What India means may elicit different answers from people today. The answers that might have been given a thousand, tow thousand or three thousand years ago would have been possibly quite different. This volume explores how notions of India have grown: even as a geographical expression the notion (under whatever name) took time to form. Political factors and cultural diffusion both helped in the formation. Nor is the role of outsiders in looking at India as country with some identifiable features of custom, belief, and language, to be ignored. The different contributions in this volume bring out how the idea of India has changed as Indian civilization has developed and received various cultural streams. The contributors also essay the issue of India's transformation into a nation under the stresses generated by the colonial conquest, resistance and the influx of modern ideas. The volume closes with discussions how the future of the nation was conceived in the past and what message this has for the people of India today.
The editor of this volume, Irfan Habib, was formerly Professor of History at Aligarh Muslim University, and is author of Agrarian System of Mughal Empire, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire and Essays in Indian History: Towards a Marxist Perception. He is currently editing A People's History of India four parts of which have been published.
The Aligarh Historians Society asked a number of distinguished scholars to contribute papers on the different aspects of the theme. These papers were presented and discussed at a panel organized by the Society at the Guru Nank Dev University, Amritsar, and 28-30 December 2002. Professor Irfan Habib, who has edited the volume, contributes an introduction which, in its earlier version, had been presented as a key- note address at the panel.
The panel and the publication of the volume have been supported by grants from the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai.
I should like to thank all contributors to the volume for their willing cooperation and for sending us their revised versions.
I am most grateful to my old friend, Mr. P.N Sahay, for compiling the index, which we hope reader will find convenient.
Mr. Muneeruddin Khan has processed the final press-copy, while Mr. Arshad Ali has kept our records and accounts. Mr. Idris Beg has carried out other onerous duties.
Mr Devendra Jain of Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers has placed us greatly in his debt by agreeing to publish the volume.
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