D.N. Jha is former Professor of History, University of Delhi.
Eugenia Vanina is Leading Research Scholar, Centre for Indian Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow.
The primary focus of most scholars in the field of medieval Indian studies has been on economic history. Their judgment and estimate of medieval Indian society are largely based on the data available on economic, social and politico-administrative institutions. In contrast, processes and phenomena that belong to the spheres of mentality, religion, culture, scientific knowledge - the very world view of medieval Indians - have attracted little attention, and mostly as an appendix to the 'fundamental' themes. The typical historical treatise on the medieval period deals with political events, the economy (agriculture, crafts and trade), major social groups (their relations and life), the administrative system, taxation and, at the end, as a concession, 'a bit of culture' - brief descriptions of religious life, literature and the fine arts. In such a scheme, cultural and mental phenomena are a reflection of socio-economic processes and a secondary source of the latter.
This volume seeks to create an interest in the mental and behavioural aspects of medieval society in India, and widen the area of research. The contributors to the volume belong to various schools of thought and follow different methodological approaches in their study of the socio-economic and administrative development of medieval India. But when they discuss medieval Indian society from the viewpoint of ideas, mental patterns, and religious and cultural developments, they come to certain shared terms and allow their findings to complement each other at a somewhat broader level.
The papers presented here make a collective effort to denote several components of the medieval Indian 'mental programme'. First, that the medieval Indian state may be viewed not only in terms of control, exploitation, extraction and appropriation, but also in terms of practices, ideas and ideologies that were closely linked (among other things) with religion. Second, that medieval Indian society had a specific understanding of the past and of social experience, and that history, individual or collective, was recorded and reproduced not just to state facts, but also to create patterns for subsequent generations to follow. Third, that a central feature of medieval society was hierarchy - as embedded in the relations not only between social classes and groups but between individuals, and as encompassing even intimate feelings and desires. Further, that the intellectual worlds of medieval India as revealed by literary, philosophical and grammatical treatises, which are the repositories of intellectual, spiritual and emotional experience, reflect the modes of dissemination and preservation of tradition as well as of dissent. Fourth, the presence of social and communal conflict, and of mechanisms of conflict resolution, that were peculiar to medieval Indian society.
The editors of the volume believe that there is need for comparative studies, first, to realize the peculiarities of the medieval outlook in various regional cultures of India, and second, to study what in the worldview under research was specifically Indian and what was typically medieval and common to other pre-modern societies. They offer this volume as an invitation to their colleagues, of whatever school and methodological affiliation, to join in a search for new dimensions in medieval India research.
The social, economic and political aspects of the feudal phase of India's history, from the second half of the first millennium to about the eighteenth century, have received much scholarly attention and a substantial corpus of historical literature dealing with them is available. But much work remains to be done on the development of the major thought currents, and people's mental and behavioural patterns during this long period. The present anthology is therefore a modest attempt to focus attention on the working of the medieval mind in relation to state, religion, caste, gender and so on.
The articles included in the volume are based on texts in Sanskrit, Tamil, Persian, medieval 'Hindi' and Marathi. This linguistic diversity of the historical sources naturally gave rise to difficulty in maintaining uniformity in the use of diacritical marks - a uniformity which, despite our best efforts, seemed unachievable beyond a point in a volume like this. We crave the indulgence of our readers if we are found wanting on this score.
We thank Indira Chandrasekhar and Samira Junaid of Tulika Books for seeing the book through the press.
Ever since Indology emerged as a distinct field of research, scholars have been trying to evaluate the tempo of India's historical evolution and its stage of development on the eve of the colonial era. Sharp differences of opinion arose from the very beginning, when Sir William Jones compared the 'golden age of India' with the classical periods of Greece and Rome (Chatterjee 1998: 92), to meet the uncompromising opposition of James Mill, in whose opinion the eighteenth-century Indians were, in terms of historical, cultural and moral development, far inferior even to the primitive tribes of early Britain (Mill 1972: 482). Later, James Todd described medieval Rajput society as analogous to feudal Europe, which also provoked heated criticism from many of his fellow Indologists. This criticism was conditioned by not only the methodological weaknesses in Todd's framework but also by political and ideological reasons. Indeed, if Indian society on the eve of the colonial era was medieval and feudal, then historical evolution was not fully alien to it - therefore the gap between Indians and 'civilized Europeans' was not as deep and wide as hitherto has been supposed, and the 'white man's mission' itself was questionable.
As medieval India studies became established as a separate realm of research, it could, from the initial phase, boast of significant achievements. After long debate the temporal frame of the period in Indian history was delimited from approximately the sixth to the eighteenth centuries. This is a long period, but the term 'medieval' is, according to most scholars, adequate to describe the entire span between the 'ancient' and the 'colonial' epochs. Moreover, this long period has adequate room for the subdivisions 'early medieval' and 'late medieval' and allows for discussions on the possibilities of evolution within the medieval era. J Scores of medieval sources were discovered and published, histories of dynasties and states were reconstructed, and various problems of socio-economic relations and administrative structures were discussed. At the same time, celebrated scholars such as V.A. Smith, M. Elphinstone, H.M. Elliott, W.H. Moreland and Sir Jadunath Sarkar studied medieval India not only out of purely academic interest but also to disclose to the reading public the darker side of the 'degraded' society and make it aware that, in Sir Jadunath's words, 'happily for India, the death of her old order was immediately followed by the birth on her soil of modern civilization and thoughts' (Sarkar 1949-50, Vol. IV: 347). 'Modern' here meant, no doubt, colonial. The interest in medieval India was likewise a feature of Indian nationalist historiography to which, since the mid-nineteenth century, journalism and belle- lettres were closely linked. Early Indian medievalists, much like novelists, play- wrights and journalists, saw their major purpose not just in research but also in making people feel proud of their history and the glory of medieval heroes, be they Shivaji, Raj Singh, Akbar or Guru Gobind.
For the period from the mid-sixth century, however, the focus shifted to socio-economic history. In many cases under the influence of Marxist methodology, there began systematic research into the economic foundations and the social structure of pre-modern Indian society. All aspects of agrarian relations, from peasant landholding to innumerable varieties of land grants, all spheres of administration, taxation and other types of agrarian product appropriation were meticulously studied. There has been considerable research - albeit lacking in detail and comprehension - into craft economy and trade. Different types of social organization were analysed, be it the village community, the trading castes, religious sects or aristocratic clans. There has been a heated discussion on the character of the medieval Indian state described variously by scholars as 'Oriental despotism', feudal or integrative polity and as a 'patrimonial-bureaucratic' system. In the process, medieval Indian studies rose to an internationally recognized level. In spite of all these achievements, the question remained, how to define medieval India and how to situate it within world history. A numerous and highly qualified group of scholars viewing medieval Indian society as feudal is being opposed by a no less numerous and qualified group which denies the applicability of the concept of feudalism to India. Both sides argue their respective postulates on the basis of a wide range of sources and in many cases the same text has been used to argue two contrasting views.
We may briefly note here the essence of the polemic that has continued for around half a century and still shows no sign of nearing its end. Both sides, despite their differences, ground their arguments in a common set of methodological principles. First, their judgement and estimate of medieval Indian society is based exclusively on the data available on economic, social and politico-administrative institutions. These are the core concerns of almost all the participants in the polemic, whatever their attitude towards Marxist methodology.? A catalogue of the hitherto published medieval India studies, if one were to make one, would show that, except for a relatively small number (mainly by scholars who do not define themselves as historians), most of the available works deal with socio-economic and politico-administrative aspects of medieval Indian history.
In contrast, processes and phenomena that belong to the sphere of mentality, religion, culture, scientific knowledge - the very worldview of medieval Indians - have attracted little attention, and mostly as an appendix to the 'fundamental' themes. It is not by chance that the problems of medieval attitudes are usually discussed by those whose field of research is religion, anthropology, culture, philosophy or literature, not history. The typical historical treatise on the medieval period deals with political events, economy (agriculture, crafts and trade), major social groups, their relations and life, the administrative system, taxation and at the end, as a concession, 'a bit of culture' - brief descriptions of religious life, literature and the fine arts. In such a scheme, cultural and mental phenomena are a reflection of socio-economic processes and a secondary source of the latter.
Since feudalism and medieval society as such have been studied more effectively against the backdrop of European history, scholars of medieval India have collectively constructed a model of feudalism, systematizing its main features and its trajectory of development (once again, mainly in the socio-economic and politico-administrative spheres). In this process of model-making the specific features of the various European societies were not taken into consideration; all of them were incorporated into the image of a certain unified and homogeneous 'West' to be accepted as a matrix of not just feudalism, but also its 'real' and 'correct' form. This imagined 'West' emerged as a model because it had been studied more extensively and also because it was supposed to evolve in a known way into capitalism and, depending upon a scholar's ideological position, further on into a post-industrial society or socialism. It was in comparison with this 'correct model' that medieval Indian society was discussed by both sides of the Indian feudalism debate.
As a result, the efforts to estimate the level achieved by Indian society by this or that time in medieval history were reduced to assessing how this or that institution of medieval Indian society matched the European model. And since some of the features (especially socio-economic ones) of this Western feudalism, such as the manor, serfdom, city commune and estate representation, were not found in India, medieval India was either not feudal at all or it was a specific variety of feudalism - an incorrect and underdeveloped version lagging behind the more dynamic and progressive European form. In the latter case then, the researcher's task was to find the reasons for this anomaly - once again, in the economic and social spheres.
No doubt the scholars working within this framework, regardless of what group they belong to, have achieved a lot. But at the same time a sense of disenchantment has been discernible in the last one or two decades. This feeling is expressed, depending on the scholar's temperament, in the form of either a mild plea for new dimensions to research, or an uncompromising and total rejection of the dominant methodology." When did Indian society become medieval, how did it develop, and at which stage of evolution did it confront colonialism? These questions continue to remain unanswered. The followers of the 'Indian feudalism' concept know almost everything there is to know about medieval agrarian systems and forms of taxation but fail to develop a clear understanding of which of these features were specifically Indian and which belonged to all feudal societies. Their opponents too have a similar understanding of the socio-economic and administrative history of medieval India but expend most of their efforts into proving that medieval India was not feudal than to clarify what it was after all.
This kind of a dead end calls for a different road to be taken, one that differs from the previous approach, which has shown no interest in medieval Indians as human beings with their own worldviews, attitudes and mental and behavioural patterns. There exists another way, one that brings to life a postulate negated by nobody and at the same time forgotten by many: stages of a given society's historical development differ from each other not only in the means of production, economic, social and politico-administrative forms, but also in the way people think and behave, in their values, attitudes and stereotypes - the 'mental programme', as Clifford Geertz (1973: 44-45) put it, that various social groups follow. For medieval studies in general, this postulate is nothing new. Readers are reminded of the contribution of the 'history of mentalities' of the Annales school to the understanding of medieval Europe. A similar history of India, and not only medieval history, is still wanting.
Such an approach may open a new dimension of research and help bridge the gap between the followers and opponents of the Indian feudalism concept. The problem of understanding and estimating medieval Indian society by relying solely on socio-economic and politico-administrative data lies not in methodology as such but in the character of the available sources. In most medieval sources references to the above-mentioned aspects are usually vague and would be unclear to today's reader. It is never easy to discern whether a piece of land mentioned in a document was on freehold, a fief or private property, or whether a named individual was a clan leader, a state official, a feudal lord, a vassal or a tribute payer.
Medieval authors were not interested in the problems that are of interest to us now. They would rather have written dozens of pages glorifying a kings velour and amorous feats than a line to clarify what land property was like in his kingdom. But what medieval texts mention in abundance are social relations, values and the attitudes of people in different walks of life. And it is in these attitudes and relationships, as reflected by the sources, that medieval societies - India was no exception - exhibit both their specific and their common features. Unable to find in medieval texts the data that in our view signifies the progress of property forms, production and social relations, in many cases we deny development to the society in question even though the same sources may refer to crucial changes in values, social attitudes and mental patterns. No doubt, these changes would reflect important developments in socio-economic life as well.
This volume seeks neither to devalue previous approaches to medieval Indian history nor to present the study of medieval values and attitudes as the magic key to all problems. The purpose is to create an interest in the mental and behavioural aspects of medieval society and widen the area of research. The contributors to this volume are from different countries and they adopt dissimilar approaches in their study of medieval India, some accepting feudalism, others rejecting it. It would have been difficult to bring them together if the purpose had been formulated in the old-fashioned way, covering the thematic range of socio- economic and administrative development. But when medieval Indian society is discussed from the viewpoint of ideas, mental patterns and, religious and cultural developments, researchers belonging to various schools and following different methodological approaches, come to certain shared terms and allow their findings to complement each other at a somewhat broader level.
Thus the state may be viewed not only in terms of control, exploitation, extraction and appropriation, but also in terms of practices, ideas and ideologies that were closely linked (among other things) with religion. A specific feature of the medieval state was the legitimation of power through religion. Given all the differences between Hinduism and Islam, Hindu and Muslim states were engaged in legitimizing practices to an almost equal extent, albeit by different means, as the papers of Kesavan Veluthat and Irfan Habib indicate. For legitimacy, early medieval south Indian states needed temples and cults in the orthodox Sastraic and heterodox bhakti garb. For the Delhi sultanate, according to its theorist Baranl, to be legitimate meant to follow the patterns of preceding Islamic states. The rulers of Hindu and Muslim states used religious ideology not only to legitimize themselves but also to de-legitimize their internal enemies: legitimation meant temple/mosque construction; de-legitimation, as is clear in the papers of Eaton and Jha, required their destruction. One may recall that medieval Europeans did much the same, glorifying their kings by building magnificent cathedrals and desecrating the holy places of their enemies, be they mosques in Palestine, non- Catholic churches in Byzantium and Russia, synagogues in Spain, Hindu temples in Goa or even Catholic places of worship in the conquered cities. Even Mughal currency may, as in Najaf Haider's paper, be discussed not only as an instrument of economic transaction and exploitation but also as a symbol of authority, a tool of legitimation and imperial integration.
Medieval society had a specific understanding of the past and of social experience. History, individual or collective, was recorded and reproduced not just to state facts, but also to create patterns for the subsequent generations to follow. This peculiar understanding, common to Hindu bards and Muslim chroniclers as well as their European counterparts. has often been neglected by scholars who bemoan the 'lack of historicity' in Hindu bardic poems and chronicles. Historicity was no doubt present, but in a peculiar medieval sense as discussed in this volume by Stewart Gordon, Eugenia Vanina and Irina Glushkova. They search their respective sources, Sanskrit chronicles, Marathi historical texts and bhakti hagiographies, for perceptions and constructions of collective or individual pasts in order to establish the mental and behavioural patterns of royalty and sainthood for generations to follow.
A central feature of medieval society was hierarchy. Hierarchy was embedded in the relations between not only social classes and groups but between individuals and encompassed even intimate feelings and desires. The papers by Vijay Nath, Shalini Shah and Daud Ali address this problematic sphere from various perspectives: gender parity and differentiation, perceptions of the sensual world and sexuality and, in a broader sense, manners and ethical values of attachment and subjection.
Two contributions to this volume bring the reader to the intellectual worlds of medieval India. Sanskrit drama and philosophical and grammatical treatises are analysed by Vishwa Mohan Jha and Sheldon Pollock not as literary or compilatory texts, but as repositories of intellectual, spiritual and emotional experience. Their imagery and stylistics reflect attitudes of the old versus the new, the modes of dissemination and preservation of tradition, as well as of dissent.
Medieval Indian society lacked social and communal conflict only in the musings of Orientalist and romantic nationalist scholars. In the sphere of religion a creed would establish itself through doctrinal, ideological and physical opposition to this or that 'other'. This was true for Christianity, Islam and, as D.N. Jha's paper shows, such Indian-born religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainisrn. In the realm of social relations Noboru Karashima and Hiroyuki Kotani discuss, on the basis of different sets of sources, how a voluntary or involuntary breach of the established laws of social behaviour was regarded as a sin against both society and religion and describe mechanisms of conflict resolution. The ways in which culprits were imprecated and punished but repenting sinners purified and rehabilitated were peculiar to the Indian milieu in form, but in content similar to those of other medieval societies.
Thus, the papers presented in this volume make a collective effort to denote four components of the medieval Indian 'mental programme'. Many others await research. What is more acutely felt is the need for comparative studies to realize, first, the peculiarities of medieval outlook in various regional cultures of India and second, what in the worldview under research was specifically Indian and what was typically medieval and common to other pre-modern societies. Fully aware of our limitations, we offer this volume as an invitation to our colleagues of whatever school and methodological affiliation to join us in a search for new dimensions in medieval India research.
|Instruments of Legitimation and Delegitimation|
|Ideology and Legitimation: Early Medieval South India||3|
|Two Indian Theorists of the State: Barani and Abu' I Fazl||15|
|Standardization and Empire: A Study of the Exchange Rates of Mughal Currencies||40|
|(Re)construction of Experiences|
|Epistemologies Concerning the Past in Maharashtra||57|
|Describing the Common, Discovering the Individual: A Study in Some Medieval Indian Biographies||71|
|Marathi Saint-Poets: Statics versus Dynamics, or Contradictions Ignored||95|
|Hierarchization of Attachments|
|Gender Differentiation or Gender Parity: The Puranic Evidence (A Study Based Mainly on Matsya and Markandeya Purana)||135|
|Gender and Sexuality in Early Medieval Sanskrit Literature||151|
|Romantic Love, Self-Regard and the Courtly Environment in Early Medieval India||178|
|Ideas and Communication|
|Medieval Sanskrit Drama as a Literate Medium for Non-Literate Communication||207|
|New Intellectuals in Seventeenth-Century India||228|
|Conflicts and Adjustments|
|The Emergence of New Imprecations in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Tamil Inscriptions and Jati Formation||261|
|Conflict and Conversion: Religious Trends in Early Medieval India||274|
|Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States||295|
|Obsessed by Dosa: People's Inner World in Later Medieval Deccan||327|
Item Code: NAM741 Author: D. N. Jha and Eugenia Vanina Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2009 Publisher: Tulika Books ISBN: 9788189487478 Language: English Size: 10.0 inch x 6.5 inch Pages: 365 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 725 gms