than one group, individual or authority having exclusive or absolute right over land.

Art and Religion form the theme of the third section. Sarita Khettry's essay 'Portable" Images and Shrines from Gandhara to Central Asia and China: Some Observations' deals with portable images which were travelling objects of veneration. The discovery of such portable images from places situated along the Silk Road trading routes confirms that these images were carried by the merchants, travelers, lay followers and probably by the monks too, thus playing a great role in the dissemination of Buddhism form Gandhara to central Asia and China.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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