From the Jacket:
The two volumes together may be described as search for the original ideational foundations of Indian Culture. In one way this work recalls the traditions of Coomaraswamy but seeks to join it to the mainstream of critical history. It argues that the living continuity of Indian Culture is rooted in a unique spiritual vision and social experience. Indian Culture is neither the result of merely accidental happenings through the centuries, nor a mere palimpsest of migrations and invasions. It is, in its essence, a development of foundational ideas constituting a creative matrix. Behind its changing historical forms lies a deep and persistent source of creativity which is spiritual in character.
The Present volume I deals with the spiritual vision and symbolic forms. Here it has been upheld that the spiritual vision of India had two original aspects, the integral or synoptic vision of the Vedas, and the Sramanic vision of Transcendence. Purnata and Sunyata constituted the two poles round which Indian spirituality revolved. The author not only elucidates this bipolar matrix of Indian spiritual praxis or sadhana, but also traces its intricate ancient history. He goes on to trace the great symbolic forms-language, myth, science, literature and art-in which this basic vision expressed itself. In all these areas he brings out the basic general principles expressive of inner consciousness rather that present a mere selection of well-known details.
The Present volume II deals with the dimensions of ancient Indian social history. Here it has been maintained that the social awareness of ancient India was characterized by a distinctive perception of geographical space, historical time and human personality. The social bond itself was conceived primarily as an over-arching moral order, not merely as a structure engendered by casual factors belonging to the technical order although these found their rightful place within the large ethos of the whole. It is in this context of the integral ideational foundations of society that the intricate history of Varna and Jati is sought to be elucidated and the distinctiveness of ancient economic and political ideas and institutions brought out. It is, therefore, a vastly different approach to the social history of India that the one often projected these days.
About the Author:
Govind Chandra Pande (b. 1923, Allahabad), D. Phil., has taught in the universities of Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Rajasthan and retired as Vice-Chancellor, University of Allahabad. He has also been Vice-Chancellor, University of Rajasthan (Jaipur) from 1974-77.
A historian by profession, Prof. Pande is a versatile scholar and philosopher, thinker and poet by inclination. A prolific writer he has authored more than 40 books and over 100 research articles.
In recognition of Prof. Pande's scholarship, he has been conferred various honorary degrees and awards. The honorary degrees include D. Litt., Vidyavaridhi, Sahitya Vacaspati, Mahamahopadhyaya and Vacpati. The awards conferred upon him include Sankar Samman, Darshan Vigyan Samman, Manisa Samman, Mangla Prasad award, Naresh Mehta award, Moortidevi award, Vishwabharti award and the Fellowship of the Sahitya Akademi.
Currently, he is the President-cum-Chairman, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; Chairman, Allahabad Museum Society; Chairman, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath and Editorial Fellow, Project in Indian History of Science, Philosophy and Culture.
The search for the historical explanation of human life and thought has led historians to the attempt to go beyond the surface happenings of short duration to analyze the deeper structures of longer duration. These have been sought to be identified as economic or social or even geographical. Many of these formulations are vitiated by conscious or unconscious assumptions of a positivistic character. Social formations ate not like natural formations given independently of the subject. They ate in tact subjective-objective in character. As a consequence social formations and idea formations cannot really be separated Being and thought are two inevitably co-present dimensions, Despite this undeniable duality of cultural factors it is common nowadays to find many historians, emphasizing their social origins exclusively. It may be said that ideas do not simply spring from the head like ‘Minerva in panoply’ but that they derive from a historically given state of social being. But this social being itself is discernible only through reflection over experience and as such, is related to the self-awareness of the subject. In particular the historian cannot discover social formations except as revealed in a historical record which is directly expressive of some consciousness. Thus, despite the radical significance of social being, it has to be reached and understood in terms of a tradition of social experience and awareness. In a profound sense, thus, while social structures underlie surface events, they are themselves inwardly constituted by a historical world of ideas. Manopubbangama dhamma, all phenomena presuppose the mind.
The present work attempts to analyze the social and ideational foundation of Indian culture. The second part of the work concentrates on the analysis of the social world which presupposed by the intellectual and the symbolic formulations of the Indian tradition. The present volume seeks to reconstruct Indian culture, not as a museum-model from the scarp heap of time but as a tradition of value seeking expressing itself in concepts and symbols as a perpetual theme for hermeneutic commentary. The history as well as the interior dialectic of the tradition is sought to be brought out by noticing the interation of theory practice and experience as also the ever dissatisfied seeking for expressing imponderable feeling symbolically Sadhana Vidya and kala constitute the three interacting levels of the cultural process of Samskrti in the original sense.
Apart from the publishers and the printers I am thankful to Dr. S.P. Gupta, Dr. S.K. Gupta, Sri U.C. Chattopadhyay, Dr. L.M. Dubey and Sri A.P. Ojha for helping me in various ways to see this volume through the press.
The Conception of Social History
Social history has been defined negatively as the history of a people with the politics left out. It concentrates on the daily life of the inhabitants of the land in past ages. The appeal of such history is basically imaginative and lies in the desire to feel the reality of life in the past to be familiar with the chronicle of wasted time for the sake of ladies dead and lovely knights.
There is much to commend such a romantic conception of social history but the deeper question of what determines the social process and constitutes its relationship to human nature as a whole cannot be avoided by the historian. It has been justly said that the social or societal aspects of man’s being cannot be separated from the other aspects of his being except at the cost of tautology or extreme trivialization. But his concept of the history of society as a whole corresponding to the whole being of man suffers from a philosophically sociocentric assumption about man. Whether man is a transcendent spirit or the pereminal or historical are disputed questions and they have fateful consequences for the conception of society and social history.
Ideational Foundations of Society and their Historicity
It is difficult to think of the analytical categories of the social historian in abstraction from the real categories in terms of which human consciousness historically articulates itself. It would be perilous for the historian to disregard the conceptual framework implicit or explicit in any historically given social consciousness. Whether its assumptions were right or wrong, would be undividable except in the light of social science theory which unfortunately has not yet reached agreement on the important issues. With respect to ancient India, thus, what is important is not whether the social historian is an idealist or a materialist, but whether he is able to represent the historical articulations of ancient Indian social self-consciousness. The task of analyzing this consciousness and tracing it to its causal roots is undoubtedly important though difficult. While the role of external factors and accidents cannot be gainsaid, it is the inner dialectic of ideas that gives rational intelligibility to social changes. Insofar as human society is a moral order, it cannot but be tooted in ideas and its essential history must be constituted by the dialectic of ideas. The dialectic, however, does not have to be conceived as a purely logical process. It appears to be rather a psychological process where instinctive seeking and practical experience, rational reflection and spiritual understanding mingle and clash. Praxis (Vyavahãra) and constructs (vikalpa) are interdependent dimensions of the social process.4a And behind these, one may descry the seeking for self-knowledge and the self-expressiveness of consciousness.
The Analysis of Social Consciousness in the Indian Tradition
It is a cardinal principle of the Indian tradition that although man’s true identity is spiritual and transcendental and can be realized only inwardly in terms of his relationship to God or the Absolute, for practical purposes he acquires an identity in psycho-physical and social terms. Since such an empirical identity rests on the miss-identification of the self with empirical objects like the body, mind and social position, it is universally believed to rest on Avidya, i.e. instinctive ignorance. The empirical objects with which man identifies himself and which, serving as his inner and outer possessions, give him the character of a distinctive natural, social and psychic being are called his adjuncts or Upadhi in Vedanta. If the soul or transcendental consciousness is the essential part of man’s being, Upadhi is its ‘accidental’ part, Self identification of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ which is called abhimana Endowed with abhimana, man becomes a socio-spiritual being, at once subjective and objective. The character of his abhknana becomes the basis of his social and ritual eligibility or adhikãra. Upadhi, abhimãna and adhikara together determine the social identity of man.
Subjective Objective Character of Social Consciousness
Race and kinship, geographical, historical and social location, the sense of ethos and ideals may be mentioned as some of the subjective-objective constituents which thus determine social identity. They function in and through subjectivity as apparently given objects of its sense of being, owning and belonging. The empirical self-consciousness, on the one hand, locates itself in a world of space, time and social relations; on the other, it projects an ideal image of itself beyond its actual constraints, into the future or eternity. In its involvement in action or history, humanity is thus guided by a double image of itself, one of its actuality and another of its ideality.8 Action is oriented towards the Purusarthas and carried on within the constraints of situation and eligibility. The way in which a people identify the stable conditions of their actual life and their permanent ideals, also serves to identify their historical being. In seeking to discover what constitutes the identity of a people, thus, it is necessary for a historian to consider their own articulation of their being. Actual geographical conditions may function as causal factors, but what the people think of their geography enters into their image of themselves. The same is true of historical conditions. As to society and ethos, it would be hard to draw any ultimately significant distinction between their being and consciousness since they subsist within the empirical self- consciousness which is subjective-objective.
Ancient Indian Historical Reality and the Non-racial Basis of Indian Society Although the distinction between Indians and foreigners was clearly recognized from ancient times by Indians as well as foreigners, the basis of this distinction was not racial awareness hut rather the distinctive character of the Indian ethos. Race consciousness in the modern sense attaching itself to colour or physical type was never a part of the Indian tradition. It is true that modern European writers advanced the supposition that the Aryan race entered India with a strong race and colour consciousness, that the Rgveda records the struggle between the Aryans and the native dasas who were snub-nosed and black-skinned and that the Varna system arose out of this colour consciousness.9 This hypothesis has been uncritically accepted and repeated by modern Indian authors also. The fact is that in the Rgveda Samhita ‘Arya’ is used in the sense of a pious householder. Dasa and dasyn have been shown by Professor Chattopadhyaya to refer to demons rather than to native Indians.” When it is said in the Rgveda, “I bestowed land on the Arya, I gave rain to the munificent mortal,” it is clear that the Arya is equated to the mortal who gives. The ancient commentators do not see any ethnic sense in either Arya or Dasa. In later times, Arya clearly came to mean noble. Arya was now contrasted with mleccha and the sense was of a contrast between the cultured and the barbarian. In the Dhanna Sutras and Manu, we meet with the terra Aryaarta, the homeland of the Aryans, in an attempt to indicate a reference group in terms of location. But it is clearly understood that what makes the people of Aryavarta Arya is their ethos, not their location.
Tribe and Clan replaced by Varna and jati as social Constituents
The fact is that the Pan-Indian Vara system effectively obliterated the primitive identities of race and tribe. The people of India came to realize their social identity in terms of Variza and Jati, not in terms of races and tribes. Tribes like the Nisãdas or Kirâtas, Cãndälas or Paulkasas, Sabaras or Pulindas, Kaivartas or Khasas all found a place within the Jãtis. If Kiratas or Nisadas found a low place in the Varina hierarchy, that was because their mode of life was regarded as ritually unclean, principally because of its connection with hunting or its by-products, trapping or fishing or similar occupations dependent on the killing of life or the products of such killing. The hierarchy was socio-ethical and ritual, not ethnic. Belonging or not belonging to the Varna system distinguished the Indian from the foreigner in ancient times. In fact, the assimilation of invading foreigners like the Greeks was accomplished by assigning to them a place in the feat system.
The word juna has been translated as clan or tribe. Similarly the word gotra too has been interpreted as clan or tribe. Here again these interpretations are far from being definitive. Juno came to have quite early the sense of people. ‘Bharata jana’ thus would mean the people ruled by the family of the Bharatas. This is how the Puranic tradition and commentators would interpret them. Even if Juno meant a clan at one time, there is no doubt that the clans became transformed into settlements or, Janapadas. We might recall how out of the 360 clans or gentes of ancient Attica. Cleisthenes created the ten territorial tribes of Athens. In India too, it was only in the republican Janapadas that the clan element survived longest. Imperialistic monarchy as well as the Varna system both served to suppress clan identities. And this process was already far advanced in the later Vedic age. Even in the early Vedic age, Indra, Mitra and Varuna, the divine prototypes of earthly kings, do not present the image of popular clan leaders. They are rather exalted sovereigns whose sway extends over all the people. This conception could not but correspond to actually held ideals and aspirations. Even in the context of elective kingship, it is the people or Visah who are mentioned rather than the clan or Jana.
As for gotra which had to be compulsorily mentioned in the performance of ritual or marriage, whatever its original meaning, it became increasingly far removed from any real kinship. Even originally, the gotra was relevant primarily for the Brahmanas. Latterly, the other castes claimed the go/ms of their priest. The gotra was a reminder of one’s supposed descent from an ancient seer and served to exclude one’s marriage within the same gotra. As an identifier, it functioned wholly within the varna.
Traditional Formulation of Social Identity
The attempt to think of the Indian people in terms of a superimposition of races with different physical types is not only modern but palpably unsatisfactory. The mixture of physical types in the Indus civilization has been established to have been similar to what obtains in the Punjab now. Thus it is not possible to attribute the Indus civilization to any particular race conceived as a distinctive physical type. Nor can the people of the Indus civilization be linguistically defined on present evidence. Nor indeed is anything definitely known about the so called Aryan migration to India. Thus the hypothetical reconstruction of pre classical history in terms of superimposed ethnic ways has little to recommend it. On the other hand from classical times the traditional sense of social identity was clearly tied up with a then connected with geography through the location of holy places and regions where religious ritual could be practiced to special advantage. Thus in recalling one’s identity in Sankalpamantras one has to think of the gotra as also the region within India where the rite is to be performed. In the Upanisads we find kings like Janaka and Ajatasatru are qualified by their gotras. Asoka speaks of himself as belonging to Magadha and ruling over Jambudvipa. In the Divyavadama he is made to refer to himself as Ksattriya saba the minister of Gupta emperor Candragupta II refers to himself as Kausta and Pataliputraka.
The traditional sense of social identity thus although associated primarily with Varnasrama dharma was secondarily associated with supposed kinship groups like the gotra and with territorial regions or Jana-padas. It is the Varnadyabhimana which primarily underlay social and ritual rights and obligations adhikara. It was never connected with race nor even with language even though the primacy and ritual privilege of Sanskrit were taken for granted and the diversity of spoken tongues noted as a fact.
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