thapar - Jan 28 - Ir-Q(VI/cfw cfw < ~ F ~ I Perceptions of...

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~ YYV Ir. .--Q (VI/{ {...... <. ~ F ~ I Perceptions of the Past Colonial Constructions: Orientalist Readings The modern writing of Indian history began with colonial perceptions of the Indian past that Were to be seminal to its subsequent interpretations. It took shape with the beginnings of colonial rule in various parts of the subcontinent from the eighteenth century onwards. European scholars searched for histories of India but could find none that conformed to the familiar European view of what a history should be, a view influenced in part by the thinking of the European Enlightenment. The only exception according to them was the twelfth-century history of Kashmir, the Raja- tarangini, written by Kalhana. Theysaw India only as aHindu and Sanskritic civilization, so they set aside the numerous chronicles written largely in Persian by court poets and chroniclers of the Turkish, Afghan and Mughal rulers. These were regarded as alien to Indian civilization, even though their contents concerned Indian society and politics and the people whom they wrote about had settled in India to become part of Indian society. There was as yet little familiarity with other sources in Sanskrit such as local chronicles or, for that matter, the lengthy inscriptions issued by various rulers that were in effect dynastic annals. Hindu and Sanskritic elements were highlighted as the contribution of India to world history and the presence of other religious and linguistic cultures, such as Buddhism,Jainism or even Islam as it evolved in India, were barely recognized in terms ofconstructing Indian civilization. Concession to the importance of Buddhism came later, The initial hostility to Islam was doubtless aggravated by European antagonism due to historical reasons, beginning with the Crusades. If the role of Islam was conceded ar all, it was said to be negative, and such judgements were based on little or no evidence since the history of Islam in India had not been investigated at this point.
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a- 10 EARLY INDIA That there could be other ways of perceiving the past or that Indians might have seen their hisrory in a different manner was discounted. Societies were divided into those who have a sense of history and those who lack it. Indian civilization was described as a-historical. Not only were there no histories of India, but the absence of history was also explained by arguing that the concept of time in early India was cyclic. Therefore, all human activities were continually repeated in each cycle. This was inimical to a historical perspective that required each event to be seen as unique, a view endorsed by a linear concept where time moves not in a circle but in a straight line, from a given beginning to a stipulated end. Ways of looking at the Indian past in the form of genealogies, chronicles and annals, which conformed to linear time, were certainly studied for the reconstruction of the chronology of rulers, but their obviously linear dimension was ignored in discussions on the concept of time. That there is evidence of both linear
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This note was uploaded on 02/16/2010 for the course ANS 302k taught by Professor Kamala during the Spring '10 term at University of Texas.

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thapar - Jan 28 - Ir-Q(VI/cfw cfw < ~ F ~ I Perceptions of...

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